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Sight-reading fingering (Read 1349 times)

Offline lufc71

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Sight-reading fingering
« on: May 06, 2020, 03:11:57 PM »
Hello all,

I'm a new member and having read a lot of posts, I see there are a lot of very talented and knowledgeable players on here so I'd like to ask some advice. For years I've practiced sight-reading (self-taught) from books and pieces that I like. A few months ago I was recommended an online site (sight reading factory) that I'm now using daily which I think is excellent. So far, the levels that I've played have had the same self-imposed limits: in C, up to 1/8 notes, and in both hands using only the first five notes. So left hand C-G an octave below middle C, and right hand C-G from either middle C or an octave above (but not in the same piece). This has shown really good improvements for me so I've now gone to the next level. These pieces have up to octave leaps in both hands, which leads me to my question: is there a technique that I can use to handle these bigger leaps to always have the correct fingers available for the next notes? I am not new to large leaps, however, I have always had to work out my fingering as I go and aside from being time-consuming, I get to a point where I am simply playing from memory as opposed to sight-reading which is ultimately my goal. Do you advanced readers simply pick up a new piece and read it like reading a newspaper or do you have to study it and work everything out? Hope that makes sense! :) TIA

Regards,

Peter

Offline brogers70

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #1 on: May 06, 2020, 03:23:34 PM »
The more music you play, the more automatic it will seem to be to work out the easiest fingering. People who are great sight readers can do it on the fly. I wouldn't worry too much at the beginning. It will come from experience. By chance an edition of Cimarrosa keyboard sonatas I bought had every single note fingered; there were numbers everywhere. It's overkill, but it was helpful. I'm sure there must be similar editions of other things out there. It's a kind of a crutch, of course, but if it helps you get more experience faster and more easily, I think it's the sort of crutch that will be easy to drop once you no loner need it.

Offline samwitdangol

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #2 on: May 06, 2020, 03:38:30 PM »
Hello!

I sometimes seem to "run out of fingers" when sightreading, meaning that when I sight-read, sometimes I don't have fingers available for the following notes. Sight-reading is tricky because there's not much you can do to improve it except keep doing it.

This is probably not the answer you're looking for, but it's all about practice; there's no trick or special technique to it. After you practice sight-reading a lot, you get used to it and using the correct fingers will be easier. When sight-reading, you examine the piece before you play through it. While examining the piece, you first look at the tempo, key signature, time signature. After that, you can try to figure out fingerings. You can also try to find any patterns throughout the piece or practice difficult sections in your head before you play it.

I hope this helps somewhat. I'm sure there will soon be another pianist who will give you better tips!
Currently working on:

Beethoven Sonata 22 and 27
Chopin Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1
Bach Sinfonia 2
Czerny Op. 740
Scarlatti K. 18

Offline dogperson

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #3 on: May 06, 2020, 05:32:38 PM »
Sight reading proficiency will always lag behind the level you can generally play—- Usually about two grade levels.  Becoming proficient means you can identify chords as a unit, rather than individual notes. Once you can do that, you will generally play with the same fingers you would use if you just played the chord separately, without a preceding jump.

SRF is good.  Also just play through as much music as you can find.
Proficiency comes with time and practice.

I would recommend that after you play through, go back and look at the places where you ran out of fingers and ask yourself what could have been different . Learn from your mistakes. 😊

Offline quantum

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #4 on: May 06, 2020, 07:27:59 PM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet.

I think one of the problems with 5 finger position playing, not only in sight reading but in general for people new to piano, is that it has a tenancy to constrain focus to a very specific hand position, a very specific fingering, and a very specific set of notes.  In reality, the majority of music does not constrain itself in that particular way, to that particular hand position.  When someone accustomed to 5 finger position breaks away from it, it can be somewhat of a shock that there are so many other keys and pitches to deal with. 

Sight reading fingering is not always the same as performance fingering.  When sight reading the focus is to keep pace with the music, using fingerings that allow the pianist to easily maintain their bearing of where they are on the keyboard.  Standardized fingerings encountered in scales, chords, arpeggios, and common patterns are often utilized even if they are not the best fit for a passage of music.  For example: if you know your fingering for the B major scale, just use it when sight reading scale in that key - there is nothing extra to think about because it is just the same scale you already know, no need to work out a new fingering. 

If you run out of fingers, just do what they did in Baroque times when thumb crossing was not in common use, pick up your hand, shift to the new position, continue on.  Of course, you should try to not run out of fingers, and this will come with experience. 

Read ahead as much as possible.  Your eyes should be far ahead in the score from your fingers, that is, you are reading a different part of the score than you are playing.  It gives you time to prepare what to do next.  Don't stare at a note you are currently playing, it does nothing to aid sight reading, look ahead.  Don't stare back at a mistake you made, it doesn't correct the mistake and only distracts you from moving forward, look ahead and fix that spot later.  Notes don't change if you look at them longer, read the note and move on, don't dwell on a set of notes for excessively long time.  Remember you are sight reading, not doing a deep analysis of the music where you can afford to stop contemplate.

Reading ahead is also what allows you do deal with leaps, because it gives you notice when a leap is coming up, and a chance to prepare your hand. 

Practice doing leaps without looking down at the keys.  Start with single notes, locating intervals by feel, not by looking, up to an octave.  After that you could expand to going beyond an octave to 10ths or 12ths.

Practice jumping around the keyboard, playing a chord in random octaves.  Or play a scale, but have each note in a different randomly selected octave. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline lufc71

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #5 on: May 07, 2020, 09:48:36 AM »
Many thanks for your prompt replies! :)

brogers70 - I have tried writing my fingering in pencil on a difficult piece (for me) but I certainly want to get beyond doing this because as you say, it's a crutch and means that I can't 'read and play' but have to keep stopping to decipher my scribbles. :).

samwitdangol - All good tips. Thanks.

dogperson - Yes. I definitely play much better than I read and play. :) I enjoy reading chords and am getting much better at it, but am much better when only playing and reading with one hand. Playing with two makes my hands lock up. Yes, SRF is very good. I particularly like that (having selected the level and parameters) I can sit down and attempt unlimited new pieces of a similar level instantly. For me, it has two weak points though: i. I don't think it's possible to save a piece so you can go back to it if you haven't finished working on it. ii. The pieces are not very 'musical'. They are simply exercises. Not a problem though, and I'm really enjoying using it and improving.

quantum - Many thanks for such a detailed reply. Some very good tips there, a couple of which I've never heard of! :) Yes, I do try to read ahead and this is a great help. My other main technique is to count the number of 'gaps' between notes as opposed to thinking in terms of note names. I think the benefits of using the five-finger position (at my level) are that I can read and play and never have to look at my hands. Also I have a 'home note' for each hand so every succeeding note is relative to this home note. Now I've introduced larger leaps, I have to move away from it. Maybe it's just an unnecessary crutch though? We shall see. :)

Offline quantum

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #6 on: May 07, 2020, 09:18:07 PM »
My other main technique is to count the number of 'gaps' between notes as opposed to thinking in terms of note names.

Going back to what dogperson was saying about thinking in units, groups of notes on the keyboard can also be thought of as units.  You could group together all notes in an octave an call that a unit.  When it comes time to locate a note, you recognize which unit (octave) it is located in and move your hand in that general direction.  You then refine your location: top or bottom half of octave, which note in that half-octave.  This can allow you to move much quicker without the need to count spaces and lines between notes, because you are first getting in the general area before refining your location.  Counting is time consuming and can unnecessarily add work to your sight reading.

An analogy: I show you a carton of a dozen eggs, how many eggs do you think there are?  Did you have to count each one in order to know the answer, or was there a unit that aided in your determination? 

Another example, I show you a carton of a dozen eggs with two empty slots.  How many eggs?  Did you have to count, or did the unit allow you to quickly approximate the answer?

Similar thing in sight reading, say your unit is an octave between Cs.  Find all the C notes on the piano, know how to jump to them quickly with your hands.  On staff paper, write down all the C notes and associate each one with a location on the piano.  Now when sight reading use the units to approximate the location of the note first. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #7 on: May 17, 2020, 01:32:21 AM »
Hey everyone,

Just wanted to add a few things.  First, when I study a classical piece, I often work out all of the fingerings for all the notes by writing them out in the music.  Over time, as I come to understand a piece better, I tend to refine these initial fingerings.  I like to work on paper, so I usually just use pencil and erase them.  This is an involved process but it tends to yield good results for me.  In my view, the more times you go through this process, the better you will become at coming up with new fingerings both when studying pieces and when sight reading.  This has been my experience anyway.

That being said, I also work on sightreading on a regular basis.  When sight reading, you can't plan out the fingerings in advance.  I agree with the idea of trying to take in the music in groups of notes, small sections, rather than one note at a time. 

Hand Position.  I think that hand position is one of the most important concepts, if not the most important one, when it comes to figuring out fingering.  What I mean by this is that when you are trying to decide on a fingering, try so see which groups of notes you can play easily without moving your hand position (or by moving it only a little bit).  Play those notes with your hand in that position.  Then, go through the this process again for the next group of notes.  In time, this thinking process will become more automatic.  Finding the largest group of notes you can play with one hand position won't be the only consideration when choosing fingerings, but I think it's a good starting point to try to keep in mind.

Slip Fingerings.  A slip fingering is when you change which fingers you are using to hold down a note.  For example, you are holding Bb with finger 4 and you switch to 5 while continuing to hold the key down.  I find myself using slip fingerings more when sight reading because I can't always plan out the best fingerings as I'm going, and sometimes you "run out of fingers," as someone said above.  It might be difficult to use slip fingerings a lot if you're not used to it, but you might try to see if you can work this idea in here and there with an eye towards using it more in the future when its more comfortable.

Don't Look at the Keys and Feel for the Black Keys with your Fingers.  When sightreading, its best to keep your eyes on the music and feel around for the right notes with your fingers if you have to.  You can often keep track of where you are by feeling for the black notes.  This is sort of an art.  It's easier to explain in person when you're working on a specific passage.

Anyway, these are some of the things I've found helpful for learning to read music and for sight reading.  There are always different views, opinions, and approaches.

Hope it helps.

Dave
dave long

Piano and Tenor Saxophone
Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline lufc71

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #8 on: May 21, 2020, 08:31:27 AM »
Hi Dave,

Many thanks for your comments (and everyone else! some great tips).

I have been trying Quantum's advice about 'grouping' and find it very useful. I often use the 'slip' technique in order to get the correct hand position for the next group. One thing I've never tried is 'feeling' before selecting the note. I simply try to memorise a particular interval distance. er...with varying degrees of success! ;)

Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #9 on: May 22, 2020, 05:32:02 AM »
Hey lufc71,

I thought a bit more about this today.  It's an area of interest to me because I had to break myself of the habit of looking at the keys when I got more serious about studying classical piano.

I think feeling your way around on the keyboard is a great way to find the right notes without taking your eyes off of the music.  You can do this with the white keys as well as the black ones.  Eventually, your hand will come to learn different shapes and the size of different intervals on the keyboard.  This makes reading easier, and you may not need to focus so much on feeling for the keys later on.

I uploaded some videos to you tube showing some ways to do this, but I can't seem to get the link to work.  I'll add the link soon if I can figure it out.
dave long

Piano and Tenor Saxophone
Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #10 on: June 02, 2020, 03:22:31 PM »
Hey - So it seems like this links to the individual videos work, but for some reason it won't let me link the channel.  Anyway, these are just some quick videos I made, when I was thinking about this.  If anyone has any thoughts, let know know.





dave long

Piano and Tenor Saxophone
Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #11 on: June 03, 2020, 03:22:58 AM »
Good advice for members here. Re videos above: You need to avoid expanding and contracting your hand unnecessarily since it is just added effort to your playing. For the octave changes you should keep your hand open and feel the fingers replacing the previous position of the other finger, that can be done by feel and doesn’t really require sight. Finger replacements to find new positions is very commonly used though many people don’t seem to find the importance of noting those things down in the score, 1rep5 easily instructs you to replace the previous position of 5th with the thumb, this kind of thinking can be applied for anything where fingers are replacing the other whether they play the very next note or not.
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Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #12 on: June 03, 2020, 09:37:44 AM »

Why did you use fingers 5321, when your standard arpeggiation of that hand shape is usually 5421.

Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #13 on: June 03, 2020, 03:50:32 PM »
Hey,

Thanks for the feedback.

Re videos above: You need to avoid expanding and contracting your hand unnecessarily since it is just added effort to your playing.

Yes, in general, I agree.  Economy of motion is a very important principle in piano playing.  You want to try to avoid unnecessary motions.  Sometimes, though, it's worth it to do some extra movement if there is a good reason.  In the situation where you have all white keys, like in the octave transition video, it can be hard to follow the feel of the breaks between the white keys when you have to move more than a few keys at a time.  The motion I showed in this video does require some extra motion, but I think it can be worth it sometimes if it helps to avoid hitting wrong notes or looking at the keyboard when reading.  Viewed positively, this octave transition technique can help you gain confidence that you will play the right note if you have consciously felt the transition with your fingers.  This technique can also help you to move 2 or more octaves if applied in succession.  These points in mind, I don't always use this technique to navigate skips of an octave or more.  When playing from memory, for example, sometimes I just look at the keyboard.  Also, I sometimes use feeling the black keys to orient myself for larger skips.  I think this is a useful technique to use sometimes when reading music, though.  I also think it can help to develop your sense of movement in space without the aid of the visual feedback.


1rep5 easily instructs you to replace the previous position of 5th with the thumb, this kind of thinking can be applied for anything where fingers are replacing the other whether they play the very next note or not.

I usually notate "1rep5" as "1-5."  I've also seen it sort of like this "1_5" but the "_" is curved (not sure how to find that symbol here).  When I'm replacing a finger with another finger and the note isn't depressed, I notate it as 1(5).  I'm not saying it's the best way to do it.  It's just a what I've been using.

Why did you use fingers 5321, when your standard arpeggiation of that hand shape is usually 5421.

No particular reason really.  It wasn't a conscious choice.  For the video in F maj., I was thinking mostly about the thumb and feeling for the spaces between the white keys with the thumb. For the left hand, I use both 5321 and 5421 for root position triads and arpeggios.  Sometimes, I find one option better than the other in a given situation.  Other times, like here, it's not a conscious choice, it just sort of happens, probably based on habit or something.  In general, I'm more confident in using finger 3 than finger 4 (in both hands), as I would guess most people are, so I try to use 4 sometimes when I'm practicing just to develop it a bit.  As one of my teachers said, if you don't use finger 4 occasionally, it will fall off while you're sleeping, and then you have to go to the doctor and have it surgically reattached...
dave long

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Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #14 on: June 04, 2020, 01:24:15 AM »
Sometimes, though, it's worth it to do some extra movement if there is a good reason.  In the situation where you have all white keys, like in the octave transition video, it can be hard to follow the feel of the breaks between the white keys when you have to move more than a few keys at a time.  The motion I showed in this video does require some extra motion, but I think it can be worth it sometimes if it helps to avoid hitting wrong notes or looking at the keyboard when reading.
I mean sure you should be able to do what you have demonstrated but the application of this contraction/expansion would only work if you had to play such movments very slowly with finger legato, this is just not something one comes across much and usually such transitions are quite rapid without the need for exaggerated legato produced by the fingers.
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Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #15 on: June 04, 2020, 01:55:25 AM »
Hey Lost - I see where you're coming from I think.  This feedback is helpful.  I will try to respond in more detail when I have some time.  I was doing the motion in a sort of exaggerated way to illustrate it for the camera.  It can be performed much faster.  Maybe I will make some more videos :)  I sort of just threw those together quickly to try to help out the original poster.  The basic idea, though, is to find your way from one spot to another by feel - continuously touching the keys as much as possible - to avoid picking up and plopping back down again with uncertain results.  So, sort of taking where the 5 was and replacing it with the 1 to keep your place, and vice versa with the 1 and the 5.
dave long

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Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline lufc71

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #16 on: June 04, 2020, 12:54:02 PM »
Hi Dave,

Many thanks for these videos. Very helpful. I've been working hard on all the above advice from all of you and certainly showing improvements. Although I've long used the 'slip' technique, I have never tried the 'feel before play' technique. Watching you do it, it seems such a natural thing to do. I will definitely start using it! :)

Offline davelongmusic

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #17 on: June 04, 2020, 05:24:19 PM »
I found the attached in a book called The Visible and Invisible in Pianoforte Technique, by Tobias Matthay, first published in 1932 (Oxford).  It relates to the idea of using the feel of the keyboard rather than sight to find your place.  I think it offers an interesting perspective.
dave long

Piano and Tenor Saxophone
Classical & Jazz
davelongmusic.com

Offline ranjit

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #18 on: June 04, 2020, 06:04:31 PM »
I don't read much from sheets at all, but the underlying principles are still the same, so I'll have at it. There are only so many common "configurations" of the hands. There's no point listing them out, but if you play a couple hundred tunes in a number of styles, you should get a feel for what I mean by that. You only have five fingers in each hand, and there are only so many sensible fingering possibilities which won't end up making your fingers tie up in knots.

One major factor is efficiency, which is to use as few hand position readjustments as you can. For example, look at the typical scale fingerings. Observe them closely. They are the "obvious" solutions to play that particular scale using the least number of hand position shifts possible.

Another major factor is hand comfort. Avoiding awkward stretches between fingers. Observe if a particular fingering puts too much strain on the wrist; if so, try and figure out another one.

Then you have considerations such as evenness of tone. I think large parts of such considerations do go back to the first two factors, but there are some additional aspects here as well.

I wouldn't suggest going through a bunch of fingerings and ending up with a dump of information in your head. (That said, you should probably still learn your scale and arpeggio fingerings.) Rather, think from these principles, and the solutions will become more and more obvious to you with time as you learn the ropes. Fingerings will "follow naturally" based on the concepts, and you will gain fluency with time. Also, in my personal experience, playing by ear was extremely helpful for me to get a good sense of fingering. I must have played thousands of tunes over the years (it just takes a few minutes to pick up a tune going on in your head and plonk it out on the piano). Playing by ear is different from learning from sheet music because you don't have any preplanned "expert opinion" written out for you. So, you instinctively feel freer to make mistakes. For mastery, you should have a good idea both of what makes a good fingering good, and a bad fingering bad. That is what you learn from your mistakes. The point is not to memorize and imitate what the experts say about fingering, but rather gain a deep instinctive mastery which will lead you to the correct conclusions 95% of the time.

Offline tschilb

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Re: Sight-reading fingering
«Reply #19 on: July 19, 2020, 12:08:21 AM »
It boils down to one thing, and that is consistency. The more that you sight-read and get down to the nitty-gritty with what fingers you should use for certain sections, it will become more natural and you will begin to find yourself using good fingering without even thinking about it.
There are great resources online that can help speed up the process.
Check out Pianoforall: https://bit.ly/2DQV1ze