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Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process (Read 526 times)

Offline garrett

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Hi all! When I start a new piece, I find that the most difficult part about learning the piece is figuring out what fingerings to use. I have almost no clue what fingers to use, especially during arpeggios.

Is there a formula to figuring out what fingers to use on long runs of notes? Any general rules or tips that should be followed?

Thanks!

Offline quantum

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #1 on: October 24, 2020, 11:55:48 AM »
Hi and welcome to Pianostreet.

You can start by studying common use fingerings for scales, chords and arpeggios in all keys.  The more you become familiar with these, you will begin to see recurring patterns.  You can apply these patterns to your repertoire.

These technical patterns as we study them from charts and reference books don't always appear the same way in repertoire.  For example: if you look up the scale for F major in a technique book, it likely begins on F, goes up a few octaves to another F, and back down to the point of origin.  In repertoire, you might encounter the same scale but starting on a different note, say from C to C. What you can do is take the patterns you learned, and apply them to your repertoire. 

You could apply the pattern literally as you learned it, note for finger
Left Hand:
C D E F G A Bb C
1 3 2 1 4 3 2 1

but that might not fit with the music, and it might feel awkward.  So we try another pattern, one that occurs frequently in other scales and  see how that works
Left Hand:
C D E F G A Bb C
5 4 3 2 1 3 2 1

Fits better doesn't it.


Choose editions with worked out  fingering.  The more you play music from a certain style, you will begin to pick up recurring patterns.  The next time you see a familiar pattern, you have a better idea on how to solve the fingering problems. 

There is no magic formula.  You get better at this through experience.  Grow your repertoire, and you will increase your experience because you have been exposed to more of these fingering puzzles and have a larger pool of patterns from which to reference.

Develop awareness of your body and it's movements.  If a fingering doesn't fit change it.  Sometimes you might find out, a chosen fingering is okay for slow practice but not great for performance tempo. 

Take ownership of your fingering choices.  Avoid being indecisive, and make effort to find a solution.  You can always modify at a later date. 
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 ranjit

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #2 on: October 24, 2020, 11:59:15 AM »
Know your scales and arpeggios. That solves 90% of fingering problems. Also, getting a hang of the logic behind the associated keyboard patterns will help you figure out solutions to fingering issues on your own.

The common logic is to use the least number of hand shifts as possible. Black keys are best played with 2, 3 and 4, so prepare accordingly. Arpeggio patterns are usually some variant of 123, 124. Most scales use a variant of 12312345. Leaps will often use 1-4 or 1-5 etc. After a while, it's been my experience that fingering just feels like common sense for the most part. There might be some slight changes later on, or musical/fluency related considerations (should I play repeated notes with the same finger or not? would a 1-2 or 1-3 be faster in terms of movement, etc.)

Overall, know your scales and arpeggios. I've also found playing by ear to be incredibly useful to gain a relatively automatic level of fluency with most fingering patterns.

Offline garrett

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #3 on: October 25, 2020, 07:34:19 AM »
Thanks both of you ranjit, and quantum - for your well thought-out replies.

Looks like I need to pick up a book on scales and arpeggios. Would you recommend the Hanon exercises?

Garrett

Offline quantum

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #4 on: October 25, 2020, 08:38:49 AM »
Repertoire and real music is more important than exercises IMO.  We learn scales, chords, and arpeggios because they occur in real music.  It is like learning vocabulary before learning to read a book.  Most of your practice time should be devoted to playing real music. 

There are differing views on Hanon and a lot has been written about it here on Pianostreet.  I say, learn a few of them so you know what it is about, then move on.  There is no need to play the entire book.  Scales, chords and arpeggios are different, you need to learn to play them in all keys, so you can recognize them when they occur in repertoire.

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 ranjit

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #5 on: October 25, 2020, 10:01:28 AM »
Scales and arpeggios will help a lot. For the specific question of improving fingering, I don't think Hanon is a good idea. Especially if you're learning on your own, I would suggest sticking to pieces which you want to play at an appropriate difficulty level. While Hanon may be useful in certain situations if done correctly, I don't think it's a good idea to learn it on your own. I have never done Hanon, nor do I find it very useful. I think it's better to just play easy pieces of music instead. It's typically easier to pick up bad habits playing exercises imo, because you have this psychological barrier that it's supposed to be an exercise and somewhat difficult which leads you to unknowingly tense up. It's much more natural to play an actual piece of music in a flowing manner, which is closer to how your motions on the piano should be anyway.

For fingering, just keep doing it. Don't limit yourself. Pick up any piece of music you like regardless of difficulty, and then figure out how you would play it. Then cross check with an actual performance to see if it makes sense. Once you get good enough, improvising is also a good strategy because you need to come up with viable fingerings on the spot.

Offline keypeg

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #6 on: October 25, 2020, 11:19:57 PM »
For fingering, consider the shape of your hand and of the keyboard with the black key groupings and white keys (hills and valleys).  You want to aim for convenience, ease, less-often changes, and things that make sense.  I don't know if I'd be starting out with music where I have to figure out the fingering.  You may also work with music that has reliable fingering, and work backward to figure out what kinds of principles are behind those choices.  (Also be aware that not all proposed fingering is good, or good for your hand).

I was not good at this and am not sure if I am now.  For the principle of "find what is comfortable", you have to know what comfortable feels like.  There were a few times where I had "normal" fingering - my teacher tweaked the fingering - and I'm like "Oh!  This is so comfortable and smooth!"  Only then did I realize how awkward my fingering was.  But awkward also felt "normal", because I didn't know any better.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Self-taught pianist with a recurring difficulty in learning process
«Reply #7 on: October 26, 2020, 02:08:33 PM »
Choose editions with worked out  fingering.  The more you play music from a certain style, you will begin to pick up recurring patterns.  The next time you see a familiar pattern, you have a better idea on how to solve the fingering problems. 

This.  But don't just apply them blindly, ask yourself why.  See if you can find underlying principles.

Also, avoid Bach for a while.  <smiley>  Bach tends to require very precisely correct fingering or it doesn't work.  That will be frustrating at first and the underlying principles won't be obvious.  Later it will make sense. 
Tim