Thursday, January 22, 2015

Why Fingering Matters

My adult piano students struggle with using secure fingering when playing. Whether I am dealing with a hobbyist or college music major, the question is always the same....why does it matter which finger I use? Isn't the goal to simply play the right notes?

Such questions display a lack of understanding about the musical benefits of good technique -- including, but not limited to, fingering patterns. In her wonderful book Professional Piano Teaching: A Comprehensive Piano Pedagogy Textbook for Teaching Elementary-Level Students, Jeanine M. Jacobson sums up the importance of fingering in the following passage:
Appropriate fingering makes playing more comfortable and solves technical problems while reducing tension. When students do not observe the written fingerings, they often play pieces with different fingerings every time. This results in several mental etchings of the same musical material, with the mind choosing, at random, a different fingering for each subsequent encounter. Because accurate playing of the piano is a physical habit and no consistent fingering habit has been established, learning of the piece is delayed. Furthermore, poor fingering habits make it more difficult to focus on musical aspects of performance. (Jacobson, Professional Piano Teaching, 169)
In addition to Jacobson's eloquently worded defense of fingering, I would add the following benefits of focusing on secure fingering patterns.
  • Good fingering enhances melodic phrasing.
  • The study of fingering patterns ensures the technical development of the entire hand - especially the use of fingers 4 and 5 - and does not rely solely on the more dominant fingers.
  • Carefully thought out fingering allows the performer to easily transition between sections of the music.
  • Secure fingering often allows strong fingers (i.e. dominant fingers) to arrive on strong beats, producing a fuller sound while eliminating technical challenges.
Quite simply - GOOD FINGERING MATTERS!