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Better to play the piano with fingering

Understand fingering and learn to write

The right fingering is part of the perfect game. Learn here how to set it up and how to use it for practice.

Workshop: Better to play the piano with fingering

If you look at piano notes, they often show numbers above and below many notes and you wonder what they stand for and what they mean. Are they directly related to the grades? Do you have something with thatto read music to do or maybe help withPlay?

The various characters on the sheet of music, such as arcs, dots or lines, have already been learned from the notes for other instruments, but numbers only show a few notes, which is also the proof that these numbers have nothing to do with the notes themselves otherwise they would also be found in the sheet music for other instruments. But what do the numbers mean? Here is the solution: The aforementioned numbers are used in the notes of keyboard, string and plucked instruments. This is what is called fingering, tooApplicature called. The fingering and its numbers stand for certain fingers and for playing on the piano it shows with which finger a certain note and thus which key should be played. The fingering is therefore a great help in order to be able to play a lot more notes with just ten fingers without any problems.

In this workshop we explain what 'fingering' means and how to use it to play the piano well.

Quick facts: fingering

What is the role of fingering?

The fingering - too Applicature called - is a term used in music. In musical notations for keyboard, bowed and plucked instruments, he gives a recommendation as a number below or above the note with which finger the player should press the key or grasp or pluck the string.

The fingering is primarily intended to enable the fingers to be used appropriately, that is, to play the instrument as simply and ergonomically as possible. However, it can also have an effect on the tonal expression, so accents on the piano can be emphasized more easily with the thumb than, for example, with the other fingers.

If the noted fingering is not ideal for the player, it can be changed and adapted by using your own. For organists there is even a foot set for the organ pedal

Sometimes there are small numbers above the piano notes. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Is the fingering necessary for playing the piano?

Fingering is a great help in playing piano literature fluently. As a beginner playing the piano, you should definitely not do without it. Especially with this large instrument and its wide keyboard with 88 keys, it takes a while to find your way around. Over time, fingering becomes an important aid when playing the piano; it is the route taken by the fingers on the keyboard, which determines how well and quickly one can play certain combinations of notes at the same time or one after the other. Optimal fingering helps to sort the fingers for playing in such a way that you can be sure to achieve the desired note without errors or dislocations. Especially later, when you play difficult literature, you can hardly do without fingering. The fingering is, so to speak, the navigation system for a pianist's fingers and a successful aid for error-free playing.

If you've worked properly on your piano piece, you have to see it too, especially with your first Bach fugue. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

What to Avoid

Beginners in particular, or those who are still quite unsure, can be tempted to write down the finger they have chosen to play with a number for each note. If the piano piece to be practiced is quite complex and shows up in the form of many successive notes, then a forest of notes and numbers soon emerges, which soon makes the entire sheet of music very confusing. The signal effect at really important points is lost and you are faced with the same problem as if you had not noted any fingerings at all. The fingering therefore only develops its optimal effect if it is specifically reduced to the points where there is real need for action.

The notes themselves are important because they determine the tonal part of the piece to be played and the fingering takes over the coordination of hand and fingers in order to easily reach the notes to be played. Here the rule counts: less is often more. During the entire learning process, everyone later develops their own method to mark difficult passages in such a way that they can be played easily with their own fingering. The sheet of music pictured above and below shows how not to do it: Lots of notes + lots of fingering = great confusion.

For the sake of clarity, it is better not to overdo it when writing information in the musical text. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

How do you develop the right fingering?

The correct fingering is the one that meets the following rules:

  • The sound of the piece must be able to be implemented exactly as it is given by the notes.
  • Playing the notes must feel good, when positioning the fingers there should be no problems with the implementation or tension in the hand.

If you follow both rules, nothing can actually go wrong. Of course, piano and organ literature also show fingerings that were created because many users found them useful and the publisher also prints them as tried-and-tested aids. However, these are only suggestions that you can follow, but you don't have to. It is important how you can see the relevant points yourself, so that you should definitely try out whether the suggestion noted in the music paper is helpful, or whether you can better achieve your goal with a finger combination you have created yourself. Playing the piano requires initiative, which, when used correctly, makes a piece much easier to practice.

Which finger stands for which number?

A number is assigned to each finger:

  • The thumb is always the same on both hands 1
  • The index finger is always that 2
  • The middle finger the 3
  • The ring finger always that 4
  • The little finger gets it 5

These numbers are assigned to the fingers of both hands. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

So when writing the fingering, the numbers from 1 to 5 are used. For the right hand you always write the fingering over the notes of the right hand, for the left hand always under the notes of the left hand.

In order to be able to read the fingering faster it is important to write it for the right hand above the notes and for the left hand below the notes. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Reading is much easier this way, after all, the right hand is on top and the left hand is below. Thus, the assignment of the numbers to the hands is much easier to see. And if the right hand is playing very low and the left hand is playing very high at the same time, there is no room for numbers between the two hands.

The correct position of the fingering in the music makes it easy to read even in such passages. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Is the fingering always the same?

No, because fingering is first and foremost a matter of taste. This means that only the two parameters already mentioned above have to be fulfilled. Your own fingering should not stand in the way of error-free playing of the piece and it must be compatible with your own anatomy. Otherwise the way is free. Your own fingering is determined by the size of your own hands. A pianist with a small hand will definitely choose a different fingering in many places than a colleague with a large hand.

The size of your hand is a crucial factor in your fingering. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Two ways to write a fingering

Let's look at an example of what considerations are important when writing a fingering. To do this, we use a piece that we all know: "All my ducklings".

This is the beginning of "Alle mein Duckchen". (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

It can be seen that the song begins - like a scale - with a series of gradually ascending tones. Here six tones follow one after the other, but we only have five fingers. That's why we have to come up with a fingering so that we can play all six notes in the first place. As I said, it is advisable to write your own fingering. We'll show you how to build it up two wayshow to do that with this song.

Path no. 1: start with the index finger

With this fingering you could play the first part of All My Ducklings. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Video:Start with your index finger

(Video: Tobias Homburger)

Since we have six notes, we start the piece with the second finger. The thumb then continues with the following finger pad. So we can play all six notes in a row with one hand. This technique used e.g. B. Johann Sebastian Bach in his two-part Invention in D minor (see picture below).

This is an excerpt from the two-part Invention in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Path no. 2: the thumb pad

Now let's look at another possibility.

You could also play the beginning of our song like this. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Video: The thumb pad

(Video: Tobias Homburger)

This time the thumb has started and the thumb underlay only takes place after the third finger has been played. With these examples we can see that each passage can be played in different ways. I myself would choose the second way here, because - if you go the first way - you would otherwise have to play the note repetitions in the third bar with your little finger, which I personally find a bit tedious. As you can hear in the videos, both versions sound identical because they use the same notes. The goal is not to hear the different fingerings, only the correctly played notes. But maybe there are other options here ... and, no one writes fingerings as good as you do, after all it's about your fingers and your hand.

Start with your index finger and then put your thumb under it. (Photo: Michael Geisel)

As you can see in the picture below, only the really important numbers are noted in the music text. So here again the advice not to overdo it with the fingering, because then the signal effect of this aid is lost and the entire music text becomes confusing. For example, if the left hand starts with the fourth finger and plays notes upwards in stages, you should under no circumstances assign a number to all four notes. What for? It is logical that the next finger is always used in a scale.

For the sake of clarity, try to put as little fingering as possible in your sheet music. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Mark important points

If a given fingering z. B. changed by a thumb base, it makes sense to mark this point with a number, because the previously planned sequence has been changed. If there is still a bit of play at this point, it is advisable to experiment with additional fingerings.

If you play after the third finger, not the fourth, you should mark it exactly in your fingering. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Tips for fingering difficult pieces

Sometimes it is helpful to add a number to the note in front of a thumb base. You just have to try it out here. Over time you will find the optimal representation of the numbers in your own notes. Here is a second example; this piece is much more difficult.

Which fingering could be used in our second example? (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

In this example, each hand plays two different voices. Both above and below there is, on the one hand, a voice that consists only of quarter notes and, on the other hand, a voice made up of sixteenth notes that goes through both hands. Playing the left hand is relatively easy to do. Here it is enough if we always play the sixteenth notes with index finger and thumb, then there are exactly three fingers left for the lower part. This is what it looks like then. For the sake of illustration, we are now violating the advice given earlier and noting a lot of fingering.

With more difficult piano notes, there is often not too much leeway in fingering. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Video: fingering difficult piano literature

(Video: Tobias Homburger)

The silent change

Now to the right hand. If we only had to play the upper part in the right hand, the case would be easy. Four descending notes require only four fingers. However, the right hand takes over the second half of the sixteenth note accompaniment and these notes are quite low for the right hand. We can also play these notes again with just our thumb and forefinger.

The notes of the right hand are quite far apart on this piece. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

That works wonderfully, but how do we then bind the melody? The tones are too far apart. So we have to do a bit of trickery, with the so-called silent change. So we start with the quarter notes with the little finger and then play the 'G sharp' with the fourth, so we can tie the two notes very well. As soon as we hit the 'G sharp' we swap the fourth for the fifth finger without releasing the key. This is a good solution with the silent switch, but not that easy in this case because the black keys are much smaller.

With the help of the silent change, such a point also works well. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Video: Silent Change (Example: Right Hand)

(Video: Tobias Homburger)

With this technique you can also play such passages according to the notes. Ultimately, this is what this passage could look like in your grades. This time again only with the really necessary fingering.

For the sake of clarity, you should limit yourself to the really important numbers, especially in difficult sections. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Video:Silent change (example: left and right hand)

(Video: Tobias Homburger)


Closing word

In addition to actually playing notated notes, fingering is one of the most important parts when practicing and playing piano and organ literature. The fingering describes the path of the fingers of both hands on the keyboard and should - carefully adapted to your own anatomy - only mark the most important and difficult points in order to maintain an overview on the sheet of music. The fingering coordinates the playing technique and gives signals at the points that require increased attention. It is important that you find the fingering that offers the most comfortable sequence for playing the piece and that also practices it. The combination of perfect fingering and practice then guarantees the success that you are working towards later.

You can find more valuable tips about playing the piano here: