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Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
#1297860 11/01/09 05:59 PM
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I'm curious about others' preferences for fingering certain patterns that occur with frequency in piano music (and the principles on which those preferences are based, to the extent they exist). These specific circumstances (and the choices we make for them) seem to relate, in a peripheral way, to the long-standing "rule" of changing fingers on repeated notes (and whether we accept and follow that "rule").

First up is the basic inverted mordent figure—note X then note one step (or half-step) higher then note X—whether actually treated as an ornament or as "regular" notes of a musical passage. (Examples are from Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu and Waltz Op. 70 No. 1.)

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Of all the numerous options, do you prefer those that use the same finger on "note X" (e.g., 2-3-2, 2-4-2, 3-4-3) or those that employ a change of fingers (e.g., 1-3-2, 1-4-3, 2-3-1, 2-4-3, 3-4-2? Is it a matter of principle, or does it depend on the context, or both?

Here's a different kind of figuration in Chopin's Ballade Op. 23—specifically, the alternating fifths and fourths in the left hand that have a note in common:

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Would you use the same finger on the note present in each dyad (i.e., 5-2 2-1) or a different one (i.e., 5-2 3-1)?

Finally, consider a succession of chords that have the same or similar structure (as with progressively higher inversions and/or subtly different harmonies); each chord shares at least some notes with the previous one. (The first example is from Chopin's Op. 23 again; the second is the opening bars of Fauré's Ballade Op. 19.)

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Do you like the same fingers where possible (e.g., 542 421 in the Chopin, 542 421 421 in the first measure of Fauré) or to change fingers where comfortable to do so (e.g., 531 421 for Chopin, 531 421 531 for Fauré)?

I have some definite preferences in all of these cases; I suspect everyone here does as well. As a self-taught amateur, though, I'm not certain just why favor the fingerings I do. I am pretty sure I've been influenced by long-term exposure to the suggestions of editors (notably Rafael Joseffy), and I even have confidence that those choices are sound, practical and have an elegance I would call "pianistic."

But what are people taught? And what were people taught, to the extent that old-school practices may have differed from modern ones? While the basis of efficient fingering of arpeggiated and scalar passages can probably be reduced to some succinct and easily formulated guidelines, I have no idea what the foundation is for situations like these that I've depicted here.

In addition any opinions and observations any of you care to share, I'd be interested in pointers to academic or pedagogical materials that address these fingering issues from a theoretical or practical standpoint. Thanks in advance!

Steven

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1297867 11/01/09 06:20 PM
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Steven :

It seems that you and I may have a different idea of what constitutes "repeated" notes. In the examples from the Fantaisie Impromptu and the Waltz, Op 70, No 1, I don't consider those G-sharps, C-sharps, F-sharps, G-flats, etc., as repeated notes, since there is a note intervening between them. I don't make any particular attempt to change fingers on those particular notes, since my initial hand position prepares well for what follows. I'm sure that I could change fingers, but I don't see the advantage to doing so.

In the Op. 23 examples the D's and C's serve as "pivots" and I would certain maintain the second finger on both of them. It would seem an academic exercise to change fingers with, to me, no particularly practical result.

In the Fauré, I think I could go either way, but my first choice would be to play the first chords with 4, 2, 1 then move to play the second and third chords with 3, 2, 1.

As far as what is taught, some of my past teachers have emphasized that fast, repeated notes are best executed with a change of fingers, but none of these examples would encourage me to use a change of fingering for the sake of changing fingers. I would, therefore, only change fingers when the chords moved far enough from each other that the hand had to change position relative to the keyboard.

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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
BruceD #1297896 11/01/09 07:30 PM
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Bruce, we both share the usual understanding of what repeated notes are.

You're right, the inverted mordent figuration is different in that there is an intervening note before the note in question is repeated. I described this as a situation that "seem[s] to relate, in a peripheral way," to the classic case of changing fingers on a note that is literally repeated in succession. That's because many people—many editors, at any rate—do routinely suggest a change of fingers (e.g., 132, 243) with those figurations.

I have a strong sense that the pedagogical principle, whatever it is, is the same in all these cases. It seems, based again on predominant editorial scholarship (of an earlier era, anyway), to be reducible to "Avoid using the same finger on the same note." I have no idea what's behind the principle itself, though, and hope that some light can be shed on it in this thread.

In any event, thanks for sharing where you stand on the matter. smile

Steven

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1298174 11/02/09 10:14 AM
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The principal behind not using the same finger on a repeated note is to avoid tension build-up. This, in my opinion, can vary depending on the context and tempo of the piece. For example, playing Fur Elise with those repeated LH notes, one really should change, although it may not be necessary to change on *every* note. That is up to the performer as to what they can tolerate and do well.

It also helps in very fast tempi (say in Bartok's 6 Dances in Bulgarian Rhythms no. 6) where there are many repeated notes before the return of the original theme and in other areas. Since it goes so quickly, in order to repeat the notes fast enough to suit the tempo one must alternate fingers, as the lifting of the hand in order to repeat the note clearly takes too much time.

Having said that, I do not feel that even peripherally this concept applies to the above examples. In the cases of mordents, trills, etc. one must lift the finger of the previous note anyway to a certain extent when going to the next. However, the lift is not as pronounced as when having to repeat a note for clarity. Also, one certainly can go to the extreme of a long trill between say fingers 2 & 3. I can do that trill for a very long time, clearly and without fatigue, and so there is no need to change the fingering, especially to be as fussy as changing every time I repeat a note.

In the instances of repeated notes from one chord to the next, it is desirable to keep the same fingerings if at all possible. This allows for greater accuracy, as it is much easier to play a chord while changing only the notes that change with new fingering. One should only change if it is in anticipation of a stretch of some kind that would be facilitated by a change in the previous chords.

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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1300104 11/05/09 05:16 PM
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As a general rule, I was taught to change fingers.

In a previous life I was specifically taught and specifically learned that changing fingers can produce greater clarity and greater brilliancy. This includes trills, too, e.g., a RH trill on notes X-Y would be fingered X1-Y3-X2-Y3 (etc) or even X1-Y3-X2-Y4 (depending on the specific notes) for a more brilliant sound.

Chord passages, too, although chord passages have extra dimensions that influence fingering, e.g., what specific voice(s), if any, to emphasize.

Of course, there are always exceptions to changing fingers subject to the desired sound, tempo, specific notes/patterns involved, and anything else in the giant category of technical/musical context. Depending on that context, choice of fingering will absolutely affect the, er, effect produced.

Incidentally, if I remember right, Alan Walker touches on this topic in his Liszt biography and credits Liszt with the "changing fingers" -approach for greater clarity and brilliancy.

This is a very interesting "what is the principle for..." -post; thanks for including the music snippets and good luck!



Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Martin Blank #1300142 11/05/09 06:53 PM
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Steven,

For the first example (and second), I'd stick with 2-3-2 for the same set of notes. If I can use the same fingering for whatever notes at hand, I'll use it. Why make life more complicated and constantly change hand/finger position when it is not strictly needed?

For the Chopin and Fauré, I'd personally just stick with keeping the same finger on the same note regardless of the chord change. As long as my 3rd finger can fit on the same note for the next chord, I will keep it there. I feel it is a lot more convenient than having to prepare to switch hand position more than you really need to.



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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Drunk3nFist #1300188 11/05/09 08:57 PM
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As I've given this topic more thought since my initial post and compared among various editions, I'm increasingly convinced that what I may have mistakenly perceived as conventional practice is instead idiomatic to Rafael Joseffy's pianism and pedagogy—especially as regards not employing XYX fingers to play an XYX note pattern, and not using the same finger on note Y in an XY YX' pattern.

I wish I knew more about Joseffy's underlying philosophy. Because of the ubiquity of his editions of Chopin in an earlier time, it's become an ingrained part of my own approach.

Steven

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1300197 11/05/09 09:22 PM
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I always think it is best to see what works best for you. Some may feel better changing fingerings, and some may not. It all depends on the individual because while we're all human, not everyone has the same shape/size hands and dexterity. If you encounter a portion that is difficult to execute in a similar, you may want to look into changing the fingering. Someone else may not have issue with it. I really don't think there's a one size fits all solution. It's an option, and if I have a student who has some trouble, then it's something to suggest to them.


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Morodiene #1300207 11/05/09 09:38 PM
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Changing fingers certainly creates a different "effect". I think it depends on the effect you are trying to achieve as to what fingering you employ. As I have said before our hands are all different, so fingering for one is not necessarily fingering for an other.


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1300220 11/05/09 10:16 PM
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In all but the Faure, I would personally keep the same finger on the repeated notes. Because in the examples you showed, those passages are not blindingly fast and they do not repeat the same note.

In the Faure, the reason I would change fingers is simply because I have very tiny hands and it would be a slightly awkward stretch for me to not switch with each chord.

I tend to only use different fingers for "true" repeated notes - eg if the exact note was repeated 2x or more very quickly. Eg Chopin Valse Brilliante in the right hand, the D flat.


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1301235 11/07/09 06:10 PM
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No disrespect to anyone, but, I get the impression that many choose one fingering over another largely because it "hits all the notes." There's little/no mention of other considerations such as the sound that's naturally produced from certain fingering choices. Was anyone formally taught a specific approach to fingering and how it can affect the sound produced or is it just hit-miss experimentation?

Not trying to stir up any "my instructor was better than your instructor" -stuff, just curious what others were taught and even how it compares with what they actually do.

**sotto voce**
Dunno if you've seen this insight from Mo Rosenthal on Joseffy, comparing Joseffy with Mikuli (Rosenthal studied with Mikuli before going to Joseffy), "Whereas Mikuli had always insisted on the closest legato, the most exact connection of tones, Joseffy taught a half-staccato touch, which was quite the opposite. The former was smooth and flowing, the latter more scintillating and brilliant. Naturally this new manner of touch added a new aspect to my style of playing. Not that I entirely gave up my legato manner of playing, but I endeavored to cultivate also the detached, brilliant, delicate style of which my new teacher was such a master."

http://www.arbiterrecords.com/musicresourcecenter/rosenthal.html .

Although I'm not that familiar with the specifics of Joseffy Chopin editions, your comment on Joseffy "not employing XYX fingers to play an XYX note pattern, and not using the same finger on note Y in an XY YX' pattern" does not suprise me at all, because that's exactly the approach I was taught in order to achieve a more brilliant sound: it's easier that way.

As an aside to others who might not know, Joseffy studied with Tausig and then later, Liszt. Rosenthal, after studying with Joseffy, then spent the next seven-plus years studying with Liszt. It wouldn't surprise me that if a comparison were made of Tausig, Joseffy, Rosenthal, and Mikuli fingerings that Tausig, Joseffy, and Rosenthal would have more similarities and that Mikuli would be the odd man.

There's gotta be someone out there who's written a thesis on this, ha-ha!



Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Martin Blank #1301317 11/07/09 10:46 PM
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Martin,

It occurred to me, too, that issues such as these would be documented by pedagogues and researched by academics. I also believe that there may be PW members with knowledge and historical perspective concerning principles of fingering, but their participation here obviously can't be counted on.

Your comment that Mikuli might well be "odd man out" as compared to Tausig, Joseffy and Rosenthal is especially interesting considering that the largest and most prominent American publisher, G. Schirmer, has long offered an edition of Chopin's complete solo piano music by Mikuli as well as a parallel series by Joseffy (of all but the polonaises, sonatas and etudes).

Mikuli's direct connection to Chopin is widely considered to confer credibility on his decisions (notably fingering choices) as an editor; it's assumed that they would be closest to Chopin's own. I always had the impression, though, that Joseffy's editions were more popular, perhaps because his fingering suggestions—while sometimes idiosyncratic—were so much more abundant.

Thanks very much for the link to the article about Rosenthal.

Steven

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1301364 11/08/09 12:54 AM
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I only change fingers when I am focusing on a series of repeated notes, particularly if it is a melodic line. Rapidly repeated notes are of course best served by alternating fingers.

Repeated notes that appear within the middle of a chord are exempt from finger-changing.

As others have mentioned - I would not alternate fingers in the Chopin examples above, as there are intervening notes.

I can't quote any pedagogues on this subject, but am happy to give my opinion: using the same finger to repeat an individual note comes across as rather a crude jabbing at the key. Alternating fingers is much more elegant... but I do not slavishly observe it.

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
whippen boy #1301696 11/08/09 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by whippen boy
I can't quote any pedagogues on this subject, but am happy to give my opinion: using the same finger to repeat an individual note comes across as rather a crude jabbing at the key. Alternating fingers is much more elegant... but I do not slavishly observe it.


I recently attended a vocal recital where the pianist (very good in my opinion) played very fast repeated notes with one finger on Dvorak's "Song to the Moon". It was an amazing fluid motion from the forearm/wrist that was not in the least crude. It reminded me of a woodpecker drumming on a tree.


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Arghhh #1301698 11/08/09 04:33 PM
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Arghhh, I do love your avatar! Cute. cool


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
Arghhh #1301725 11/08/09 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by whippen boy
I can't quote any pedagogues on this subject, but am happy to give my opinion: using the same finger to repeat an individual note comes across as rather a crude jabbing at the key. Alternating fingers is much more elegant... but I do not slavishly observe it.


I recently attended a vocal recital where the pianist (very good in my opinion) played very fast repeated notes with one finger on Dvorak's "Song to the Moon". It was an amazing fluid motion from the forearm/wrist that was not in the least crude. It reminded me of a woodpecker drumming on a tree.

I suppose if the intent is to imitate a woodpecker, then it would be quite appropriate. smile

I've accompanied that Rusalka aria on quite a few occasions... I usually alternate fingers, but I remember using the same finger for a particular piano. It seemed to repeat better.

As I said, I'm entirely flexible when it comes to such things.

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1301810 11/08/09 09:44 PM
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I have adopted composer-pianists like Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff as my trusted fingering teachers.

For example, authentic Chopin fingering 132- 132- 132- 132- in the RH of bar 2 of op.10 #4 (Wiener Urtext). I look at those figures of "almost repeating" notes and I see a big difference between those and the ones in the RH of the Fantasie-Impromptu in your post. With the ones in the Etude, one needs to crisply attack the first note of each beat, having arrived from a higher note played with the little finger. The thumb is the natural choice. But 232 for me in the Fantaisie-Impromptu.

The three note trill in the second subject of the Fantasy-Impromptu: 232 again for me. No high tempo nor strong accent on the first note to suggest a special fingering there.

Your third example, the Waltz in G flat major, Op.70 #1. Even rhythm triplets, not a very fast pace, just as easy to attack with a 3 as a 1... hmmm, is it easier to arrive on the thumb or the middle finger? In this case, 343 for me. (By the way, I much prefer the rabbity, lippety-lip rhythm of Chopin's autograph version rather than the Fontana version of that waltz.)

The Ballade op.23 LH: I would never change fingers on inner notes in slower passages except to: 1) avoid fatigue in a very repetitive passage; 2) give special articulation if needed and where repeating with the same finger might fail to do the job properly.

The last two examples: I nestle into a nice comfy hand position and only move when I have to. The "greats" mentioned at the beginning seem to follow this philosophy in their fingerings. As examples, the three Petrarch Sonnets in the Second Year of Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage. Another example is Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto, first movement, 4th bar of figure 8. In the LH each half bar moves around the following note pairs: 23, 23, 24, 34, 24->23, 34->23, 24. The composer doesn't mark these, but I find it significant that as soon as the obvious steady-hand-position fingering breaks down, Rachmaninoff jumps in and advises on exact fingers for the next chords. Contrast the fff rising chords of the cadenza, where articulation is key, and the composer spells out the finger changes that take place on the inner notes.

Other things I noticed when thinking about your posts:

Liszt, Au Lac de Wallenstadt, bars 4-5: three E flats in a row at a slow tempo, authentic 3 2 1 fingering by Liszt, and in similar places later in the piece too.

Liszt, Après une lecture du Dante, Andante (ben marcato il canto with an F sharp major harmony): finger changes on repeated notes in the LH. Later in the same piece, Tempo rubato e molto ritenuto, 5 4 in the upper notes of repeated RH octaves.

Chopin, Op.10 #5, bar 26: 21212 explicitly marked for the almost repeated notes, to dissuade the performer from pointlessly playing 21424 like the end of the previous bar (which Cortot actually does in his teaching edition!).

Chopin, Nocturne Op.32 #1, third last bar: 3 on the first and last repeated C sharp in the RH, implying 3 on all of them. Trumpet-like, penetrating call rather than lyrical style.

Sorry for the lack of images for the passages I've mentioned. In a nutshell, for me, in general:

* Slow/moderate tempo, emphatic/articulated repeated notes = same finger
* Slow/moderate tempo, lyrical repeated notes = changing fingers
* Rapid almost-repeating notes = will depend on hand position, where I've come from and where I'm going
* Rapid repeating notes = changing fingers
* Common notes in lyrical chords = same fingers
* Common notes in emphatic chords, little movement = same fingers
* Common notes in emphatic chords, much movement = different fingers


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Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1302321 11/09/09 06:49 PM
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Where single notes are concerned, I generally alternate fingers. I tend to get better articulation that way. The diads on the Ballade however, I use the same finger for the repeated notes because switching fingers increases the opportunity to clip the C# (in your first ex.) or the b/c# (in the second ex.)

Sometimes, after playing a piece for awhile (the minute waltz for ex.) I switch from using alternate fingers to the same fingers. The bottom line for me is what creates the least mistakes for that particular piece.

Re: Fingering - what do *you* do in such instances?
sotto voce #1344103 01/08/10 04:33 PM
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Not sure if anyone cares anymore, but, here's a minor follow-up on both the Chopin tangent and the "there must be some academic research out there" tangent...

To be sure, Tausig, Joseffy, and Rosenthal were well-known for their brilliant sound; Mikuli/Chopin emphasized extreme legato. On that alone, I expect some differences in fingering between "the brilliant three" and "the legato one". I'm also extrapolating from personal experience long-ago, where given a particular passage, choice of fingering could/would be quite different depending on whether I wanted a brilliant sound or a very legato sound. It was in that light I painted Mikuli as the odd man, i.e., only in a comparison of fingering commonalities, not a comparison of whose fingering would be authoritative for representing Chopin's fingering.

No doubt for "things Chopin" Mikuli gets the nod over the other three because of his first-hand experience. However, there was still quite a bit of disagreement even among Chopin's high-level students Mikuli, Fontana, Tellefsen (and others) over what exactly Chopin intended in various works.

I did a slightly-more-than-casual look on the interwebz (because I wanted to know if my conjecture was right or wrong!) for a waltz or mazurka to compare Mikuli fingerings with some combination of Tausig, Joseffy, and Rosenthal fingerings. Short of buying an edition, no luck!

The closest thing I have for a comparison is an ascending RH chromatic run in (double) thirds between von Bulow and Mikuli. For this specific passage, von Bulow is a proxy for Tausig because von Bulow asserted that both Dreyschock and Tausig used the same fingering as von Bulow for the same theoretical and practical reasons. For more detail, see von Bulow's "Auserlesen Klavier-Etuden von Fr. Chopin" (roughly translated as "Chopin's Bad-Ass Piano Etudes") published in 1880. For even more detail, see Jim Huneker's "Chopin: The Man And His Music" published in 1900, which, on top of von Bulow's remarks, includes additional fingering comparisons of that same passage between Godowsky, Kullak, Hummel, Czerny, Klindworth, Clementi, and Riemann. I was going to branch this out to a new thread on the advantages/disadvantages of the three (?) main fingerings, but, didn't think there would be much interest.

Ironically, von Bulow (Dreyschock Tausig) believed their fingering was superior to Mikuli/Chopin's because the run could then be played legatissimo on the modern piano, whereas the Mikuli/Chopin fingering allows a mere legato. In fairness, von Bulow does acknowledge that the Mikuli/Chopin fingering was likely quite suiteable for legatissimo on the old Pleyel and Wolff pianos of Chopin's day.

As an aside, von Bulow's fingering is the first one I learned way-back-when; later I switched to the Mikuli/Chopin fingering because I found it easier and faster, but, at the expense of the legatissimo. How about that, those giants really did know what they were talking about!

Straying further, somewhere along the way I found this paper in the webcloud:
Automatic Decision of Piano Fingering Based on Hidden Markov Models
http://www.aaai.org/Papers/IJCAI/2007/IJCAI07-469.pdf

Abstract With Cited References
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?...E&CFID=71480769&CFTOKEN=37203258

Technical Abstract
http://hil.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/research.../Yonebayashi2007IJCAI-article/index.html

Since the model specifically doesn't consider musical aspects in fingering choices, I didn't read the paper beyond the cited references. Based on the titles of the six cited references in this one paper, four focus on the "just hit all the notes" -approach and only one addresses musical considerations in fingering choices. Great for robots, not so great for music, ha-ha!

Good luck everyone and no hard feelings.




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