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Alternate fingerings for scales
#2999102 07/05/20 02:38 PM
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Hello,
My piano teacher suggested that I alter my fingering when playing left hand scalar passages in pieces. It completely makes sense in the context of the music and my very small hands. But he's also saying that my typical way of practicing scales by themselves is not working well for me. He is suggesting that I not practice hands together much at all, but that I focus on hands separately and often I will need to change the fingering of my left hand from the usual scale fingering.. Specifically he says that wherever possible I should not cross over my left thumb on anything but a white key. For example, with the d major scale: I would start with 2 on my left hand and it would be 2-1-4-3-2-1-3-2. My usual way would be 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1.

I really like, respect, and generally trust my teacher but I wanted to run this by everyone. I do have very small hands (I can only reach an octave on the edges of white keys. Octaves on black keys are super hard) And I can only do one or two octaves in a row, fairly slowly in order to not create problems my hands. I also have pretty bad hand arthritis that is getting in the way of some piano playing. So I think my teacher is taking all of this into account as well.

My plan is to do what my teacher says and practice with this alternate fingering. I'll see if I can do scalar passages with my left hand more easily. I just wanted to run this whole thing by you guys. Thank you for your thoughts!


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Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999110 07/05/20 02:58 PM
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What your teacher is suggesting is commonly called natural scale fingering. It was first taught by Chopin and championed by the likes of Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher of Richter, Gilels, et al, at the Moscow Conservatory). The 4th finger in the left hand goes on a black key in scales of G, D, A and F.

Early scale practise should be single hands, intermediates can add two handed scales for coordination. More advanced players should go back to emphasis on single hands. Good scale playing should be mental exercise; it's not finger drills.


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Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999114 07/05/20 03:09 PM
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How do you usually play your A major?

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999131 07/05/20 03:35 PM
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Well, normally my left hand would be 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1 with my 4th finger on B. I suppose the "new way"would be 2-1-3-2-1-4-3-2 with my 4th finger on F#


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Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999213 07/05/20 06:57 PM
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oh yeah ok i see why a part of you want to object to your teacher's fingering. Ha ha Maybe it's temporary? I have small hands too. I hear small hands are faster on scales. Don't know...

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999300 07/06/20 02:12 AM
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In fact, that fingering is really just the one used on the relative minor scale and practicing it does not really change your habits. It's as though you started your minor scale on the third degree.

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
wszxbcl #2999313 07/06/20 03:23 AM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
I hear small hands are faster on scales. Don't know...
Small hands are really faster on everything that requires finger work.

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999315 07/06/20 03:32 AM
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pianosuzemn, I think your teacher knows better. He can see you playing, he knows your limitations because of arthritis and other possible technichal problems. We do not. I feel I have no right to recommend anything in this situation.

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999317 07/06/20 03:51 AM
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This alternate fingering for the left hand in some major and minor keys is documented since a long time. That said, i am not sure what your small hands have to do with it. The size of your hands should not prevent you from playing your scales and reaching an octave is already good enough. This fingering, definitely easier, is essentially usefull when playing at higher tempo. I can play A major in the usual fingering at a fast tempo.

I dont think that using a more efficient fingering for your scales is going to help you in the long run. You have to get used to work with the hands you have and develop the flexibility you can within your limits. Piano playing also requires some agility in the hands. So i think it is just a quick fix which is not very helpful. If you cant manage to play your scales with the usual fingering, then you are quickly going to run into other issues as soon as the level of difficulty will increase.

As far as hands together or separate, i dont think it is necessary to separate the 2. Hands separate is usefull to really get the mouvement into each hand. Hands together is usefull for coordination. You should practice both and learn hands together early because it takes some time and it is an excellent exercise.

So all in all, what i am saying is that instead of trying to avoid the issue, your teacher should adress the technical limitations you have and put you through specific exercices to develop your flexibility.

Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999410 07/06/20 11:05 AM
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Thanks everyone. In response to the comments, I think having small hands may impact my crossing over the thumb as it's a bit harder to reach the next key when you're crossing over a black key than when you're crossing over the keys between B and C or E and F. (Or I think that's what my teacher was explaining and that makes sense to me). I think my arthritis is definitely impacting my agility, and even the way my fingers hit the keys--sometimes off to the side rather than right on the key as you'd expect, due to some deformity. My teacher is somewhat aware of this but now with virtual lessons it's a little harder for him to see that. I don't actually have problems playing scales with the usual fingerings, as that's what I've practiced for years, usually with hands together. But I think he's mostly recommending this alternate fingering when I'm playing specific passages and having trouble with evenness and speed. It's fine--I trust my teacher and will go forward with his plan. I don't practice scales on their own a lot anymore but I play scale-like passages often in the Bach pieces that I love. I plan to spend a bit of time each day on the alternate fingering specifically for my left hand, but I won't dwell on this anymore. Thanks again.


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Re: Alternate fingerings for scales
pianosuzemn #2999446 07/06/20 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by pianosuzemn
[...] it's a bit harder to reach the next key when you're crossing over a black key than when you're crossing over the keys between B and C or E and F. [...]

That's odd; my piano doesn't have any keys between B and C or between E and F! smile

Cheers!


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