5 top pieces of advice on how to improve your fingering


Always a hot topic, Melanie Spanswick offers up some quick tips.

Fingering is a perpetual hot topic and we all know that finding the right fingering solution for a particular passage can make a colossal difference, fostering smooth, fluent, and ideally, comfortable playing. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to fingering as everyone one of us has a different size hand, but hopefully, the following suggestions may be helpful. 

 

1. Aim to know all the standard fingerings for scales

It's particularly important to know contrary motion, arpeggios, and broken chords. If you know these fingerings, you will have a substantial advantage when learning any repertoire, but especially in Baroque and Classical styles, where scale passages and arpeggios abound. It can be prudent to learn two or three fingerings for chromatic scales and a couple for chromatic thirds as well. 

 

2. Know where your thumbs are and where they should be!

Even when passagework isn’t symmetrical, the thumbs can stabilize the hand and be aware of where they fall in rapid figurations aids the memory, making fingering easier to grasp. 

 

3. I advise my students to play ‘in position’ as much as possible

This involves limiting turning the hand or changing hand positions. Many hand turns can easily lead to a bumpy, uneven musical line (this happens when there are too many thumbs on the scene!). If you can use outer parts of the hand (the fourth and fifth finger) as much as the inner part (thumb and second finger), not only will the hand be more balanced, but it will also feel natural to play without so much movement. The fourth and fifth finger will need to be sufficiently strong in order to do this. 

 

4. Finger substitution and finger sliding both ultimately provide smooth legato

Changing fingers on a note (once you’ve played a note, quickly replace whatever finger you used to play the note with another, whilst keeping the note depressed), or sliding fingers from one note to another, but still keeping the musical line (almost connecting the notes, as much as you can, so the overall impression is one of legato). 

 

5. Once you’ve decided, DO NOT change it!

This is a cardinal rule; when you change or substitute fingers after working at the original fingering for a while, the brain has already wired these finger movements and cancelling them will be awkward, to say the least. Practice tends to make permanent, so spend some time writing your fingering in the score before you begin studying a piece, and be quite sure your chosen fingerings suit your hand and you are happy with them. 

 

Melanie Spanswick