The best fingering for playing piano songs are natural ones. The mechanics of the fingers and wrists cooperate to produce clear rhythm, tone and flexible tempo
Rhythm began to take form as I continued to coax out of the piano the proper sound to complete the bar shown in Image 1 below. There is a process to it that I never gave much thought to because I was so focused on its execution. When more thought was put into it, I realized I could own it outright. Therefore, be more deliberate in controlling it. As a result, progress and success were more certain.
One process involved is determining the fingering. As it is with all piano songs, the best fingering is always the most natural ones. Having to figure them out on my own without the assistance of a piano teacher I have found myself struggling with some sections of the song, the one shown in Image 2 below is an example.
Though initially found some of the fingering used to be surprising, when the connection was made with the next group of notes that follow, they eased the movement of the fingers in landing on the correct keys. Tonal quality too is preserved when the fingering is in a natural order.
Therefore, when determining a suitable fingering combination to play a phrase, explore the group of notes that immediately come after it. Listening to the tone, for instance how clear did the soft ‘pianissimo’ sounded? – Offers clue to the combination of fingering that is most suitable, making adjustment if they sounded off.
Years ago, I did make a half-hearted attempt to play Canon in D on my own but was instantly overwhelmed by the fingering in the first opening bar. It was not the difficulty in the arrangement of notes that made the fingering impossible for me, but my approach. In my eagerness to play the song I neglected the process involved.
This time, I was able to make steady progress because I approached the song one bar at a time, took the time to test what worked with the fingering through trial and error. Delving deep into the song’s structure one bar at a time to understand the mechanics involved in playing it, revealed that while determining the fingering needed to play a phrase did significantly influence the outcome of the music produced, it was not the engine that powered the mechanism.
The wrist is.
The wrist can move in two ways - up down and side to side. Staccatos are made possible by the wrist’s up-down movement and legato playing by its side to side movement. It is the blending of the wrist’s unique manoeuvrability and the tips of the fingers that result in a free and loose piano playing. Reinforced by the forward thrusts and circular movement of the arms, clarity in rhythm is expressed while tempo flexibility is maintained.
Complimenting each other, the mechanics of the wrists, fingers and arms work together to produce consistent tonal quality in every sound produced. In the example shown in Image 2 above, a wide distance separates the keys jumping from A to C. Big jump such as this tends to cause the sounds of the notes to be separated. Tonal quality also tends to be compromised in the haste of trying to land accurately on the keys in good time.
Use the arm’s long forward thrust to reach the distance and the wrist’s up down and lateral movement to control the hand as it drops the fingers to press the keys. As a result, appropriate force is exerted to draw out the perfect tone out of every note. The best fingering combinations are the ones that feel natural. Try playing notes that come immediately after to test the ‘naturalness’ in fingering. Approach the song one bar at a time so that you are not overwhelmed.