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Thread: Question on piano finger and sight reading

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    Default Question on piano finger and sight reading

    When sight reading, are you expected to also use the fingering as displayed on the sheet? I find that it becomes much harder when doing so, as opposed to learning the notes and then revising the fingering if then I'm using akward fingering. Conversely its also difficult to relearn fingering if i'm habituated to them . I'm curious as to what advanced players do when sight reading. What happens if there are no fingerings written? Id imagine when composers wrote they didnt put the fingering down, the pianist would have to do that manually - but then how would they go about sight reading them ? Also, some of the fingers seem to be overtly complicated, should i be following them anyways as best I can in order to get good practice?

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    The fingerings are just guide lines, you don't have to follow them, but often they are better suggestions than what one will try intuitively. Everyone's hands are different, so there is not a one size fits all approach. Once you have played through a piece a number of times you will have a good idea of how you want to finger different passages, at this point you should write your own fingerings on the score so you remember. At that stage by using the same fingering each time you play the work you will make less mistakes and have improved ability in remembering the work because you will be able to rely partly on muscle memory. (Although it is not recommended to rely solely on muscle memory if trying to memorize works).

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Advanced sight readers look over scores before playing them and have developed the ability to isolate areas where they need to pay attention to fingering. The fingering displayed on most sheet music helps to give one an idea of what sections to be mindful of. Also, to be able to sight read well requires the ability to look ahead at what is coming up in the music as one is playing.

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    Senior Member Amadea's Avatar
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    As tdc has said they are guidelines. If there are not fingerings, imagine your own. That's what I did when I was asked to play sight reading and the teacher didn't care much about the fingerings, he cared about the notes being right. But I was playing easy beginner pieces.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Usually, the piece will be in a particular key. Identify the key, think of the scale fingerings for that key. Look at the piece, identify arpeggios, thirds etc, think of the scale fingerings for that key. Look for cadences.

    A lot of sight reading is down to the key of the piece. Once you have got your scales well under your fingers, everything else should follow.

    You also have to think of the nature of the piece, how much staccato or legato, where the emphases come and so forth. Again, good scale fingering will allow evenness of tone when changing hand position or moving fingers over.

    It's just like your piano teacher tells you - keep practising your scales.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggart View Post
    Usually, the piece will be in a particular key. Identify the key, think of the scale fingerings for that key. Look at the piece, identify arpeggios, thirds etc, think of the scale fingerings for that key. Look for cadences.

    A lot of sight reading is down to the key of the piece. Once you have got your scales well under your fingers, everything else should follow.

    You also have to think of the nature of the piece, how much staccato or legato, where the emphases come and so forth. Again, good scale fingering will allow evenness of tone when changing hand position or moving fingers over.

    It's just like your piano teacher tells you - keep practising your scales
    .
    Yes, my previous piano teacher would be very proud of me: I've recently become much more disciplined with practicing my scales and other techniques and as a result, I've had a sudden and satisfying jump in my skill level. That makes me more excited to get back to the piano each day; and thus more time spent means further improvements. After 8 years of playing I think I can finally call myself a novice instead of a beginner!

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    Advanced sight readers look over scores before playing them and have developed the ability to isolate areas where they need to pay attention to fingering. The fingering displayed on most sheet music helps to give one an idea of what sections to be mindful of. Also, to be able to sight read well requires the ability to look ahead at what is coming up in the music as one is playing.
    Thanks for the response. Its hard to imagine being at a level where you can look at a complex piece and know what fingering to use just by looking at it, let alone be able to look ahead of the score.

    I used to improvise, before i began sight reading. Sometiems that requires being flexible in your fingering since you dont always know in advanced what you plan on playing. I wanted to know if sight reading particularly complex pieces simply requires flexible fingering, which you can then go back when you practice in on a section to find the most optimum fingering, There is some fingering listed in more complex pieces which I find seriously difficult to fathom how a person could have intuitively came across that on their own by sight reading.

    There are also plenty of times where i didn't listen to the written fingering when playing below speed which later haunted me when speeding things up.
    Last edited by Aloevera; May-15-2021 at 05:23.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloevera View Post
    Thanks for the response.

    There is some fingering listed in more complex pieces which I find seriously difficult to fathom how a person could have intuitively came across that on their own by sight reading.

    There are also plenty of times where i didn't listen to the written fingering when playing below speed which later haunted me when speeding things up.
    Weird fingering in complex pieces becomes second nature. They're complex because they've got tricky legato or odd jumps. You learn the techniques of finger substitution - going from a 3 to a 5 to get a stretch - and odd turnovers - like going from a 5 in the left hand to a 4 - which get get the fingers right for the next bit. Then when you play a similar piece you bring out the box of tricks.

    The written fingering doesn't matter. It's consistent fingering that is important at the start. Initially, you need to be thinking the notes are this and the fingers that, then the piece starts to flow. Once you know how the piece works, then you can start playing with fingering to get a better effect.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggart View Post
    Weird fingering in complex pieces becomes second nature. They're complex because they've got tricky legato or odd jumps. You learn the techniques of finger substitution - going from a 3 to a 5 to get a stretch - and odd turnovers - like going from a 5 in the left hand to a 4 - which get get the fingers right for the next bit. Then when you play a similar piece you bring out the box of tricks.

    The written fingering doesn't matter. It's consistent fingering that is important at the start. Initially, you need to be thinking the notes are this and the fingers that, then the piece starts to flow. Once you know how the piece works, then you can start playing with fingering to get a better effect.
    Well thats good to hear that it gets better over time. Using correct fingering and reading the notes is a lot to juggle

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