The Art of Piano Fingering

Ergonomic Fingering for Scales and Arpeggios (1)

A thorough understanding of the principles of good fingering is a vital basis for good piano playing. Without comfortable, musically appropriate fingerings, we can waste hours of practice time trying to remedy a problem which could have been averted much earlier. Good fingerings give our muscles security, which increases our confidence in performing a piece. By choosing the best, most ergonomic fingerings at the earliest opportunity, we train our fingers to become familiar with patterns. These patterns then become embedded into our 'muscle memory'. We have all had the experience of starting to learn a piece with a certain fingering only to discover a better one at a later stage. It can take quite some time to change to the new fingering, and even then, the muscle memory that we have acquired from the first fingering is always lurking in the background, ready to trip us up in a nervous moment.  Ideally we should find the very best fingerings before even starting to learn a new piece - fingerings which accurately expresses the musical meaning of a section in the simplest and most natural way. I have an expression for my students "Work it out and work it in", which reminds them to first think carefully about each fingering and then practise it enough times for it to become committed to their long-term memory. When I return to any piece that I learnt as a young pianist, my fingers automatically revert to my original fingerings - so powerfully is the muscular memory entwined with our aural recollection of each piece. 

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