Definitions

fingering in pie

Fingering

[fing-ger-ing]

Fingering is the choice of which fingers and hand positions to use when playing a musical instrument. For example, when playing the piano, chords or melodies can often be played with a variety of different assignments of fingers to played keys. Fingering, in this context, is the choice of which finger to use for which key, for each note. Fingering typically changes throughout a piece; the challenge of choosing good fingering for a piece is to make the hand movements as comfortable as possible without changing hand position too often. A fingering can be the result of the working process of the composer, who puts it into his manuscript, an editor, who adds it into the printed score, or the performer, who puts his own fingering in the score or in his performance.

Fingering also applies to other instruments, such as woodwind instruments and stringed instruments. Depending on the instrument, not all the fingers may be used. For example, saxophonists do not use the right thumb and string instruments (usually) only use the fingers.

Notational methods

Small numbers are often written next to selected notes on musical scores as a fingering guide, with the numbers 1 to 5 representing the fingers of the appropriate hand, with the thumb being counted as 1, counting outward toward the little finger of each hand. If a fingering number is preceded by an en dash (e.g. --1) it indicates that the finger is to be slid or slipped from the previous position; though this technique is not as ‘clean’ as standard position fingering, it utilizes the possibility of faster and/or more complex passages.

String instruments

On string instruments fingers are numbered from 1 to 4 where the thumb isn't counted because it doesn't play on a string, and a 0 indicates an open string. In those cases on string instruments where the thumb is used (such as high notes on a cello), it is represented by symbol the shape of an 0 with a vertical stem below (somewhat similar to Ǫ, for instance).

The classical guitar also has a fingering notation system for the plucking hand, known as pima (or less commonly pimac), where p=pulgar (thumb), i=indio (index finger), m=medio (middle finger), a=anular (ring finger) and, very rarely, c=chiquita (little finger). It is usually only notated in scores where a passage is particularly difficult, or requires specific fingering for the plucking hand. Otherwise, plucking-hand fingering is generally left at the discretion of the guitarist.

Keyboard instruments

On keyboard instruments all fingers are used. So there are numbers from 1 (thumb) to five. The numbers are related to the fingers themselves, not to the hand position on the keyboard. After Cristofori invented the pianoforte from the harpsichord in 1700 the piano technique developed strongly (parallel with the piano builders´ progress that also piano pedagogy and as part of it piano fingering changed.

Keyboard instruments: Piano

There are only few publications about piano fingering.

It is mentioned by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (son of Johann Sebastian Bach ) in his book "Versuch über die wahre Art, das Clavier zu spielen" ("trying to write about the true way of playing the piano") he dedicated several paragraphs to this topic, see the German original: "Von der Fingersetzung"

The british pianist Tobias Matthay wrote a small book "Principles of Fingering".

The german pianist Uli Molsen wrote a "Fingersatz-Kurs". The german pianist Wolfgang Ellenberger published an eBook about a systematical nomenclature of piano fingering including a "fingering edition" with different piano pieces.

History

Johann Sebastian Bach introduced an innovation in fingering for the organ and the clavier. (A similar, although according Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach less radical, innovation was introduced by François Couperin, at roughly the same time in 1717, in his book L'art de toucher le clavecin.) Prior to Bach, playing rarely involved the thumb. Bach's new fingering retained many features of the conventional fingering up until that point, including the passing of one finger under or over another (Playing many of Bach's works requires such fingering, especially passing the third finger over the fourth or the fourth finger over the fifth.), but introduced the far greater use of the thumb. Modern fingering also uses the thumb to a similar extent, and involves the passing of the thumb under the other fingers, but does not, as Bach's did, generally involve the passing of any other fingers over or under one another.

See also

References

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