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This question is related to a previously asked question of mine about adding accidentals.

I often pencil in fingering in difficult places, but sometimes I even mark fingering on an entire piece (in order to help me play it). But unlike marking the accidentals, this habit does not seem to be as problematic because it might improve one's ability to process information while playing (one needs to pay attention at the same time to the notes and the fingering).

So, should I limit penciling in fingering to trouble spots, or should I just freely mark fingering as I wish?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You should do whatever it takes to improve your practice and thus performance of the piece. In almost all cases, this means gratuitous writing and penciling of all accidentals and missed notes and fingerings. If it will ever help you, write it down. Your goal is not having something be easy to read or being clean: your goal is to play it perfectly. If that happens to mean readable, fine. But usually during early practice, lots of markings in the music will help you rather than hinder. If you ever want to mark something, mark it. This is why you always use a pencil: if it becomes hindersome, erase it.

As an anecdote: in general, the better a musician is, the more they will mark up their music. In college, I have been reprimanded for few markings on my music. Few markings tend to indicate little or shallow practice. I have heard stories about professional orchestra players' music that has more markings than notes. When mistakes are made, mark it. If there is not a natural fingering, make one and mark it.

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Haha +1; You gotta love the point where you've got more markings telling you what not to do than notes telling you what to do! –  Babu Apr 9 '12 at 18:39

I assume you are referring to a manuscript for piano music.

Generally speaking, a proficient practice of scales will enable you to become more instinctive with your fingering so you should not have to write these in except for complicated unusual fingering. You should strive for a clean easy to read manuscript, here, less is more. The easier to read the better. Remember the manuscript is a set of instructions and a description to tell you what to play and how to play it. Keeping this simple will make it easier to interpret.

For instance you don't need to write "play it loud" next to the dynamic marking forte. People not familiar with the published markings on a manuscript tend to write redundantly all over it making it one big mess. If you don't understand a marking, learn it, don't write it out on top of it. It's like coming to a stop sign in the road and someone wrote "halt" next to the letters spelling out "stop". We can all agree that whatever marks you need to put on a manuscript that will help you play it better is a good thing, but let's face it at some point you should know what is what and how it should be played without spelling every detail out. My point about keeping it simple is also about how you need to keep your head clear of all the clutter and get down to how the music is intended to be played.

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Hahaha I should probably go out and get a life instead of answering this question as well, but....

Ideally, you would work out an ideal fingering for the entire piece so that you can play it as accurately as possible. In practice, most sections of music are easy enough that musicians don't bother to finger the entire piece and wing it.

In the end, this is the deal: as a musician, your job is to play the music as notated. That means that you need to hit all the right notes (obviously), but you also need to pay attention to the articulation (particularly legato if we're talking fingering), dynamics, and all the other little things on the page. Working out the fingering beforehand makes it much easier to do this. More importantly, it also trains your fingers; if you practice playing with good fingering, you'll instinctively use that good fingering when you see similar motifs (riffs) later (this is, btw, why we teach scales; there are scales frigging EVERYWHERE in music).

So yes, finger everything.

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