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Is there a proper fingering for playing a fast repeated notes on the piano? I understand that using multiple fingers to play to the repeated note is the best way to go but does it matter which specific fingering to use? I've been practicing 2,1,2,1,2,1..., 3,2,1,3,2,1..., and 4,3,2,1,4,3,2,1... but wondering if I should just focus on one fingering? Is one considered more standard? Is there much benefit to being comfortable with multiple fingerings? This isn't for a specific piece of music but rather so I can implement the technique while I'm improvising.

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  • As an aside to this, there are different speeds of action on pianos. The general rule I understand is that grands have a faster action than uprights. I'm sure it varies greatly with different makes and models too. Just to mention in case you might be hitting a brick-wall with this technique.
    – user70304
    Aug 16 '20 at 3:03
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    Action is also related to age/condition of a piano. The baby grand i had in the 90s had sluggish action compared to the upright I grew up with in the 70s/80s.
    – Don Hosek
    Aug 16 '20 at 3:57
  • Are you referring to repeats of single notes? Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue has such a passage where the note is played alternating between the fingers of both hands. Billy Joel's "Prelude" has a similar figure with the same fingering technique.
    – Don Hosek
    Aug 16 '20 at 3:59
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    I suggest also practicing without the thumb (e.g., 4-3-2-4-3-2) because the thumb is slow. Aug 16 '20 at 11:48
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    Does this answer your question? Which fingering to use when playing the same piano key twice in a row?
    – Aaron
    Oct 10 '20 at 2:18
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It depends on many factors but what is most important is that you use the weight of the arm, playing only to the point of sound using the fulcrum of your elbow, playing on the outside edge of the key where it is lightest and employing a forward shift into each key. 321 is great but if your arm (hand) is static then that would place your three in the heavier inside black area of the keys and may make your thumb feel like it is falling off the key. You don't really want to engage the thumb's abductor. It is weak and sluggish. You MUST understand that and not curl your fingers on the outside. Curling will lock your fingers and cause tendon problems.

Since your three is longer than your two which is longer than your one, you would strike the three a little higher, then two in the same spot while your forearm comes down a smidge and the two strikes. Your thumb can either forward shift in from the forearm or pronate (rotation). If you pronate make sure there is an invisible supination of the three, not big, just there and group the three notes. As you learned in HS physics, every motion must have an equal and opposite motion, even if it is invisible. This will give you a carrezando feel but let it be a symptom of proper movement, don't seek carrezando.

Here is a pretty good video but foremost, watch his elbow, his in/out and up/down. Playing is not in the fingers, it is in the arm. Go with gravity when you can.

You can also check out practically any Adam Makowicz video as he often lets loose on a blizzard of repeated notes.

If the keys feel heavy, you are probably trying to play from the fingers and not the arm. It should feel more like tumbling rather than hammering.

Again, watch other people play but don't look at their hand, look at the elbow and forearm.

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  • I've never really looked too deeply into Pianist Magazine, but looking now they actually do have a fair amount of resource for more advanced players. Most only searches show you all the intro level content first and so its hard to fine good advanced lessons.
    – Rozgonyi
    Aug 18 '20 at 2:28
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It depends on the musical context. For example, what are the metrical groupings of the repeated notes? For a grouping of 2, 2-1-2-1 might work best; but for a group of 3, 3-2-1-3-2-1 or even 3-1-2-3-1-2 might be a better fit.

At the level of basic practice, any finger combination is fair game. For example, I somtimes like 3-1-3-1-3-1. You also should practice fingerings that seemingly run counter to the metric grouping. For example, a 3-group using ^2-1-2-^1-2-1 or ^4-3-2-^1-4-3-^2-1-4. (The ^ denotes the metrical accent.)

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All the fingerings you presented are valid. In every situation you will have to choose the one that suits best what you're aiming for. An example: 2-1-2-1-... forces your hand to do a quite static movement, which is risky in long passages, because it can make you stiff and make your wrist and hand hurt in the long run. Plus, I find it a bit slower than the other fingerings. You should also consider which notes surround the passage with repeated notes: if you are required to reach far apart keys, you want to have your hand ready to reach those positions. An example of this could be given by the repeated C# you find in the Friška of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, where you need to reach the higher C#, so the hand needs to open up and reach an octave very quickly: in this case, a 1-2-1, preceded and followed by 5 would be best (that's just my opinion though). Another situation I found myself in was Chopin's Valse Brillante Op.18: you have quick repeated notes, followed by rapid runs with a closed hand position. In those passages, I found myself preferring 3-2-1 or 4-3-2-1 depending on the passage. Finally, you should also consider if the repeated note is on a white key or a black key; the latter is more instable, so you don't want to move around your hand too much, risking to miss one of the notes.

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