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I'm really just starting out with playing piano and had a look at the recommended fingering for Gymnopedie no. 1 yesterday on https://starryway.org/en/piece/4/basic/ and noticed that for the first part it was recommended to play the low G's with 2 (index finger) and the D's with 5 (pinky).

E.g.

enter image description here

(EDIT: the above image is not a correct representation of what they are recommending on the starryway site. I hadn't realised they'd split the first 4 measures between hands. I am however leaving it as it is, otherwise some of the answers will appear misguided, or misleading, but please bear this in mind)

I would've thought you'd need to use your pinky for both those notes, to limit the width of the jump as much as possible, but that's clearly not the case. Am I correct in assuming that I should consider it as always doing a jump from the same hand position? And that this is best practice in general? (I know, there's always exceptions)

Does this mean that for this piece: https://musescore.com/user/24361621/scores/5833365 I should also have a fixed position in the l.h. for the first note of each measure? So when the song progresses, using 2 for B, 2 for Bb, 3 for A, 3 for Ab, 4 for G and 4 for Gb, but always from the same position?

E.g.

enter image description here

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    Aside from my answer below, just a suggestion that in your transcription of "Lamentation", consider changing the left-hand Gbs (e.g., in mm. 16-17 and 31-32) to F#s, which would be the more "theoretically correct" notation. – Aaron Mar 16 at 13:57
  • @Aaron Alright thanks, that's still pretty hard for me to figure out whether it should be # or b! – Creynders Mar 16 at 19:07
  • Gymnopedie No.1 is a rather slow piece. You'd probably have more than enough time to move your left arm back and forth playing the bass with 1 and the chords with 542. – Divide1918 Mar 18 at 1:56
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The general principle is that you do want to shorten the distance, so consistently using finger 5 for the lower notes is the general practice.

In the "Gymnopédie" example from Starryway, it's an important detail that they only use fingers 2 and 5 for the bass notes in the first four measure, before the right hand begins the melody. They are recommending that in those four bars one play the bass notes with the left hand and the chords with the right. But once the melody begins in bar 5, their fingering switches to finger 5 for the bass notes to facilitate also playing the chords with the left hand. The L-shaped brackets next to the chords in bars 1 and 5 also indicate this.

Personally, I prefer to play the first 4 measures left-hand only (using finger 5 for the lowest notes) for consistency of tone and technique through the entire piece.

In the case of "Lamentation", I would also use 5 for most (and likely all) of the lowest notes, and 1-3, 1-4, or 1-5 variously for the chords, depending on comfort and convenience. 1-3, when possible, allows for the shortest distance.

In both pieces, it's important not to make the low notes staccato. This is expressed by the dotted half notes in the Satie and the tenuto marks in "Lamentation". A staccato articulation, even with the pedal, will tend to give an accent to those notes, upsetting the smooth/calm texture desired. The same goes for the chords, especially the second of the pair. It's tempting to play staccato when leaping, but here it's very important to let the hand/arm rest (pause) momentarily on each note/chord before moving in a smooth arc to its next position. The moment of rest allows the sound to "sink in" before moving the the next note, rather than getting a more percussive effect.

As noted "there are always exceptions," but the exceptions would be those where using some other fingering pattern for the low notes best facilitates the music.

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  • As long as one doesn't bounce on the low keys, and uses the sustain pedal properly, there should be no staccato articulation when they are played. One can play 'staccato', and hold with the pedal. – Tim Mar 16 at 14:15
  • Ah, hadn't noticed it changed after the first 4 measures. Ok, that makes sense of course. – Creynders Mar 16 at 19:09
  • @Creynders - what changed? I picked up on the first 4 bars could be played l.h/r.h, but the actual notes continue exactly the same. Had it been the case that the first 4 bars were to be played split they wouldn't be written as in that example. However, they could be played either way. – Tim Mar 17 at 7:21
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    @Tim The fingering suggested on the starryway website linked in the OP. It changes from alternating between 2 and 5 to just 5. It's discussed in the 2nd paragraph of my answer. – Aaron Mar 17 at 8:19
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I can see what the fingering's getting at. Play the bass line melodically, not just as a jumping-off point. And REALLY move the arm for the chords, don't try to stretch the hand from the bass notes.

I wouldn't turn this into too much of a general rule though.

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There's no jump for the first four bars, if you want. You could play the triads with the r.h. However, that pattern continues, so it is better to start as you mean to go on. And that means trying out all the different fingering options.

Personally, I'd use l.h. pinky for the Gs and Ds, as there is a smaller jump up to the chord that way.

In the 2nd piece, again, try out all options, but I can't see the printed one as being the one I'd follow. Remember, any fingering suggestions are just that - suggestions. They obviously work for someone, so they're worth giving a bit of time to, but as I say to students, part of practice time is working out what fingering is best for you.

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This is a bit tricky to get, but probably a very good lesson.

When a hand is covering two parts, you have a kind of virtual extra hand-- fingering it as though the hand were not moving lets you move the arm back to the SAME position for each of the bass notes, which will make it easier to hit those notes without looking at the keyboard. If you play them with the pinky, then you'll be moving your arm to a different position each time, which can make finding that note harder.

Short version-- the extra couple keys of arm motion don't matter as much as getting a feel for the range.

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  • FWIW, I use 5 for all of the bass notes. Yours is a good observation, but for me it's easier to form my hand for the upper chord if I use 5 for all the bass notes. If I'm moving up to the upper chord from just having hit a note with 2 it feels like more work to me. – BobRodes Mar 27 at 6:27

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