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In measure 5 to 12 of this R. Schultz arr. of Pachelbel's "Canon in D", the left hand plays the arpeggios. two measures of "bass" half-notes with "tenor" broken chord eighth notes

I have seen various fingering for the left hand:
(a) 5 5 3 1 | 5 5 3 1 | 5 5 3 1 | 5 5 3 1 ....
or
(b) 5 1 3 1 | 5 4 2 1 | 5 1 3 1 | 5 1 3 1 ....

The sustain pedal is depressed for the first 2 beats and then again for the second 2 beats of each measure. So the notes of each arpeggio are sustained.

What are the possible reasons to choose (a) over (b)?
Is there any general principle that can guide the choice?

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  • 2
    With the first approach, it's probably better to use 4 on the F sharp.
    – phoog
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:41
  • It could also be argued that the 8th notes on the bottom staff are intended to be played by the right hand, since their stems are pointing upward, in which case I might go with a [5 1 3 4] for each case. It could even be split with the left hand playing the bass and first 8th note with [5 1] and the right playing melody and the other two 8th notes [5 . 1 2] (similar to Bach's Prelude in C). Some people will say that somehow ruins the flow, but I don't think that's necessarily the case, and it's probably the least hand-stretchy way to get a good legato on those half notes. Jul 16, 2021 at 13:44

3 Answers 3

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It doesn't really matter whether you attempt connected arpeggio fingering or do a complete shift of position. But it's easier to make it sound consistent if you don't chop and change between the two. As you probably CAN'T connect low D with F♯ a 10th above, better to do the shift. That's (a) - except that 4 would be better than 5 on the F♯.

Think of it like this.

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Fingering (a)

This fingering emphasizes the separation of musical voices. The lowest voice —the half notes — is necessarily detached from the middle voice — the broken chords.

This fingering also may be easier, especially for someone with a smaller hand span. It also allows for the most familiar hand positions/fingerings for the broken chords.

The danger of this fingering is that if the player isn't careful, there is a natural temptation to "leap" off of the bass note, creating an accent. If attended to carefully, however, the accent can be avoided.

Fingering (b)

This fingering facilitates a smooth connection between all pitches. It will tend to obscure the differentiation of the voices, but it will also tend to avoid the "leaping" accent described above.

How to choose

I prefer fingering (a) because of its easier preservation of independent voices. In a polyphonic piece like this one, I feel that's the guiding principle: there are two voices in the left hand, not a single arpeggio.

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solution B) for a beginner: it's easier to take the octave by 5-1 than 5-5, while A) is better for training and the block chords. (perception and analysing!)

So both fingerings are practicable and useful. Don't bother which one is better, try to practice both solutions, each one makes sence and has a positive effect for learning.

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