0

I play various instruments already but am teaching myself piano. I want to play simple melodies like the one shown below. It seems a general principle regarding fingering is to allocate one finger to each note in a scale over a 5 note span, and then to pivot using the thumb. However it is not always clear where to pivot, and it also seems that the occasional deviation from such a strict pattern may well increase playability considerably.

I'm wondering if someone could give me some pointers on which fingers to use for the right hand melody in the piece below, along with a description of the general principles from which the specific fingering is derived?

enter image description here

4
  • I'd highly recommend practicing scales. It will make it a lot easier to figure out fingerings on your own, since they provide you with a fundament you can fall back on.
    – Creynders
    Oct 26, 2022 at 7:25
  • Can't help asking why, when the piece is in key Em, there are 2# in the key signature. Or is it deemed to be in E Dorian?
    – Tim
    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:07
  • Couple of points - Swallowtail Jig was originally for fiddle and tin whistle, both of which can play repeated notes more easily that piano. And some pianos (mainly grands) have a far quicker key recovery, making those repeated notes easier to play, with different , or the same finger/s.
    – Tim
    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:20
  • Definitely Dorian. Many "minor" Irish tunes use a kind of "melodic Dorian", with major 6 ascending and minor 6th descending. Oct 26, 2022 at 11:45

2 Answers 2

5

Let's consider three "positions" which are very common...

enter image description here

I made up the three labels "5 finger", "full octave scale", and "full octave chord", but something like those labels is used in many piano method books.

Now apply those to a passage with some position changes starting at bar 2 beat 2...

enter image description here

Or it could be done like this...

enter image description here

The slur lines are not meant to be actual performance phrases, but are meant only to show groupings of notes into one of the three position types.

Notice that the F#4 marked with * is common between two positions, an incomplete run of 5 finger on E, which ends on finger 2, and the beginning of a full octave chord on D. That finger 2 is the place where you "pivot" between two positions.

Also notice the G4 to F#4 marked with **. This is the other place where you "pivot" into a different position. Especially notice how the first G4 is played with finger 1, but after the pivot into a new position, the G4 is played again, but with finger 3.

You can think of some of these position changes as "contracting" or "expanding" beyond a given position. For example, at the first change * you can think of the move from F#4 finger 2 "expanding" or "extending" the end of a 5 finger on E down a step to reach the D to start a full octave chord position.

The change at ** can be seen as a "contracting" of the full octave scale on D where normally the Gf to F#4 would be played with fingers 1 and 3, but because we a pivoting to a 5 finger on E the F#4 is then played by finger 2. It's like the bottom part of the full octave scale on D is "contracted" up into the E position.

Expanding and contracting positions like that happens all the time. But also some position changes are accomplished switching fingers on a repeated note, or silently changing fingers on a held note.

A lot of piano methods are based on playing 5 finger position, scales, arpeggios, repeated notes, and double note scales (like playing scales in thirds in one hand.) When you practice those kinds of patterns in all major and minor keys, and apply the patterns to simple harmonic patterns like I V I, you eventually start to make position changes without too much thought.

My suggestion is get a good method book to practice you scales, arpeggios, etc. while working on actual pieces like the jig. If drills seem boring, first be selective about the method books you choose. Some are more creative than others. Also, make your own variation on practice drills. Keep drill time at a level that suites you. Don't do zero drilling, you will miss out on a lot of fundamental skill development. Don't do to much that it kills your enthusiasm. Think of it as support for playing the real music.

2
  • Has this answer been edited since it was first posted? I seem to remember a longer section of melody. In the current one, there is no section relating to comments marked **. Nov 17, 2022 at 14:32
  • @RobinAndrews, I probably just made a mistake in my final post. But I still have the notation file. I added a second image that was about the **. Nov 17, 2022 at 14:48
0

I recommend Rami-Bar Niv's book "The Art of Piano Fingering: Traditional, Advanced, and Innovative".

As the title suggests it shows commonly known "standards". It later talks about finding your way, and mentiones suitable starting postitions for various keys.

Find more about the author and pianist at Wikipedia.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.