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I was curious about how a pro might finger a jazz solo, so I paid someone on Fiver to write out the fingering labels. Not a lot of surprises, but there are few spots where they play two different notes in sequence with the same finger (see the last measure where 3 is used twice in a row). Is this common? I was under the impression that this should be avoided in favor of changing fingers on every key, but it is an especially fast bebop tune so I didn't know if exceptions were made in this case.

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4 Answers 4

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Although a strictly traditional piano teacher might balk at it, in jazz this is very common and perfectly acceptable, especially when playing a fast legato line, as happens frequently in bebop. You'll most often see a same-finger-on-consecutive notes when moving quickly from a black key up or down to an adjacent white key.

However, it's worth noting in this specific case, that 5-4-3-2-1 might actually be faster, easier, and cleaner. I personally would probably use the familiar 3-1-3-2-1 chromatic scale fingering, but only because it's so ingrained for me.

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  • Ok thanks for the input! Another quick question if you have the time, if I should choose not to use this same-finger-on-consecutive-notes approach, do you think it would harm my progress?
    – jwBurnside
    Dec 12, 2023 at 21:59
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    No, I think as long as you find a fingering that is effective for you, there’s nothing sacred about the one recommended in your post.
    – Aaron
    Dec 12, 2023 at 22:40
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    There are six descending notes, so playing each note with a different finger isn't going to work unless you have six fingers. You'll need to slide or cross over at least once. 5-3-1-3-2-1 feels weird to me because of trying to move chromatically while skipping over 4, but 5-4-1-3-2-1 isn't out of the question though. Dec 13, 2023 at 14:24
  • If you play octave scales, you're probably not going to have a lot of options, so yes, you definitely can. My hand is big enough that I can switch between 1-4 and 1-5. I only do that if I happen to need a slur and practice specifically for it, but the objective is to test out different fingering and see which one is more natural and sounds the best, not follow some sort of rule.
    – Nelson
    Dec 14, 2023 at 0:44
  • I find myself taking sort of a compromise between the written fingering and your 5-4-3-2-1. I wind up taking 4-3-3-2-1-2. It's just a natural shape for my hand if I've just gotten through using 1-2 for that D-F. (I also find it easier to start the whole riff on 4, not 3, so my thumb doesn't have to play again so quickly. But that's probably a skill issue.)
    – trlkly
    Dec 14, 2023 at 1:07
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I don't see a clef, but I assume that's Ab-G and Gb-F. As such, I suspect your Fiver's intent is to play the black key and then slide the finger off the left side (off the front of the left side if your fingers are too fat to only hit one white key in the middle) down to the white key underneath which is a fast and easy way to play those notes.

I would take issue with any pedagogue who complained about a fingering that wasn't impacting the way you play the piece. A good teacher steps in when you often fumble or your stylistic intent gets interrupted, not because you're using a different fingering. If you're teaching somebody, your job may be to recommend the "easiest" fingering. I put easiest in quotes because easy for a small-fingered person will be different from easy for a fat fingered person will be different for a nimble-fingered person, etc... Which brings us back to the piece at hand. You've been gifted a new technique by your Fiver, and you may find that it doesn't work for you, or that it makes some chromatic runs a lot easier.

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Two notes glissendi are very common, they can be very useful, and you can use them in a wide range of dynamics and speed, but depending on your physical technique, you might want to consider what you want to achieve first, musically, and in terms of freedom.

In a nutshell, with those glissendi, you can improve finger convenience, and speed, but you may trade a bit of freedom and dynamic control. More precisely, you may have more difficulties if the trait is slow or changing speed, or have unpredicted accents, or have "strong" cresc. or decresc.

Before the rise of jazz, Franz Liszt expanded hugely the piano technique and range, and innovated in many areas, and he used those 1 note to 1 note glissendi a lot.

In Feux-follets, the trait is very fast and leggerio, he used 5-5 glissendi (right hand) and eventually 5-5-5 fingering in a chromatic movement, for the most famous part of the piece:

ff1

In Mazeppa, in the introductive cadenza, he uses a 554321 and 112345 fingering on both hands to allow greater speed and smoothness; here the dynamic is rather forte and with cresc, and increasing speed:

m2

In the same piece, he uses 4242 and 2424 jumps which can be thirds glissendi if the performer goes that far; here the dynamic is ff, with accelerations, and rather staccato, but a slur and a glissendi can emerge if the speed is enough:

m1

Another example for chromatic fingering, is Liszt's Chasse-neige; he uses stacked 1234 and 123 for great speed and control; here the dynamic is between pp and ff, and there are not problem; a bit before, used again 11 glissendi in a chromatic trait.

cn0

At the end of the piece, he has thirds with glissendi, which are smooth and mp:

cn1

A more recent example, from another famous composer an pianist, Godowsky, propose many glissendi on both hand, with both smooth chromatic traits on the left hand and staccatissimi chords on the right hand, all very light and piano:

g4_1

and bit further, those glissendi are kind of the bread and the butter in this piece:

g4_2

In conclusion, there are many possibilities, which are not new, and about your case, I suggest that you choose the fingering that will help your musical goals and helps the physical movement with the means you want to invoke. In your example, I would use 543212 if you do not need any specific accent, but rather smoothness and speed, 543221 if you want a glissendi and no thumb passage, 535321 or 533212 if you need more strength and accent possibilities, etc; if you want to try fast thirds you could imagine 24242424.. or thirds and sixths with 125 124 125 124 etc.

If one pianist in jazz (and maybe among all pianists in all genres) used all kinds of glissendi, one note glissendi, thirds, fifths, sixths octava glissendi (with sometimes something on top of them), it's Art Tatum. It's likely worth studying his compositions, improvisations and fingering.

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It's a technique I use frequently. Never been officially taught to do this, but found it smoothed things out nicely. Takes a little bit of getting the timing spot on, but worth it. I doubt it would be advocated in any 'classical' playing, but cannot see why a teacher would ban it from other kinds of playing.

Be aware that it only works from black key to adjacent white - either to its left (or) right, but isn't easy climbing from a white key to an adjacent black one, or for that matter, between E and F, or B and C.

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