3

Ofcourse there is the notation 1 2 3 4 5 for each finger. But are there other (quasi-)standard symbols for indicating, for example, hand movements, stretching the hand, putting the thumb under, etc.? It would be possible to create my own notation system, but if there are existing coherent systems, that would be nice to know.

3

Not really, the fingers should be all you need. For example, to notate the cross on a scale, indicating "1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5" suffices to indicate a thumb-under-3 cross. And since you can pretty safely assume that each finger in order is going to play each note, you can leave out everything except the crosses. For an ascending C major scale in the right hand, "1 - - 1 - - - -" (where the '-' just means nothing indicated) would suffice, and descending "5 - - - - 3 - -" would indicate the cross to 3.

The only other thing is indicating which hand to use, in cases of hand crossing or cross staffing. The standard abbreviations can be seen here, and I would suggest simply using the English "LH" / "RH".

Anything beyond this is pretty much unnecessary. If there's something really unusual that you need to notate, I would recommend simply writing out whatever it is that you want in the margin.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    There's still 'sopra' or 'sotto', indicating how to position your hands relative to each other when they interfere with each other. Rarely necessary, but can be a bit of an eye-opener when used judiciously. – Kilian Foth Nov 18 '14 at 8:32
1

There are a handful of standard notations for indicating which hand/fingering to use, and also a variety of notations geared toward beginning piano students which are standard within a particular author's books, but which can vary from author to author.

Standard notations

  • Brackets are sometimes used to indicate which hand should play certain notes.

Kiss the Rain m. 37
(Image from What does the L-shaped symbol attached to C5 and G4 on the top staff mean?)

  • A bracket is also used when indicating that a single finger should play two notes simultaneously. As shown below, the bracket shape isn't standard, but the meaning is clear regardless.

Chopin Op. 28 No. 7 m. 12, 3 versions
(Three versions of Chopin's Prelude in A Major, Op. 28 No. 7, m. 12)1

  • As mentioned in the comments, sotto (under) and supre (over) indicate relative hand positions when crossing is needed.

In these examples from Debussy's Etude "Pour les degrés chromatiques", the editor recommends passing the right hand under the left, and the left hand under the right, respectively.2

Debussy Etude 7 m.1
(Debussy Etude 7 m. 1; RH passes under LH)

Debussy Etude 7 m.5
(Debussy Etude 7 m. 5; LH passes over RH)

  • Note-stem direction is also a common indicator of hand placement. A downward stem indicates left hand; and upward stem indicates right hand. The below excerpt from Liszt's "Un Sospiro" demonstrates this in the topmost staff.3

"Un Sospiro" m.3

In teaching literature

In books for beginners, sometimes special notations are adopted to call attention to unfamiliar situations.

  • The Bastien "Older Beginner" series indicates hand movements and unusual finger spreads by a red arrow.4

Hand-move indication arrow Finger-span indication arrow

  • Frances Clark's "Music Tree" series employs a "warning" sign to indicates changes in hand position.5

Hand-move "warning" sign


1All images from IMSLP: the First Edition, Catelin edition, and Breitkopf and Härtel Complete Works edition, respectively.

2Claude Debussy, Douze Études (1994, Henle Urtext), p. 37.

3Franz Liszt, 3 Études de concert S. 144, Number 3, First Edition, m. 3.

4James Bastien, The Older Beginner Piano Course (1977, Kjos West), pages 26 (finger-span image) and 48 (hand-move image).

5Frances Clark, Louise Goss, and Sam Holland, The Music Tree Part 3 (2001, Summy-Birchard Music), page 47.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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