Archive for July, 2010


Piano Fingering: The Intrinsic Logic Of Which Finger Should Go Where — And Why

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
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If you’ve ever wondered if you’re using the correct fingering,there are a few basic principles that can help you big time. There is an intrinsic logic to fingering that most pianists don’t know about. It’s simple, yet requires some explanation. You’ll learn how to finger scale passages, chord sequences, chromatic phrases, and so on. But once you understand, you’ll scratch your head and say “Of course! It’s obvious now!”

Here are some general principles — the intrinsic logic of fingering:

1. If you see a passage in your sheet music move higher on the staff, use a low finger (fingers are numbered from the thumb outward, so your thumb is #1, your index finger is #2, your middle finger is #3, your ring finger is #4, and your little finger is #5) so you’ll have fingers available for higher notes.

And of course, exactly the opposite if you see a passage move lower on the staff.

2. Hold your hand up in front of you. The longest fingers are in the middle — right? Your thumb is far and away the shortest because it starts at a lower point on your hand. Now look at a piano keyboard. The black keys are the furthest away from you — correct? So which fingers can reach the black keys best? You got it — your middle fingers. Therefore, whenever possible play the black keys with your long fingers instead of your thumb. It’s just common sense.

3. The corollary to that is obvious: use your thumb and little finger on white keys whenever possible. (And it’s NOT always possible.)

4. A scale contains 8 keys. You have 5 fingers. So it’s logical to assume you will have to use some fingers more than once. On right hand scale passages ascending beginning on white keys, start on your thumb and then cross your thumb under your 3rd finger except when the 4th note of the scale is a black key. In that case, to avoid playing the black key with your thumb, cross your thumb under your 4th finger. (And just the reverse with your left hand, of course)

On scale passages beginning on black keys, start on a long finger — preferably your index finger (also called your “pointer finger”) and then cross your thumb under whenever the next white key occurs.

5. On chromatic passages, the best way I have found is to use just fingers #1 and #3 except where two white keys in a row occur — then use fingers #1 and #2.

6. Fingering on chords is largely dictated by the size of the chord; obviously if you are playing a 5-note chord, you will use all 5 fingers. Otherwise just follow the intrinsic logic in the general principles listed above.

For more details, go to “Which Finger Goes Where… & Why”

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With 10 fingers and 88 keys on the piano, how can I know which to use when?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
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“Which finger should I use on such and such a passage in this piano piece?”
Questions like that are asked all the time, and understandably so, since it can be kind of confusing to know which of your 10 fingers you should use on any of the 88 keys on the piano. While each situation is unique, there are a few principles that can guide you to
fingering that will get you where you want to go. Please watch this short video:

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How to play piano notes rapidly up and down the keyboard

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
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Your fingers can fly up and down the keyboard with great speed if you master the techniques described in this short video. You begin with a tremelo, then take the notes of that tremelo and break them up going up the keyboard rapidly and also coming back down, if you so choose.

For more videos like this, please go to www.playpiano.com and sign up for our free email newsletter.

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I want to play piano, but I don’t want to learn music theory

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
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If you are extremely talented, you can probably do that — and in that case, you certainly don’t need me or any other teacher. I couldn’t help Mozart, Garner or Brubeck — but if you’re not in that category (and I’m certainly not), there’s probably a great deal you can pick up by taking one or more of our piano courses.

Most of us — including me — are not Mozarts or Oscar Petersons . So we need all the help we can get. Learning to read a bit — at least being able to read a melody line (the tune) — will help a lot, because then you can learn to match chords to the melody and you’re on your way.

When people say things like “I just want to play the piano. I don’t want to learn chords, or music theory, or any of that” what they are really saying is “I want to have magical fingers that play while my brain is asleep, because I don’t want to put in the time and effort necessary to learn what I need to learn.”

As much as I would like to be a Fairy Godmother or the Easter Bunny, I’m really just a human piano teacher. I can teach, but I can’t do magic. For every teacher, there has to be a learner on the other end for anything significant to happen. But when a good teacher hooks up with a student hungry to learn, then magic — the real magic of human progess — often happens, and observers stand by and say “I’d give anything to play like that!”

Anything except time, effort, money, and little things like that.

It’s still true: “What a man (or woman) sows, he will also reap.”

To get started learning, go to www.playpianocatalog.com

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Many Reasons To Learn To Play A Musical Instrument

Friday, July 2nd, 2010
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To those who love music, there are many reasons to play any type of instrument. The wide variety afforded us to choose from is what makes music infinitely enjoyable. Choosing any instrument to study is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.

One instrument in particular highlights all that is wonderful and beautiful about music. It’s richness of sound and the expanse of musical notes it provides one to play make it a timeless creative tool. That instrument is the piano. Embarking on a study of this 88 key delight can provide one with a lifetime of joyful experiences.

The piano is exquisite in both its complexity and simplicity. The musical note combinations composers write for it, and players play on it, are endless. However, the piano’s mechanism is basic. When you press a key on a piano, you cause a felt covered hammer to strike steel strings. The strings vibrate and the vibrations transmit via a bridge to a sounding board. This board couples the acoustic energy to the air, and we hear it all as sound.

The sound from the piano makes it one of the most popular musical instruments in the world. Along with its enduring sound, there are many other reasons everyone should learn to play music on the piano. Here are ten of them:

You Learn to Play Chords

Some instruments only allow you to play single notes. They do not allow you to play chords. Chords are a set of two or more different notes that sound simultaneously. The piano, like the guitar, allows for this chord playing. This means you can enrich a song with lush harmonies to accompany the melodic line.

You Learn to “Hear” Chords

Recognizing the sound of chords is an art in itself. Learning to recognize chord sounds is beneficial when it comes to learning improvisation down the road. Recognizing chord sounds will help you apply appropriate melody in a song as you improvise.

You Learn Variation

Studying piano will teach you basic melody and chords. As you develop your skills, you will learn to vary these elements in a song. You will do this on the fly as in the aforementioned improvisational playing. You will also learn to alter songs on paper with these variations. This is where you experiment with music writing. You will take a basic song and vary it according to your take on the piece.

You Learn Eye-Hand Coordination

Just watch someone closely at the piano. You will see the interplay of eyes and hands in synchronization as they play. Studying the piano will teach you to coordinate what you see on the keyboard with your motor skills.

You Learn Left-Hand, Right Hand Coordination

You will develop this coordination from the get-go. Even with simple songs this will occur. Your right hand will play single note melodies, while your left hand plays basic chords. You have to get these two working together properly so the song sounds pleasing.

You learn to Read Notes in the Lower and Higher Registers

You will become a better music reader when you learn the piano. You will learn to read notes written in the lower registers such as the bass clef. You will also learn their counterparts in the higher registers, like the treble. On top of that, you will learn to read these at the same time, a skill itself.

You Will Learn to See Music as a Complete Whole

Playing music on the piano lets you see the whole structure of a song. A trumpet player, for example, reads and plays the melodic line off the treble clef. That typically is the extent of the music before him or her. A piano player sees chords, melody, different clefs. Piano music has the whole of a song on paper, not just elements of it.

It’s a Great Accompaniment Instrument

This one’s straightforward. Every band can use a piano player. Look around and see how many piano players find employment with groups. They’re in demand.

It’s a Great Solo Instrument

The piano is an instrument that offers much when heard on its own. No doubt, other instruments sound good solo. However, the piano is just so much more. It produces a rich, full sound unique onto itself. This is because of its ability to play melody and harmony together; single notes and chords.

Encourages Audience Participation

A piano is plain old good for having a good time. It, like the guitar, is great for gathering people around. It promotes the combination of music playing with singing.

If you want to begin a study of music, consider the piano. You will enjoy its versatility and its ability to play any type of musical style. The above ten reasons are perfect ones for getting your ten fingers playing, today.

Duane Shinn is the author of a free newsletter on piano chords & chord progressions available at Piano Music

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