Lingering on the Fingering

One day when I was perusing a charming used book shop in London, I came upon this prize of a book, written in 1946 by Victor Booth. Originally from New Zealand, Dr. Booth was a beloved piano professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He writes very elegantly about ways that piano teachers can help students form good habits.

Dr. Booth says that we must “make the fingers the servants of the mind” (p.46). He wrote about music and the brain way before it became an international fascination!

When we are first learning a piece, we often say that we will learn the notes first, then figure out the fingering later. But Dr. Booth suggests that we play the notes with the proper fingering from the outset. Neuroscience bears this out. When we play something for the first time we imprint those first impressions on our mind. According to Dr. Booth,

“…very conscious, slow, early efforts of associating certain fingers with certain notes eventually merges into the subconscious muscular actions of …performance.”  (p.26)

When approaching a piece, play small passages slowly with the suggested fingering; if you don’t like the fingering, change the finger numbers right away so that your brain associates each note with a particular finger. If there are passages without printed fingering, decide what fingering you will use, write it in, and stick with it!

Dr. Booth believes that “all learning is memorizing in some form or other” and that we can use our “finger memory” (p. 79) to help us to learn the notes more quickly. This is not easy! It’s human nature to want to play the notes quickly at the beginning so that we can hear the melody and connect to the music. A better strategy might be to have your teacher play the music for you, or listen to it  on Youtube before you try it yourself. Then when you play it, take the time to observe the fingering along with the notes.

Do you have any thoughts, feelings or observations about fingering? I love comments, even if you disagree with me (and Dr. Booth!)

Tomorrow I will show you a new finger strengthening exercise from another one of my piano gurus. Thanks for following my blog!

With love and music, Gaili

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