fingering

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

  • Participant
    elinor-niemisto on #87891
    Participant
    carl-swanson on #87892

    Fingering has to be organized and well planned out. But what is comfortable for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. Also, depending on the hand size, finger length and thickness, some fingerings will cause buzzes for one person but not for another. So as a teacher I think you have to guide the student to a fingering that works for them and not insist that there is one fingering only for a given passage. When I published my edition of Une Chatelaine en sa tour…, I put fingerings in places that were not clear, but knew full well that some people would change them, either a little or substantially. I think it saves time to start with an edition that has fingering, even if you are going to change some of it.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #87893

    People always make their own choices, to be sure. I disagree about whether fingerings only suit certain hands. We all have the same basic equipment. I think the rest is a matter of technical ability and practice methods. My hands are not the same size as Salzedo’s, but given enough time, his fingerings always work. They convey a certain phrasing, but even so, I am able to find my own using them. Same for Miss Lawrence’s fingerings: they may seem awkward at first, but it is always to bring out certain notes that otherwise are lost, or to delineate a phrasing, an articulation or to show which notes belong together. She was very taken with the coming off the strings, not only to aspirate, but to have a fresh attack on the next note, which refreshes the dynamic, the phrase, everything. That is the beauty of having multiple editions of the same works, so we can learn from different artist’s approaches.

    Participant
    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #87894

    I agree that fingering is extremely important! And Carl is absolutely right about how a different hand shape can make one person’s fingering unsuitable for another’s. The crucial thing is to teach students to think logically and plan what they are going to do, because a good fingering plan can transform a choppy, difficult passage into a smooth, easy one. It can really affect phrasing and pulse as well, so students should practice bringing out weak fingers if they are on strong beats. Orchestra fingering can be different than solo in some cases; in orchestra, you have to be able to keep your eye on the conductor, so your fingering has to facilitate that, whereas, as a soloist, you can watch the strings more.

    Participant
    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #87895

    I just read Saul’s post after I posted mine. Saul, I have seen photos of Salzedo’s hands, and they are a lot bigger than mine. I generally LOVE his ideas for fingerings, and base my fingering ideas on his concepts. But sometimes I just cannot reach the spans that he could. I have rather short 4th fingers, so, in a widely-spaced figure, my third finger is brought right up against the string and causes a buzz or a complete dampening. Since I was taught that buzzing is a capital crime (well, a bit of an exaggeration), I opted for changing the fingerings.

    Member
    tony-morosco on #87896

    I kind of agree with both Carl and Saul. I agree with Carl that certain fingerings are better for certain hands and not others, and with Saul that fingering is about more than just being able to pluck the strings, but effects phrasing and the artistic interpretation.

    I definitely picked up a lot of

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #87897

    Not everyone knows this technique: When a chord has a fifth on the bottom between 4 and 3, don’t place the 2 and 1; play 4 and as you play 3, pivot toward your thumb and then place 2 and 1, or place one at a time, or jump up.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #87898

    I find other harpists fingers absolutely fascinating…as sometimes orchestral parts, written with piano in mind in particular are like jigsaw puzzles and tongue twisters rolled into one! So I love to see how other harpists have approached these challenges.

    And different styles of playing also – due to being positioned on the strings differently – do require different fingering. I find whenever I get a Grandjany work, for instance, his fingering never works for me and I have to entirely refinger the work. I suspect he has large hands, as well as flat knuckles, and so his fingering is not entirely suitable for me. But I do find it very interesting to see what this great master of the harp did himself – and I love his music especially his Rhapsodie.

    I generally find that Salzedo fingerings, or those by Salzedo players tend to work better for me – as we raise (most of us anyway) – and this is incorporated in the fingering and phrasing of a passage. I find Yolanda Kondonassis’s fingerings mostly fantastic, and change very little even though I have tiny hands. The same with Salzedo’s markings, and Lawrence’s, there is little that I would deem necessary to change, other than the occassion really large span.

    I have often thought that it is a real shame that there are not more editions of standard repertoire works with Salzedo markings, as you learn so much from what they do. Yolanda’s collection of tunes, is a god send for gigging harpists and students, and many french players I know love it too – and find her fingering ideas quite intriguing.

    What you also have to consider with students, is that there hands are still taking shape and developing. The way you finger a passage for a beginner is very different from what you would play as an advanced player. I for instance avoid the pivot action that Saul described above for beginners, prefering more secure and straight forward shapes until their hand it nicely strong and stable. Also, I would have more linked passages and less jumps, and use 321 instead of 421 more often for beginners, and if there is a choice of 321 or 432 I’d use 321 usually for a beginners hand also – having the thumb anchored gives them greater stablity to keep a good

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #87899

    I think you can emphasize individual finger strength and independence through exercises, and then you won’t need to favor one fingering over the other after the first couple of years. The biggest challenge is getting them to do productive practice. Ideally, they would practice under your supervision each day. Maybe I should offer daily lessons for $10!

    Participant
    unknown-user on #87900

    Yes, I was talking mainly about the first year as the hand establishes – that some wide fingering, or complex fingering may destablize the hand.

    And I agree it’d be fab to spy your pupils daily. It’s actually funny, as I stayed with Jeanne Chalifoux for about a month having lessons, and on weekends when I was practising, she used to find it irrestisable not to come in and tell me how I was practising wrong! I remember really struggling with a passage of the Debussy Danses, and her sneaking down the stairs in an apron (she was cooking lunch at the time) and when I stopped saying in a

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #87901

    Faulty practice techniques are the downfall of most students at one time or another. The practice techniques that they develope, on their own, as beginners, simply don’t work for more advanced repertoire. For this reason I now make it a part of my work with a student to have them occasionally come to my house and practice. Wherever I am in the house I can hear what they are doing and I’ll occasionally go into the livingroom and give them a short lesson on practicing a particular passage. That usually helps a lot.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #87902

    Ahhh, but are they on their best behaviour when they know you are listening…do you have to resort to tricks, pretend to go to the shop, park the car in some secluded wood, run back across open fields, scaling walls and hacking through bramble bushes, and then gently (camoflague wear optional) sneaking up the the music room window and then pounce out at them with a “ahhh hahhh caught you raising!”

    Sorry Carl, there was a serious point in there and then I just went a bit beserk…..

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #87903

    That reminds me of one of the more amusing sides of life at Tanglewood. We were all housed on one campus, Berkshire Christian College. Miss Lawrence and the other faculty were housed in a motel-like building adjacent to our dormitory. Our dorm had, literally, plywood walls with shag carpeting on them, which meant you could hear virtually everything that went on next door, which was sometimes embarassing at night.

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