Fingerings

Fingerings provide clues to organize both right-and left-hand movements when learning a piece of music. Music may include a sprinkling of  fingerings, too many fingerings, or none at all.  Sometimes a “hard” passage may be made “easier” by simply re-working the fingering.  Often a poor fingering is the result of not fully visualizing it during pre-reading, or sometimes just blindly following markings already in publications.  Some fingerings may be a matter of personal “taste”—something that works well for some players, but not for all.

Whatever the reason, there are common-sense approaches that will make your fingerings more connected.  And if you’re consistent in applying them, your playing ultimately becomes more efficient and musical.

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Right Hand—Accommodating the string crossings

Often players encounter difficulties, not realizing the problem involves a stumbling of right-hand fingers during a string crossing.  In that situation a lead finger (which starts the alternation) needs to be clarified.  For example, in a passage involving steady alternation on two adjacent strings, i needs to play the lower string and m, the higher string:

and never….

In scalar passages, the lead finger needs to be decided, based on where the string crossing occurs.  For excample:

Here, leading with i forces awkward shifting in the hand.

    By contrast, this is much easier, organizing the string crossing to the natural layout of fingers in the hand.  When fingered this way, string crossings will yield better legato connection speed, and tone.

    Play the following examples and determine the best right-hand fingering.

    Ex. 1.

    Ex. 2.

    Ex. 3.

    Ex. 4.
    Left-Hand—Legato Fingering
    One of the biggest challenges for all musicians is to play legato (meaning, connected in sound).  In early guitar training, we learn where a note “lives” on the fingerboard, associating it with a specific finger, e.g. A on ③ with 2.  Later, we think flexibly about fingering.  For example, to achieve legato, 2 isn’t always needed to play A on ③.

    “1” on A

    Play the following examples and determine the best left-hand fingering.

    Ex. 5.
    Ex. 6.
    Ex. 7.
    Ex. 8.
    Andante in A Minor by Dionisio Aguado

    This piece is presented in two versions with different fingerings.

    • Version 1—most chord shapes are accessible, but chord connections (marked with a horizontal bracket and “x“) may feel awkward and sound broken.
    • Version 2—some chord shapes may require more effort, but chord connections sound smoother.  The circled numbers show the changes in left-hand fingering from Version 1 to make it more legato.
    Version 1—Less Legato Fingerings
    Aguado Andante in A minor
    Version 2—More Legato Fingerings

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