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Reading fingering numbers is not cheating for reading piano notes

Mizue Murakami

C major pentascale with fingerings

A lot of adult piano students and parents of schooling students ask me if fingering is cheating for reading notes. Of course, if you are trying to read the fingering number as notes, that is cheating. You need to look at the notes also. However, using proper fingering is extremely important. If you use the proper fingering, you’ll be able to play music efficiently, effectively, and smoothly. Your hand positions are going to be in the proper place also. When you use the proper fingerings, you also know which finger is on which note at the particular moment without looking at your fingers and keys. Eventually, you’ll get know the wide range of the keys and the different intervals (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and etc.) on the keyboard very well without looking at the keys.

For the beginners, I can see that it’s an easy habit to read fingering numbers as notes. But do not criticize yourself for doing that. It’s OK to take advantage of fingerings at the beginning. You are actually learning music, not just learning to read notes. Reading notes is only a small part of the music. So, if you like to learn reading notes, I encourage you (beginners) to practice naming notes separately from playing music. For example, you can call notes in your theory book or with flashcards. But while practicing playing a song on the piano, you’ll not be able to name every single note one by one. Music happens in time. If you keep stopping, reading, and naming every single note, the song that you are playing is not going to be musical at all. 

Instead, it’s important to “hear” and feel the notes (or pitch) going up and down. For example, when you are pressing your right-hand finger 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5, or left-hand finger 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1, you will be able to hear the pitch going up while you feel all the fingers moving properly. This is why it’s not so bad to rely on the fingering numbers at the beginning (even if you are not good at note-reading). Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a lot more important to “feel” & “hear” the music in time than to be able to read notes. And you’ll become a better piano player much quicker. You are not just trying to become a good music-note-reader.



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