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AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE OF LEFT-HAND FINGERING

By Douglas Niedt

Copyright Douglas Niedt. All Rights Reserved.
This article may be reprinted, but please be considerate and give credit to Douglas Niedt.



This important principle of left-hand fingering is pretty simple. It is pretty basic. HERE IT IS:

If the goal is to play smoothly, when two notes fall consecutively on two different strings, always use two different fingers to play the two notes.

Here is another way to say it: When you move consecutively from one string to another, always use two different fingers to make the change.

The concept is not complicated. And it is not difficult to apply the principle to your pieces. It just requires a bit of thought when you work out your fingerings.

While the principle is not complicated, WATCH THE VIDEOS to fully understand how to implement it into your pieces.


I don't care how carefully you try to connect the notes, even on adjacent strings, if you try to use the same finger on both notes, there will always be a slight gap between the two notes. We don't want that. Our goal is to play legato. In other words, we want to connect our notes smoothly and seamlessly.

It doesn't matter if the notes fall on adjacent strings, or if they fall on strings that are spaced widely apart. It doesn't matter which fingers you are using. It doesn't matter if a shift is involved. Our principle of left-hand fingering tells us, whenever possible, to use two different fingers to move from one string to the next. Do not hop a single finger from string to string. If you do, your playing will sound choppy.

Jumping a finger from one string to another not only produces choppy playing but also leads to mistakes. If you jump a finger from one side of the fretboard to the other, there is a good chance the finger will miss the jump. By using two separate fingers, you improve your accuracy.

In printed music, and music you come across on the internet, you will often find editions with substandard or flawed fingering. You will find countless instances where this important principle of left-hand fingering is ignored. In most cases (but not all), those instances can be fixed.

Let's have a look at how to use this principle of left-hand fingering in actual pieces in the videos that follow.

Specifically, I will use examples from:

  • Minuet by Georg Philipp Telemann
  • Lágrima by Francisco Tárrega
  • Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz
  • Julia Florida (Barcarola) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

Video #1: Introduction

Video #1 is a short introduction to this important principle of left-hand fingering.

Video #2: The Telemann Minuet

Scores and excerpts from the video are below. Be sure to watch full screen so you can read the fingerings! (In the bottom right-hand corner, click on the symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo".)

Minuet by Georg Philipp Telemann

These musical examples are all in the video. However, I have reprinted them below in case you want to examine them more carefully.

For those who might want to learn the entire piece, go to the downloads section at the end of the article. Two versions are available, one in standard notation only and one in standard notation plus tab.

Part 1: Measures 1-8

Minuet Telemann Part 1 no fingering Principle of Left-Hand Fingering

Measures 2-3

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_1_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Solution_1_m2-3
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Solution_2_m2-3

Measures 4-5

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Solution_1_m4-5
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Solution_2_m4-5
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Solution_3_m4-5

Part 2

Measures 12-14

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m10-14_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m12-14_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m13_Solution

Measures 21-22

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m20-23_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m21-22_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m21-22_solution_1
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Minuet_Telemann_Part_2_m21-22_solution_2

Video #3: Lágrima by Francisco Tárrega

Scores and excerpts from the video are below. Be sure to watch full screen so you can read the fingerings! (In the bottom right-hand corner, click on the symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo".)

Lágrima by Francisco Tárrega

These musical examples are all in the video. However, I have reprinted them below in case you want to examine them more carefully.

Part 2: Measures 9-11

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Lagrima_Part_2_m9-11_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Lagrima_Part_2_m9-11_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Lagrima_Part_2_m9-11_flawed_fingering_Number_2
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Lagrima_Part_2_m9-11_solution_1
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Lagrima_Part_2_m9-11_solution_2

Video #4: Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz

Scores and excerpts from the video are below. Be sure to watch full screen so you can read the fingerings! (In the bottom right-hand corner, click on the symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo".)

Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz

These musical examples are all in the video. However, I have reprinted them below in case you want to examine them more carefully.

Measure 25

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m25_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m25_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m25_solution

Measure 41

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m41-42_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m41-42_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m41_solution

Measures 48-49

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m45-49
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m48-49_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m48-49_solution_1
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Leyenda_m48-49_solution_2

Video #5: Julia Florida (Barcarola) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

Scores and excerpts from the video are below. Be sure to watch full screen so you can read the fingerings! (In the bottom right-hand corner, click on the symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo".)

Julia Florida (Barcarola) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

These musical examples are all in the video. However, I have reprinted them below in case you want to examine them more carefully.

Measures 6-7

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m3-7
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m3-7_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m6-7_solution_1
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m6-7_solution_2
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m6-7_solution_3

Video #6: BONUS FINGERING! Julia Florida (Barcarola)
by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

Scores and excerpts from the video are below. Be sure to watch full screen so you can read the fingerings! (In the bottom right-hand corner, click on the symbol to the left of the word "Vimeo".)

BONUS FINGERING Julia Florida (Barcarola)
by Agustín Barrios Mangoré

These musical examples are all in the video. However, I have reprinted them below in case you want to examine them more carefully.

Measures 18-19

Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m17-19_no_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m18-19_flawed_fingering
Principle_of_LH_Fingering_Julia_Florida_m18-19_solution

Video #7: SUMMARY

Downloads

These are downloads from Dropbox. NOTE: You do NOT need a Dropbox account and don't have to sign up for Dropbox to access the file.

1. Download a PDF of the complete article with links to the videos.

2. Download PDFs of the article with embedded videos
These are very large files.

Download An Important Principle of Left-Hand Fingering, pages 1-8 with Embedded Videos 1-2.
771.9 MB

Download An Important Principle of Left-Hand Fingering, pages 9-21 with Embedded Videos 3-7.
989.6 MB


3. Download the individual videos. Click on the video you wish to download. After the Vimeo video review page opens, click on the down arrow in the upper right corner. You will be given a choice of five different resolutions/qualities/file sizes to download.

Download Video 1 Introduction.

Download Video 2 Telemann Canon.

Download Video 3 Lágrima by Francisco Tárrega.

Download Video 4 Leyenda (Asturias) by Isaac Albéniz.

Download Video 5 Julia Florida (Barcarola) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré.

Download Video 6 BONUS FINGERING Julia Florida (Barcarola) by Agustín Barrios Mangoré .

Download Video 7 Summary.

4. Download PDFs of the Telemann Minuet (complete)
Two versions are available. One is in standard notation only. The other is in standard notation plus tab.

Download Minuet (complete) by Georg Philipp Telemann in standard notation plus tab..

Download Minuet (complete) by Georg Philipp Telemann in standard notation.