This is our second article on piano fingering. If you have not read the first article on this topic, then we suggest you start here: Piano fingering.
Piano fingering is important in becoming a skilled piano player. While there is no wide consensus on the “correct” fingering method, few instructors will deny that bad fingering will lead to playing that is awkward, so learning good fingering techniques is important for those who wish to improve their playing no matter which school of thought they are in.
Some instructors advocate a “strict” and “correct” fingering pattern that follows some general fingering rules, whereas others will recommend a more “free flowing” approach, whereby the piano player moves their fingers in a manner that is natural to them and unhidden by the burden of getting everything absolutely perfect. Neither one of these approaches is better than the other. New players would probably do well to learn some of the generally accepted “rules” (which are not in any way set in stone). As a player increases their skill he or she can then “break the rules” and play in a manner that is less restrictive.
For now we will consider that you are relatively new and still learning and so offer a couple more tips on fingering. This is far from exhaustive and is simply to present some ideas. It should supplement a more structured lesson plan like the Pianoforall course, which takes your through fingering techniques over a series of lessons.
It is important to keep in mind that the “correct” fingering may vary from composition to composition. In many classical pieces, a slight change in fingering can cause a major disruption to the whole phrasing of the piece. On the other hand for pieces that are less strict that have more scope for improvisation, fingering is far less critical. In fact many top piano players use different fingering depending on their mood at the time when they play improvisations within a piece of music. The mood of the song and the pace of rhythm can also have a bearing on the finger combinations used on the piano.
Another thing you may notice in sheet music is that different editors will have different fingering arrangements (where it is included) for similar pieces of music, or for the same song, so “correct” or “proper” fingering can usually be considered arbitrary. While some music editors prefer the second finger more often, others have a tendency toward the third, so in summary, if you are improvising to music, the correct fingering is not so critical. You should still learn the rules, like those mentioned in the other article, which ensure a smooth flow in a piece of music for the most part, but you do not need to be 100% rigid in sticking to these rules. Too much rigidity will cause you to over-think which can lead to bad sounding music. It is the final sound that you produce that is important after all!
Piano playing can become over complicated when you are trying to balance too much, playing with both of your hands, pedal timing, while thinking about rhythm and finger position. While it is good to learn good technique, the end result should be to get to a level where you don’t have to think too hard. Otherwise making music will be no fun at all!