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That Weak Fourth Finger

Discussion in 'Technique' started by techneut, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I have a recurring friendly argument with my teacher about the usage of the 4th finger (RH mainly). In passages that require force and/or speed, she tends to recommend fingerings that favour the 3rd finger over the 4th, even when the 4th feels more logical to me. I see the good common sense point of that, and I agree that it is often safer to do it that way, but on the other hand I am afraid that when one constantly shields the 4th finger from heavy duty it will remain underdeveloped.

    Your opinions ?
     
  2. joeisapiano

    joeisapiano New Member Piano Society Artist

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    i would agree with you completely. I can't stand the idea of 'cheating' (espcially in etudes) using hand-span or some other random blessing that evades a common curse (in this case the fourth finger). but then, I'm only a student and not a very experienced one, comparativly.
     
  3. pmerrill

    pmerrill New Member

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    Oh, yeah, definately never cheat it out, like you say, how would it ever get stronger if you just use the third finger whenever you can? In fact, many times in a case where a third or fourth finger would work equally as well, I purposefully choose the fourth for, you know, building it!
     
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I'm sure everyone will agree that once the 4th fingers becomes stronger and more coordinated, piano playing is just so much easier!
     
  5. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    To me, it has to do with if I practise the piece or wish to perform it as good as possible. I make a lot difference between practising and playing and would during a practise session, for instance with hands separated, not cheat on a better fingering while during a recording, I will more likely choose a safe setting. It is possible that you get confused by doing this so in some phase, I make my final decision.

    There are exceptions like etudes which are exercises. For instance Chopin's op.10 no.9 which is built to strengthen the left hand's fourth finger. Cheating on that would be like cheating in a solitaire.
     
  6. pmerrill

    pmerrill New Member

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    I agree completely...actually when I was a lot younger I played in a Master Class and the guy (gosh, I can't remember who is was :shock:) had pointed out that the trills I was playing with my 4th and 5th fingers (it was a Haydn sonata) could and should be executed with my 2nd and 3rd fingers. I was like, well yeah, but my 4th finger is closer, and I am trying to build it. He said something like, well, yeah, but if you were playing in Carnegie Hall next Tuesday you should play that trill with your 2nd and 3rd fingers. He's right :p
     
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    it's very situational, really.

    4th and 5th are weaker and they need more developing. and if you avoid them, they will become effectively ineffective. the easy (easy sounding but bombing difficult to achieve) way out is master hanon. there will be no more arguments :) you have a perfect set of fingers and just pick a fingering you like. if its more logical to use the 4th, go ahead; dont change fingerings unneccessarily. you only adopt a different set if its better for you. i guess the exception as discussed is etudes. for everything else i like a comfortable fingering. one that works.

    for example in bar 7 and 8 of chopin's fantasy impromptu, (the upward arpeggio to B and the downward run), my fingering is:
    0123 4123 5432 1242 1313 2412 4213 1243.
    if you will have the patience to try this set of fingering, yes i find that its probably the most comfortable for me so far. slightly more turns than the suggested set, but i avoid 5th finger most of the time, except on the B. and thumb appears nowhere along the black keys. it's very comfortable for me. and i don't avoid the 4th finger :) i think mine's strong enough to play this thing. =P hehe.
     
  8. MindenBlues

    MindenBlues New Member Piano Society Artist

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    My right hand fingering for this part is:
    0123 4123 5432 1352 1532 1532 5325 1253

    As you see, it differs considerably from your fingering after the 3rd quadrupel. I avoid using my weak fourth finger :oops: , and use more often the 5th finger and use less finger crossings. I tried out your approach, but I am not convinced of that alternative.

    Regarding this fingering and regarding Roberts suggestion to make a difference between fingering for practising and performing: I would avoid change fingering for a certain piece. I use always the same fingering for a certain run in a piece, regardless whether I practise or perform. Another thing is of course for pieces which are never intended for performing.
     
  9. Anonymous

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    I guess it really varies. I've been practising my fingering so I find myself rather comfortable with it. I avoid placing my thumbs on the black keys! :p its rather awkward for me. It's not bad a fingering though I might do with lesser 5th fingers. Your 4th finger cant be that weak..? use abit more of it! :) hehehe.
     
  10. ben

    ben New Member Piano Society Artist

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    weak 4th finger

    I agree that the 4th finger should not be avoided in practise because you need to become proficient with that finger. I would like to stress, however, that finger strength is largely an illusion. The reason the fourth finger is harder to play is because of the extra tendons that attatch it to the adjacent fingers. Everyone's hands are different, and I think you should experiment by playing the 'weaker' fingers in many different ways and in many different hand positions to see which one suits you.
     
  11. pmerrill

    pmerrill New Member

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    Re: weak 4th finger

    Well said.
     
  12. Anonymous

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    The best exercises I have found for strengthening my fingers, especially the fourth and fifth, are those of Erno Dohnanyi, specifically the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. They are difficult to master but once you have them and are able to play them at a reasonable tempo you will find your fingers are much stronger.

    I however do not believe in the myth of having all fingers in the hand be of equal strength. Its a physical impossibility. The "inner" fingers will always be stronger and that is why we play the piano the way we do, which for the most part leaves a large portion of the work to the inner fingers. I like Hanon exercises for warming up the fingers before playing, but I don't for a minute believe that playing every single one of those exercises will magically give you perfect hands. There are many other exercises besides Hanon, and we must remember how much piano technique has expanded since those exercises were written. That's why I find Dohnanyi more suitable.

    But we shouldn't forget that we can strengthen our fingers a great deal just by playing, and that really should be where we concentrate most of our efforts shouldn't it? Bach's music is so important to pianists for this very reason. The contrapuntal nature of his music makes each piece almost like its own finger-exercise, only instead of being a boring repeating pattern, its great music! Just play stuff. Play Bach. And don't get caught up in the idea that mastering an exercise book is the answer. Exercises help, a lot, but you shouldn't spend all your practice time doing them, and you really need not bother making a point of doing every single one in the book.

    Those are just my thoughts, based mostly on my personal experience. I think my 4th and 5th fingers are pretty strong. I'm hardly a virtuoso, but I find myself using those fingers quite a bit in my playing, and they do the job just fine. I don't think I could play Chopin's Etude in A-minor Op. 10 No. 2, but not many people can play that piece so I'm not too worried about it!
     
  13. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I believe the problem of the 4th finger is rooted in the fact that the tissue surrounding its knukle joint is much looser. Notice how that knuckle pops up when pressure is applied to the keyboard. I wouldn't characterize it as weak, just different. I like to exercise it by creating a dome with my hand and pushing into my pillow as I go to sleep every night. It's surely more productive than counting sheep! :lol:

    Pete
     
  14. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Sorry, but I am going to have to argue with you there. Sure, Hannon helps you develop your finger strenth, but the excersices also bring problems. To me, they are basically warm ups, nothing more. The most useful excercises are the Dohnanyi excersises. The very first excersise is about strengthening the fourth and fifth fingers. The other excersises are also very useful, because they make your fingers truely independant by getting them out of the habit of 123454321, etc. There is one excersise in particular which I love to practice where you hit a C, and hold it with your 1 (right) / 5 (left), and play the D to G with the fingering 2345432. The next scale, you have to hold a D with your 2/4 and you C E F G using the fingering 1345431. You do this for all the fingers. It's a LOT harder then it seems. It's incredibly hard, especially after practicing the Hannon, to get out of the habit of 123454321.

    For this reason, I don't believe that Hannon is the be all and end all of excersises. They help a bit, but there are a lot better out there. The Dohnanyi especially focus on the fourth and fifth fingers, because they are the naturally the weekest.
     
  15. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    In piano playing, "hard" is an illusion.
     
  16. Anonymous

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    fourth finger and skeletality

    Skeletality is the idea of using the power of the bones more, thus enabling you to rely less on the power of muscular effort. If I need 50 grams to press a key down and my "weak" fourth finger only has 40 grams, I will have a problem. However, if I can find a way to make the same amount of sound with only 20 grams plus a well-aligned skeleton, then my fourth is no longer any less capable than my other fingers.
     
  17. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I agree that the 4th finger can be more convenient at times, but you need to be careful. I have injured my 4th finger several times while playing.
     

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