Piano Technique: Five-Finger positions are good for you!

Piano students of all levels can benefit from 5-finger position romps in many keyboard geographies. That’s because a player can experiment with legato and staccato on a bed of black notes; white notes, or combinations of both, without worrying about thumb shifts and complicated fingering maneuvers. In this relaxed spread of the fingers, the pianist can readily focus on tone production, and various articulations with contrasting dynamics: i.e. a rolling legato, or defined, snappy staccato.

All draw energy from a full, relaxed arm and supple wrist–not to mention the forearm generated Forte Staccato that can melt into a lighter, contoured soft (piano) staccato.

Fluctuating CENTERS of GRAVITY across the hands, compel the student to “feel” changes in keys as distant as F# Major and Bb Major. And pairing MAJOR and parallel minors, helps students with ear training and transposition.

Nearly all my adult students who have had early and ongoing exposure to five-finger positions as part of their daily warm-up BEFORE moving on to the multi-octave scale segment of their practicing have a keen sensitivity to MAJOR and minor, showing gains in sight-reading and transposition.

Just in chord-building alone, they have a good understanding of why a sonority is MAJOR or minor, and how Major and minor thirds influence chord recognition.

They easily baby-step through chords applying their five-finger Major/minor knowledge. By skipping from Root to Third to Fifth, they explore the theoretical universe of Chords synthesized with an aural consciousness.

Five-finger positions also afford romps in parallel thirds that invite spring forward wrist motions, and side-to-side or lateral movements.

Finally, five-finger positions are found in a repository of well-composed music dating to the Baroque, and Classical era, in the form of Minuets, Hunting songs, and short melodies that grow technique and sensitivity to phrasing.

Here are a few samples in duet form: The student, Fritz age 7, at the time, played the PRIMO (reading two treble clefs) These pieces are sourced from the Faber Developing Artist Series.

In the universe of PENTA-scale based pieces, I found a particularly satisfying composition that’s composed in two-part Invention form by Willard Palmer. (“Go No More a-Rushing” is an old Elizabethan tune)

Adult student, Peter, whose progress I’ve been tracking since he commenced lessons as a “raw beginner” last January, has just begun working on this piece, and was sent a recording of each separate voice, so he could enjoy a Contrapuntal experience along the way.

As a preliminary, he spent the first part of his piano lesson practicing pentascales (5-finger positions) in F minor; F Major and Bb Major, adding parallel thirds in legato and staccato.

In a short time, he’s made big strides.

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