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 Post subject: 'Impossible' fingering
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 8:37 am 
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Composers sometimes delight in giving us impossible things to do and I am wondering how members here get around fingering problems that appear to be physically impossible. Let me give an example:

There are many Chopin experts on here, so take his Prelude in A major op 28 no.7. at the climax to the piece in bar/measure 13. The RH chord is a stretch but is possible using the thumb across A# and C#. However the LH chord (in my Dover score) I believe to be impossible. My hands are possibly slightly smaller than average for a male but I don't think it possible for any size digits to play the top E and F# together (along with the lower F# and C#).

I'd be interested to hear from anybody who has achieved this! I cheat by omitting the E!

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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 11:00 am 
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I also have small hands, probably smaller than yours since I'm a woman. Many times I have to get creative with fingering to manage a wide stretch. Or I use my LH to take over the bottom note of a huge RH chord and use the pedal to keep the jump smooth-sounding and unnoticeable (hopefully).

What's funny is that I can't reach the right hand chord in that Chopin prelude spot, but I can reach the left hand chord. Are you using 1-2-3-5 in the LH? That's how I do it. No way can I get my thumb to cover the A# and C# in the RH. I have to either leave out the A# or roll the chord.

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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 12:19 pm 
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That's interesting...and baffling. I can understand your problem - but not mine! I just tried it again and although the F#-C#-F# stretch is no problem I cannot in any way get my 2nd finger on the E without hitting E flat as well.

I agree with your first paragraph and as you go on to suggest, chord rolling works sometimes but doesn't necessarily always sound right.

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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 12:40 pm 
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I can see a smallish hand having a problem with the the RH chord. If you can't make that stretch, you're hosed.

That LH chord however does not seem a hand size problem. If you can easily take an octave, you should be able play chords like this with some practice. Maybe your fingers are just not supple enough yet to move sufficiently sideways. Perhaps bending your index finger more inwards will avoid it hitting the E flat.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 1:03 pm 
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Paul, wow, this is so weird - I just now looked at my hands and discovered something I never knew before. When I put both hands out in front of me with palms facing the wall and fingers spread apart, the distance between my LH 2nd and 3rd fingers is naturally spread farther apart than those same fingers on my RH. So that is why I can do that LH chord. Look at your hands like I just did. Maybe the spread on your LH fingers is not as wide as on your RH? Or do you have a bit of excess webbing between your fingers (not as much as a duck, of course, although if you do, then forget all this :lol: )?

And btw - I'm practicing some new pieces and finding a lot of places with notes I cannot reach. The composer must have had large hands - :x

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 Post subject: Re: 'Impossible' fingering
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 5:20 pm 
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Paul wrote:
Composers sometimes delight in giving us impossible things to do and I am wondering how members here get around fingering problems that appear to be physically impossible. Let me give an example:

There are many Chopin experts on here, so take his Prelude in A major op 28 no.7. at the climax to the piece in bar/measure 13. The RH chord is a stretch but is possible using the thumb across A# and C#. However the LH chord (in my Dover score) I believe to be impossible. My hands are possibly slightly smaller than average for a male but I don't think it possible for any size digits to play the top E and F# together (along with the lower F# and C#).

I'd be interested to hear from anybody who has achieved this! I cheat by omitting the E!


Hello, Paul.
I was unaware that I'd achieved anything!

But no, the chord is not impossible; with both hands, I play every note simultaneously. But I'm 6"3' (~2m) and my claws are pretty much out-sized. :wink:

Have you heard of the chords that Rachmaninoff could reach? That's something else.

Pete


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 5:32 pm 
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Quote:
Maybe your fingers are just not supple enough yet.....


I just had to laugh at this from Chris - although I have only been playing (in adulthood) for about 10 years I'm afraid at my age nothing is likely to get any more supple! I take your point though that with practice these things are achievable.

Quote:
you have a bit of excess webbing between your fingers


I don't appear to be suffering from this problem but I do waddle occasionaly...quack..quack.

Anyway, tonight's practice session is to make my index finger grow another inch - I'll report back.

Thanks to all for responding. [/quote]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 6:11 pm 
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Pete, can I borrow your hands? :D

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:42 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Pete, can I borrow your hands? :D


Yes! And by "yes" I mean "no".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 2:30 am 
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You lost me there. But ok, if you won't lend me your hands, maybe you can simply lay your hands on top of mine - I'll do most of the work but you can hit the notes I can't reach. How's that?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 3:05 am 
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Hopefully, I'll find you again, MA. I can't be serious all the time. Or can I? No, I can't. And by "can't" I mean "will". Wait... what?
Now I'm acting like a fool. See what you started, Paul? :lol:
Curse my random sense of humor!

But seriously, I'm on vacation from my piano students for three whole weeks, the little brats. Kidding; I love them all! (I especially adore their soccer-moms and have an extra special fondness of their football coaches.)

But sure Monica, we'll put our hands together (along with Nathan of course) and see what comes of it. :lol:

But back on topic...

An impossible fingering can be encountered in Shubert's Impromptu in A-flat, in the first few bars of the left hand. The same half note is indicated to be held by the LH while being played as part of a triplet in the right. Just a trivial thing, really.

Pete

PS: Monica, I'm hacking my left hand off right now, where should I send it? The Navy Pier? Try and have it back to me by next month. You could borrow my right hand too but I seem to be a bit handicapped at he moment. :lol:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 7:31 am 
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Quote:
See what you started, Paul?


Yes...and I haven't finished yet! :x

I just cannot and never will be able to get my index finger onto that E. But wait...I have a solution.
For this piece only I will physically remove the E flat key. :wink: I bet that's never been seen on stage - except maybe by somebody like Victor Borge.

"I only know two pieces; one is 'Clair de Lune' and the other one isn't". Victor Borge

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 10:46 am 
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PJF wrote:
PS: Monica, I'm hacking my left hand off right now, where should I send it? The Navy Pier? Try and have it back to me by next month. You could borrow my right hand too but I seem to be a bit handicapped at he moment. :lol:


Ok, now we're getting somewhere! :lol: Thank you, darlin'.

Quote:
But sure Monica, we'll put our hands together (along with Nathan of course) and see what comes of it.


Now, now, Pete. I sense you are slipping into the 'dark side'. I like it! :lol:

Paul wrote:
I just cannot and never will be able to get my index finger onto that E. But wait...I have a solution. For this piece only I will physically remove the E flat key.


Good one. I like your creativity! :lol:

And Paul, when I was practicing last night and came to a place in the music where I cannot reach, I thought about you sitting at your piano - practicing that prelude but thinking about ducks. Makes me laugh.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 3:59 pm 
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OK, I'm serious now. Or am I?

Paul, may I suggest the following: try playing just the top three notes of the LH chord (A#, E, F#). This is easy, no? Then, while holding these notes (using them as a pivot point) try to pivot your hand to the left while extending your pinkie (so that the bones of the finger are parallel to their corresponding bones in the hand), to reach the low 'F#'. Reaching the low F# while holding the little note-cluster at the top, is the technical problem to solve, not trying to reach that 'E'.

I could say it another way; if the E is giving you trouble, then build the chord around the E. Play E first, then try to reach the notes around it. Whatever notes you can't reach while holding the E are your problem notes.

Let me know if this helps!

Pete

PS:

You know, since I'm sans LH at the moment, I had an opportunity to examine my right hand. I tried (and succeeded to!) play the RH chord (of the above mentioned piece) with a fingering of 12345. Not sure I WANT to do that, it was awfully uncomfortable.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:28 pm 
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Quote:
PJF wrote:

..try playing just the top three notes of the LH chord (A#, E, F#). This is easy, no? Then, while holding these notes (using them as a pivot point) try to pivot your hand to the left while extending your pinkie (so that the bones of the finger are parallel to their corresponding bones in the hand), to reach the low 'F#'. Reaching the low F# while holding the little note-cluster at the top, is the technical problem to solve, not trying to reach that 'E'. .


Pete

At the risk of boring the rest of the forum to death I'll persist with this...

I tried what you say above but with the help of a tape measure I find that the simple truth is that the distance between keys F# and E is 14cm. The distance between fully extended pinkies no.2 & 5 is 13cm. There is NO WAY I can achieve that stretch without E flat playing along as well! As you say, the technical problem is the lower F#. No problem with the A#.

Not to worry, I'll just play my version as before.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:40 pm 
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Paul wrote:
Quote:
PJF wrote:

..try playing just the top three notes of the LH chord (A#, E, F#). This is easy, no? Then, while holding these notes (using them as a pivot point) try to pivot your hand to the left while extending your pinkie (so that the bones of the finger are parallel to their corresponding bones in the hand), to reach the low 'F#'. Reaching the low F# while holding the little note-cluster at the top, is the technical problem to solve, not trying to reach that 'E'. .


Pete

At the risk of boring the rest of the forum to death I'll persist with this...

I tried what you say above but with the help of a tape measure I find that the simple truth is that the distance between keys F# and E is 14cm. The distance between fully extended pinkies no.2 & 5 is 13cm. There is NO WAY I can achieve that stretch without E flat playing along as well! As you say, the technical problem is the lower F#. No problem with the A#.

Not to worry, I'll just play my version as before.


I don't get bored with this line of conversation! (I'm a teacher rehabilitating an injury that occurred months ago, so my patience is unnatural.)

Have you tried rotating your left forearm counterclockwise to about 45 degrees and playing the low F# on the pinkie's left edge? There's a bit of gymnastics involved but if one can orient the hand and arm and fingers in such a way...so that you play on the left edge of 2 and 5...the chord is likely reachable. Try experimenting with some unorthodox ways of extending your pinkie and index finger (namely, with a greatly supinated hand.)

Luckily, the reach between 2 and 5 can be increased due to the fact that the hand is stretchable (even if you're old!) but don't go injuring yourself like me. :lol:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 6:30 pm 
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At the risk of continuing the humorous replies to a serious question, let me ask if anyone has seen this approach to playing Rachmaninoff. It beats trying to stretch one's hands (or grow new fingers).

Ed

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:07 pm 
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I knew what this was going to be before I even clicked on the link. Yes - that one is so funny!

Paul - we have a new fingering technique for you to try. :lol:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:38 am 
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:lol:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 2:53 pm 
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Quote:
Pianolady wrote:
Paul - we have a new fingering technique for you to try. :lol:


...and it's only slightly more crazy than my idea of removing the E flat key during the Chopin!

Due to ongoing renovation in the music room my piano is currently unusable so I haven't been practicing finger torture lately. Soon back to it though.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 3:44 am 
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These types of chords are not impossible to play, you just have to have large hands or maybe roll the chord... I'm not familiar with this exact passage, but I can guarantee you my teacher could play it and w/out rolling it. With each hand he can reach a five note chord stretching over the span of a 12th 0_0

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:11 pm 
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Hi Paul,

Let me assure you that the LH chord is not impossible for everyone. It's basically an octave containing two other notes. The fingering (which is very comfortable for me at least) is 5-F#, 3-C#, 2-E, and 1-F#. I realize that everyone's hand has a different span, and what is comfortable for one pianist might not be workable for another. If absolutely necessary, you could use the option of rolling the LH chord upward as an arpeggio. Or, if that cannot be managed well, you could simplify the chord by eliminating the top F# fingering the LH 5-F#, 2-C# and 1-E. That would at least substantially preserve the tonal colors of the chord. I hope this helps.

David

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 12:51 pm 
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On his "Chopin I Love" CD, Jean-Yves Thibaudet played a few of the pieces on
Chopin's actual piano. There used to be an interview with JYT on youtube in which
he talks about that piano and how it was much smaller than normal pianos. JYT said his
fingers would barely fit between the black keys and he had to learn all over again how to play
in order to record those pieces. So, some of those "impossible" fingerings were not
so impossible back in the day.

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Last edited by bclever on Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:26 pm 
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Oh, Brian - that is the most interesting thing I've heard today! I have wondered about this countless times while I'm playing Chopin. From what we can read, Chopin's fingers were so flexible and like rubber, but there are times when I can not picture him actually reaching certain wide stretches. And I think he was about the same size as I am, maybe he's a little taller, but his hands wouldn't have been that large, so yes - this does answer that question.

My other question which I still have not found an answer to, is what exactly is the length of Chopin's fingers? I know there is a cast of his hands in a museum, so I guess I'll have to go there and measure it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 11:35 pm 
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Apropos to this thread:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhKinvIU ... re=related

If you are impatient fast forward to 6:00 exactly.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:19 am 
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Wow! Thanks for that youtube link, Brian. Oh how I love that man even more, now. And how weird is this, huh? Look at Chopin's hand! I've seen pictures of the cast before, but this one looks very real. How slim and long his fingers were. No wonder...! I'll watch the other parts another time. Great videos!

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:13 pm 
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I just finished watching the rest of the videos. There are six altogether. Anyone who is a Chopin nut should watch them. There is nothing that I did not already know in them, but Schiff describes things very nicely and you get to see places where Chopin lived and performed. Another plus is watching Schiff play several pieces. Does anyone know how to save a youtube video? I wouldn't mind saving these videos onto my computer but I don't know how.

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"Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties." ~ Frederic Chopin

my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 3:06 pm 
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Yes I watched them too and enjoyed them very much. I have converted
youtube stuff to mp3's before using http://vidtomp3.com/ but for some reason it didn't work on this time?

If someone gets it to work I would like to know as well.

You know I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to hear Chopin play the WTC on his piano. When I listen to Chopin, although I am no Chopin expert, I hear a strange mix between Bach, folk music and virtuoso piano playing.

pianolady wrote:
I just finished watching the rest of the videos. There are six altogether. Anyone who is a Chopin nut should watch them. There is nothing that I did not already know in them, but Schiff describes things very nicely and you get to see places where Chopin lived and performed. Another plus is watching Schiff play several pieces. Does anyone know how to save a youtube video? I wouldn't mind saving these videos onto my computer but I don't know how.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:37 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
I wouldn't mind saving these videos onto my computer but I don't know how.


If I remember well you browse with Firefox, so this could make your day:
https://addons.mozilla.org/it/firefox/addon/3590

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 11:08 pm 
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alf wrote:
pianolady wrote:
I wouldn't mind saving these videos onto my computer but I don't know how.


If I remember well you browse with Firefox, so this could make your day:
https://addons.mozilla.org/it/firefox/addon/3590


Thanks, darlin'. That's exactly what I wanted! :D

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my videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/monicapiano
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