Mark Westcott speaks on fingering

July 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

written by Victoria Warfield, July 13, 2012



International renowned concert artist, acclaimed piano teacher, lecturer and most recently, author, Mark Westcott soared to world-wide recognition by winning five important international piano competitions by his twenty-third birthday, including the Bronze medal in the Van Cliburn and first prize in the William Kapell Competitions. Mr. Westcott’s teachers represent a varitable ‘who’s who’ in American music. They include John Perry, Frank Mannheimer, Cecile Genhart, Eugene List, and composer Samuel Barber.  Endowed with pyro-technical command and a huge dynamic range, Mr. Westcott’s unique artistry reveals an incomparable and poetic singing line, bountiful color, and an acclaimed mastery of the pedal. He has confounded the world’s most demanding critics and audiences with an almost perfect balance between keen musical intelligence and a profoundly emotional—even spiritual—communicative force.


Fingering is a tool for memory, security, speed in learning, and for final mastery. Select fingering carefully. Be consistent!

  1. Make fingering simple (uncomplicated).
  2. Use standard fingerings.
  3. Consider groups (clusters) of tones that can be placed in the hand.
  4. Finger not only for the moment but also for the convenience to come. Look ahead!
  5. Look for a pattern. Finger sequences with the same finger groupings.
  6. Finger with a tempo in mind. Check the speed away from the keys and see how the fingering feels in the fingers.
  7. Choose a fingering that fits and feels good. Then keep it.
  8. When you know the fingering don’t think of it. Never think of one finger. Think of a group.
  9. Arrange to play the strongest fingers on the accents.
  10. Finger to avoid breaks from one beat to the other.
  11. In wide leaps it is often wise to use a 3rd rather than a 5th finger.
  12. Finger chord successions to avoid breaks.
  13. In waltz-time avoid carrying the 5th finger back and forth from the single bass to the chord.
  14. For staccato passages, play legato first to select good fingering.
  15. For trills use opposite fingers as: 1&3, 2&4, 3&5, rather than next-door fingerings.
  16. For repeated notes use the same finger unless the tempo is very rapid. Changing fingering unnecessarily invites trouble. If finger is used as though picking up an object, one can repeat rapidly by remaining on key.
  17. For a “bite” in a mordant, finger 132, or 243.
  18. Always finger so as to lead to an accent.
  19. In double notes have the weight of the hand toward the thumb for proper balance of hand and position.
  20. In fingering any passage keep minute (small) rotary movements in mind, and also the direction of each note.
  21. In double note passages it is necessary to keep lagato in one part only. For instance, when 2 4 crosses over 1 3, release the 3 pivot over the thumb and rotate back toward the 5th finger. If one finger keeps the lagato, the double note passage will sound legato.
  22. See charts for scale and arpeggio fingerings.
  23. Keep fingers close to the keys at all times. Excess movements waste time, make speed and facility impossible, and tend to create tenseness.
  24. In rapid scales, do not try to play legato.   Speed binds tones together (as in a glissando). It is an artificial legato but sounds legato.
  25. Don’t play anything faster, in practice, than you can think of it.  In this way you gain finger control.
  26. Correct phrasing (breathing) depends on fingering. Look ahead, see the notes and where they go, and finger to get there.
  27. Alexander Libermann says, “Think of the fingertips. The fingertip is the first to go towards the key, into the key, and away from the key.  Our musical soul must begin in the tips of the fingers. Every touch in the piano playing is a finger touch. We must establish a ‘magnetic’ attraction between the key and our finger tips.  Our best control lies in not losing contact with the key.