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How Does One Choose Fingerings?


Halifax
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Just started playing this summer. Y'all have such good advice, I'm interested in what you have to say about fingerings.

 

I'm working with Edel Fox a bit via her lessons on OAIM and I'm following her fingerings for "Maggie in the Woods." It works, I'm happy, seems to make sense to my fingers.

 

But on my own, I'm learning the Kesh jig from a music book, so I've no guidance on fingering variations. Is there a trick to it?

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

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This may sound trite, but now when I'm learning a new tune I try as many variations as I can before muscle memory starts to develop, then pick the one(s) that have a good combination of playability and the right feel/sound for the tune. Sometimes if I like the effect of more than 1 I'll learn both and mix it up. I am also working through Edel's videos and find them very useful for learning tricks and tips to apply to other tunes. I play by ear, so have to have heard a tune played by others- hence I don't wrestle with learning from printed music.

Edited by Bill N
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I can't comment on fingerings specifically for Irish music, but when practicing a phrase of music you should also think about the phrases before and after it. It's no good working out a clever fingering for a phrase in isolation if it doesn't flow easily from the preceding phrase and into the next one. Sometimes you have to make compromises so the tune works as a whole.

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I have been to a couple of Noel Hill camps, and as I understand him, he favors using the stronger finger where you can (in order of priority, the first finger, then the second, etc.) If you do this, you'll be pushing the D on the G row with your first finger almost all the time, instead of pulling it on the C row on the right side. You'll also usually be pulling the E on the same G row button instead of pushing it on the C row. I do this in my own playing unless I need to depart from the rule to avoid hopping. I find that it helps a lot with phrasing, contributes to a staccato feel (which I personally like), and enables me to play within a fairly narrow bellows range (you can recover a lot of air and stay in pretty close if you consistently push the first finger D).

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I have been to a couple of Noel Hill camps, and as I understand him, he favors using the stronger finger where you can (in order of priority, the first finger, then the second, etc.) If you do this, you'll be pushing the D on the G row with your first finger almost all the time, instead of pulling it on the C row on the right side. You'll also usually be pulling the E on the same G row button instead of pushing it on the C row. I do this in my own playing unless I need to depart from the rule to avoid hopping. I find that it helps a lot with phrasing, contributes to a staccato feel (which I personally like), and enables me to play within a fairly narrow bellows range (you can recover a lot of air and stay in pretty close if you consistently push the first finger D).

I have to agree with Jim....for a beginner it is best to try and stick to a pattern and then deviate from that pattern to avoid finger jumps. Of course many other reasons to move fingers around(bellows control, chords, etc) but when you start out it is nice to have what I call my default fingerings. Good luck and have fun....you will find what works best for you through practice. Try to get out to play with others as soon as you can and that will help and motivate you.

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Halifax, since you mentioned The Kesh: Assuming a simple arrangement, if you employ the rule I described in the previous post you'll play the entire A part with only your first fingers, except for the F# on the G row in the last measure. As for the B part, all of it will be first fingers except for the high A and B (second finger, right hand) in the last phrase.

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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses!

 

Doug: I took your advice to heart and took my concertina to a hooley---even though I thought I wasn't ready. It was great! So much more fun (for me) to snuggle up in the corner with the band than to be sweating it out on the dance floor. And playing next to another concertina made me realize that my mistakes weren't unforgivable and that I could catch up. So thanks!

Bill N: Good advice regarding muscle plasticity vs muscle memory. The other concertinist at the hooley made fingering suggestions that make good sense and I'll have to work against muscle memory to incorporate. So, I'll work on plasticity.

Mr. Jones: You bring up a good point. Ya gotta be able to see the big picture in order to best map out the fingerings for phrasing. It's good that so much of the Irish music has a loose pattern to it, so I usually have a pretty good idea of where things are going note-wise. Just got to get my fingers to figure things out.

Jim: I did not know about using the stronger finger, and that concept has greatly changed the way I look at the buttons. Makes great sense. I will try out your suggested fingerings, they sound like they make a whole lot of sense.

 

Again, thank you all. Sorry for the delay in my reply, I've been taking a few days to let your advice soak in. Now, back to playing, everyone!

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