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thumb on black keys


zephonic

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I am sure this has been covered before, but me no likey search.

 

My mom and other classical piano teachers used to tell me that the thumb had no business playing black keys, but now I'm practicing some stuff that simply doesn't leave an alternative.

 

It made me wonder what the consensus is?

 

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Yeah, I use my thumbs on black keys quite often as well. Especially if it's in a key where the root is a black key.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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No question, the thumb is used on the black keys all the time.

 

Without a doubt.

 

Terrific , but more advanced,black key studies are Chopin's Black Key Etude.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsonM5mSvOk

And Butterfly Etude

 

The Debussy #6 Etude from Bk.I for eight fingers doesn't utilize the thumbs. Étude 6 pour les huit doigts (eight fingers)

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

 

NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eb chord in root position. Eb, G, Bb, Eb with octave Eb's in the left hand...

 

How do you play that without the thumbs?

 

..Joe

 

 

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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When I got my first piano lessons, they were classical based. In terms of chords, yes, you had no option but to use your thumb, but with scales and everything else, thumb on the black keys was one of many now seemingly silly musical faux pas that you just didn't do.

 

When I moved up here and started getting jazz/blues lessons, my teacher spent the first few months trying to break all of those bad habits/rules my old training had drilled into me. My piano teacher says he usually has to do the same with every new pupil he gets who was classically trained. If I stuck to the "rules" I grew up with I wouldn't be able to play half the stuff I now play.

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Yamaha MODX7

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One of the best lessons I ever learned after decades of classical piano was to take scales or familiar lines and practice fingering them 121212, 123123 or 12341234. Do this for the entire length of the line or for 3-4 octaves of a scale, regardless of how awkward the fingering might feel or how the thumb lands on black or white keys. After that gets comfortable, then start the scale on the 2nd finger, then 3rd, then 4th. This radically increases your comfort level and facility while playing improvised lines.
Steinway L, 1958 Hammond B3, Kurzweil Forte, Prophet-6, Minimoog Voyager, Kawai VPC-1,Oberheim SEM-Pro, Doepfer Dark Energy, Nord Rack
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Ah. But go back to proper and correct early Baroque technique- the thumbs were not to be used at all!

 

..Joe

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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Kind of similar story. Back when I was 13 or so my organ teacher corrected me when I played above the first octave of bass pedals saying that boys aren't supposed to play in the upper register. Needless to say she wasn't my teacher for long.

Wm. David McMahan

I Play, Therefore I Am

 

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The thumbs shouldn't be used on the black keys when playing major scales.

 

I guess that is what I was taught. It was long ago, and my memory cloudy. Thanks!

[/quote

I have never heard this in over 50 years of playing piano

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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The thumbs shouldn't be used on the black keys when playing major scales. Other than that, whatever you gotta do to get your fingers on the right notes without having to do flip-flops with your wrists! :cool:

 

Minor scales as well.....

 

Well, this does make sense... I never had any formal classical training, but came to the same conclusion myself when trying to play certain solo lines or scales. If you start an Eb scale with your thumb, you get that awkward "pinching effect" between your thumb & index finger, which makes playing really difficult. Better to start with your index finger and tuck your thumb under to reach the F. (etc., on up the scale...)

 

When it comes to chords in #/b roots, you have no choice. Get dem there thumbs on da black keys, y'all.

Kurzweil PC3, Yamaha MOX8, Alesis Ion, Kawai K3M
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In chords or octaves it is sometimes unavoidable, but in major or minor scales it should be avoided. In regular playing I think it is situational and I mostly teach that fingering simply has to facilitate smooth efficient playing. For sme reason I developed a habit of often playing triads with RH 245 or LH 542. It is just more comfortable for me.

The biggest "aha" moment for me regarding fingering happened in my early 20's. I was self taught and had been playing and gigging for years but decided to study with a teacher who had worked with symphony orchestras. I had been struggling with piece for a few weeks. One day I arrived at my lesson early and went in practice. I was tired and had a bad day so I played the piece using fingering that felt natural for me rather than what was apparently technically correct. My teacher came beaming and said "that is what I've been trying get out of you! What did you do?"

I tell that story to my students too. It is about what works, feels right and allows you to play well. Still I try to encourage good fingering habits early on.

Stage: Korg Krome 88.

Home: Korg Kross 61, Yamaha reface CS, Korg SP250, Korg mono/poly Kawai ep 608, Korg m1, Yamaha KX-5

 

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It seems to me a distinction should be made between comping chords and/or octaves-- where it has already been pointed out avoiding thumbs on the black keys is all but impossible in many keys-- and scales/runs/arpeggios. In the latter, using the thumbs on black keys seems like it should definitely be avoided where possible. Every scale I was ever taught, I was taught to play thumbs on white only. Wouldn't it slow you down to do otherwise? It sure would me, I think.
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It is a solid general principle that get broken often in Baroque music also. Bach C# Major Fugues come to mind. ...... but sometimes the lines between what is scalar and what is an expanded arpeggio with a boatload of passing tones gets a little blurred to me.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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but in major or minor scales it should be avoided.

Why?

Let me ask you a question. Name a major or minor scale that is best performed with the thumb playing black keys.

Stage: Korg Krome 88.

Home: Korg Kross 61, Yamaha reface CS, Korg SP250, Korg mono/poly Kawai ep 608, Korg m1, Yamaha KX-5

 

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I've had tons of classical training from many different teachers, and have never been told not to use thumbs on black keys. The only time I have ever heard it was from teacher wannabies that really had almost no training.

 

Playing arppegios in keys like F# and eb uses thumbs, with crossings, on black keys.

 

 

E.M. Skinner, Casavant, Schlicker, Hradetzky, Dobson, Schoenstien, Abbott & Sieker.

Builder of tracker action and electro-pneumatic organs, and a builder of the largest church pipe organ in the world.

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