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FingerTips for Pianists

FingerTips for Pianists

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FingerTips for Pianists

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Lançado em:
Dec 17, 2020


Part of the enjoyment of playing the piano is the challenge it brings. FingerTips for Pianists is the ideal companion. It provides tips and strategies to help you achieve new skills and advance your technique. It troubleshoots any tricky bits and systematically looks at ways to approach or correct them. It offers fresh insight into interpretation of the music you play and helps you prepare and polish your piece for performance.

There are tips, strategies and guidance on learning new music; and valuable advice on sight reading, memorising, health and posture. It studies the characteristics and qualities that influence you as a player and includes an interesting and welcome contribution from world class concert pianist, Stephen Hough.

Many of those who learned to the play the piano as a child are finding pleasure in returning to it as an adult. This book will refresh and stimulate their knowledge in a way that gives encouragement, confidence and a mature understanding.  

FingerTips for Pianists has something for everyone and leads players to constructive thinking that paves the way to discovery and progress. Be prepared to think ‘outside the box’.
Lançado em:
Dec 17, 2020

Sobre o autor

Elizabeth Hembrey comes from a musical family. Her grandfather was a composer, publisher and Professor of Music at Trinity College, London. Elizabeth learned to play the piano early, working through ABRSM graded piano exams. She lives in West Sussex spending her time writing, researching music and walking in the countryside.

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Amostra do Livro

FingerTips for Pianists - Elizabeth Hembrey

About the Author

Elizabeth Chapman Hembrey has been around music all her life. Her grandfather, Edward Chapman Doughty, was Professor of Music at Trinity College, London. He was a composer, publisher and founder of the Stentor Music Company, which continues to thrive today under the direction of his subsequent generations.

Growing up in a musical household Elizabeth learned to play the piano, working through ABRSM graded piano exams and playing in the family band. She devoted years raising her family and passing on her love of music to her daughters and grandchildren. Elizabeth lives in West Sussex and spends her time writing, enjoying playing the piano, researching music and walking in the countryside. She has a special fondness and respect for the music of Chopin and is currently working on some of his most challenging pieces.

This is Elizabeth’s first work of non-fiction. She writes at her grandfather’s old desk, where the spirit of his music lives on in the grain of the wood.

Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth Hembrey

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.


9 Priory Business Park,

Wistow Road, Kibworth Beauchamp,

Leicestershire. LE8 0RX

Tel: 0116 279 2299

Email: books@troubador.co.uk

Web: www.troubador.co.uk/matador

Twitter: @matadorbooks

ISBN 978 1800468 474

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

Matador is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd

To Mark

Teacher, Arranger, Composer and Artist

and above all, friend.


From the Author


Posture & Health

The benefits of playing the piano | Good posture | Basic position rules | General health and fitness | Prevention is better than cure | Tension

Warm-Up Exercises

Understanding Musical Terms

Articulation marks | Phrasing | Rests | Ornaments, accents and time signatures

Hands, Fingers & Disobedient Thumbs

Hand size | Hand extension | Finger independence | Finger agility | Help for heavy thumbs | Care of hands and fingernails

Finding a Piano Teacher

Pedal Power

What do pedals do? | How are they used? | Pedal markings | What is half-damping and half-pedalling?

Learning a New Piece

Choosing music to play | Look for the basics | Foundation and building blocks | Getting started

Good Practice

Importance of practice | Finding a strategy | Warming up | Exercises | How to practise | Fingerings | Sight-reading | Slow practice | A practice check-list

More Good Practice

Bringing out the melody | Cantabile | Marking the score | Hand and finger positions | Leaping and landing | Using a Metronome


Tricky Bits and Troubleshooting

Making mistakes | Recording your practice | More slow practice | Exercises | Difficult chords | Left hand improvement | Hand independence.

Sight-Reading Skills

Sight-reading and the benefits | Preparing to play | Increasing skills | Reading ahead

Easy Reading – Patterns & Chords

Keyboard familiarity | Patterns in music | Hand movements | Managing chords | Ledger lines | Pointers and shortcuts

Page Turning

Memorising Your Music

Benefits of memorising | Why memorise? | Muscle memory | Working out a strategy | Image and association | Analysing the music to aid memory

Technique in Creating Sound

What is technique? | Body and mind train together | Listening skills | Touch | Improving technique | Key control | Interacting with your piano


What is interpretation? | Understanding the composer | Establishing patterns of thought, discovery and action | Points to remember

Pianist’s Block

Final Polishing

What is polishing? | Your listening ears | A check-list to identify areas for improvement

Expression and Emotion

Expression | The character of the music | Dynamic expression | Understanding emotions | Your audience


Preparing for performance | Management plan | On stage | Dealing with performance anxiety | Concerts and examinations | Feedback

from Stephen Hough, Concert Pianist

Where to from here?

New growth points | Moving forward | Common interest groups | Sharing your musical skills | Playing duets | Advancing your technique

What Makes a Pianist?

What makes you a pianist? | Characteristics | Qualities and aptitudes | Building confidence

Fascinating Piano Facts

Glossary of Musical Terms

This Glossary contains terms that are included in this book together with others you may encounter.Abbreviations: It. – Italian | Fr. – French | Ger. – German

From the Author

This book has been brewing for a long time and when I finally put pen to paper, the culmination of years of piano pleasure came tumbling out and ‘FingerTips’ was born. Why did it take so long? They say good things come to those who wait; but that doesn’t always apply to piano players. Good things come to those who practise. But what happens when you come up against an obstacle? It was the overcoming of obstacles that turned into tips and gave credence to fingers that sometimes begged for help. The gathering of those tips was the prompt to share them in print.

When I look back over my musical life, and playing the piano in particular, I realise just how many people have brought me to this point and my gratitude, love and heartfelt thanks to them needs to be here at the very beginning of this book, not tucked away in a page at the end. Each one has brought something special in so many ways, and my life today would be very impoverished without them. Words of thanks cannot express the deep appreciation I feel.

I thank my family for their love and support, especially my husband, Michael, who has generously given me the independence to write and has spent long hours away in his violin workshop, giving me the peace and space to do so. I thank my three daughters, Nicola, Zoë and Joanna for the many and unseen ways they love and support me. My special thanks go to Nicola, who has done a sterling job on copy-editing this book and has been an honest and constructive sounding board. Her patience and meticulous eye for detail has been my saving grace.

For my early musical awakening I’m indebted to my parents, Edward and Lilian Doughty; to Celia Beard, my first piano teacher, Daphne Hutchings (the Dragon), Cyril Wood; the Daughters of the Cross, who introduced me to classical music at the age of five, and the many, many people who contributed in countless ways.

In the practical achievement of producing this book, my sincere thanks go to Jon Sloper, founder and MD of Alacrify, whose kindness and advice has helped me through the digital world. I am grateful to Physiotherapist, Derry Brown, BSc, for his guidance in health care for pianists and Gabi Carr for illustrations.

I am privileged to be able to thank Stephen Hough for so generously sharing his thoughts and providing some insight into his life and skills as one of the world’s most accomplished pianists.

Finally, but foremost in thanks, is my acknowledgement to Mark Reeves. In this case, the well-worn adage that this book would never have been written without him is most certainly true. I thank him for restoring my confidence in playing after a long break; for the teaching that has inspired so much of the book’s content; for his support, bottomless and professional knowledge; and his kindness over so many years. The list is endless and my gratitude is huge.

Lastly, I thank you, the reader, because it is for you the book is written. Whatever your skill level, I hope you will find something that adds knowledge or interest to the pleasure we all share as pianists. Enjoy!



What is it that calls aspiring pianists to explore and love their instrument? You may be able to pinpoint the music or person that motivated you originally, but there is something intangible that causes you to continue and urges new players to learn. Piano playing is a fascinating and mysterious journey where learning never stops and there is always something new for you to discover. Everyone has their own path to travel; all are equally interesting and we all have something to offer one another.

You may have had the benefit of a professional piano teacher whose dedicated work has encouraged and inspired you; it’s quite possible that you are learning with a good teacher at the moment. On the other hand, you may have found your own way through instruction books, online media and help from friends or family. You may have had piano lessons as a child and returned to take up the interest some years later; or perhaps you are an experienced pianist. Whatever your position this book is for you.

Using this book

FingerTips for Pianists explores piano playing from a different aspect than most other books. Whichever way you study or however much you have already mastered, there are times when you face bewildering problems, difficulties with technique or ways to develop your performance. The tips and practice strategies will help you by approaching remedies from different directions or helping you identify the areas you need to work on. The book has grown out of formal learning, personal study and years of experience, and it’s peppered with tips for solving some of the headaches you might face. It also encourages you to work through a learning/solving process which will deepen your understanding and build confidence.

Learning is more than just knowing facts. It’s having a clear grasp and understanding of the musical terms, actions and technique; and the knowledge of how to implement them. Added to that is the interpretation of the music and the way you perform it. A vast amount of information has to be learned and committed to memory, ready to be pulled out and put into use in an instant. The gathering of the information provides the know-how, but it needs to be incubated, figured out and mastered on the keyboard. At every level, learning to play the piano is a challenge; a satisfying and rewarding challenge.

Some of the tips or suggestions may seem simple, or even a little off the wall at times, but they are all designed to get you thinking; that’s when you really make the information your own and progress is made. Some of the tips you may find useful even if you are a little further advanced. Above all, I hope this book will help you discover your own ability and even if it edges a little off the norm, you will find a way that works for you, discover how to make the sound you want, and find agility you didn’t think was possible. Many tips and suggestions have arisen from my own mistakes or shortfalls and all of them are tried and tested; now you have the chance to see what works for you.

The chapters follow the trail of learning to play a piece of music, practising it and preparing it for enjoyment and performance. Each stage explores the development and advancement of your skills by relevant suggestions, tips and useful bits of information. There are also many pointers to help you identify and improve the challenging or tricky sections. Many pianists and students find that different pieces of music expose a need for new growth and additional learning. It’s easy to miss or neglect information until we find it’s relevant to our needs; and encouraging when light-bulb moments spark a gem of knowledge.

The main objective of the book is to help you towards constructive thinking that encourages discovery and progress, so be prepared to think ‘outside the box’ sometimes. Inevitably you will see some repetition in the chapters; we have to frequently remind ourselves to slow down in practise, to guard against over-practise or under-practise or to follow vital fingering that will correct errors. It’s all part of being a piano player. Even the most experienced players still work through hours of practice.

Towards the end of the book is an analysis of the qualities and characteristics that influence you as a player. It’s a valuable assessment and you are likely to find you have all the qualities in varying amounts. Assessing your characteristics provides an interesting exercise to increase your development and makes you aware of the far-reaching ways that piano playing captivates and expands so many areas of your life.

We live in a world of immediacy, where so much is expected and often is available, straight away. Playing the piano isn’t like that. It takes years to develop all the skills and dexterity, but they are enjoyable, rewarding years that develop deep thinking, hard practice and emotional input. This book cannot do it for you, but hopefully it will help to set you on the right road to reinforce and guide your thinking process.

A special note to adults returning after a break

In researching this book, I’ve been touched by the number of people who have told me they began to learn piano playing as a child and wish they hadn’t given up. If that’s the case with you; a huge welcome back! The journey you started didn’t end when you stopped playing. It’s here, ready for you to step back on the road and find renewed enjoyment and fulfillment.

Piano playing is one of the few activities that can be enjoyed for a lifetime, and as an adult you are able to tap into a vast emotional and inspirational investment. You are likely to have seen reports showing how the benefit of learning music includes increased memory and cognitive skills. The skills and positive stimulation you gain helps to preserve brain function, even into old age, and re-captures the emotional connection that music provides.

If you are not sure where to pick up your journey, it’s well worth finding a teacher, even if it’s only for a short course of lessons. They provide good one-to-one advice that will refresh your memory and help to guide you through any initial hurdles.

I wish you every success and enjoyment, and hope you will find progress and inspiration within these pages.


Posture & Health

The benefits of playing the piano | Good posture | Basic position rules | General health and fitness | Prevention is better than cure | Tension

This section seeks to address the physical issues that may be experienced from playing the piano. It recognizes that many people experience varying levels of physical dis/ability. Many of the exercises within can be adapted to suit people of all physical abilities.

Information given does not constitute medical advice, and does not seek to replace the advice of a medical practitioner.

Benefits of playing the piano

Regular piano playing has many benefits; mental, physical and emotional. It stimulates the brain in a positive way, helping to improve the neurons that signal, transmit and process information to nerves and muscles. The dual action of reading and assessing music and the use of all the physical senses it takes to play, trains and hones your brain/eye/hand coordination. It assists good memory and concentration. It develops spatial skills and sharpens your multi-tasking ability; and the satisfaction and emotional fulfillment found in playing the piano can reduce stress, which is beneficial to every part of your health and wellbeing. Lastly, in a physical sense, the activity helps to keep joints and tissues in good condition. There are few hobbies that provide such wide-reaching advantages and provide so much satisfaction.

Good posture

Surprisingly, the piano is one of the most physical instruments to play, so a good position is extremely important. The correct sitting position gives you comfort, good control and improved technical ability, but unsuitable seating or poor posture hampers your technique and can result in injury and stress.

Movement and balance come from the whole body when

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