“But what will the examiner say?” Part 1: Alternative fingering for minor scales.

One question I hear often in my studio is, “But what will the examiner say?”, usually after I’ve suggested an alternative fingering to get rid of a stretch, or (gasp) uncrossed the hands, or redistributed a chord. So I thought I’d write a series of posts addressing some of these concerns that so many piano teachers share.

A question I wish I heard as often is “But what will happen to my student if she uses the stretchy fingering indicated in the technical workbook?”, or  “Is there a chance of injury if  I insist that she connects everything physically? Or “What is the impact if I forbid her to omit a note to make a large chord more comfortable?” It seems all too often that the concern for the examiner’s opinion is usually held higher than concern for the health of the student.

Firstly (and fortunately), the AMEB is actually very flexible in this regard.  The 2013 syllabus states on p28: “The Board does not specify any particular system of fingering. Examiners may comment on inappropriate fingering if it results in technical or musical problems.” Similarly, the AMEB Piano Technical Workbook notes on p.4:  “Standard and systematic fingering is indicated as a guide. However, as suitable fingering is dependent on the physiology of the individual hand, alternative fingering is suggested in some cases. Teachers and candidates should decide on the most appropriate fingering to achieve maximum speed and fluency.”  

If the candidate presents well-learned, fluent, fast technical work, there will (should) be no negative comments. If there are, you may consider contacting the General Manager, who has been very supportive in this regard, and has presented feedback for examiners meetings.  If an examiner consistently makes unfounded comments on alternative fingerings, you can request that this examiner is not assigned to your students. You may consider giving this letter (attached) or your own variation for your students to give the examiner if this puts your mind at ease. Dear Examiner

Minor Scales

The problematic issue in several harmonic minor scales is the augmented second between 3-4.  Dorothy Taubman suggested these alternative for A and E harmonic minor (see below).  The same fingering principles can be applied to A minor, D minor, G minor, and C harmonic minor scales. While a lesson with a Taubman teacher is necessary to add all of the elements to make this scale work in an ideal way  (including rotation, lateral arm adjustment, moving the thumb correctly without reaching the extreme of motion, adding in and out, shaping etc.) even just following the fingering and removing the distance over 3-4 will make these scales much more comfortable for your students.  If you like, have them try playing F-G# between 3-4, then the same interval with 2-3, and they can choose  which feels the best.

Taubman A minor cropped-page-001

Taubman E minor cropped-page-001

 I find students never want to practice is B minor. They hate it. Until they try this fingering.

 B Minor cropped-page-001In following posts, I’ll present some alternatives for dominant sevenths, diminished sevenths, and broken chord figurations.

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