Five Finger Music

Photo by Siniz Kim on Unsplash. 

Not only is five finger music a good source of supplementary and recital material for young performers, but I have discovered it is also a good choice for adults returning to piano after many years away from it.

The limited hand position allows adults to reacquainting themselves with note reading. Reinforcement occurs from one piece to another for any one given hand position. If the music limits melodic movement to steps, it’s a good way to get students to think forwards and backwards in the alphabet. As music moves down on either staff by step, I have students say the note names backwards in the alphabet. Thinking forwards when notes go up is usually not an issue. 

In addition, five finger music has a further benefit in the exploration of the keyboard topography if the music requires the performer to move hands up or down an octave in hand position at some point in any piece of music.

I have had success with Jane Hergo’s Piano Tidbits Book 1 with adults returning to piano. Her expectations of the performer with a variety of touches through varying articulations adds to the discussion of piano technique. 

Once the younger student feels comfortable with five finger position pieces  I will consider moving to, for a lack of a a better term, next step five finger position. These are pieces which require the movement of a few fingers out of position on occasion. About half the pieces in Piano Tidbits Book 2 are five finger and the other half require some finger movement for expansion in range.

Noteworthy Elementary Piano Solos of Carol Flatau and Carrie Kraft is another example of a mixed hand position approach. Some stay to five finger position while others employ quite a bit of shifting in position.  A couple of solos in the book include the key signature of D major instead of implying key signatures as accidentals.

Other books to consider would include Jane Hergo’s Five Finger Frolics and Halloween Delights for Five Fingers both which center around middle C position. Five Finger Frolics does have a few selections which require right hand finger three to be placed on Eb for a C minor tonality, while all other solos have the soloist on white keys. Halloween Delights for Five Fingers incorporates more use of black keys as does both Piano Tidbit Books which explore C, G and middle C position. One solo, Blue Ghost, found in Halloween Delights, is also available in sheet music. It is in a D minor five finger position.

 Jubilation has a few moving five finger positions. The solo for one hand requires finger control during moments of two and three-part writing. The expectation of a relaxed hand position while certain combinations of fingers are held down as other fingers play should provide a challenge for the early intermediate performer.