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Left-hand fingering

In baroque music, there are two main principles to think about when making decisions about fingering:

1. Maximising resonance

You can achieve this by playing in the lowest position available to maximise the string length. Balance this principle with consideration of where string crossings fall within a phrase. If staying in a low position means crossing to an upper string for one note in a weak part of the musical phrase, you might choose to prioritise maintaining the shape of the phrase by shifting up the string, rather than maximising string length on that occasion.

You can also maximise resonance when playing arpeggiated figures by leaving fingers down across the strings (chordal fingering) so the instrument rings with that harmony.


2. Enhance the expressive phrasing

Where possible avoid shifting under a slur. This makes the slur itself really smooth and allows you to use shifts in-between slurs in to emphasise articulation.

In this clip, Ruth looks as some issues concerning fingering the G major Prelude, using the implied chord structure as a guide.

Here is a further example, from Vivaldi's A minor sonata RV44, of how fingering according to the chord structure helps increase the resonance of the instrument. Ruth goes on to look at fingering and slurring, suggesting that, wherever possible, it is advisable not to shift position under a slur.

Sometimes choosing to shift up the string, rather than opting for a safer fingering across the string can add character to a piece. Ruth shows how shifting up the top string in the opening of 'Es ist vollbracht', for example, adds a plaintive effect.

In this clip, Ruth applies these techniques to the G-major Allemande:

Back to Allemande menu page