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Brahms 51 Exercises

piano technique

Question: Any fingering suggestions for Exercise 1a and 1b?

– Mike (Dallas, Texas, USA)

Albert’s reply: This exercise is designed to be played with a consistent fingering, even though it breaks the rule of avoiding the thumb on black keys.

The reason is that it’s not a finger exercise per se but rather a rhythm exercise. Brahms’s purpose was to train the fingers to play 4 against 3, and there’s no need for the added difficulty of complicated fingerings.

I recommend the following fingerings:

Consistent fingerings for sequential passages are also an important memory aid. Although ordinarily the thumb would never be passed on a black key, in such cases it might make sense since the music becomes much easier to learn and remember.

Also, as this is a rhythmic exercise, it’s a good idea to practice it with a metronome, at least in the beginning. Triplet eighths in the context of sixteenth notes are almost invariably played too fast, and tapping in sync with a metronome is the only cure short of having a teacher correct your rhythm.

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