Fingering For Brass Players

While trombone is my primary instrument and it’s been a while since I’ve seriously doubled on any other brass, I’ve been thinking lately about fingering issues after doing a “guess the embouchure type” post of trumpet player Giuliano Sommerhalder.  One of the things I noted about the video I used for that post was that Sommerhalder doesn’t place his finger tips on the valves, but instead places the second digit of his fingers over the valves.  Even though this isn’t what is traditionally taught for fingering technique Sommerhalder is obviously not slowed down by this.

Coincidentally, I’ve recently come across a couple of articles online about fingering that comment on these things.  A friend of mine from grad school at Ball State University, Dr. Adam Gaines, wrote a short article for Blessing Brass called There Are Only Three Valves.  In it, Adam notes:

 The fingers of the right hand can easily curve to the finger buttons and rest there on the pads of the fingers. Some players with larger hands may find that playing with flatter fingers in the right hand works better for them, at least in some fingering passages. Either way, your fingers must remain relaxed and flexible while never losing contact with the valve.

Horn professor at Arizona State University and blogger for Horn Matters, Dr. John Ericson, wrote a post for horn players on accuracy and fingers called Accuracy Tip: Watch Your Fingers.  John doesn’t comment on the finger position for horn much, other than mentioning the “classic, rounded position,” but he notes a couple things.  First, he discusses how equipment can change around a horn player’s hand position and make it easier or harder to be more accurate with the fingers.  Secondly, he also notes how there is a natural tendency for our fingers to move slightly out of order.

In slow passage work I know what my tendency is, and I suspect it is common out there. My fingers tend to roll very slightly in order 3-2-1. So for example if I am going to a 2-3 fingering the third finger tends to go down slightly before the second finger. If it is to the fingering 1-2 my second finger tends to go downslightly earlier than the first. My perception is that it is more likely to be noted in the 2-3 combination than the 1-2 combination.

Being aware of your fingering tendencies, both in how you move your fingers up and down to work the valves and also the position your fingers and hand is set, can be worth paying closer attention to in your practice.  While I am not all that concerned about finger these days (I only practice trumpet infrequently to do a little “cross training” for my chops), I do pay attention to my slide technique for similar reasons to what Dr. Gaines and Dr. Ericson comment on in their articles.  Take a little time to read through what they wrote and think about it in your own practice this week.

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