“Can you teach me to play this,” asked my friend Joan in a Facebook Message in mid-October.
I watched, intrigued by the simplicity of the right-hand finger movements, very pianistic, and yet not trivial at all. Only a pianist would know how to make the maximum use of five fingers without bending backwards or tripping over each other. How does this translate into fingerings for the R.H.? Of course, it’s the samba rhythm that makes the melody so special. The grace notes add the sexy ornamentation, a kind of flirtation. I am going to assume that Joan knows the rhythm and the melody. The only thing she’s asking for is the fingerings — which finger to start with and in which sequence.
1 = thumb
2 = index finger
3 = middle finger
4 = ring finger
5 = pinky
As usual, I’ve added chord symbols as pianists with two hands naturally want to accompany with the left hand. In the simplest case, simply play the root of the chord. For instance, if it says C6 or C11 or C anything, just play a low C with the left hand. The strongest fingers are 2, 3, and 1 in that order. The weakest fingers are 5 and 4.
Like any arrangement fresh off the press, I need to test it on myself and then on my students. The piece begins with the right hand middle finger on a D. This is the white key that is between the group of two black keys on the piano. [Note: There are groups of two and three black keys on the piano, alternating patterns of 2, 3, 2, 3, etc. Look for the set of two black keys closest to the middle of the keyboard and put your middle finger on the white key between the two black keys.] Without knowing how to read notes you can just follow the direction the note heads are going. Going down means going to the left on the piano. Going up means going to the right. Anytime you see a b or a # before a note, it means to hit a black key — these are called “accidentals.” In bars (also known as measures) 1 to 22, the B and the E are also flatted (because of the b at the beginning of the staves). Flat (b) means to go down (left). Sharp (#) means to go up (right). The first two measures are for drums. In bar (measure) 3, the right hand (RH) starts with middle finger on a D and switches to index finger on the black key immediately on its left (D-flat) and then lands on the thumb on C. All this is probably more easily demonstrated in a video. For that, I would need the help of my students. Speaking of which, I will assign this as an exercise in following the fingers to explore accidentals. After all, they learned how to play the chromatic scale on the first day! Well, Joan, I missed your birthday, and it’s too late for a Christmas present. But perhaps it’s just in time for the Chinese New Year! Enjoy!