Now, there are still a few shapes left to bring into your reading. These are 1 to the Left and Right, and the Bottom shape.
When you move your fingers into these shapes, you’ll notice that you’re starting to move entirely off of the groups of top keys [show]. But you still use the top keys to stay oriented, even if they’re not a part of the shape.
So you can always slide your fingers up toward the top keys to feel where you are, or grab the groups again, or bump your thumbs up against them when you need to.
And in the Bottom shape, you actually have two different options for how to play the shape fingering. You can treat it as a “Left” shape by moving your fingers leftwards into the shape, like this [show], and your thumbs will go here [show] or as a “Right” shape by moving rightwards into the shape [show], and your thumbs will go here [show]. So you might play it either way at different times, depending on what feels most comfortable.
And while we’re moving into these shapes that give you a little less to grab onto, I’d like to go even further and show you how to represent notes that are outside of the shape entirely.
A note outside the shape is called an “incidental.” And you can think of it as a departure, either upward or downward, from a note in the shape.
To write a note that steps upward outside of the shape, start with the closest note that’s in the shape and place a little “up” arrow next to it, like this [show]. And if a note steps downward outside of the shape, use a little “down” arrow, like this [show].
So now, the notation can represent any note, and yet, notes outside the shape are still expressed through their relationship to the shape—as departures, either up or down.
This means you won’t find just any incidental on just any note of the shape. Because for one thing, if the next note up or down is still part of the shape, then it doesn’t make sense to think of it as a departure from the shape.
When incidentals really start to make sense, is when you think in terms of moods, and the light and heavy tensions that make them up.
So, for example, if you’re in a mood with a heavy 3rd—like the neutral mood—it can become a light 3rd when you add the “up” incidental to it. Or if the mood has a light 6th, it can become a heavy 6th when you add the “down” incidental.
And even though you’re stepping outside the shape, you’re still reading, thinking, and listening in terms of the shape and anchor. So an incidental is a way of recognizing that moment of change without having to fully shift your attention—and the notation—into a new context.
Another thing about incidentals is that you have to decide which fingers to play them with, so you can really start to use the shape fingering as a guideline more than as a rule. It’s given you a sense of how your hands meet the keys, so you have some intuition about which fingers will feel best when you come to a note outside the shape.
This means we can also add some moments where the notation skips a note or two, rather than always moving stepwise from one note to the next. And you’ll have a sense of which fingers to use for these notes, too.
So give it a try. See if you can recognize the overall feeling of the mood in each song you play with, and hear the unique tension of each incidental, relative to the anchor.
And since the notes will start to skip around a little more, pay attention to each note’s visual distance to the anchor, and you’ll start to recognize each tension by how far away on the staff it is from the anchor, just like you recognize the sound of a tension by its distance to the anchor.
Go as slowly as you need to at first, and when you’ve started to get the hang of reading incidentals in a few different moods, that’s when you’re ready to come back for more.