Sliding Around

Playing piano is all about illusion.  

Playing piano with a limb difference is all about illusion and resourcefulness.  

If you need to do the work of ten fingers with fewer than ten fingers, it makes sense that each finger will have to play more notes in compensation.  Depending on your limb difference, there may be dozens of options for alternative and creative fingering.  In this post, I’ll share one of my most useful tricks:

Sliding from key to key with one finger

All of the videos will show an atypical cleft hand (mine), but the principle could be used for pianists with other limb differences.  

There are 4 situations where sliding could be useful:

Black Key to White Key

This is the easiest slide and the one I use most frequently.  As with any of these slides, practice making the connection legato.  

G Scale* **

*I call my thumb 1 and my pinky 2

**I have my own fingerings for each scale.  However, they are not always useful.  Complete scales are rare, and it is more likely that pieces contain scale fragments.  My scale fragments often have different fingerings than my “scale fingerings.”  

Black Key to Black Key

This is harder than black to white, but still possible.  

White Key to White Key

Slowly lift the first key until you can fall onto the second one.  

White Key to Black Key

This combination is the hardest.  If you can figure it out, good job!

I use sliding constantly; it is a critical tool for me!  When I write in my fingerings, I write 1-1 or 2-2 to indicate the slide.  Feel free to ask me questions about alternative piano fingering.  I would love to brainstorm with you!

Last Note: I am wholly and forever indebted to my college piano teacher, Arlene Kies, for teaching me how to use sliding.  We spent many hours together puzzling over how to create and improve my technique.  At least one of those hours was spent going over the types of slides and practicing them in isolation.  

Tuneful Triggers

The trumpet is a common choice for musicians with limb differences.  After all, it only has three valves.  Players usually press the valves with whichever hand has more fingers and hold the trumpet with a stand, or, if possible, their other limb.  End of story.


When trumpet players reach an intermediate level of playing, they adjust their intonation using tuning slides.  Notes using the third valve tend to be sharp, so players extend the first valve slide and/or the third valve slide to compensate.  Typically, the valves are pressed with the right hand and tuning slides are extended with the left hand.



For players with limb differences, this can be difficult or even impossible.  Unless…

…you have a trigger first valve slide!


Selmer K Modified Trumpet with a trigger first valve slide

Some trumpets are made with a trigger on the first valve slide.  It is possible to push the trigger with the same hand that presses the valves.  This gives the trumpeter with one hand more control of intonation.  


Michael plays trumpet with his left hand

When I was in seventh grade, I switched from playing trombone to trumpet in the school band.  The man at my local music store told me how important it would be to use tuning slides.  He sold me a used Selmer K Modified trumpet with a first valve trigger, and it was a great instrument for me.  Thanks, wise man at the music store!