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Author Topic: Training for faster fingers  (Read 7496 times)
reaperwalking
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« on: January 28, 2013, 03:24:13 PM »

Hello friends!,
i would like to ask... I want to play faster songs, but u know, the problem are my fingers... (surprisingly). I have been playing the piano 1 year, BUT I played the keyboard 3 years...(keyboards and piano are different musical intruments... who dont try, he cannot know, what i am talking about.). The problem is, if i wanted to play faster song - I mean, keyboard solo for example or faster piano song, my 4th and 5th fingers are too slow...(right hand) - 1st,2nd,3rd are good, they can play, what i want, but these fingers are for me BIG problem :-). Dont you know any exercises for "faster" fingers ? I got notes "School of velocity" ... but here is problem, that i havent any hope to play this in the written tempo... so, i must play it very very slow... Can you give me some advices ?
If you know exerciSes for fingers, where I dont need piano or something that :-D (In the school for exemple Cheesy)
Thank you so much !
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mhoffman89
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2013, 02:34:39 PM »

If you have a problem with your 4th and 5th fingers, I always used to practice trills with those fingers, lifting them as high as possible.. The only problem is the stress on the hand in the end though if you try to lift them to high and play too long like that. If something starts hurting take a break immediately.. Something that helped me recently with finger strength and speed is playing scales with the technique Czerny used to teach. Instead of just letting your fingers hit the keys, pull the back towards you as though you are trying to scratch something off the keys... Also, don't do this on a keyboard, it would be wasted effort, it's better to do on weighted keys or even away from the piano at a desk or hard surface. Just make sure your nails are cut short, so you don't hurt yourself.. Generally if you keep doing finger excercises at the piano and away and make them a habit, eventually your finger speed and strenght will improve. I've made it a habit and people think I'm mad when they see me doing strange excercises everywhere I go, but hey I don't care, they're not the ones trying to improve their piano playing.
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Working on:<br />Bach Prelude and fugue in C<br />Liszt Un sospiro<br />Rachmaninov Moment musical 5<br />Prokofiev Sarcasm 2<br />Haydn Sonata in C<br />Debussy Prelude 12 book 1
jnoelliste
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2013, 02:39:21 PM »

Hello friends!,
my 4th and 5th fingers are too slow...(right hand) - 1st,2nd,3rd are good, they can play, what i want, but these fingers are for me BIG problem :-). Dont you know any exercises for "faster" fingers ?

Hi! I definitely identify with the 4th and 5th finger strengthening issue. It is a problem that will NEVER end...but the more we strengthen these fingers, the easier it gets to play more difficult repertoire such as the fast pieces you were talking about.
Attached to this message is an exercise I use on and off...for strengthening the 4th and 5th fingers...I include the 3rd finger as well because you'll find that 3-4 fingerings can be surprisingly difficult as well! Just try executing a trill with these two fingers to see what I mean. If you're in the middle of this exercise and your hand begins to feel fatigued, just stop and rest for a while! You'll build up stamina and speed over time!

Joseph Noelliste
Solo Pianist and Composer
www.jnoelliste.com
www.facebook.com/jnoelliste


* 3-4-5 finger exercise.jpg (26.69 KB, 434x157 - viewed 261 times.)
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Joseph Noelliste<br />Solo Pianist and Composer<br />www.jnoelliste.com<br />www.facebook.com/jnoelliste
dagny_taggart
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2013, 06:05:18 PM »

Joseph, Your jpeg is terrible quality. Does the fingering say 3,4,5?
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reaperwalking
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« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2013, 07:25:34 PM »

thank you for your advices ! Smiley
mhoffman: I am not sure, if i understood. How you wrote about the lifting hands... Do you mean to strain the fingers ? cause, i cant imagine, how to lift hands Cheesy I hope, that I understood :-D
The 2nd thing, about scratching... For example, I am sitting in the school and now, i will start scratching the desk ? hardly or softly?
Joseph: I understood:-). Thank you, tommorrow, i will start playing your exercise :-)

I have school of velocity by Czerny, there is fingering, but you know... My 4th and 5th fingers are slow and this is the reason, why its for me very difficult to play this... but i will try Smiley. Maybe, if i start playing some exercises by Czerny and exercise by Jospeh and I will start scratching and lifting, i hope, that my fingers will be faster Cheesy
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maitea
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2013, 09:01:06 AM »

Please be careful! I'd firstly suggest you work with a good teacher!

Now, lifting the fingers high in order to gain speed, is a complete waste of time. Sorry, but it is. You need more agility, rather than strength. If you imagine yourself walking, and want to walk faster, do you rise your knees and legs higher? No! There we go. You need a certain amount of strength, yes. But Only strength will get you stiffen up and block. If you only work with high fingers, you will overwork your extensors, and the "slower" musles...

The "basic" finger action, is not so much up and down, is rather Downwards from the knuckle, imagine lenghtening the finger, and pulling it to you. This is quite tricky to explain writing, at least for my Spanish me!

In general take it easy, work musically, in segments. And take a day at the time, building secure technique simply takes time.
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p2u_
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2013, 09:52:35 AM »

Now, lifting the fingers high in order to gain speed, is a complete waste of time. Sorry, but it is. You need more agility, rather than strength. If you imagine yourself walking, and want to walk faster, do you rise your knees and legs higher? No! There we go.

[rant mode on]
Your analogue doesn't work maitea and is not conclusive evidence that finger lifting is necessarily harmful or a "waste of time". It may be something this particular student is not served with right now, but you should be careful with generalisations. As a matter of fact, sprinters do high-knee-lifting exercises to isolate certain steps in the process of running and to increase general performance, and they do that quite a lot.

As far as piano playing is concerned, Grigory Sokolov lifts his fingers very much indeed and even during performance. Cyprien Katsaris (a real acrobat on the piano) recommends it regularly in his masterclasses on YouTube. The point is that you don't do this to "gain strength". It is a very difficult exercise in coordination and in relaxing muscles that are NOT used. You don't "hit" the keys down; the fingers rather "fall" or gently swing into the key with virtually no physical force.
[rant mode off]

Paul
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mmm151
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2013, 01:13:48 PM »

Hi,
Playing fast is a very sophisticated combination of alive finger-work, coordination between the hands, a flexible wrist and undulating wrist movement which is barely visible at speed, the alignment of the arm behind each playing finger, involvement of the weight of the arm, plus arm and hand shaping to suit each passage, as well as a subtle downward impulse on important signpost notes throughout the piece. The latter are almost always (occasionally not) on beat notes. Sounds daunting, doesn't it?

Don't despair. Playing fast is a technical and musical skill that can be acquired over a long period with the correct practice methods. I say musical, as well as technical, because there's forced fast playing which sounds hideous, and musical fast playing that involves free, coordinate movements that go beyond purely physical execution to regard the tonal, dynamic and other aesthetic requirements of the passage.

For alive finger-work, lift the fingertips slightly above the key surface and firmly follow through with each finger to the keybed on each note at a slow speed. NB. Once each note is played, feel that the resting finger is supported, but not pushing into the keybed. This lifting of fingertips is mainly for practice only, and will rarely occur at speed unless a very robust sound is required.

As well as the above, play with a free wrist downwards on the 1st and every 4th beat in the Hanon exercise, eg Ex No 1 and do this at a moderate speed. The down beats feel like arm-pumping-the kind of movement that kids do naturally when there is too much up and down arm movement in their playing.

Also, in your similar motion scales, you can pump on every note for 1 8ve; pump on every 2nd note for 2 8ves; every 3rd note for 3 8ves and every 4th note for 4 8ves. Over time, gradually increase the tempo using the metronome until you just play at a very fast speed very gently pumping in goups of 4 in 4 8ves only. Apply these ideas in fast passages in your pieces too.

For advanced playing at speed there are many other skills involved-see 1st paragraph. Good luck!
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marik1
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2013, 08:20:43 PM »

[rant mode on]
Your analogue doesn't work maitea and is not conclusive evidence that finger lifting is necessarily harmful or a "waste of time". It may be something this particular student is not served with right now, but you should be careful with generalisations. As a matter of fact, sprinters do high-knee-lifting exercises to isolate certain steps in the process of running and to increase general performance, and they do that quite a lot.

As far as piano playing is concerned, Grigory Sokolov lifts his fingers very much indeed and even during performance. Cyprien Katsaris (a real acrobat on the piano) recommends it regularly in his masterclasses on YouTube. The point is that you don't do this to "gain strength". It is a very difficult exercise in coordination and in relaxing muscles that are NOT used. You don't "hit" the keys down; the fingers rather "fall" or gently swing into the key with virtually no physical force.
[rant mode off]

Paul

Indeed, something like "lifting fingers" should be advised with great care and only under supervision of a very experienced teacher. Moreover, somebody like Sokolov just cannot be an example for anybody just because... he doesn't ask how to play piano.

The main reason for lifting fingers is accumulating an energy, which drops straight into the keybed and immediately gets dissipated right there. In other words, all the energy goes into the key and stops right there.

The main and most common mistake of 99.99% students is the finger goes up exactly at the moment when it had already to go down. In other words, instead of accumulating energy and dropping it into the key the finger does completely opposite, which is the most harmful thing one could imagine...

Best, M
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maitea
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« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2013, 07:23:30 AM »

Paul,

Maybe you wouldn't have gone into rant mode, if you had read my post properly. I specifically said walking, as opposed to running. Indeed in running, in sprinting there are high knees. But what exactly happens then? The leg strokes are so big (and high etc) that runners almost jump! That is running as opposed to walking. (Ok, walking can also be done with huge steps, if you prefer we can stick to olympic walk and its rules). Now, in piano playing, to play runs, we don't need to cover big leaps (as in running), we just need to play the consecutive note at a given(-fast) time, then the next etc.

For that reason, rising your fingers, increase the amount of effort and slows you down and it is for the purpose of running itself ineffectice. Maybe in a certain passage, you prefer the sound or the articulation you create with  high fingers? That's ok. And maybe some people have great runs with high fingers, but you don't run because of it, more, you probably run fast with high fingers despite it.

Everyone is different, soul, brain, and of course hands and body, what works for one won't necesseraly work for someone else that's why in the first place I said in my post, the person should seek a teacher. It is also the reason why showing Sokolov can't be prove for a "norm". He is an exceptional pianist. I'll make my example clear. Can't believe you'd teach your students like Glenn Gould, right? Though he was great! But again, he probably was great despite his quarky technique not because of it. In fact he was under a lot of pain, and addicted to painkillers too.

In my humble opinion, one of the biggest misconceptions in piano playing is the amount of effort that we think we need to strike the keys with. In reality, they go down pretty effortlessly. I've gone myself years ago through the path of slow high strong fingers.. Most of the time, no need. Maybe if someone has a very very week hand needs to do lots of high fingers, or to have a different type of stroke, articulation etc..  But not for speed per se. Speed needs free, flexible, agile movements. But each has a learning path, and is different. And as I said from the start, one should work with a teacher.

To finish with, just a general comment that sometimes there are speed walls because the way we think the runs. Grouping them in the thought (musical direction) and gesture, after the obvious process of learning all notes carefully, and having an ear for each interval is also necessary. I'm not advocating messy playing. And as mmm151 says, a lot more involved, muscles, wrists, shoulders.. Difficult to generalise and cover the complexity of the movement in short posts. But I maintain my main statement, high fingers in itself won't give you speed. That is a personal opinion (contrasted by many pianists and teachers) but everyone has a journey in his playing and is different. I don't think there is a necessity to "rant".

M
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p2u_
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2013, 07:43:47 AM »

Now, in piano playing, to play runs, we don't need to cover big leaps (as in running), we just need to play the consecutive note at a given(-fast) time, then the next etc.

For that reason, rising your fingers, increase the amount of effort and slows you down and it is for the purpose of running itself ineffectice. Maybe in a certain passage, you prefer the sound or the articulation you create with  high fingers? That's ok. And maybe some people have great runs with high fingers, but you don't run because of it, more, you probably run fast with high fingers despite it.

You are commenting on something you have a completely false image about. Besides, you are accusing me of having read your post improperly. Let's get down to business then.

1) Raising the fingers is generally not a way of playing; it's a TRAINING procedure. The same as the high-knee-lifting exercises runners do. I know very well that runners don't run that way. No need to teach me. I also know quite well how to play the piano; even super-advanced and professional people come to me for advice. No need to teach me.

2) I did NOT misread your post when you were actually suggesting that the regimen itself is a WASTE OF TIME and illustrated that with the wrong analogue. Our ancestors who recommended this practice weren't exactly idiots, you know.

3) Exaggerating movement (making it bigger than necessary) can actually be VERY useful indeed to create a feeling of surplus space (amplitude) in the movement which in itself creates a potential for speed when you play closer to the keys.

Your turn. Smiley

Paul
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maitea
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2013, 10:50:53 AM »

To 1.

I agreed is a way of training, but don't agree that is a way of training speed in most cases, and definitely not the only way to solve a block with speed.  It trains you for strength, my whole point is you actually don't need that much strength as you need agility and flexibility. Most students that are blocked with runs in my experience have blocks in forearms and wrists, that get only aggravated by over engaging the fingers in the "high fingers" action.

Unless the problem with speed comes from "messy" playing, and then more defined articulation is needed, I don't see the point in training slow straining movements, that are not necessary to play fast. You still continue with the running analogy. I never said running. I always wrote walking.

Quoting William Newman, The Pianist's Problems, p.49. : For utmost efficiency we must use the least powerful lever that will answer our needs.

To 2.

No, you didn't misread that I think it's a waste of time. I stick by it still. But I've always made clear that is my personal view on it, if you disagree, that is fine by me! Don't understand why you take it so personally. I've also made clear, everyone is different, has different needs etc. If it works for you, then great! Good for you. Not sure why you get so defensive. If it's offended you that I think it's a waste of time, have my sincere apologies that I didn't intend to offend anyone. I think though that it is not an effective method. You disagree. Cool.

I don't know who those "ancestors" are, but our ancestors also thought the earth was flat for centuries, and were wrong. That something has been done in the past, doesn't in itself mean is correct.

I found The Art of Piano Playing by G. Kochevitsky, http://www.amazon.com/Art-Piano-Playing-George-Kochevitsky/dp/0874870682 a great read, which covers many of the pedagogical practices in piano technique through history. Not everyone had it right.

To 3

I agree with you, exaggerating movement is very helpful. I do it lots, I practice leaps a further octave a part, and practice in many different tempi etc etc.

However when you practice with high fingers, you are not really exaggerating the movement you need to play fast, you are doing a different movement, using your extensors. The moment you play faster, and you play closer to the keyboard, you are no longer using those, but the flexors, that you haven't "trained" if you only played with high fingers in the practice. Again, might not be your case, but the most common mistake is to try to do that large movement that is rising the fingers high, also later at the real speed one wants, and is in most cases that is not possible, because by the nature of the movement, rising the fingers is too slow. That incurs into tension and strain.

I can't but repeat, that every pianists is different and has different needs, I never intended to offend anyone, and most important of all, the first thing I wrote was to seek the advice of a good teacher, who should know best what that particular pianist needs at a given time.

Maite
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p2u_
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2013, 10:55:45 AM »

I found The Art of Piano Playing by G. Kochevitsky, http://www.amazon.com/Art-Piano-Playing-George-Kochevitsky/dp/0874870682 a great read, which covers many of the pedagogical practices in piano technique through history. Not everyone had it right.

Then you must be reading selectively because Kochevitsky writes on p. 27:

Quote
In the central nervous system, reciprocal relations exist between flexors (bending muscles) and extensors (straightening muscles). The intense excitation of flexors will call forth intense inhibition of extensors, and vice versa. Since the inhibitory process is weaker than the process of excitation, a slight raising of the fingers (intense excitation of extensors) before their descent into the keys appears to be a valuable means for strengthening weak inhibition of flexors. The tendency to rush, to accelerate passages is observed mostly among students who are not used to raising their fingers while practicing. Now we see one more reason for the requirement of raising fingers in slow practicing.

Not sure why you get so defensive.

No offense. I merely corrected you because 1) you commented on a legitimate training regimen and put it in a wrong light + 2) you kind of accused me of inability to read what you wrote.

Paul
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maitea
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 11:01:34 AM »

a "slight" rising of the fingers! not high fingers
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maitea
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 11:07:18 AM »

Ok, let's put it this way, so there are no more generalisations:

in MY PERSONAL case, that might not be applicable to anyone else reading the post, I only managed to play as fast as I needed for particular pieces that required fast action, once I stopped thinking on rising the fingers and practising slow, and rather using the action from the knuckle down closer to the keyboard. I still practice slow, but I limit to a very very short time of my practice to play high strong fingers. That might be because of my natural predisposition, or because I already trained plenty rising the fingers. I always advice being under the supervision of a teacher who should guide the student individually. And I wish everyone success in their pursue for an efficient technique that allows them be creative and inspiring in their music making.

Maite
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p2u_
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« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2013, 11:10:56 AM »

a "slight" rising of the fingers! not high fingers

How high is high? How high is "slight"? For some even a little bit is already too high. Wasn't that what you were suggesting in your previous post? Finger raising is GENERALLY a waste of time? If done correctly as described by Marik1 ( Reply # 8 ), it is useful therapy. The French school of piano playing is actually based on this idea.

Paul
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p2u_
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« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2013, 11:16:38 AM »

@ maitea

I'm not being defensive (just in case) Wink

Many students have problems with controlling the right level of energy right from the key surface and down. That's why they mainly start pushing with a heavy arm. That's a lot easier. I've had more than one patient like this and believe it or not, giving them the finger raising therapy solved their problems. Smiley

Paul
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pts1
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« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2013, 07:27:27 PM »

Hi

I don't wish to intrude on the conversation, but I think I can cast a different view perhaps.

In my opinions, "high fingers" is really a misnomer.

What we really want in training i.e. practicing, is greater range of motion.

Since there are only two options in playing: on the key or from above the key, an increased range of motion requires the "movement image" i.e. ALL necessary movements to produce the desired sounds, to begin a bit above the key just slowly enough to give expanded movements, listening and absolutely controlling the finger, hand, forearm, upper arm movements to accurately replicate the desired "sound/movement image" the pianist desires. And a passage usually consists of a "continuum of movements" connected smoothly by the appropriate piano playing movements.

So "high finger" playing really does not do justice to the elements involved in real training, and is but a small part of the whole, IMHO.

In essence, what I try to describe  is "programming" the necessary movements and amply exercising the required muscles to the degree they need development for any given passage. (this is why plunking ones way through Hanon or anything else with "well raised fingers" without the elements I speak of is useless)

Once this is done successfully over time, then playing faster is not a problem. One doesn't really need to practice for speed. After you have conditioned correctly, the speed just happens as a result of minimized movements (small range of motion) with trained and appropriately strengthened muscles.

As an example, to play a C scale for one octave with perfect clarity and at a fast tempo (say 150) does not require individual fingers to play so fast. The thumb for instance only plays twice in the octave (rather slowly with two notes in between)... the second finger only plays twice, third twice, fourth once and fifth once.

So the problem is not with individual finger speed, but the desired "sound image" which is the same as the "movement image" of all 8 notes coordinated and played as a "unit" with 8 little parts strung together correctly.

Playing each key with high fingers without a "movement/sound" image incorporating the whole movement series needed to play the scale is useless and frustrating.

Pianists -- playing at a very advanced or professional level -- are "small muscle athletes" much as a ballerina is a "whole body athlete" who must train their equipment to artistic ends.
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rmbarbosa
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« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2013, 08:34:58 PM »

The main problem with exercises for speed (School of velocity, Czerny, for example) is this: we are asked to play fast, in order to ... play fast! This is a non sense. If I cant play fast, then I cant play fast those exercises.
When I was a kid, my teacher asked me to play the small prelude in E major (Bach). This is a fast prelude and it was hard for me to play RH, after the first exposition of the theme, when LH plays the theme. Like this: F-B-A-B-D - B-A-B-E ; BAB with 5º and 4º fingers RH. What did I do? I used parallel sets (please, see Chuan Chand book) with 4º and 5º, then 5º and 4º. 50 times/day! later I did the mordent BAB other 50 times/day. After this, parallel sets BF - BA. Then, FBAB etc... I used diferent rithms: FB - BA; and played the same keys in stacatto... To play only 2 notes very fast isnt difficult, is it? sol, after play those 2 notes very fast, we add a 3º note... and a 4º. Many times/day many days along... This was my way of training 4º and 5º fingers. You may wish to try.
Note that 4º and 5º fingers have the same tendon, and this is the cause of our difficulties when we play them one after the other. It is not a problem of strengh. It`s a problem of coordination.
Sorry for my uggly English Smiley)
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maitea
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« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2013, 10:34:46 PM »

@pts1

great post!
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« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2013, 03:46:44 AM »

I don't wish to intrude on the conversation, but I think I can cast a different view perhaps.

I don't think you are intruding. Smiley

In my opinions, "high fingers" is really a misnomer.

It certainly is. Mainly, the instrucions in Hanon's book are to blame, mostly because he ads that after the lifting ("as high as possible") you have to strike down with force. He was an organist. I don't know if you've ever played on one of those heavy organs, but there you have no other choice. I suspect it was the EDITOR who added the instructions to the book as in one of those lying-in-your face commercials by people who have no idea what they are talking about, not Mr. Hanon himself. Good teachers who do the finger-lifting thing with SOME of their students usually recommend no more than 1 cm.

What we really want in training i.e. practicing, is greater range of motion.

Exactly right. By the way, it is good to note that this may not refer to finger-lifting only. Some students who have worked too diligently on "strength" and/or "agility" of the fingers alone are well served by doing the Matthay/Taubman approach for a while (rotation on every note, the study of angles). The funny thing is that you can mostly hear criticizing from people who 1) don't understand what it is really about and 2) can't do it themselves as required. Finger school adepts will tell you eagerly why rotation is so "bad" and Taubmanites do the same for the finger-lifting thing, often adding pseudo-scientific talk to support their distorted view.

So "high finger" playing really does not do justice to the elements involved in real training, and is but a small part of the whole, IMHO.

Indeed. It is mostly people who try to acquire "technique" (mechanics), thereby neglecting the musical sound image, that get into trouble. Strictly physical exercises are necessary SOMETIMES as a form of therapy, but I recommend doing them mostly away from the instrument.


One doesn't really need to practice for speed.

Indeed. No amount of training will make the individual fingers faster than they already were at birth. A clear sound-movement image, convenience and control; that's all we should strive for; the rest is for nature to take care of and we should never force this development.

Paul
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outin
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« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2013, 04:06:04 AM »

their distorted view.

Indeed. It is mostly people who try to acquire "technique" (mechanics), thereby neglecting the musical sound image, that get into trouble. Strictly physical exercises are necessary SOMETIMES as a form of therapy, but I recommend doing them mostly away from the instrument.


Interesting that you would say that because this is my experience as well. Trying to do "exercise" on the piano only causes me more tensions. It seems that I get best results by doing any mechanical exercise away from the piano and concentrate on sound production while at the piano.
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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2013, 04:09:25 AM »


Indeed. No amount of training will make the individual fingers faster than they already were at birth. A clear sound-movement image, convenience and control; that's all we should strive for; the rest is for nature to take care of and we should never force this development.


In my experience trying to move faster is a sure way to start moving slower..  where as simply moving faster works fine, at least once sure of your movements..

..your above statements explain the point a lot better though.

Quote
and Taubmanites do the same for the finger-lifting thing, often adding pseudo-scientific talk to support their distorted view.

Which is an odd perspective considering how blatantly Edna demonstrates raised fingers throughout the rotation lecture.
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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2013, 04:22:02 AM »

Interesting that you would say that because this is my experience as well. Trying to do "exercise" on the piano only causes me more tensions. It seems that I get best results by doing any mechanical exercise away from the piano and concentrate on sound production while at the piano.

I always told you you were a genius colleague of mine, but you never believe me. Grin

Paul
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« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2013, 04:30:07 AM »

I always told you you were a genius colleague of mine, but you never believe me. Grin


I only have one student to experiment with and she's stubborn as hell...and has another teacher who may not always quite understand how limited this student's ability to understand her own body functions is  Grin
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« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2013, 04:35:53 AM »

Which is an odd perspective considering how blatantly Edna demonstrates raised fingers throughout the rotation lecture.

Some people go VERY far to prove their points, yes, even up to the point of deliberately distorting the "enemy's" viewpoints or methods.

The most extreme viewpoint against the "finger school" I have seen is by J Michael O'Reilly from Dublin. He has a site called thefundamentalaction.com and makes his points about playing with the arm from the shoulder, backing them up with his idea about Newton's Third Law of Motion. When you read it, you may think: Hm, yes, this guy has a point; indeed, you don't play with the fingers alone. But when you see it demonstrated... Up to you to decide how effective this way of practising could be for artistic results: Action and Reaction in Piano Technique 2.

Paul
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« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2013, 04:48:22 AM »


I didnt watch it through yet, - My gut reaction is that his ideas might change a little if he lowered his piano bench by an inch or so.
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« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2013, 04:53:33 AM »

I didnt watch it through yet, - My gut reaction is that his ideas might change a little if he lowered his piano bench by an inch or so.

Watching it reminded me why I decided to stop watching any Youtube tutorials on piano technique a long time ago...
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« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2013, 06:20:23 AM »

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The most extreme viewpoint against the "finger school" I have seen is by J Michael O'Reilly from Dublin.

Poor Mr O'Reilly

I ran across his web site a few years ago and started reading what seemed like a very well thought out scientific explanation of piano mechanics -- up to a point.

His final conclusion seemed to be that professionals play everything from the arm/shoulder joint and only the truly gifted can do this. I chatted with him a couple of times in email offering differing opinions to be helpful, but he is seriously married to his scientific method of Newtonian physics, levers and such even though he complained of having many technical limitations.

I mean.... HELLO!

He seemed like a very nice fellow, though.

In the main, I really try hard NOT to watch or read about technique and mechanics!

I'm always happy to read what Paul has to say, but he's one of the few!

Most of what's out there can seriously mess with ones head!

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« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2013, 06:55:28 PM »

Scales!
Nothing is better than scales. (My opinion)
It will get all your fingers into playing, start with one hand - slow.
Then with alot of practice you'll get faster.
Then take the other hand and do the same,
in the end use both hands and play scales up and down at the same time.
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« Reply #30 on: February 02, 2013, 07:47:17 PM »

Scales!
Nothing is better than scales. (My opinion)

Playing fluent scales is not the cause of good technique; it is the RESULT.

Paul
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« Reply #31 on: February 02, 2013, 08:20:17 PM »

Playing fluent scales is not the cause of good technique; it is the RESULT.

Paul
[/quote

The man wishes to strengthen his 4th and 5th finger, and gain speed for playing solo and in general. I can't think of anything better to do then scales.
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« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2013, 08:28:50 PM »

The man wishes to strengthen his 4th and 5th finger, and gain speed for playing solo and in general. I can't think of anything better to do then scales.

He (or she?) should rethink first whether strength is really what he/she needs to move something as light as a piano key, otherwise he/she may end up with sore hands or worse.
P.S.: We established already that training for faster fingers is useless.

Paul
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« Reply #33 on: February 02, 2013, 09:55:19 PM »

Hello friends!,
i would like to ask... I want to play faster songs, but u know, the problem are my fingers... (surprisingly). I have been playing the piano 1 year, BUT I played the keyboard 3 years...(keyboards and piano are different musical intruments... who dont try, he cannot know, what i am talking about.). The problem is, if i wanted to play faster song - I mean, keyboard solo for example or faster piano song, my 4th and 5th fingers are too slow...(right hand) - 1st,2nd,3rd are good, they can play, what i want, but these fingers are for me BIG problem :-). Dont you know any exercises for "faster" fingers ? I got notes "School of velocity" ... but here is problem, that i havent any hope to play this in the written tempo... so, i must play it very very slow... Can you give me some advices ?
If you know exerciSes for fingers, where I dont need piano or something that :-D (In the school for exemple Cheesy)
Thank you so much !

Rather than thinking of your 4th and 5th fingers as too slow or too weak compared to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, fingers just think of your fingers as having different capabilities that need to be coordinated. You will never make your 4th and 5th fingers as strong as your other fingers, but you can make them coordinated. A simple excersize you can try. Relax your hand so all fingers are resting on the keys. Each finger has its own key. While counting in rhythm - slowly play a trill with your 4th and 5th - without moving other fingers - all other fingers remain resting in their position. Then trill between 3rd and 5th, 2nd and 5th, 1st and 5th - all other fingers in place. Then go back and work on your 4th finger. 4th-5th, 4th-3rd , 4th-2nd, 4th-1. Do this with all the combinations of fingers but do slowly. You can do this at your desk in school but just realize you are lifting your fingers rather than dropping into the keys. Whatever you do , do not strain.
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« Reply #34 on: February 02, 2013, 10:30:17 PM »

Having purchased the Taubman technique videos, I must say that I concur with those who say lifting the fingers as high as possible is not only a waste of energy, but has the potential of causing injury.  Much of the movement should originate in the forearm first, then wrist and last the fingers.  Your fingers should rest comfortably on the keys (in the same curvature that they have while at rest at your side.) You should feel completely balanced and each and every finger should feel the same stability as the next.  The Taubman technique focuses on which movements are natural and fast and which are slow and awkward. For example many pianists flap their elbows like chickens...the muscle from your shoulder to your elbow is a VERY slow muscle vs. the elbow to the wrist.  Similarly, the motion in your fingers straight down is a fast motion, whereas side to side movements of the fingers are very slow.
A trill of the third and fourth fingers is primarily a forearm/wrist motion.
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« Reply #35 on: February 02, 2013, 11:42:42 PM »

I haven't seen Taubman videos, but saying that the movement originates in the forearm, sounds like a dangerous notion to me. Despite me having been the "non high fingers" advocate (which isn't correct either, I just didn't think it's the most effective way towards speed, that's all) but still, I imagine everthing coming from the fingertips. With a flexibl wrist, and the feeling of an "empty" forarm which is supported from the back.
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« Reply #36 on: February 03, 2013, 05:08:27 AM »

Rather than thinking of your 4th and 5th fingers as too slow or too weak compared to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, fingers just think of your fingers as having different capabilities that need to be coordinated. You will never make your 4th and 5th fingers as strong as your other fingers, but you can make them coordinated.

That's right. Finger intelligence, not physical strength. 4 and 5 are not as intelligent as the others.

Having purchased the Taubman technique videos, I must say that I concur with those who say lifting the fingers as high as possible is not only a waste of energy, but has the potential of causing injury.  Much of the movement should originate in the forearm first, then wrist and last the fingers.

I can say that I lift my own fingers rather high myself and with VERY good results. Any piece worked through in this manner is learned by heart for life with as few as 3 repetitions. It is not finger strength you train, but finger intelligence, and you do that in a Zen-like fashion. As I said before, I don't impose this upon just any student because not everybody would benefit from it.

On the other hand, I have too many patients coming to see me who merely ECHO ideas about Matthay and Taubman like parrots, but at the same time push down heavily with their arms on their poor finger/hand structure, damage it, and ultimately play like partially disabled ones with very poor artistic results. Those are the people that *could* benefit from doing this procedure to get their natural balance back.

I haven't seen Taubman videos, but saying that the movement originates in the forearm, sounds like a dangerous notion to me.

It's not dangerous, maitea if done under guidance of a competent teacher, and not by reading about it or by watching YouTube commercials/CD-DVD courses. As I said before in this topic, I use this principle mainly with people who have systematically overtrained their fingers for strength and agility.

P.S.: YOUR principles have merit too (I've visited your site more than once), but you may agree that no description can replace what you show and teach people during actual lessons/retraining? There is just too much room for mis-interpretation here, and people end up blaming the method, not their own inability to understand it properly.

Paul
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« Reply #37 on: February 03, 2013, 11:00:05 AM »

Definetely, Paul.

It's very hard to describe in words the plasticity of our body at the keyboard. And even videos can't replace the contact with a proficient an experienced teacher. That said, I'd wish i'd come to a site like this some years ago, it would have helped me formulate the questions I needed to answer to progress in my playing. I was "victim" of an exaggerated and wrong high fingers method, that is why my views seemed probably so/too visceral. We need different things, or at different times! What i dislike of "methods" is that they try to fit in all technique into a standarised routine. Not sure how to articulate this properly, of course i think there are some basic fundamentals of mechanics at the piano, but the important is the music! And to have the adequate technical plasticity, i believe you must have the sound idea first, not the other way round...what do you think?
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« Reply #38 on: February 03, 2013, 11:21:05 AM »

And to have the adequate technical plasticity, i believe you must have the sound idea first, not the other way round...what do you think?

Yes... and no. Wink

Our local scientist Nyiregyhazi will most likely stress that ears alone is not enough; one also needs a good image of 1) what causes tone, 2) exactly how much it takes to produce this or that tone quality, and 3) in what direction the key should be moved. For example not straight downward but slightly diagonally forward into the key tends to give much more control, etc.

The golden mean is the desirable middle between two extremes. Crucial for our understanding of how to "develop" speed (I would rather say "free up" speed because it's already there) is that we CANNOT play fast [and with good quality!] as long as we don't have this clear sound-movement image connection in our minds.

Paul
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« Reply #39 on: February 03, 2013, 11:31:01 AM »

Agreed!
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« Reply #40 on: February 03, 2013, 07:59:16 PM »

Quote
Our local scientist Nyiregyhazi will most likely stress that ears alone is not enough; one also needs a good image of 1) what causes tone, 2) exactly how much it takes to produce this or that tone quality, and 3) in what direction the key should be moved. For example not straight downward but slightly diagonally forward into the key tends to give much more control, etc.

Paul

I think "N" has moved beyond the "School of Poking"... (I will affectionately refer to him as "N", not unlike the master inventor engineer of spy weaponry in the James Bond movies and books - "Q".)

In reading N's recent ideas, it seems to me he has arrived -- by applying judicious use of Newtonian Physics and Laws of Gravity in addition to a great deal of thought and experimentation -- that the hand/fingers "natural" basic movement is "to grasp", and that "pulling" the key down as opposed to "pushing" it down -- (or "poking" it for such effects as portamento etc) is the "right way" to proceed.

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I think he no longer believes that using the extensors in combination with flexors provides an effective playing mechanism.

Frankly, I am ill equipped to discuss these things with him in a scientific manner since I was largely absent during this part of my education in my youth (several decades truly squandered), so I somewhat blindly follow the Laws of Physics, Luddite that I am in that regard.

I largely do things by practical experience which is -- while not intellectually facile -- gives pretty quick feed back and judgement as to whether or not I'm obeying the rules.

For instance, it didn't take me too many times falling out of bed and hitting the floor to realize that disobeying the Law of Gravity could be a "grave" offense -- depending on the distance to the floor -- and ever since I try to rise from slumber feet first onto the floor.

And I have been able to achieve this with virtually NO KNOWLEDGE of physics.

Gravity, I would surmise, is a VERY good teacher.

If in any way I have misrepresented "N" and his current position on piano playing mechanics, I'm sure he is "poking" about the forum and will readily correct me.  Cheesy

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« Reply #41 on: February 03, 2013, 10:56:06 PM »

I hate to sound overly like a cult follower..  but the taubman bashing shows a complete misunderstanding of what they are trying to get across. Which is perhaps in part caused by this common assumption that you can learn everything they have to offer by watching their videos once or twice..

..and in most cases I suspect, not delving much further than the rotation video which is a whopping 10 percent of what the DVD's offer.

For one, (whether correct or not) Edna Golandsky (the presenter) says very plainly in the videos that the fingers are lifted through the support of the forearms action (which is in the end very small), despite the finger lift remaining visually prominent in her technique.

In addition to that, she talks about how rotation functions to free the arm, and that initially the taubman school (perhaps just dorothy's private tuition) involved an instruction along the lines of "think from the fingers, allow the forearm to come along" however, this was found to be ineffective in many cases - students remained with the rigid arm and lifted fingers which is the action that leads to severe strain on the fingers/hand. Because this was not working, she adopted a "think from the forearm" approach to teaching students to free up their arm.

The larger rotation actions, and the use of double rotations is plainly insane if done wrong..  however, they directly stress that the "preperatory motion" and the "playing motion" must be felt as one overall motion. This is then also adjusted in the "minimising rotation" part of the explanation where they discuss the sense of balance and stability over a key, and the rotation in combination with another movement that they devote an entire lecture video to acts as a way to freely transition between keys, more so that it necessarily is an active playing motion - especially in the case of active/passive rotation..    They focus on being free between notes, and moving with tiny arm/hand/finger motions (ones besides rotation) from key bottom to key bottom to properly reduce this overdone problematic rotation that functions only as part of the technique in the end.

The rotation motion (even when minimised) finds itself in quite the pickle if you fail to properly utilise the in/out, walking hand arm, and shaping motions. Failure to do anyone of these will cause significant problems in advanced repertoire.

The videos represent a detailed nuts and bolts analysis of what is happening in a pianists technique. It is absolutely not meant for someone who lacks technique to watch and then totally overhaul their technique by themselves. They say this plainly. The videos are not even presented as lessons to the viewer. They are recordings of live lectures that are aimed at teachers, and advanced or injured pianists.. they present a method for diagnosis, how to figure out why you have a problem - if you have a problem - and EVERY person there was getting in person lessons daily for 2 weeks, that address their specific weaknesses. Its possible that many of them did not do the rotation exercise at all because their problems were elsewhere..  after all, she opens with "Don't go adjusting your technique based on this lecture without consulting a teacher".

.....

I might add to this also, that any experienced teacher knows that you can't necessarily solve the same problem with the exact same explanation every time. Each different student needs to be guided and find their method and/or understanding of what works to achieve a desired sound.

This is strongly stressed in these videos, that they are GUIDING. - they talk about students who have the wrong idea about how to learn expecting the teacher to tell them if they have got it right based on a visual analysis.. When in reality they are directing you toward a FEELING of how to play. The student will know when its right, because the playing will become easy..   if you're doing something from taubman and you're not experiencing ease of playing then you're not doing what they intended.

Either you're interpretation of their intent needs refining, or their explanation is just not right for you at all.
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« Reply #42 on: February 04, 2013, 03:39:18 AM »

I hate to sound overly like a cult follower..  but the taubman bashing shows a complete misunderstanding of what they are trying to get across.

I think it's good you emphasize this, ajspiano. Much of it is caused, I think, by their pseudo-scientific explanations, which are just plain wrong sometimes, but this doesn't make the method itself invalid, of course. I wish everybody stopped defending themselves with "science" and stopped attacking other systems and methods for the wrong reasons. There is a good series of 4 videos on YouTube called "Choreography of the Hands: the work of Dorothy Taubman", which sheds some light upon the principles. If you see through the "finger-school-is-always-bad" spirit of the cult-like clips, you will understand that it is just 1) a healthy approach to technique when everything else has failed and 2) a study of angles that makes sense for EVERYBODY to go through.

Paul
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« Reply #43 on: February 04, 2013, 04:57:04 AM »

...If you see through the "finger-school-is-always-bad" spirit of the cult-like clips..

The trouble with these youtube snippets is that they show some tiny bit of information without reference to the whole, and without reference to an individual student. They are designed to sell the product, not teach you how to play.

And even if you do watch the main video as an intermediate or even early advanced student perhaps (if at that point you've got the patience to sit through several hours of "how to play CDEFG") - The sheer amount of information and detail is too much to absorb. So much so that you are guaranteed to misinterpret it, and/or just completely ignore key points.

The benifit of it comes after significant time spent experimenting, and using your own brain (and preferably in consult with someone who has an idea about how to apply these things - otherwise this process will take a lot longer than it needs to) to discern how to execute the ideas in a way that works.. not the way that you think its supposed to be done based on your interpretation of the words or what you see Edna do, and if you're coming from inexperience you'll have to watch her explanation atleast 10 or so times before you really catch on to everything anyway.

...then after much thought and practice, your brain finally figures it out and you gain the understanding of what they are getting at in the videos. You come to realise that everything in their videos is a valid technical/musical tool...  but at the same time that its not a "method" that you follow 100%, or some kind of rule set that is the only way to operate.. which is unfortunately how it can come across because of its presentation and marketing.
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« Reply #44 on: February 04, 2013, 04:51:09 PM »

From slow and relaxed you can play at any speed. You can test this out by playing pieces you know well that are supposed to be slow tempo and then try to play them very fast. You do not have to learn how to play fast because you know the piece so well increasing the tempo is just naturally done.

The catch 22 is that when you play slow you can get away with inefficient movements that otherwise would be punished when playing faster. The key is to emulate fast movements while playing slow. If you practice fast but feel uncomfortable then you can practice like this for years on end and never improve, don't fool yourself that when playing fast you should feel taxed and under strain. Make everything feel soft in the hands, easy and effortless, then you can bend time to your whim!!!!
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« Reply #45 on: February 05, 2013, 07:04:15 PM »

First off, you need a good hand posture before you start. Now, I'd have to see you play, but...

1. Relax, but be alert.
2. Keep your knuckle higher than the PIP joint where you can help it (on some passages, you can't help but lower your knuckles- it's okay).
3. While you are at it, slightly raise the wrist, too.
4. I know, at the end of the day, it's the muscles doing the work, but, think of "dropping" the mass of your finger bone into the key. Let gravity help you. Now, before you can drop it into the key, you might wanna raise them a little. Don't raise your fingers so high as to feel tension in your hands; think of it like how you pull your hand back slightly before throwing a dart.

Some other tips
1. Learn all 30 Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772-801. I am serious. Granted, each pieces are usually 1~2 minutes long, maximum 4~5. Make sure to be immaculately articulate when you play these; otherwise, you defeat the purpose of learning these pieces.
2. Practice your scales and arpeggios... in staccato. Use a particular type of staccato: raise your entire arm before pressing the key and try to get as fat, ugly, and jarring a sound as you can.
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« Reply #46 on: February 05, 2013, 08:24:45 PM »

2. Practice your scales and arpeggios... in staccato. Use a particular type of staccato: raise your entire arm before pressing the key and try to get as fat, ugly, and jarring a sound as you can.

I'd be very interested to hear some more about the benefits of this approach. Thank you.

Paul
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« Reply #47 on: February 05, 2013, 09:25:48 PM »


Some other tips
1. Learn all 30 Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772-801. I am serious. Granted, each pieces are usually 1~2 minutes long, maximum 4~5. Make sure to be immaculately articulate when you play these; otherwise, you defeat the purpose of learning these pieces.

Of all the posts in this thread ( including my own ), this tip regarding JS Bach makes absolutely the most sense, especially for earlier keyboard students. Practicing the phrasings in the Sinfonias is great practice for finger independence which is what is needed for speed. Control is also needed for speed which is where a metronome is useful ( I know.. the M-word ).   Nice thing about the Inventions and Sinfonias is that although they are designed for study, they are performable to an audience, unlike technique drills.


2. Practice your scales and arpeggios... in staccato. Use a particular type of staccato: raise your entire arm before pressing the key and try to get as fat, ugly, and jarring a sound as you can.

No offense, but you lost me on this one. Why not practice the scales "immaculately articulate" ?
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« Reply #48 on: February 05, 2013, 09:59:11 PM »

Bach is always great! No question, but if there are unaddressed motoric issues, tension etc, that won't solve the problem by itself. Though always a better option than drilling excercises with no musical purpuse!(though again, these might be very helpful sometimes..! it just depends!) I'm fascinated by how we go on an on in this thread! Like pianists Cheesy relentless Night night
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« Reply #49 on: February 05, 2013, 10:42:09 PM »

Bach is always great! No question, but if there are unaddressed motoric issues, tension etc, that won't solve the problem by itself. Though always a better option than drilling excercises with no musical purpuse!(though again, these might be very helpful sometimes..! it just depends!) I'm fascinated by how we go on an on in this thread! Like pianists Cheesy relentless Night night

I agree with you 100 % - in fact, I have visited my Hanon book numerous times to reference certain musical situations such as parallel octaves or scales or arpeggios. As for Bach. For some reason whenever I am actively practicing a Bach piece, it makes me a better piano player even with other styles like Rock or Blues.  I dont know why, it must be something in the universe
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