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Topic: Octaves...  (Read 1866 times)

Offline brsmpianist

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Octaves...
on: July 19, 2005, 05:28:43 AM
I have a question about octaves... my octave technique is not perfect and I practice the octaves in Hanon everyday... and there's this one exercise where there is continuous octaves for like 20? lines, and lately I've been developing this "tugging" sensation in the big muscle to the right of my pinky(below, on the outer edge of your hand).  Its not pain, but it's definitely uncomfortable... does anyone else w/ small hands experience this?  I wanted to know if this feeling means Im developing the muscle or whatever (which would certainly be nice)... 

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #1 on: July 19, 2005, 06:26:04 AM
I have big hands but I get that feeling too, (when I practice a certain song with lots of octaves).  I don't think it is developing the muscle...I'm sure it's an overuse injury

It was really wierd, kind of a stretchy "flicky"  pressure.

The good news is that it went away quickly for me. When I told my piano teacher that I had it, she said "Oh that's no big deal, it's  pain in your wrists that  is the real problem." That may not have been the best advice, but here is my advice

Don't play any octaves for a week...

then only play octaves for about 30 seconds at a time, before playing with the other hand, or just practicing something different for 30 seconds.

You'll take twice as long to practice, but you will be rested when you play, so you should learn faster for that time period. No more marathon sessions.

Once I cut my marathon sessions and realized that overuse injuries can happen to me, they went away. Rest is key!!
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #2 on: July 19, 2005, 11:59:26 AM
Not gong into debate whether it is a good idea to play Hanon octave exercises... here are some thoughts: In my experience, pain in this area comes from stretching the hand combined with thumb orientation. Carefuly analyze how you play the octaves. Do you pre-form the octave hand position and then "stamp" them out? If so, you need to relax your hand as soon as you hit the keybed or come off the keys. Stretch your hand and fix it in the playing position only at the last moment, ideally when your fingertips are very close to or already on the keys.

The wrist: There are two issues witht he wrist. One is a high wrist. When "stamping" out octaves, the wrist is often locked in place with the hand bent downwards sharply. The wrist needs to be relaxed as well and rigid only at the moment you hit the keys. Ideally, it should then be as close as possible to the typical arch structure of forearm/wrist/hand. The other issue is that you may angle the wrist (in my experience, this is the most common issue). In order to hit the keys at roughly the same point, let's say both thumb and the pinky about one inch into the white portion, the wrist needs to be angled into a thumb-oriented position (i.e. thumb aligned with the forearm). This position is absolutely terrible and when adopted over and over again will very likely result in injury. If you are adopting this position, make all efforts to retrain your movements in every aspect, not just octave playing, to get rid of it. For octaves involving white keys only or a black key for the pinky and a white key for the thumb, this will probably require playing into the black area. It should not be a problem for octaves involving black keys only.

Hope that helps.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #3 on: July 19, 2005, 02:12:12 PM
Among other things, when discussing practicing octaves, Godowsky mentions that they should be practiced "with elevation and depression of the wrist, as well as without any appreciable motion of the wrist."  Just to avoid any confusion, he means those are three separate ways to practice them.  But what does he mean by this exactly?  I've understood thus far that the wrist should be loose, or as Neuhaus calls it, a "shock-absorber;" so why does he now advise to contort it into these positions?  Any ideas?

Walter Ramsey

Offline whynot

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #4 on: July 20, 2005, 03:19:55 PM
Re the Godowsky suggestion, some people interpret this simply as permission to alternate wrist positions in long, tiring octave passages in order to rest certain muscles.  That's what I've read in interviews of some of the greats, anyway.  Xvimbi, I thought yours was a fantastic explanation of orientation and healthy playing.  I have very small hands and play tons of octaves at times, so I wanted to say hi! to the original poster... and echo the thought that pain is BAD.  I'm curious about the observation, "my octave technique is not perfect."  There is clearly something you're trying to achieve through your long octave exercise that hasn't happened yet, and I wondered whether it could be accomplished without playing quite so many octaves every day.  This is only general advice, because I don't really know how it's going for you, but perhaps there is something very specific you're aiming for:  more even touch, more accuracy in certain keys, speed.  Anyway, I just wondered whether you could spend less time on the exercise but pay even more attention than usual to how it sounds and FEELS, and really concentrate on, as Xvimbi said, allowing your hands to be very natural (small) as much as possible-- only opening for the moment of playing.  When we are small, it's tempting to assume a "claw" position for larger intervals and hold that position.  This is a bad habit formed for a really good reason:  we're trying to lessen the chance of hitting wrong notes, and it seems logical to just pre-form the interval.  It seems like it should work, but it doesn't.  A couple of big things go wrong:  1.  we add a truly dangerous amount of tension to our playing, and 2.  we lose-- or fail to develop-- the natural sense of the keyboard that allows us to find the right notes without even trying.  When we're stiff, we don't experience the spacings in the same way, for some reason, so not only are we endangering ourselves, but we're also hitting wrong notes.  All very frustrating. 

I'm afraid this is getting long! sorry, and I'm going out on a limb here, but there's something else that comes up for pianists with small hands.  Maybe not for you.  Many small-handers are resentful or regretful about their size, and feel very determined to "catch up" to performers with bigger hands.  Forgive my comments if this doesn't apply to you... but we might spend a lot of time-- years! trying to make up for our perceived shortcomings (no pun), and if it's uncomfortable, the tendency is to ignore the body and push through the pain toward some larger goal.  To anyone who is experiencing this, I respectfully suggest taking a fresh inventory of the advantages of your personal shape and size of hand.  Maybe they're small but SPEEDY, maybe they can do intricate passages in which the hands are all mixed up together, whatever.  Not to look for ways of feeling superior to someone of a different shape! there is no ideal! but rather to find our own unique assets and really use them in a healthy way to make beautiful music.   

Very best wishes, and take care of your hands!  They are special!     

Offline keys

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #5 on: July 20, 2005, 04:02:11 PM
I have a span of about a ninth, which I think is about average. I hardly ever practice octaves. I have found that octaves are not about strength or endurance, but about flexibility and working with the movement of the keyboard. Practice octaves slowly until you figure out the correct hand movement. I don't see any benefit to extended practice sessions of octaves at any stage, particularly if you're tense.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Octaves...
Reply #6 on: July 20, 2005, 05:20:21 PM
Just in case anyone, esp. the original poster or those seeking creative approaches to developing octave technique, is interested, here is the link to the complete Godowsky article entitled, "How to Develop an Octave Technique."

https://www.leopoldgodowsky.com/godowskyoctavetechnic.pdf

Some of the more interesting points to me are his indications for contrapuntal excercises between the thumb and fifth finger; also he says, "To aim at great rapidity in repeated notes is the secret of rapid octave playing."

I am interested to know what others find interesting, or most helpful, from this article.

Walter Ramsey
 

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