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Topic: Relax, relax you say.  (Read 5086 times)

Offline gkatele

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Relax, relax you say.
on: August 05, 2005, 08:42:35 PM
Gotta brag here! :D

For the last several weeks I've been working on the Handel keyboard suite in E major - and I have almost all 4 movements playable (not performable, mind  you, but I can get through them without stopping for errors - most of the time).

The fourth movement - Air and Variations - "The Harmonious Blacksmith" has been giving me no end of grief in the 3rd and 4th variations where there are tons of rapid triplets all over the place, first in the right hand and then in the left. There are also some devious scale passages (see my post "Can't get a Handel on this").

This morning when I was playing the 3rd and 4th variation, I realized that my wrists were beginning to ache. Surely, I can't be THAT tense, can I?

Yes I can.

So, this afternoon, I sat down to play the whole suite, dreading the triplet variations in the last movement. I made a conscious effort to relax. I imagined my fingers flowing over the keyboard.

Miracle of miracles - no ache, and I hit all the notes - at speed.

I continued my little mind game for the 5th variation, the one with all the scales.

Same result.

Amazing how a little self insight helps!



I just had to brag - my wife wouldn't have understood! Thanks for listening.



George
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"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
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Groucho Marx

Offline Aziel

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #1 on: August 05, 2005, 08:45:38 PM
Kewl, Congrats.
 ♪...Aziel Musica... ♪

Offline spirithorn

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #2 on: August 05, 2005, 08:59:08 PM
Glad to hear of your experience with the Handel.  I have had a similar one with the Chopin Bb minor Prelude (Op. 28, No. 16).  Forty four measures of solid 16ths at Presto con Fuoco!  I'm not at Presto con Fuoco yet by any means, but I can play at about half speed with no stumbles (started this piece about 2 weeks ago).  And, as you can imagine, this is virtually impossible without relaxation.  The difference is truly remarkable.
"Souplesse, souplesse..."

Offline gkatele

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #3 on: August 05, 2005, 09:58:18 PM
I have had a similar one with the Chopin Bb minor Prelude (Op. 28, No. 16).  Forty four measures of solid 16ths at Presto con Fuoco!

I just listened to Marta Argerich play that.

Sigh....

I can dream, can't I?



Geore
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"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
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Groucho Marx

Offline jeremyjchilds

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #4 on: August 06, 2005, 04:19:45 PM
I get the same thing when i play my tech. If I actually take a few seconds to relax myself, drop my shoulders, and let my hands rest on the keys, I always do way better.
"He who answers without listening...that is his folly and his shame"    (A very wise person)

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #5 on: August 06, 2005, 04:33:30 PM
I get the same thing when i play my tech. If I actually take a few seconds to relax myself, drop my shoulders, and let my hands rest on the keys, I always do way better.

We all tense up while playing the piano, and we also tense up while doing a lot of other things throughout the day. If we take a few seconds to relax in those situations as well, everything in fact does go better.

Offline gkatele

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #6 on: August 06, 2005, 04:54:57 PM
The other thing that I noticed just now when I was playing that Handel is when I tense up, I not only bring my shoulders up (learning to relax those when horseback riding makes all the difference as well), but also I can feel my calves and my butt muscles tightening.   
 ;)


Making the conscious effort to relax legs and butt helps with shoulders and arms.


George
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Groucho Marx

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #7 on: August 06, 2005, 05:44:43 PM
The other thing that I noticed just now when I was playing that Handel is when I tense up, I not only bring my shoulders up (learning to relax those when horseback riding makes all the difference as well), but also I can feel my calves and my butt muscles tightening.   
 ;)


Making the conscious effort to relax legs and butt helps with shoulders and arms.

Indeed, this is true. Out of curiosity, do you observe any other areas that are tense? In particular, watch out for your breathing, clenched jaws and a tensed neck (the neck is commonly the first area that tenses up, before anyhting else).

Now, try to be aware of your entire body while you are playing, as well as listening to the sound you produce. It is difficult, but feasible when attentively practiced slowly with time (so I've been told  ;D)

Those are great observations you have made! IMO, these observations and your reactions are a lot more valuable than 10 hours of Hanon a day ;).

Not to let you down at all, but although you think you can release that tension, you'd be amazed at how much tension actually still remains. You should be able to release a lot more of it over time. Keep it up :D

Offline gkatele

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #8 on: August 06, 2005, 09:34:11 PM
Indeed, this is true. Out of curiosity, do you observe any other areas that are tense? In particular, watch out for your breathing, clenched jaws and a tensed neck (the neck is commonly the first area that tenses up, before anyhting else).

Now, try to be aware of your entire body while you are playing, as well as listening to the sound you produce. It is difficult, but feasible when attentively practiced slowly with time (so I've been told  ;D)

Thanks for the encouraging words. I just finished reading "Piano Lessons" by Noah Adams. It's the story of how he (a commentator for National Public Radio) got into playing the piano, and spent almost the entire first year learning to play Tramerei.  It was a so-so book, with too many irrelevant anecdotes and cute observations, but I did take one thing home.

Playing the piano has nothing to do with your fingers (that's perhaps an oversimplification), rather, it's a total body experience. Putting your entire body into the expression accomplishes two (and probably more) things:

1) Makes your tension decrease
2) Makes you more expressive.

In my playing those fast triplets in the Handel, I started to feel the music rather than just hit the notes. Mistakes were fewer, tension was reduced and it was much, much more musical. I had one of those rare "shivver up the spine" moments as I played.

I'll remember it for a long time.

Thanks for your encouragement.



George
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Groucho Marx

Offline spirithorn

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Re: Relax, relax you say.
Reply #9 on: August 08, 2005, 02:11:53 PM
"I just listened to Marta Argerich play that.

Sigh....

I can dream, can't I?"

The above from George.

My most recent listening regarding Op. 28, no.16 was Lugansky.  Staggering velocity and accuracy.  My feeling, though, is that you can actually play this Prelude too fast (though this will never be a problem for me!).  After all, it is "Presto con fuocu", not "Prestissimo con fuocu"...
"Souplesse, souplesse..."
 

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