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Not passing the thumb under (Read 9304 times)

Offline Aerek

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Not passing the thumb under
« on: June 16, 2002, 02:28:55 AM »
I'm new to piano (playing off and on for two years), but I've heard of a technique when playing scales and such that does not advocate putting the thumb under the hand. Does anyone have details about this technique or know where I can get them? Thanks for any info.

Offline ludwig

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #1 on: June 16, 2002, 04:07:17 AM »
Hmmm... playing scales without passing the thumb under? The only way I could think of doing this is to twist your hand when changing. This will give an uneven and unpleasant sound to the scales. Sorry, no help here.  :(
"Classical music snobs are some of the snobbiest snobs of all. Often their snobbery masquerades as helpfulnes... unaware that they are making you feel small in order to make themselves feel big..."ÜÜÜ

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #2 on: June 16, 2002, 09:05:29 AM »
Aerek:

Don't waste valuable time trying some trick that won't work.  There is no substitute for doing it right.

Offline Aerek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #3 on: June 16, 2002, 05:17:48 PM »
Okay, so far sounds like I'll stick with the way I've learned. If you're curious, the rationale given for not passing the thumb under was that, when going under the hand, the thumb was not allowed to move in a natural way or motion, and that this in fact lead to uneven playing of scales and such.

Did the source, which I can't recall, explain how to execute scales otherwise? No. But I got the impression this was an established method or school of practice. I've experimented and it does seem you have to make an awful mess of your hand to ensure the thumb moves straight down and up from it's natural position on the hand (relaxed and not under the hand). This problem lead me to ask my question. Thanks for the responses.

Offline Diabolos

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #4 on: June 16, 2002, 05:32:58 PM »
Aarek,

it might sound a little strange, but there is a technique that suggests playing scales without putting your thumb under.
It's based on the movement of your hands and arms; you might have experienced (or will experience) that, when playing really fast, your fingers will only move up and down, pressing the keys, while you're hands are moving all over the piano.
That's actually what's meant by that - but I'd suggest to start with putting the thumb under.
If you want to try to learn that technique, start with looking for hand positions in scales, then move your hand fast between these; if you feel good about doing that really fast, start moving your fingers; it needs practise, but it sounds a little more fluent than putting your thumb under.

Regards,

Offline Aerek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #5 on: June 16, 2002, 11:53:42 PM »
I looked at that technique and it makes sense, though I have no business practicing it right now. It seems, however, it would be impossible to play legato using this method. Is this correct?

Offline ted

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #6 on: June 17, 2002, 01:47:20 PM »

I can think of many instances where it would be very laborious or impossible to devise fingerings which admitted smooth passing under of the thumb or passing over of the hand. One case would be in a repeated  upward arpeggio such as, say, Gb-Bb-Db-F, where it is almost the case that the thumb passes over.

I play many of the alternating arpeggios in Winter Wind without smooth passing over or under. At high speed I can't tell the difference anyway.

It's a very interesting approach, particularly when it comes to more complicated figures, double notes and so on. I agree with Diabolos - it's certainly possible and in many cases it's the best, indeed the only solution.

You can actually get it pretty smooth with practice. I'm pleased somebody mentioned this - I've played a lot of things this way for years. In improvisation it has a huge and obvious advantage - you can't stop to think up elaborate wrist movements and legato fingerings.

One thing sure - it does demand full, flexible and trip-hammer like independent finger strokes.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #7 on: June 17, 2002, 09:59:16 PM »
Ted, you mentioned some good things.  There are plenty of times when I use unconventional fingerings, including what you are saying.  I rather enjoy doing things the wrong way :p.  

The original post (I thought) was referring to a complete system by which one could play the entire set of 24 scales without the thumb, which even if it were possible would be impractical.  I don't think he was asking about the occasional exception.  There are millions of pianists who are alive now and those who have passed on.  If there were a legitimate, successful movement for thumbless scales I'm sure we would have heard about it by now.  The only piece I know of that specifically advocates such a practice is that etude by Debussy.  But again, that is not a scale system.

Offline Aerek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #8 on: June 17, 2002, 11:30:48 PM »
Yes, my original impression was that there was a method or system of playing all the scales without going thumb under. I assume based on your responses and obvious experience (and my own lack of success about finding out about such a system) there is no such method. I do understand the idea behind the technique you two are talking about, however, and am anxious to approach it after I'm proficient at the more basic piano techniques (so when's that . . . 5 to 10 years from now?).

You understand why my impression was so frustrating after trying to play a scale without going thumb under. I kept thinking, "This can't be right, what's the trick?"

But there do seem to be different schools of piano, which differ in their approach to the instrument. Are these schools or approaches pretty well defined? I though I heard something about a "Russian" school of piano. What are some of the differences in the approaches of these schools?

Offline robert_henry

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #9 on: June 18, 2002, 04:38:49 AM »
Nothing against you, but I hate all this "school" business.  Music is music and piano is piano.

In general terms, the Russian school focuses more on technique at an earlt age, with hours of scales and etudes daily.  Most of the lesson is spent on how to create a deep, rich sound.  That is why Russians have the reputation of having the greatest techniques and big sound.  

The German school focuses on interpretation more than technique.  They are fed Beethoven and Mozart rather than Chopin and Rachmaninoff.  They tend to be greater musicians than Russians.

The French school focuses on a lighter touches and color effects and obviously they like to stick with their nationalistic composers.

The American school tends to be less conventional than the others.  Players tend to have a little more personality, but sometimes too little attention is placed on technique.  That is probably the fault of the students themselves though, read laziness.

Those are my general impressions.  Some others may add to or disagree with my assessments.

As to the scales:  Obviously such a thumbless method exists, otherwise you wouldn't have heard about it!  I'm just recommending that you not waste your time with it.  The purpose of such a method would be to remove the risk of a bump in scales, I understand that.  But that is running away from a problem rather than working on it and fixing it.  Sooner or later, we all have to learn to control our thumbs, and there is no shortcut other than years of work.

Offline Diabolos

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #10 on: June 22, 2002, 08:34:19 PM »
Well, I'd suggest to practise either way.

There'll certainly be passages that'll give you a hard time, whichever fingering you'll use; besides that, the uncommon technique will strenghten your fingers, since it is basically based on baroque piano technique.

Secondly, Robert is right. It's a common cliché (or however you spell that) that Russian and French piano techniques are different; they do all have to play the same and therefore basically using similar methods.
Though there may be differences as a matter of interpretation.

However, have a good one.

Offline rachfan

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Re: Not passing the thumb underSorry to have to di
«Reply #11 on: January 09, 2003, 05:18:26 AM »
Here's  the contrary view.  See Gyorgy Sandor's book "On Piano Playing", page 63 where he says "We have to avoid placing the thumb under the palm of the hand at all costs.  Unfortunately placing the thumb under the palm is the most widespread method of teachng scales; we must protest aginst it vigorously."  I think he's absolutely right.  The thumb should function alongside the hand, not under the palm.  That's the way I have played scales for years, and it works perfectly well.  It's a more natural position, thus the thumb has freer movement and can function to best advantage. In this alternate method, as the thumb heads for the palm, the hand continues to shift away from the thumb keeping it, as much as possible, parallel to the side of the hand.  So I endorse this idea of avoiding passing the thumb under, because it works extremely well in ensuring smooth, even articulation, and legato.   ;)
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline Aerek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #12 on: January 09, 2003, 06:16:46 AM »
Sandor's book is where I first got this idea, but the book didn't explain the technique well enough for me to understand it.

RachFan, could you elaborate on the method a little bit?

Offline Remon

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #13 on: January 23, 2003, 05:50:13 PM »
Hey there!

Last week, I read about the so called "Thumb Over-technique" as well. I never heard about it before, and for a little moment I was a bit confused.
I tried for a little while to use this technique,  but it didn't work to me. But this is problably because I'm used to the "Thumb Under-technique".
I'm wondering why the TO-technique is far less known and used than the TU-technique, and also why many great pianists and pedagogues (for example Czerny, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Horowitz) use or have used the TU-technique.

Regarding the fact that the TO-technique is quite unknown and also regarding my own experiences, I think that it is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to avoid the TU-technique at all costs.

But I'm still a bit curious, so I will ask my teacher and other pianists if they know the TO-technique, and I hope I get to know more about it.
I would really like to SEE someone performing this technique... :)

Remon

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #14 on: January 27, 2003, 08:56:47 AM »
Huh?  Thumb Over - what exactly?  The whole hand?  For gods sake what for?  Just squish the palm of your hand a bit and slide that thumb Under however many notes over you need.  That's how I do arpeggios and I can smoothly go several white notes up that way..  I gotta know what you are reading - or smoking.
So much music, so little time........

Offline Remon

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #15 on: January 28, 2003, 10:03:51 PM »
Well, I found a link on this forum to a website that contains (parts of) a book about piano technique.
But the topic with the link doesn't seem to be on the forum anymore  ???
Anyway, the writer of that book mentions a couple of times the name "Sandor", who has also written a book about piano technique. Sandor says that you must never "let your your thumb pass under".
I don't exactly understand the technique he prefers (the technique that is called "Thumb Over" on the website)
So I hope there's anybody who can give me more information about this technique...

There are in my opinion two things that proof that it's not wrong to let the thumb pass under:

- I think it's quite impossible to play a 100% legato scale without passing the thumb under.
- I've experienced that my thumb doesn't paralyse or something in a fast scale, if my hand is in a sort of "glissando position" (the fingers pointing contrary to the motion)

Anyway, I'm still curious to know how people manage to play smoothly without passing the thumb under...  :)

Remon

Offline Kolby

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #16 on: May 14, 2003, 08:36:28 PM »
I'm surprized that none of you have really understood the thumb over method.  I am new to this board, so if you'll excuse my lack  of knowing each of you etc etc.  Also, I am just learning the TO method myself.  I have been playing for about 4 1/2 years, 2 1/2 of them seriously.  I've just instinctively done the TU because it was intuitive.  First question, why is the TO method not taught as a regular movement?  It's really quite simple.  It can be compared to riding a bike.  When you're a kid, you don't worry about bending down over your handlebars, you just ride your bike.  And hey, it works just fine.  But if you're gonna be a professional biker, you soon find out that you need correct body positions.  In piano, the HUGE majority of teachers are students are your common hobby level musicians.  Teachers that are primarily in it for the income, students in it because their parents make them, or for fun.  So, most of the teachers are never teaching anyone over an intermediate level.  The TO method is used for very fast scales and arpeggios, and so it is not needed in the beginner to intermediate levels, and so consequently not taught.  Also, when we get to the professional and university/convervatory level, most students already know the TO method, usually coming upon it by chance, and so it also is not taught here, because it's a basic technique.  So basically, it's not taught because it's generally not needed for the majority of the public.  
Second, what is it?  I was very confused at first also.  The term itself is what throws everything off in your head.  Instead of thumb OVER, think of it as thumb NOT UNDER.  The convincing movement is easily seen.  Hold your hand out in front of you, all fingers relaxed, with your thumb in a natural position parallel to the fingers.  Now move your thumb up and down, which is how you hit keys on the piano.  It is easily moves several inches.  Now, while still moving up and down, slowly bring it underneath the fingers.  It slowly loses mobility, eventually becoming essentially paralyzed.  Now obviously you can still move it, but you're using different muscles and it is moving slower.  In slow (read:beginner) passages, this is fine, noone knows.   But when we get to the level that few attain and few need to be taught, it becomes a problem.  So, we move to TO.  The thumb takes on the same role as the rest of the fingers, we only use up and down, not left and right.  If you do a B major scale (the scale Chopin started all his students on), it will be easiest to start.  Play B-C#-D#, then move your whole hand (flick sort of) to the next set of four notes.  Your thumb does not move under, or over, but merely moves with the rest of the fingers.  Now all your fingers are in place, and you can play them as fast as you want.  The major clincher is getting your whole hand over with no bump, which will not be a problem, as long as you practice it.  If you practice TO as much as you would TU, you will be playing MUCH faster scales than you would ever imagine.  It's hard to get the block out of your head, but it is essential.  A lot of advanced students intuitively stumble unto some from of the TO method.  I was not taught it, even though I was playing advanced pieces, because I practiced a lot of "block" playing, even for scales, and so my hand was already essentially playing TO, so my teacher never really mentioned it.  Chopin taught both methods.  TU is obviously needed sometimes, but whenever possible TO is much more efficient.  That's the basics, for what it's worth.

-Kolby-  

Offline Aerek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #17 on: May 14, 2003, 08:59:53 PM »
Thank you. You were definitely right about the conceptual block involving the term TO. Your explanation was excellent, and has cleared up the mystery.

Offline rachfan

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #18 on: May 15, 2003, 03:05:28 AM »
Hi, Kolby--

That's a great explication of TO.  As indicated above, I certainly understand and agree with the technique and have been using it for years in the same way that Sandor advocates in his writings.  I can't imagine people trying to cope with TU which is so often ineffective, since the unnatural positioning (or trapping) of the thumb under the palm immobilizes it at the very moment it's agility is most needed.  The answer is to keep the thumb parallel to the side of the hand where it does what it does best.
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline Sketchee

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #19 on: May 22, 2003, 01:22:55 AM »
I also advocate the thumb over method.  I'm suprised it's not more familiar to many pianists.  I think thumb under makes a 'bottle neck' in movement sometimes. It's fine (perhaps better)  for slow scales, but when you try to speed up with the same movement it can become impossible to get fast enough.

I have an experience with the technique actually:  I usually try to just play and not think of technique most of the time but actually I was playing the third movement of Beethoven Sonata Op 14 no 1 for recital and in practice there was one point where the fingering has a scale starting on the 2nd finger and that one wouldn't get as fast.  I noticed I was doing thumb under on that one and thumb over on the rest but switching to TO on that one fixed it.

Basically all you do is life up your hand and move to the next hand position without doing any special movement of the fingers.  I believe it was a side note in my hanon book which says when you have to lift your hand like this think of the note before the jump as slightly more legato.
Sketchee
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Offline Davek

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #20 on: May 22, 2003, 04:42:13 AM »
how is this applied to arps? fingerings? :) :)

Offline Snuffel

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #21 on: May 22, 2003, 11:20:42 AM »
At last I think I understand what you have all been talking about. The name 'thumb over'  for the technique (well) explained by Sketchee is misleading. What he (or she?) has described is something I was taught as the "travelling arm" method for playing scales / arpeggios at higher speeds speeds. I offer this quote from Joan Last's book 'Freedom in Paino Technique',
At a tempo approaching Presto it is impossible to perfrom the gyrations of continuous lateral movement - these would be awkward and hampering to fluency. Here we have reached a point at which the arm travels outward at speed but without lateral swing (i.e. without putting the thimb under the hand). It remains level and moves in one piece with the fingers, the elbow moving up and down in line with the hand and the thumb being continuously active laterally. It might be argued that there will be no legato with this method, but at great speed the line between legato and staccato no longer exists. One cannot tell audibly that the line is broken because the fingers and thumb are now almost percussive, the hand muscles activating them towards a clear and evenly articulated arpeggio. .'

Offline RiskyP

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #22 on: June 17, 2003, 06:58:08 PM »
I agree with advocating the the TO method. I have only been playing for 4 months, and even though I can hardly play chord progressions, I can play the C major scale ascending with my right hand at more than 2 octaves per second.

Before I started practicing, I saw a friend play lightning fast scales in front of me, trying to convince me that I shouldn't even bother with the TO method, when in reality, even though he didn't realize it, it was clearly visible that he was doing the same thing!!!

I just kind of got the feeling of the TO over method and developed something like it without noticing at first. But this was much easier for me than the TU method and it led to better results and faster. Unfortunatley, I can't play any advanced pieces so I guess it is just good to show off with!     :)

Offline Johnnylightning

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Re: Not passing the thumb under
«Reply #23 on: June 20, 2003, 03:38:04 AM »
Quote
Huh?  Thumb Over - what exactly?  The whole hand?  For gods sake what for?  Just squish the palm of your hand a bit and slide that thumb Under however many notes over you need.  That's how I do arpeggios and I can smoothly go several white notes up that way..  I gotta know what you are reading - or smoking.


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