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Arm Weight (Read 2317 times)

Offline R.Q.

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Arm Weight
« on: November 18, 2003, 08:54:33 PM »
I have been reading a lot, lately, about 'arm weight.' About 'playing from my shoulders,' 'or elbows,' or even 'back.' Does anyone have any thoughts about this? I mean, I know I shouldn't just pound away with my fingers, but so long as I'm using weight and not muscle, what's the difference between elbow, shoulder, or back?  ::)
~R. Q.

Offline dj

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #1 on: November 23, 2003, 06:02:33 AM »
huh, i was under the impression that the weight was supposed to come from the hands and fingers as opposed to other parts of the body
rach on!

Offline cziffra

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #2 on: November 23, 2003, 07:44:21 AM »
what's the difference between elbow, shoulder, or back?

i find it helpful to imagine your entire piano playing body as an arc you get a feel for where it all fits in.

             --- shoulders, head
 hands /   \
           v   ^
     -----      |
-------          |
piano          |back
                 ^  
                 |
        movement of energy

it all starts where you sit, and goes through your back, shoulders, elbows, forearm and wrist- as arrau said, "if any of these joints are stiff, you impede the current of emotion from your soul."

your playing depends on all of them, as far as i see it.  

What it all comes down to is that one does not play the piano with one’s fingers; one plays the piano with one’s mind.-  Glenn Gould

Offline cziffra

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #3 on: November 23, 2003, 07:44:51 AM »
forget the diagram, it didn't work the way i wanted it to
What it all comes down to is that one does not play the piano with one’s fingers; one plays the piano with one’s mind.-  Glenn Gould

Offline rachfan

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #4 on: November 24, 2003, 04:55:10 AM »
A few brief comments about arm weight--

One of my teachers studied with Albion Metcalf who was a student of Tobias Matthay, who developed the concept of arm weight.  So as you can image, I got a got a dose of that theory during my ten years studying with her.  

First, think not of the just the fingers, but of the entire playing mechanism which includes the body trunk, shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers.   Each plays a vital role as the demands change within the music.  For example, if you need to range over the compass of the keyboard playing heavy chords, the trunk and upper arm will play a predominant role in energizing and directing the entire playing mechanism.   (In a situation like that, your legs and solidly planted feet also work to stabilize your entire body weight as it shifts from side to side.)  

The elbow is important, for instance, in getting your hands to the right places on the keyboard and laterally choreographing the hands.  If you doubt that, move your right elbow three inches outward, then look at the changed angle of your hand as compared to where it was when your elbow was closer to your body.   I'm doing Scriabin's Etude, Op. 42, No. 6 in D flat.  You cannot play that piece without the elbow of the RH making accommodations to facilitate hand positions.  Similarly, the LH elbow has to "lead" the arm in arpeggios.  

The forearm, wrist and fingers can play three entire different kinds of staccato touch, just to mention one touch, ranging from a heavier to a very light touch.  The fingers are also going to take command during intricate passage work.  The wrist will leave level position and vertically rise and fall occasionally as necessary to help choreograph minor hand position changes that cannot be accomplished by the elbow alone.

Now back to arm weight.  Arm weight is not exactly a "free-fall" drop of the arm onto notes on the keyboard.  Rather, it is a very relaxed yet controlled drop.  You know when it's done correctly--despite the physicists and other naysayers who for years have claimed that you can play a piano well with a pencil eraser or an umbrella tip.  In fact, you will attain a rich, singing tone that is unmistakable and undeniable to the accomplished pianist.  The sensation of initiating the controlled drop is directed by and begins in the upper arm.  In fff dynamic, even the trunk will participate, as you lean forward into the notes to increase power.  There is another complexity that comes into play when arm weight is used in producing tone for chords.  That is chord voicing.  Arm weight and voicing must be coordinated and balanced to assure total clarity of playing at all times.  

When is arm weight not a practical technique?  When playing velocity.  In that situation, arm weight becomes a hinderance rather than a help and will inherently work against speed.  Arm weight, then, is used to best advantage within the lyrical side of the repertoire.

I hope this short explanation gives you some insights.  
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline eddie92099

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #5 on: November 24, 2003, 09:49:43 PM »
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In fff dynamic, even the trunk will participate, as you lean forward into the notes to increase power.


A common misconception - in order to increase power it is actually better to lean back (trust me, I do Alexander Technique  ;)),
Ed

Offline TwinkleFingers

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #6 on: November 25, 2003, 09:52:50 PM »
looking at it technically.  you would need to use more muscle strength the more your arms stretched out to the keys(leaning back) But if your a strong person it shouldnt matter.  
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Offline rachfan

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #7 on: November 26, 2003, 01:34:50 AM »
Leaning back is actually the best way to play pianissimo, especially if you can get your extended arms to have that "floating" feeling, as advocated by Lhevenne.  
Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

NetherMagic

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #8 on: December 02, 2003, 08:31:10 AM »
wait... so is leaning back good for playing fff or ppp?

Offline eddie92099

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #9 on: December 03, 2003, 09:34:05 PM »
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wait... so is leaning back good for playing fff or ppp?


fff. I'm not saying it isn't good for ppp as well though!
Ed

Offline TwinkleFingers

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #10 on: December 04, 2003, 04:10:02 AM »
maybe they should have recliners instead of piano benches ;D
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Offline trunks

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Re: Arm Weight
«Reply #11 on: April 17, 2004, 09:56:54 AM »
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huh, i was under the impression that the weight was supposed to come from the hands and fingers as opposed to other parts of the body

Hi dj,

Nope. The hand alone (palm + fingers) is not weighty enough even for depressing the keys, especially for stiff-action pianos (which I loathe, and I believe that the stiffness of piano actions should be standardised - but that would require another topic of discussion).

The controlled fall of the arm, delivered by the active up-and-down motion of the wrist and supported by a firm grip (not weight) in the fingers, is what produces the golden singing tone.

I would always reserve active finger-joint motion for the running passages, yet maintaining the wrist motion throughout the phrase in order to shape it.
Peter (Hong Kong)
part-time piano tutor
amateur classical concert pianist