\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping" (Read 17834 times)

Offline veryangrystorks

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 10
Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
« on: April 17, 2004, 09:02:31 PM »
I have heard a few things about Glenn Gould and some peculiar "finger tapping" thing that he did.  Apparently, it helped him technically at the piano, though I haven't figured out how.  What is "finger tapping" in this situation?  How do I do it, and how MIGHT it help me?

Xelles

  • Guest
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #1 on: April 17, 2004, 11:42:02 PM »
According to what I've just read in the "overrated pianists of the 20th century" thread, Murray Perahia knows quite a bit about finger tapping - nail tapping, specifically.

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #2 on: July 03, 2004, 03:37:58 AM »
I do remember something on finger tapping in a biography of Gould. It was something like, let's say the right hand has a c scale going up for simplicity sake. As the right hand is poised over keys cdefg, the left and crosses over and poises the forefinger over the r.h. thumb and presses it down and releasing, then the next note etc. I really can't see the point other than to make sure right hand is relaxed and to see how little effort it takes to press a key. I am really at a loss for the benefit of this, and maybe I don't have the explaination totally correct. I really love Gould's playing. Have you seen him in video performing. It looks as though the fingers strike the key, starting fairly straight and just before hitting the key curve. Other times they look like they are on the key before depression. Great player.
Nick  

f0bul0us

  • Guest
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #3 on: July 03, 2004, 04:52:14 AM »
The finger tapping isn't even native to Glenn Gould, he learned it from someone else (can't remember who) and began to use it. He did it so often that this "finger tapping" technique became inseperable with his everyday playing style, adding to the already "freakish" reputation of Gould.

Offline jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #4 on: July 04, 2004, 01:14:48 PM »
" I really can't see the point other than to make sure right hand is relaxed and to see how little effort it takes to press a key."

i think you sort of answered your own question.

the finger-tapping serves to model an ideal key-pressing action: one in which the least amount of energy necessary is used to depress the key, the least amount of energy is used to keep the key down, and the least amount of energy is used to let the key and finger come back up, all whilst maintaining the balance of the hand/arm.

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #5 on: July 05, 2004, 06:04:23 PM »
My recent observation that using just fingers to depress the keys instead of weight transference would confirm the finger tapping idea: least amount of effort. It also would maybe explain why Gould increased his back discomfort when practicing, as my disk problem was aggrevated when using just fingers since the weight of the arm is taken from the back. Gould sitting extra low would make this even worse as there is more weight to hold as the arms are elevated with such a low seat.
Nick

Offline pianochic

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 19
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #6 on: July 08, 2004, 04:42:43 AM »
Right now I'm reading the biography of Glenn Gould :D

Gould's teacher Guerrero was the one who taught Gould "the art of finger-tapping."

From the book:
  Finger-tapping is a lowly obsessive, and cultish exercise for acquiring absolute evenness and ease in tricky passage work. It eliminates excess motion in the hand and ensures intimate tactile connection with the pattern in question. For example: Take the notes D,E,F sharp, G, and A, for which the right-hand fingering is thumb,2,3,4,5. The hand position is the natural one assumed when the arm and hand hang relaxed from the shoulder, the second knuckle is seen to be the highest point. Rest the finger pads on the key surfaes of the notes D,E,F sharp,G, and A. The left hand taps the fingers successively to the bottom of the keys. The right fingers are boneless; they reflex from the keybed and return to their original position on the surface of the keys. The left hand should tap neart the tips of the right hand fingers, either on the fingernails or at the first joint. The motion of the tapping should be as fast as possible. The second stage of this regimen is to play the notes with a quick staccato motion, one finger at a time, from the surface of the key, quick to the surface of the keybed, and back to the surface of the key. This is slow practice, each note being separated by about two seconds of silence.

Ray Dudley, another piano student testified that he believed Glenn's experience in finger-tapping while studying w/ Guerrero during his teenage years did contribute to his extraordinary fluency at the keyboard, one of the cornerstones of his piano techinique.

Guerrero believed that to give the hands and fingers maximum freedom, a pianist's arms had to be on the same level as the keyboard. During their lessons, while Glenn was playing, Guerrero would firmly press his shoulders down, and Glenn had to reciprocate by pressing upward against his teacher's hands. This exercise was designed to help strengthen the pianist's back muscles.

I don't how effectifve finger-tapping is on me because I haven't it tried it, yet.

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #7 on: July 09, 2004, 04:56:06 AM »
Let me know how the finger tapping affects your playing please!

Offline jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #8 on: July 10, 2004, 10:43:15 AM »
i've tried finger tapping. worked pretty well :)

but i think an important point that should be brought up now is how it works and how it is controlled (maybe they're the same thing, i just wanted to word it in those 2 different ways)

i see finger-tapping as a way of setting up a basically all-purpose technical system which, once ingrained, can be controlled by envisioning the desired final product (the sound/music). it's sort of like saying to your body (well, your mind, really) "ok, here's how to do everything, now i'll tell you what to do". so i don't think it really works properly if you try to control it physically.
i've read a quote from glenn gould which was something to the effect of "i don't know how technique works, it just happens". it really needs to be ingrained in the subconscious, almost forgotten about, and trusted enough to avoid trying to really consciously control it. i think maybe that's because most of the physical sensations involved are kept to a minimum and therefore difficult to notice in all their subtlety.
another thing which could prevent it from really working is how you practice it. i imagine that it wouldn't be too difficult to practice it without seeing any results - you would just have to do it sloppily and unthinkingly. i think the most important things to pay attention to when finger-tapping would be: the sensations of the keys on your fingertips, the sensations of different positions of the hands and the visual information about the key positions and keyboard layout.

i suppose another question we should ask is why you would use this method in preference to any other, or vice versa.
one thing that's particularly appealing about finger-tapping is that it's so simple. on the other hand, it does seem very time-consuming. but it might actually save time in the long run.

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #9 on: July 10, 2004, 01:30:42 PM »
Because I love Gould's technical ability, this finger tapping has caught my interest. Jeff, when you said:

i've tried finger tapping. worked pretty well

What exactly did you mean? What did it accomplish for you?

Maybe the staccato with much space in between notes ensures the muscle contraction to press the key has ceased before the next finger presses its key. It seems that one element limiting speed is that a finger has not ceased contracting as the next one is involved, thereby reducing clarity, a product of an uncoordinated movement. The portion of the finger tapping where the staccato is involved might be very useful. I will consider this if my current moving up on the metronome method hits a wall.
Nick

Offline jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
:Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #10 on: July 10, 2004, 07:27:35 PM »
what finger-tapping actually did for me (in the one short passage i used it for):
- physically, it made the passage easier. in fact, i couldn't really think about it from a physical point of view.. i just had to let my hands/fingers do what they had to do
- because, by using this method, i couldn't really control it physically (i mean, by really feeling my movements and feeling like i had physical control), i had to control thr passage from my mental image of the sound i wanted. in this way, it was sort of like a more direct way of producing the music
- the passage ended up sounding much more even and clearer

i'm actually not so sure if the way gould practiced finger tapping was the best way to practice it - staccato, that is.. because it doesn't draw attention to the action of keeping hold of a key (it only really shows you how you want to press a key, and how you want to release it). so i would practice finger tapping more semi-staccato, in order to bring attention all those 3 aspects of handling the keys.

"Maybe the staccato with much space in between notes ensures the muscle contraction to press the key has ceased before the next finger presses its key. "

i'd say the leaving space thing shows you how raising the finger shouldn't disturb the rest of the hand or other fingers.

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #11 on: July 11, 2004, 02:02:58 PM »
I was thinking about this same point Jeff, when you said:

i'm actually not so sure if the way gould practiced finger tapping was the best way to practice it - staccato, that is.. because it doesn't draw attention to the action of keeping hold of a key (it only really shows you how you want to press a key, and how you want to release it). so i would practice finger tapping more semi-staccato, in order to bring attention all those 3 aspects of handling the keys.

But when you think about one of the primary aspects of playing fast, it is that the finger gets off the key really quick. So focusing on this aspect with staccato ensures that. I am interested in this and am trying it out to see the effect it has.
Nick

Offline jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #12 on: July 11, 2004, 03:03:01 PM »
yeah, i was experimenting with it today, and realised that for achieving speed, practicing it staccato works out better

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #13 on: July 24, 2004, 03:07:11 AM »
Hey Jeff, did you continue to try the finger tapping for fast playing passages? I did try it for awhile and did not feel it would help me, didn't feel when I stopped doing it, that my passages were any easier. I am under the impression, just opinion, that the best way to get better at doing something, is to practice it as close to the way you will perform it as possible.
Nick

Offline jeff

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 154
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #14 on: July 24, 2004, 12:23:10 PM »
the passage i tried it out with was a fairly fast passage. i could already play it at the right speed, but with difficulty, and the finger tapping made it easier and more accurate.

"I am under the impression, just opinion, that the best way to get better at doing something, is to practice it as close to the way you will perform it as possible. "

i totally agree :)

Offline nick

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 386
Re: Glenn Gould:  "Finger Tapping"
«Reply #15 on: July 24, 2004, 08:18:34 PM »
Thanks Jeff and glad it works for you. 8)
Nick