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To use weight or not to use weight (Read 3943 times)

Offline nick

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To use weight or not to use weight
« on: July 04, 2004, 03:32:03 AM »
Hello perfect accuracy speed lovers. I have been under the impression that producing the tone with weight was the correct method of practicing for scale like passages. Now I am not sure. I think most pianists talk of using weight, but then there are those comments of Horowitz that make me wonder, when he talks of using 'fingers', and  training the little finger to 'sing'. If one is using weight, there is little need to train pinky to sing since the weight is equally distributed, moving from one finger to the other. Each finger mearly takes the weight of the arm, and then transfers it to the next finger. In a very short time, all the fingers are used to supporting this weight. However, when one uses just 'fingers', the hand is poised over the keys, and each finger must individually press the key and then cease the action, allowing only enough pressure to keep the key down. This is all obvious to most of you I know. So my question is which way is most efficient for clean, fast and clear playing. Being relaxed is a must I am sure, so how one feels playing is most important. Tommorrow I will perhaps try playing one way for 20 minutes, then rest a few minutes, and then try the other way, playing at about 72 on the metronome with 4 notes to the beat. Not too slow or fast. Which ever seems most easy I think I will pursue. I had tried practicing only slowly for 2 weeks straight with no fast repeats, and today tried my former fast repeat and it was more difficult, proving that one can not play fast with exclusive slow practice. This was done using weight. Anybody care to weigh in on this one? ;D   Nick  

Offline willcowskitz

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #1 on: July 04, 2004, 03:59:51 AM »
Doesn't it depend on music? I would guess, that generally Liszt can be played with hand weight more easily than Chopin, this is due to how the music lays out on the keyboard.

Also, Horowitz said "Strength comes from playing musically."

This is SO true; I have these days when the keys feel so heavy and I think my fingers are just weak, but then I can suddenly switch into a more emotional mood where I start to feel every key as *music*, and the keys just press themselves down. Its magic.

Offline jeff

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #2 on: July 04, 2004, 02:45:51 PM »
looking logically at the task of playing with great speed, we can reason that to achieve optimum speed, you need to get from one key to the next as quickly as possible (especially at shifts of hand position, thumb passing under, etc).
there is one particular criterion that i think is necessary in order to achieve this: to maintain as much balance in the hand/arm's position as possible (which doesn't mean to forcibly restrict the hand/arm to an exact fixed position).

if your basic technical system is based on transferring weight from one finger to the next, you are likely to be shifting the position of the hand (vertically), unless you are deliberately watching out for this.
but you still need to train your fingers - you need to make sure that they support the hand to keep its balance, and that they do so comfortably. also, you need to train yourself to use the fingers themselves to go into and out of the keybeds, at different speeds (according to the volume of sound you want) - you can't really (efficiently) use the hand/arm alone to press each key down.

personally, i don't use this sort of weight method. i think part of the basic reasoning behind this method is that you can achieve a good state of "relaxation".
but i don't feel that you actually need to keep your weight in the keybeds to achieve suffient "relaxation" (i.e. lack of excess physical effort/strain) and i feel that it's more efficient to use as little physical effort or weight as possible to hold down the keys.

have a look at this thread: http://www.pianoforum.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi?board=perf;action=display;num=1082224952
it might have some useful ideas for you

"training the little finger to 'sing'."
this is definately more of a musical issue - relating to projection of a main melody, etc..

one last point, which i think i might have implied already, but just to make it more obvious: you shouldn't try to use your fingers in isolation.
horowitz may talk about "using the fingers" but in fact he would have been using muscles and very small motions in the hands/arms to assist his 'finger-action'

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #3 on: July 04, 2004, 03:23:17 PM »
Jeff, over those two posts of yours, you have given a good account of weight vs. fingers and have presented a lot of cogent arguments. The only thing I can think of is that it is perhaps not the best idea to decide between different techniques by playing for 20 minutes one way and 20 minutes the other way. It will take longer to figure out what's best. I would just play for, say, one or two weeks all kinds of music. Often, when people who slouch are shown what good posture is, they say the correct posture feels awkard (indeed it does) and abandon it. It takes time. Also, you have mentioned relaxation and balance, but haven't stressed enough what the effect is of "weight vs. fingers" on muscle fatigue, tension, etc. I doubt you'll be able to play with fingers only for 20 minutes straight in the tempo you indicated.

Other than that, I can only say that using weight as much as possible and fingers as little as possible is what I am striving for. It feels good to me and hasn't aggravated any of my problems with my shoulders, elbows and wrists. I don't really care too much about whether it sounds the best, as I am not competing.

Offline monk

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #4 on: July 04, 2004, 03:34:11 PM »
I don't really care too much about whether it sounds the best, as I am not competing.

Hmmm...interesting...

why do you play piano and practice, then?

I thought that the goal of musical practice is that the music sounds as good as possible?

And you seem to think that only competition is a reason to be really serious and diligent in one's practice?

I practice not because I want to be the best, but because I just can't stand my music sounding not good - and because I want to be able to enjoy my playing really!

Best Wishes,
Monk
     

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #5 on: July 04, 2004, 03:39:09 PM »
Thanks for the quick response Jeff. I have a few questions though. When you said...


one last point, which i think i might have implied already, but just to make it more obvious: you shouldn't try to use your fingers in isolation.  
horowitz may talk about "using the fingers" but in fact he would have been using muscles and very small motions in the hands/arms to assist his 'finger-action'

I wonder how one used anything but weight if one is using something other than just fingers. If ones hand is poised over keys, there is no weight. Then if you press finger into key and keep only enough pressure to keep key down, which is very little, seems like there is still no weight. If you drop wrist at same time as pressing finger into key, then I suppose you have both weight of hand and finger, which I would assume would be very inefficient for every note.  In my town the concert pianist Alexander Peskanov performed, and when asked how he plays so effortlessly such difficult music, he said you must get my instructional book and video. The books are in the library in the inter library loan department. He states to always use WEIGHT, even for soft playing. He has the wrist moving up and down for each note at first, then every other note, then every fourth note, always using weight of arm on each note, with more accent or weight on the targeted notes. This makes it look apparent that weight for fast passages is important, as he was trained in the Russian method. Some might assume that there are many ways to skin  a cat as the expression goes.(I have cats and don't like that one). But I will bet that the results may not all be the same, that some methods are more efficient than others. The truth is what I am after rather than being right. Any new insights welcome.
Nick

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #6 on: July 04, 2004, 03:47:55 PM »
Thanks Monk. The statement that 20 minutes is not long enough to tell if a method will work, then a few sentences later you state you doubt I will be able to play 20 minutes straight at tempo of 72 beats on metronome with 4 notes to beat. Sounds conflicting. If I can't, I will know that method is not correct.  8) I know what you mean about needing more time to see results, but if I feel not just a little awkward, as in doing something different, but discomfort, bordering pain, that method is not right. Testing time. ;D
Nick

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #7 on: July 04, 2004, 06:02:46 PM »
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I don't really care too much about whether it sounds the best, as I am not competing.

Hmmm...interesting...

why do you play piano and practice, then?

I enjoy music. I play for myself and my friends. To me, it's like cooking, going to the movies, simply a part of my understanding of "quality of life".

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I thought that the goal of musical practice is that the music sounds as good as possible?

I don't think so. Nobody would ever get anything done that way. One has to be satisfied at some point, although one might still be able to do it better if one would work even harder.
Furthermore, I did not say that I am happy if my music sounds bad. You are over-interpreting my words by projecting your own expectations on them.
Of course, I am interested in getting a good sound, but I won't jeopardize my health or my enthusiasm by excessive practice of the same passages. I don't spend a lot of time to get pieces to performance levels, because I don't perform. I am getting them to a fun level, because I want ot have fun. I won't practice for hours just to set new speed records for a lengthy run, or similar.

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And you seem to think that only competition is a reason to be really serious and diligent in one's practice?

It pretty much is, whether you are competing against other contenders or against your own expectations or ego. Playing at one's "best" is a relative term. Relative terms require comparisons. Comparisons are equal to competitions.

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #8 on: July 04, 2004, 06:13:12 PM »
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Thanks Monk. The statement that 20 minutes is not long enough to tell if a method will work, then a few sentences later you state you doubt I will be able to play 20 minutes straight at tempo of 72 beats on metronome with 4 notes to beat. Sounds conflicting.

Not really. My first statement claims that your method might not be the best method to find out what you want to find out. My second statement claims that I'd like to see you play for 20 minutes at MM=288 (one note per beat), let's say, a pentatonic scale, using only finger motions. I'd be impressed if you would not develop tensions requiring you to stop before the 20 minutes are over. And again, I don't think that's a sensible test, anyway. It's like trying to find out if you are good a cross-country orienteering by doing 10 dozen 100 m sprints.

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If I can't, I will know that method is not correct.  8) I know what you mean about needing more time to see results, but if I feel not just a little awkward, as in doing something different, but discomfort, bordering pain, that method is not right. Testing time.

You will feel pain, and you will conclude that it's not the right method, while I claim you are not applying the correct tests.

Offline ted

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #9 on: July 05, 2004, 04:23:44 AM »
I find for me things are inextricably mixed up with regard to this frequently discussed issue. It isn't impossible to use a combination of both. Bits such as the scale at the beginning of Mazeppa, the runs in the Ab polonaise, the run at the end of Winter Wind - these I COULD do with almost pure finger strokes, but in practice I don't because it requires too much effort considering the difficulty of what goes before and after. The clear, distinct sound of finger strokes is very nice but I find it too hard too keep up consistently for longer than a few minutes.

Even finger strokes themselves seem to come in such an astonishing variety of motion, effect and sensation that I find it next to impossible to make rules for myself, never mind anybody else.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #10 on: July 05, 2004, 05:59:16 PM »
Here is my latest thoughts and discovery on this issue. My 20 minute test proved more insightful than I anticipated. After a brief warmup, I used weight and played at 72 beats with 4 notes to the beat, perfect of course. As the repetitions mounted, I felt the tension creeping up. Within 5 minutes it was noticable, with a slight feeling of discomfort. I then decided to switch to only finger movement, prepared key attack of course, and as I continued, not only was there no tension build up, it felt great. ;D As I continued into 15, 20 minutes and above, it felt the same, no tension. I wanted to move up in speed but decided not too as this was new to me and want the muscles, or lack of them, to get used to the movement. I don't know how I can conclude anything other than using weight transference from finger to finger for fast runs is not correct, and the muscles of the hand work way too much! With fingers, as soon as the muscle contraction occurs, it ceases, and the hand feels pliable, dishrag like in a way, little effort. My theory, and I hope is correct, is that as I continue to practice like this, it will be easy to gradully move up the metronome in speed, with no corresponding increase in tension, which would explain why I have read where so many pianists move up in speed on the metronome, and I could never do it as the tension would increase as the speed would. I think the problem with the speed issue is there are so many variables, like strike note, prepared attack, weight or no weight, slow practice or fast or medium, dotted rhythmes, accents, HS vs. HT etc. WITHOUT thinking of the variable that must be a priority: how to produce the first tone!  Perhaps if the priority variable is correct, then the other variables will not be as big an issue. Because of my back problem, (disks in the lower back), I did notice last night soreness in my lower back since the weight of my arm was not supported by each finger. People without my problem would most likely notice no such discomfort. I must limit my practice on account of this more than others would.
Nick    

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #11 on: July 05, 2004, 06:37:44 PM »
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Here is my latest thoughts and discovery on this issue. My 20 minute test proved more insightful than I anticipated. After a brief warmup, I used weight and played at 72 beats with 4 notes to the beat, perfect of course. As the repetitions mounted, I felt the tension creeping up. Within 5 minutes it was noticable, with a slight feeling of discomfort. I then decided to switch to only finger movement, prepared key attack of course, and as I continued, not only was there no tension build up, it felt great. ;D As I continued into 15, 20 minutes and above, it felt the same, no tension. I wanted to move up in speed but decided not too as this was new to me and want the muscles, or lack of them, to get used to the movement. I don't know how I can conclude anything other than using weight transference from finger to finger for fast runs is not correct, and the muscles of the hand work way too much! With fingers, as soon as the muscle contraction occurs, it ceases, and the hand feels pliable, dishrag like in a way, little effort. My theory, and I hope is correct, is that as I continue to practice like this, it will be easy to gradully move up the metronome in speed, with no corresponding increase in tension, which would explain why I have read where so many pianists move up in speed on the metronome, and I could never do it as the tension would increase as the speed would. I think the problem with the speed issue is there are so many variables, like strike note, prepared attack, weight or no weight, slow practice or fast or medium, dotted rhythmes, accents, HS vs. HT etc. WITHOUT thinking of the variable that must be a priority: how to produce the first tone!  Perhaps if the priority variable is correct, then the other variables will not be as big an issue. Because of my back problem, (disks in the lower back), I did notice last night soreness in my lower back since the weight of my arm was not supported by each finger. People without my problem would most likely notice no such discomfort. I must limit my practice on account of this more than others would.

I am truely impressed and surprised! You must have excellent coordination of you finger movements. The finger muscles usually tire because of co-contraction, i.e. one set of muscles not fully released when the antagonistic set comes in. It is true that once one masters this, there should not be any fatigue. That's why I am impressed. Congratulations.

Yet, the weight method should, by the same account, also not give you any problems. Here, I am surprised. Where did the tension build up? Do you know why? Why were your hand muscles working too hard? Also, please explain what you mean by "hand muscles". I would have thought that you would replace some of the pressure that the fingers exert on the keys by hand and arm weight. If anything, there should be less tension in any muscle, because the muscles in the upper arm and back are so much stronger. Yes, it does require having to rotate the forearm a bit to transfer the weight onto the appropriate finger and also to move the forarm in and out of the keyboard to adjust for the different lengths of the fingers, but that is a matter of coordination. Of course, things change because of the problems in your lower back.

All this may require some practice to get it down at this and higher speeds. However, if fingers work for you, you should stick with that technique. Just make sure you won't get problems in your tendons (one of the main reasons to take pressure off the fingers). Luckily, fast runs are rarely 20 minutes long, so you may be fine.

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #12 on: July 06, 2004, 03:51:00 AM »
When you wrote:

Yet, the weight method should, by the same account, also not give you any problems. Here, I am surprised. Where did the tension build up? Do you know why? Why were your hand muscles working too hard? Also, please explain what you mean by "hand muscles". I would have thought that you would replace some of the pressure that the fingers exert on the keys by hand and arm weight. If anything, there should be less tension in any muscle, because the muscles in the upper arm and back are so much stronger. Yes, it does require having to rotate the forearm a bit to transfer the weight onto the appropriate finger and also to move the forarm in and out of the keyboard to adjust for the different lengths of the fingers, but that is a matter of coordination. Of course, things change because of the problems in your lower back.

I am not sure where the tension is when I used weight at repeats of 72 beats with 4 notes to the beat. There are a number of muscles in the hand, some called interossi's or something like that and others, and it may be in the hand that I felt tension mounting, or even wrist. I kept a slight movement in the wrist to avoid this, dropping the wrist every 4th note. Had I played slower this does not happen as I already had experienced this. I was excited to find that using just the finger allowed this speed with a comfortable feeling.  Then:

I would have thought that you would replace some of the pressure that the fingers exert on the keys by hand and arm weight. If anything, there should be less tension.

There is little finger exertion when using just fingers since once the contraction occurs, it ceases, not quite as quickly as a stacatto note, but almost. Thanks for the thoughts and good wishes, and I welcome continuation of this thread and this is an ongoing experiment into cause and effect.

Nick

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #13 on: July 06, 2004, 04:22:40 AM »
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I am not sure where the tension is when I used weight at repeats of 72 beats with 4 notes to the beat. There are a number of muscles in the hand, some called interossi's or something like that and others, and it may be in the hand that I felt tension mounting, or even wrist. I kept a slight movement in the wrist to avoid this, dropping the wrist every 4th note. Had I played slower this does not happen as I already had experienced this. I was excited to find that using just the finger allowed this speed with a comfortable feeling.

Now, I'm even more puzzled. The muscles in the hand are mostly assisting in flexing and releasing the finger joints as well as spreading the fingers. The thumb and the pinky have powerful muscles in the hand that do a bit more. The fingers as a whole are moved by muscles in the forearm.

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There is little finger exertion when using just fingers since once the contraction occurs, it ceases, not quite as quickly as a stacatto note, but almost. Thanks for the thoughts and good wishes, and I welcome continuation of this thread and this is an ongoing experiment into cause and effect.

Again, I would have thought that using weight will just take pressure off the fingers. They still move up and down in the same way as if you would exclusively use the fingers, the only difference being that the hand is dropped somewhat. The movement of the fingers themselves should not change. It's akin to playing on a lighter keyboard.
Ah, perhaps it's the constant bobbing of the hand that gives you tension, similar to what many people experience during octave runs when they don't relax the fingers that are not playing?

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #14 on: July 07, 2004, 04:57:11 AM »
Quote

Now, I'm even more puzzled. The muscles in the hand are mostly assisting in flexing and releasing the finger joints as well as spreading the fingers. The thumb and the pinky have powerful muscles in the hand that do a bit more. The fingers as a whole are moved by muscles in the forearm.

Again, I would have thought that using weight will just take pressure off the fingers. They still move up and down in the same way as if you would exclusively use the fingers, the only difference being that the hand is dropped somewhat. The movement of the fingers themselves should not change. It's akin to playing on a lighter keyboard.
Ah, perhaps it's the constant bobbing of the hand that gives you tension, similar to what many people experience during octave runs when they don't relax the fingers that are not playing?



How can 'using weight take pressure off the fingers'? Maybe we are talking about two different things. When one uses arm weight in transfering the weight from finger to finger, the weight on one finger is constant until it is transfered to the next finger, like when walking. One takes a step and the weight of ones body is on one leg, and then is transfered to the other. In piano, it is the same with the constant weight on one finger until the next takes over. So rather than there being less tension with this method, there can only be more. If you poise the hand over keys and don't use weight, just enough pressure to keep the key down, the hand feels much more loose, relaxed. This is a fact, not opinion. It is opinion that this is a more efficient way to practice and play fast and smooth. Time will tell in my case with keen observation. If one is practicing and then stops on a note, then takes the other hand and lifts the finger that is holding the note down, one can tell if there is weight on the finger or not by how easy it is to remove the finger. Lots of weight, a more 'heavy' finger, as it is the weight of hand and arm as well as finger. If just using fingers, it is very light, this is obvious. I think the form of the hand when practicing is important at this point in my observations. When my practice speed gets up to a certain point, the form of my finger(s) changes. It may straighten out in most cases. This is a sign to  slow down a bit since I think it is a sign of tension. Otherwise, even though the notes are played in correct rhythm, speed will in the end by less than adaquet and the movement is not coordinated to the maximum. Just theory right now, but I think a fair theory.
Nick

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #15 on: July 07, 2004, 06:18:18 AM »
Quote


How can 'using weight take pressure off the fingers'? Maybe we are talking about two different things. When one uses arm weight in transfering the weight from finger to finger, the weight on one finger is constant until it is transfered to the next finger, like when walking. One takes a step and the weight of ones body is on one leg, and then is transfered to the other. In piano, it is the same with the constant weight on one finger until the next takes over. So rather than there being less tension with this method, there can only be more.

Ok, there is a little misunderstanding. Your comparison with walking revealed it. I don't think it is the correct comparison. Here is why: In piano playing you are actually pushing down on the keys. You can achieve this fundamentally in two ways. 1. Using the weight of the hand/arm, i.e you fix your fingers and then essentially drop your hand onto the keys. That is like walking. 2. You hover with your hand above the keys and use the fingers to push down on them. This is like squatting. When you use method 2, you use mainly muscles in the forearm and very little muscles in the hand, because the fingers act mainly as levers. When you use method 1, you use those muscles that lift the arm and/or hand (no muscle action required for dropping), and therefore you will have to use the muscles that act in method 2 a lot less. I wasn't quite precise in my statement. You are right, the force that the finger tips ultimately exert on the keys is the same in both methods, but it is provided by different mechanisms, pure muscle action in method 2, muscle action plus gravity in method 1.

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If you poise the hand over keys and don't use weight, just enough pressure to keep the key down, the hand feels much more loose, relaxed. This is a fact, not opinion.

You are absolutely right, because with this method, all you have to do with the hand is to keep it fixed. With the weight method, you will have to constantly move the hand up and down, and you need to rotate the forearm, which will cause tension if you are not used to doing this at high speed.

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It is opinion that this is a more efficient way to practice and play fast and smooth. Time will tell in my case with keen observation. If one is practicing and then stops on a note, then takes the other hand and lifts the finger that is holding the note down, one can tell if there is weight on the finger or not by how easy it is to remove the finger. Lots of weight, a more 'heavy' finger, as it is the weight of hand and arm as well as finger. If just using fingers, it is very light, this is obvious.

Yes, of course. If you use the finger method, lifting the finger in order to remove the weight will feel easy. In the weight method, it is however not just the lifting of the finger that removes the weight, but the lifting of finger/hand/arm. If you only lift the finger, you'll have to work against the weight of the hand/arm, which cannot feel right.

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I think the form of the hand when practicing is important at this point in my observations. When my practice speed gets up to a certain point, the form of my finger(s) changes. It may straighten out in most cases. This is a sign to  slow down a bit since I think it is a sign of tension. Otherwise, even though the notes are played in correct rhythm, speed will in the end by less than adaquet and the movement is not coordinated to the maximum. Just theory right now, but I think a fair theory.

Many people observe their fingers to flatten at high speed. I think this is inevitable to some extent. It comes from the fact that it is easier to move a finger up and down quickly at the knuckle when it is extended than when it is curved. Try it and let me know if you see the same. This is a good example of greater ease of motions in the relaxed state: When curved, the joints in the fingers are not in their equilibrium state. Moving such an arrangement is much more difficult than moving a structure in equilibrium. This is the same reason why, when you want to play with the thumb, aligning the thumb with the forearm (thumb orientation) is less efficient than little finger orientation.

Hey, it's fun to discuss this in such detail!

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #16 on: July 07, 2004, 02:40:40 PM »
Quote

Ok, there is a little misunderstanding. Your comparison with walking revealed it. I don't think it is the correct comparison. Here is why: In piano playing you are actually pushing down on the keys.

The weight I think is pushing down the keys, not the finger! The finger only acts to take the weight from the previous finger, so we guide the finger horizontally to the key we want to sound. This to me is like walking, that we don't stomp our foot down to take a step, we only have the foot over the spot we want to walk to, then allow gravity to work. So we probably just disagree on this point.  

then:


When you use method 2, you use mainly muscles in the forearm and very little muscles in the hand, because the fingers act mainly as levers.


I agree the fingers act as levers with the 'finger' method, but there are I am sure many muscles in the hand that partake in this as well as in the forearm.

then:

When you use method 1, you use those muscles that lift the arm and/or hand (no muscle action required for dropping), and therefore you will have to use the muscles that act in method 2 a lot less.


The way I see it, the muscles that lift the arm/hand would be the shoulder muscles, back, etc. To simplify this, if you put your hand on a table, then allow the weight of your arm/hand on 1 finger, say the 3rd, you can feel the work going on to hold it there. Take the other hand and put a finger under the supported hand and feel the tendon bulging. I suspect that one could hold it in this position only so long, as the working muscles would tire. You could try it for say, 5 minutes and see if you can sustain it. Lots of muscles in the hand are working say I.

Then:

Many people observe their fingers to flatten at high speed. I think this is inevitable to some extent. It comes from the fact that it is easier to move a finger up and down quickly at the knuckle when it is extended than when it is curved. Try it and let me know if you see the same. This is a good example of greater ease of motions in the relaxed state: When curved, the joints in the fingers are not in their equilibrium state. Moving such an arrangement is much more difficult than moving a structure in equilibrium. This is the same reason why, when you want to play with the thumb, aligning the thumb with the forearm (thumb orientation) is less efficient than little finger orientation.

Not sure you are right in this one. When one is at total rest standing with the arms at their side, observe the position of the hand! Would you say the hand in not in 'equilibrium'? I think it is. And I suspect the reason the finger extends as the speed increases is a lack of 'relaxed' strength. It is possible that enough training in the correct condition had not been acheived. For example, years ago if I tried to play at the speed I can now with perfect accuracy, my fingers would have extended with a much slower speed as a result of the weakness. I think this makes sense to most people. So if that is true, it seems logical that one could continually climb the speed ladder if the conditions are correct. I may be wrong, but as I said before, time with keen observation will tell. So you are using the weight method mostly I gather? I agree that it is fun to search for the truth with others 8)
Nick  



Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #17 on: July 07, 2004, 03:40:45 PM »
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The weight I think is pushing down the keys, not the finger! The finger only acts to take the weight from the previous finger, so we guide the finger horizontally to the key we want to sound. This to me is like walking, that we don't stomp our foot down to take a step, we only have the foot over the spot we want to walk to, then allow gravity to work. So we probably just disagree on this point.


I am not sure if there is a disagreement. I think we are still not clear what we are talking about. I try again:

Finger method: Hand hovers over the keys. The fingers are lowered to push the keys down, while hand and arm are stationary. All the work must come from muscles: holding arm and hand in place (back and upper arm muscles), moving the fingers up and down at the knuckle joint (muscles in the forearm, very little hand muscles involved). This is similar to having your back against the wall and pushing a weight with your legs. Muscles do all the work, gravity is not involved.

Weight method: Arm and hand are lifted up a bit then the hand is dropped towards the keys. Fingers are only there to direct the weight to the desired spot. Muscles are used to keep the hand/fingers rigid so that the weight/force can be transferred. The weight/force itself is provided by gravity. Muscle action is required to lift the hand/arm to move the fingers to another key. This is similar to walking.

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I agree the fingers act as levers with the 'finger' method, but there are I am sure many muscles in the hand that partake in this as well as in the forearm.

The muscles in the hand only flex and extend the finger joints. They are used to make a nice curve, but they don't provide any real force. Practically all of the force is provided by muscles in the forearm (thumb and pinky excluded to some extent).

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The way I see it, the muscles that lift the arm/hand would be the shoulder muscles, back, etc. To simplify this, if you put your hand on a table, then allow the weight of your arm/hand on 1 finger, say the 3rd, you can feel the work going on to hold it there. Take the other hand and put a finger under the supported hand and feel the tendon bulging. I suspect that one could hold it in this position only so long, as the working muscles would tire. You could try it for say, 5 minutes and see if you can sustain it. Lots of muscles in the hand are working say I.

As I said above, in the weight method, muscles are required to keep hand and fingers rigid so that the force provided by the weight of hand and arm can be transferred onto the fingertips. Of course, this is tiring if you do it for a while without relieve. And so is keeping keys depressed by finger action alone. The goal, I think, is to use as many different muscles as possible, so that no single muscles ever tires or gets cramped.

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Not sure you are right in this one. When one is at total rest standing with the arms at their side, observe the position of the hand! Would you say the hand in not in 'equilibrium'? I think it is. And I suspect the reason the finger extends as the speed increases is a lack of 'relaxed' strength. It is possible that enough training in the correct condition had not been acheived. For example, years ago if I tried to play at the speed I can now with perfect accuracy, my fingers would have extended with a much slower speed as a result of the weakness. I think this makes sense to most people. So if that is true, it seems logical that one could continually climb the speed ladder if the conditions are correct. I may be wrong, but as I said before, time with keen observation will tell.

There are two issues here. When you let the arm hang and observe the "natural" curve in the fingers, they are indeed at rest (in equilibrium), but you cannot transfer force through them without making them rigid. When you make them rigid and attempt to move this rigid structure up and down at the knuckle joint with high speed, what rigid structure will allow you the highest speed with least effort? For me, it is when the finger is extended. In fact, only then can I truly hover my hand above the table and tap my finger rapidly on the table without my hand bobbing up and down. When I curve my finger and fix it and then tap rapidly, I cannot keep my hand still. In this position, I am involuntarily using a combination of finger and weight method! Ha, I just realized: I am unable to use the 'finger' method as my hand is always assisting. Well, in the end, we all use a combination of weight and finger method. It's just that the proportions differ from person to person and from technique to technique.

It is certainly true that one can over time increase the speed with which one can move the fingers up and down, but make sure that you retain a natural curve as well as a natural wrist orientation in order to minimize chances to get tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

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So you are using the weight method mostly I gather?

It's a combination of both, but I am I am trying to use as much weight as possible and as little muscle action as possible. Absence of antagonistic muscle action means no tendons moving back and forth and potentially contracting or stretching (yikes!), therefore no problems with the tendons. That's what I am trying to minimize.

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #18 on: July 08, 2004, 05:10:02 AM »
OK Xvimbi, I am worn out reading the last email. No more quotes for me. Better to stick with observations rather than how many or what muscles are doing what, as I can't see the purpose. Good news on todays practice. Just 2 days ago I think it was, I could not play a certain part at 80 beats on the metronome with 4 notes to the beat with the form staying the same, fingers lying on the keys waiting for depression. No problem at 72, but not 80, as I tried repeatedly. So I stayed at 72. Today after about 20 minutes of practice, tried 76 and not problem. Then 80 and no problem! Stayed there about 10 minutes, then 84, then 88, and the fingers were still where I wanted them, on the keys.The passage of the 3rd movement of the Appassionata sonata by Beethoven for anyone interested is the left hand has notes eg with fingers 42, then f with the 3rd, c with 1, a flat with 2, f with 3, c below the f with 5(this was the finger not laying on the key earlier), a flat with 2, f with 1, c below with 2 etc. The most exciting point is the increase in speed has not caused increase in tension. It feels right and looks right since the fingers are not straightening out.(I think this point is important at this point). I am going by empirical evidence as it is most reliable. Anyone have any ideas on this point of making sure the form stays the same as the speed increases? I have images of a pianist I saw on a pbs show some time ago hosted by Rubinsteins son, and it was on many great piansits, viewing them playing. There was this Italian pianist many years ago, I can't remember his name, mustache, good looking guy, and he played flawlessly a very fast classical piece, with fingers so relaxed, curved, looked like they were on the keys. The clarity was tremendous, the the commentator said that in his time he was the rage with his technical ability, and of course musicality. Ashkenozy(sorry about the spelling) also comes to mind of a 'quiet' hand technique. Later,
Nick    

Offline Saturn

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #19 on: July 08, 2004, 05:38:59 AM »
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There was this Italian pianist many years ago, I can't remember his name, mustache, good looking guy, and he played flawlessly a very fast classical piece, with fingers so relaxed, curved, looked like they were on the keys. The clarity was tremendous, the the commentator said that in his time he was the rage with his technical ability, and of course musicality.


Was it Arturo Bendetti Michelangeli?  He was known for his incredible technique.

Also, I have a question for xvimbi.  In your description of the weight method, you said this:

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Weight method: Arm and hand are lifted up a bit then the hand is dropped towards the keys. Fingers are only there to direct the weight to the desired spot. Muscles are used to keep the hand/fingers rigid so that the weight/force can be transferred. The weight/force itself is provided by gravity. Muscle action is required to lift the hand/arm to move the fingers to another key. This is similar to walking.


If this is how the weight method works, isn't it inevitable that the hand/arm will "bounce" on every single note?  And if so, won't that slow you down?

- Saturn

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #20 on: July 08, 2004, 06:12:36 AM »
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OK Xvimbi, I am worn out reading the last email. No more quotes for me.

Sorry!

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Better to stick with observations rather than how many or what muscles are doing what, as I can't see the purpose.

You are absolutely right.

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Good news on todays practice. Just 2 days ago I think it was, I could not play a certain part at 80 beats on the metronome with 4 notes to the beat with the form staying the same, fingers lying on the keys waiting for depression. No problem at 72, but not 80, as I tried repeatedly. So I stayed at 72. Today after about 20 minutes of practice, tried 76 and not problem. Then 80 and no problem! Stayed there about 10 minutes, then 84, then 88, and the fingers were still where I wanted them, on the keys.

Ha, excellent! That shows that it is coordination that matters, not strength, as you could not have built up muscles during that short time. The good thing is that you are actually thinking about those things, and you are actively figuring out what's best for you rather than adopting a method that works for somebody else but not necessarily for you. I like that! Stay healthy!

Offline xvimbi

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #21 on: July 08, 2004, 06:20:32 AM »
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If this is how the weight method works, isn't it inevitable that the hand/arm will "bounce" on every single note?  And if so, won't that slow you down?

Yes, of course. I think I was saying, or at least I wanted to say, that when I attemt to play using only the fingers, it turns out that I can't. I can't keep my hand still. It always wants to play too and as a result starts bouncing up and down a bit. I am not sure if the bobbing will necessarily slow down the speed to an appreciable extent, because the finger motions are still very fast fast, although the fingers have to travel farther (but they don't have to work as hard). Man, I realize that this is much more difficult to describe than to demonstrate. Now, I'm worn out, too!

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #22 on: July 09, 2004, 04:48:26 AM »
I am not sure it is only coordination and not some muscle training as the contractions become stronger with even short practice. After warming up I took it to my highest speed which was 88 with 4 notes to the beat, and it felt tough at first. Tried to accent the 3rd finger on one spot as I noticed it was not playing as strong as the rest. Then it started becoming easier. Before my practice was over I was at 96! Man, even if for a week I don't increase I will be satisfied as this speed is pretty quick and it is perfectly clean and comfortable. I am thinking I will be able to continue like this until maybe 126 on the met. I will keep anyone interested informed.
Nick

Offline nick

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Re: To use weight or not to use weight
«Reply #23 on: July 17, 2004, 04:44:51 AM »
My recent experience resulted in a change with the weight vs. finger issue. I was not honest with myself in judgeing the sound of my 'fingers only' practice, so as my speed was increasing, the speed was not perfect. I slowed down much and continued to work on it, without seeing improvement. I then switched to using weight, and the passage in question was much easier immediately. Seems gravity is our friend after all, even though more work is going on with the muscles once the key is depressed with weight vs. fingers. Holding the weight at keybed is more work but after a lot of practicing I am hoping it will be much easier. Anyone want to weigh in on the subject?
Nick