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Topic: Technique paranoia!  (Read 3606 times)

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Technique paranoia!
on: July 13, 2004, 07:35:31 AM
Ok, so I spend all this time for years and years, since I was 9, obsessing over obtaining good technique and a nice rounded curve to my fingers when in piano playing posture. Now my old teacher critcized one of my performances, saying that my fingers were TOO curved, and if I would loosen up and flatten my fingers I would be a more expressive player. Problem is, I've spent so long of my life obsessing over this "perfect curve" that I'm to the point where I feel like I have to do EVERYTHING with my fingers curved, or my technique will be ruined. If I lift a box, my fingers are either curled under, or curved; if I do anything, and you look at my hands, my fingers are curved. I realize that I'm being kind of foolish here, but I can't stand the sight of my fingers on the few occasions that I've had the courage to try to fully extend them--either from all the years of keeping them curved, or something else, now when i try to straighten them, the tips of my fingers just curve upwards while close to the base stays bent. And it's not comfortable either to try to straighten them anymore. I certainly don't think I play bad, but my old mentor's criticism of my performance of Liszt's 12th Rhapsody took me by surprise. Is it truely bad to have a more curved finger playing style? I'm at a loss for what to do next.
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Offline donjuan

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #1 on: July 13, 2004, 08:29:16 AM
haha! I have the same problem and the opposite problem!! I play Beethoven with super curved fingers, and Liszt with flat fingers.  However, there are parts of Liszt where I need to be very technically proficient and play with curved fingers, and places in Beethoven where I need to bring out the dolce touch, and use flat fingers.  It is very difficult to play both ways!  You certainly need to play expressively, with lots of rubato and flat fingers in parts of Liszt's 12th Hungarian Rhapsody, or else it will sound measured and carefully calculated, not free and Gypsy-like- as it is supposed to be.  

Have a listen to Jeno Jando's recording on Naxos of the Rhapsody.  It is excellent and should inspire you to play in the manner in which it is intended.

Good Luck,
donjuan

Offline bernhard

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #2 on: July 13, 2004, 12:23:35 PM
Don’ t focus so much on the minutiae of movement. Instead put your full attention on the sound you want to produce. If you cannot, keep insisting and somehow your unconscious will eventually find the best positions/movements that will enable you to sound just the way you want.

If you are too focused on the physicality of your technique, you will have no space for the musicality of your sound.

This advice is good for you because you have been playing for some years, so you already have built up in your unconscious a sizeable repertory of physical techniques/positions from which to draw.

The same advice would be useless for a complete beginner because a beginner’s unconscious has not yet amassed any substantial amount of physical techniques.

From this you may conclude that perhaps the repertory of techniques at your unconscious disposal may be limited to only curved fingers, so spend sometime working on pieces the require flat fingered technique (the more black notes, the better, also a lot of the romantic repertory).

You may also deduct that there is no “correct” technique. Every passage will require a specific pattern of movements, that will also specific to you and your physicality. People are constantly limiting themselves unnecessarily.

If you have a detailed enough aural image of the sound you want to produce in your mind, trust me, the fingers will comply. :D

I hope this helps,

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #3 on: July 13, 2004, 09:03:12 PM
I understand what you're saying, but as I earlier mentioned, when you flatten your fingers and play, how do you prevent the top joint of the finger from bending the wrong way? When that happens you loose alot of mobility and strength, and when I try to flatten my fingers, that always happens. I'm still iffy about this whole flat finger thing, I mean, I have large hands and can play octaves and major tenths still keeping my fingers curved, so I guess my real question as well is what exactly does playing with flat fingers do to the sound that can't be done with a curve? I'm just confused.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #4 on: July 13, 2004, 11:29:22 PM
Quote
I understand what you're saying, but as I earlier mentioned, when you flatten your fingers and play, how do you prevent the top joint of the finger from bending the wrong way? When that happens you loose alot of mobility and strength, and when I try to flatten my fingers, that always happens.

If you are talking about your joints collapsing, then yes, this is bad, and not just from a mobility and strength point of view, but also from a physiological point of view. Over-extending joints will lead to problems in the attached tendons.

Quote
I'm still iffy about this whole flat finger thing, I mean, I have large hands and can play octaves and major tenths still keeping my fingers curved, so I guess my real question as well is what exactly does playing with flat fingers do to the sound that can't be done with a curve? I'm just confused.

No, you are not confused. Your question is perfectly valid. Sound and tone quality are determined by the speed that a key has when it goes through the escapement level as well as how it got accelerated up to that point. It does not matter how you achieve the desired pathway and speed. It can be done with flat or curved fingers or a pencil or a machine. The question is what finger geometry gives YOU the necessary control over this process. As Bernhard pointed out, it is best to be pragmatic. If curved fingers allow you to ellicit all the tone qualities you want, then by all means stick to it. The problem, however, is that playing with curved fingers with their more vertical attack does usually not give the highest degree of control. The tone quality may be too crisp and clear, or even harsh. There is much more control over the acceleration of a key when the fingers are flattened to some extent. You can experiment with using more hand and arm weight in addition to your curved fingers, but I am not sure if this will work well. Get used to looking at your flat fingers   :D

Offline ted

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #5 on: July 14, 2004, 02:22:56 AM
When I was young I tended to think that a unique “best” solution existed to every problem, piano technique included. I was a great excluder (J.B. Priestley called them “nothing but” men) and it wasn’t until I was approaching middle age that I realised many situations in life, art and science are better approached using “AND” instead of the exclusive “OR”.

The hands and mind are incredibly adaptable and within the bounds of common sense can play almost anything in any way – with different effect, of course. Once I began seeing this wonderful variety of possibilities as a positive thing, and lost the fear which caused me to lock into one answer, the expressive power of my playing, especially the creative side of it, developed very rapidly.

These days I do not hesitate to try all sorts of things in the manner of technique; I have learned to enjoy a constant state of becoming rather than one of being. After all, nothing terrible is going to happen if a particular way doesn’t work. I wish I had attained this position earlier in life, but I don’t suppose an old head can be put on young shoulders.
"Mistakes are the portals of discovery." - James Joyce

Offline janice

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #6 on: July 14, 2004, 11:07:51 PM
Quote
I understand what you're saying, but as I earlier mentioned, when you flatten your fingers and play, how do you prevent the top joint of the finger from bending the wrong way? When that happens you loose alot of mobility and strength, and when I try to flatten my fingers, that always happens.



If you mean what I THINK you mean, try this:play with your wrist dropped DOWN (towards the floor) about an inch or 1 1/2 inches or so.  At the same time, bring your elbows straight BACK.  Make sense?  Hope this helps!
Co-president of the Bernhard fan club!

Offline alvaro_galvez

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sounRe: Technique paranoia!
Reply #7 on: July 15, 2004, 01:36:55 AM
Look, what is techique supposed to do?
Its supposed to make ur hands press the rights keys at the right times with smooth and comfortable motions.

All this boils down to obtaining the right "sound" and smoothness when you play. You will have to be the judge of when to play flat and when to curve, just remember, if it feels comfortable and  sounds good its probably right.
Now, if your teacher said you should flatten your fingers it may be because the transactions between black and white keys may be a bit forced and not have that "smooth" sound.
damm

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #8 on: July 15, 2004, 02:06:37 AM
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try this:play with your wrist dropped DOWN (towards the floor) about an inch or 1 1/2 inches or so.  At the same time, bring your elbows straight BACK.


I was always taught to keep your wrists high. Not abnormally so, but always at or above about the level of the tops of the black keys, and I know why, playing lower than the keyboard puts a big strain on your wrists.

Quote
All this boils down to obtaining the right "sound" and smoothness when you play. You will have to be the judge of when to play flat and when to curve, just remember, if it feels comfortable and  sounds good its probably right.
Now, if your teacher said you should flatten your fingers it may be because the transactions between black and white keys may be a bit forced and not have that "smooth" sound.


Well all of this has reassured me that playing with fingers that are a bit more curved than the rest of the lot is ok, as I am quite happy with the sound and it is the most comfortable for me to play that way. Anyone ever heard Marc-Andre Hamelin play? He has a credible technique, but in my opinion his playing style is very harsh and posessing little emotion....
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Offline donjuan

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #9 on: July 15, 2004, 03:06:30 AM
Quote

Anyone ever heard Marc-Andre Hamelin play? He has a credible technique, but in my opinion his playing style is very harsh and posessing little emotion....

yes, that is exactly what I was thinking!!! I thought he had one of the best techniques in the world, but he plays with very limited musical colors.  Glad to see I am not the only one who thinks that..
donjuan

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #10 on: July 15, 2004, 03:48:35 AM
It feels kind of wrong to be saying this, but I can't seem to describe it any better than this--Hamelin seems to play too perfectly.....I dunno there's just something that's annoying about the sound that is near impossible to put into adequate words. Honestly, the sound that came out of the piano when Horowitz touched it is so incredibly different.
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Offline donjuan

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #11 on: July 15, 2004, 05:59:32 AM
well, thats one of the things that made Horowitz such a hit with the public. ;D  He came to the piano, made mistakes, played wrong notes, had some difficult performances, etc. but that certainly made him seem more human and personable.  Hamlin is sort of a God, no one can relate to because we cant help but get this feeling that we are unworthy.. :-/
donjuan

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #12 on: July 15, 2004, 06:13:13 PM
Haha so you pray to Hamelin at night then? (j/k) I agree...but I still don't like Marc.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #13 on: July 16, 2004, 04:13:10 PM
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Now my old teacher critcized one of my performances, saying that my fingers were TOO curved, and if I would loosen up and flatten my fingers I would be a more expressive player.

One more thought I got on this as I was posting on a different thread: when you play with curved fingers, i.e. with the finger tips vertical on the keys (I assume), you won't want to press the keys all the way to the keybed  as this will bruise your fingertips and cause all kinds of problems in joints and tendons. Yet, pressing the keys down to the bed is crucial for achieving a richer tone and becoming a "more expressive" player.

Offline in_love_with_liszt

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Re: Technique paranoia!
Reply #14 on: July 16, 2004, 06:05:32 PM
I've never experienced pain when, or after playing except for on occasion in the wrist, but take into concideration that that was after practicing for 8 hours a day for almost a month.
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