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Topic: where is is the bridge of hand?  (Read 3291 times)

Offline late_beginner

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where is is the bridge of hand?
on: August 18, 2004, 11:51:46 PM
Hi,
i am a late beginner. Recently i finally feel the importance of relaxation to play fast scale, not
complete relaxation as you all know though.

I read some posts of Robert. He mentioned the bridge of hand still need to be firmed. Exactly where are those bridge located in a hand? Can Robert or anyone
describe? Thanks.



Offline late_beginner

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #1 on: August 19, 2004, 05:46:22 PM
bump.
No one knows what i am talking about? Is hand bridge
just another name of the hand knuckle?


Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #2 on: August 21, 2004, 12:25:08 AM
The bridge is the nickname for the flexor retinaculum, which is a ligament in your wrist (near your carpal tunnel).  Turn your hand over on its back and feel along the very base of the thumb area, where your hand connects to your arm, but above the wrist.
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Offline late_beginner

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #3 on: August 21, 2004, 12:39:54 AM
Thanks for the reply.
But if the bridge is near the wrist, i can't see how
can it be kept firm while the wrist is still flexible...

Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #4 on: August 21, 2004, 03:14:17 AM
I always thought the bridge was just another name for the knuckles (third joints from the tip of the fingers, except for the thumb).

Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #5 on: August 21, 2004, 04:19:55 AM
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if the bridge is near the wrist, i can't see how can it be kept firm while the wrist is still flexible...

Post the link you are referring to..

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I always thought the bridge was just another name for the knuckles (third joints from the tip of the fingers, except for the thumb).

Hmm... do you mean on the top of your hand at the joints?  How could you firm this area?

Looks like Henry has some explaining to do.  ::)
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #6 on: August 21, 2004, 04:35:40 AM
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Post the link you are referring to..

Yes. What is this all about?

Quote
Hmm... do you mean on the top of your hand at the joints?  How could you firm this area?

Firming the bridge means not moving the fingers at the knuckles. For example, when playing chords or octaves, you preform the chord/octave either just before landing on the keys or right after touching the keys, firm the bridge, then use arm and hand weight to depress the keys; no finger movement.

Offline late_beginner

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Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #8 on: August 21, 2004, 05:48:59 AM
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Firming the bridge means not moving the fingers at the knuckles.

No, he says firm the bridge while moving the fingers - this just isnt possible, to be firm at the joints yet make the fingers active.  Read towards the end of his post.  I'm still pretty sure the bridge is the underside of the lower palm.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #9 on: August 21, 2004, 06:09:18 AM
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No, he says firm the bridge while moving the fingers - this just isnt possible, to be firm at the joints yet make the fingers active.  Read towards the end of his post.  I'm still pretty sure the bridge is the underside of the lower palm.

I just read Robert Henry's post for the first time, and it's exactly how I thought it was. The way I understand it is that "active fingertips" does not mean the fingers are moving. It means that the tips are "feeling" the keys, i.e feeling exactly the moment when they are all in place and the bridge and wrist have to lock up. And they are conscious of the force transmitted through them to the keys.

Offline robert_henry

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #10 on: August 21, 2004, 09:43:32 PM
I just stumbled upon this thread!  I knew my ear was itching for a reason.

Follow my line of reasoning:

1.  We play with weight.

2.  The amount of weight we use varies with the requirements for a musical event, i.e. we will use more weight for louder chords and less weight for softer ones.  So, the amount of weight we use for an event will increase the louder we get.

3.  Our fingers eventually transfer the weight into the key.

4.  Our fingers need a support system in order to receive everything we are throwing at them.  

This is where your bridge comes in.  

Your bridge is that support system.  To me, the bridge is the bones, joints, tendons, and muscles that make up the mass of your entire hand - all the internal, invisible parts inside your hand.  Many times the bridge includes the wrist as well.

If the bridge is not "formed", then your hand/wrist/fingers will collapse when you continue to throw weight at them note after note.

And just as our weight we use will increase the louder we play, the structure of our hand must also vary in its strength in order to accommodate this increase.  



Here is an analogy:

Jack is on the roof.  Jill is on the ground.  Jack will drop things down to Jill, and she must catch them.

Jack drops a tennis ball.  Jill catches it with no problem.

Jack drops an elephant.  Jill catches it, but it took more effort on her part so as not to be crushed by it.

Jack throws an elephant down to her.  Jill must use even more strength in order to bear that enormous weight.

Jack is your weight.  Jill is the structure of your hand.


A firm bridge simply means that when the weight of our arm drops, and power/energy is directed toward the fingers, that the support structure of the fingers (the bones, joints, tendons, and muscles) is sufficiently prepared to accept and transfer that power into the fingers.



To clarify the fingertip thing:

I believe there are three basic ways to use the tips of our fingers:

1.  No bones, using the hand and fingers like a brush.  It is as if you are playing with only your skin.

2.  Active fingertips (my term), which means that we are attentive, and very subtlety grip the keys as we play them.  The word active in this case means not passive.

3.  Completely with bones, which means to imagine that your bones are literally in contact with key, with no skin getting in the way to soften the blow.

Obviously, these three ways will create different sounds.  My default way is the active idea.  If I want more brilliance, I will imagine bones.  If I want a less focused sound, I will imagine only skin, with no bones.  True mastery comes when you can individually command your fingers to constitute several of these ideas at once, as in a chord, or a fugue.

Incidentally, many people ask why it is important to not bend their fingertips - this is why!  How can you vary the intensity of your fingertips if they always collapse?!

If you read my 'Jack and Jill' analogy above, the fingertips would be Jill's feet.  And since the feet are the last link in the chain before we actually touch the key, we must tend to them as well.





The final thought with regards to structure is that we must not use more (or less) structure than is necessary to get the job done.  The danger in talking about structure over the internet is that some might misinterpret it to mean that we firm our hand up for much of the time, as allchopin innocently did.  In fact, the beauty of thinking in terms of structure is that it actually requires less work.  The hand should "firm up" for only a millisecond; then we completely relax again.  

As I've said before, there are three parts to a note:  the preparation, the execution, and the recovery.

Let's say a note takes one second to play - 99% of that second you will be relaxed.  The preparation (weight drop) lasts from 1% to 49% of the way through the second.  Exactly halfway through the second (50%) you will touch the key and sound the note in one of the many ways we've talked about (the execution).  You will then immediately relax and recover for the remainder of the second ((51% to 100%).  

Eventually, the preparation phase and the recovery phase will actually merge.  In other words, the recovery from an event will be the preparation for the next event, and so on.  That is the goal.  Much of our practice involves making the execution phase of the note as short as possible.  Maybe you are taking too long to recover.  I have had students come to me who are working 100% of the time - they never relax.  

All of us should be assessing our physical state at all times.  That some (in other threads) are talking about reading or watching TV while practicing is beyond my comprehension.  I can do most anything while playing too, but I choose to devote 100% of my concentration to my art.  Some are proud to be able to split their concentration between several activities.  I would encourage those people to reassess their practice habits.  There are many threads on this forum which discuss the dangers of practicing and performing on "auto-pilot", and the dangers are many.

I hope this helps.

Robert Henry

Offline donjuan

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #11 on: August 22, 2004, 05:38:48 AM
Oh my god Robert, you sound EXACTLY like my piano teacher!!  Your term "active fingertips" is something he talks about lesson after lesson.  Your analogy with Jack and Jill also sounds like the kind of example he would tell me.

I am beginning to wonder if he knows you, or if you know him...

whoa... :o
donjuan

Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #12 on: August 22, 2004, 06:09:28 AM
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If the bridge is not "formed", then your hand/wrist/fingers will collapse when you continue to throw weight at them note after note.

So when/why would you ever not want a firm bridge?  Is it that... (see below)
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using the hand and fingers like a brush

because I don't know when I have ever played like this, to be honest.  Playing like a brush is not reliable...is this what you mean, or do you imply firmness simultaneously with brush-like playing?

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The danger in talking about structure over the internet is that some might misinterpret it to mean that we firm our hand up for much of the time, as allchopin innocently did.  In fact, the beauty of thinking in terms of structure is that it actually requires less work.  The hand should "firm up" for only a millisecond; then we completely relax again.

I was saying to xvimbi that the knuckles cannot both be 'firm' and 'active' simultaneously.. I thought I had misinterpreted the term 'firm', but apparently it was 'active' that threw me for a loop.  Ay, there's the rub!
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There are many threads on this forum which discuss the dangers of practicing and performing on "auto-pilot", and the dangers are many.

Yes, I agree; this reminds me of the thread about maintaining one's ability to play pieces over a long period of time.  Xvimbi said that playing them the same will keep your playing stuck in a time capsule, and I believe that.
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Offline robert_henry

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #13 on: August 22, 2004, 07:28:49 AM
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Oh my god Robert, you sound EXACTLY like my piano teacher!!  


Then he must be brilliant and handsome.   :D


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I am beginning to wonder if he knows you, or if you know him...


Who is he?




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So when/why would you ever not want a firm bridge?  Is it that... (see below)
because I don't know when I have ever played like this, to be honest.  Playing like a brush is not reliable...is this what you mean, or do you imply firmness simultaneously with brush-like playing?.


The brush idea is what I would call a special effect.  If your musical mind and imagination calls for something special, then you must sometimes use extraordinary and even somewhat risky means to achieve that effect.  I assume by "not  reliable" you mean that sometimes the note won't sound.  Maybe it is not reliable because you don't practice it... :P  If making this effect more reliable is your goal, then I would begin by playing a chromatic scale in whole notes, one hand at a time, very slowly, and always pianissimo.  Use mass quantities of pedal.  The fingers are absolutely stationary, yet relaxed, and you just pull the notes out of the piano with your arm.  All your movements are in slow-motion.  Of course the better the piano, the better this effect will come off.  

Matthay talks alot about finding the "tone spot", which means that for any given key/note, we study its descent and find the exact moment when the hammer is activated, and then we "play to" that spot.  The tone spot will vary from piano to piano.  This creates the worry that you are describing.  Because of differences in piano manufacturers, differences from one piano to the next within the same family, and differences in tuners and the way they might regulate the piano, you have to take a moment and find the tone spot each time you sit down at a different instrument.  When I go to a new hall, studio, piano store, or whatever, I am aware that the only thing I can be sure of is myself.  I can only control whatever goes on under my skin.  When we change ourselves everytime we sit down, that also contributes to faulty reliability.

Another issue that contributes to the feeling of unreliability is that we sometimes tense up right before we do a special effect.  In recital, we might want to do something special, but we chicken out at the very last second and tense up, which is exactly the thing that will kill any attempt at brushing.  Just experiment in your recitals and learn from your experiences.

And remember, if you are brushing a chord, the hand must be balanced specifically for the shape of each chord; otherwise, notes will be dropped.  This idea really applies to every chord we play, but especially the soft ones.

Not to turn your own quote against you, but it is possible to put your technique into a time capsule, too.  Try the brushing idea.  If not for me, then for the children.

For further reading on the idea of structure, check out Alan Fraser's book, "The Craft of Piano Playing."

Robert Henry


Offline donjuan

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #14 on: August 22, 2004, 08:35:27 AM
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Who is he?


I dont like giving out anyone's name w/o their permission, but I trust you, so check out your private message inbox.  ;)

donjuan

Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #15 on: August 22, 2004, 09:42:04 AM
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I assume by "not  reliable" you mean that sometimes the note won't sound.  Maybe it is not reliable because you don't practice it... :P  

Of course I don't practice it! Who practices this? (besides you :P)
^(rhetorical......)

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Of course the better the piano, the better this effect will come off.

Yeh, practicing this heavy-duty stuff on a Kawai is simply a waste of my time.  Ill just end up falling head over heels with a Steinway in a few years, only to abandon ole workhorse Kawai and have to relearn the whole thing over again.  Isn't playing the piano fun?

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This creates the worry that you are describing.

Indeed it does.  refer to my previous rant.

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In recital, we might want to do something special, but we chicken out at the very last second and tense up, which is exactly the thing that will kill any attempt at brushing.

I really don't see the advantages (I know, you're rolling your eyes - "he'll see the light one of these days") of brushing as far as changing the sound.  Let's say that I brush a chord in a live performance, and maybe I hit all the notes evenly after hours of my hard work and practicing, and maybe I don't.  Then let's say I 'firm the bridge' and this time find the tone spot of the piano (I should hope I know it by now, after having performed on it) and lightly press this chord, which is (almost) guaranteed to exact every note of the chord.  Can the audience tell a difference  in chords?  Could you?  I'm actaully kind of curious, cause I don't know for sure, but my $'s on no, I/we could not.

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Not to turn your own quote against you, but it is possible to put your technique into a time capsule, too.  

I've had worse.  Oh yes, it's possible (I'm a living example), but it is probably not highly saught after.  Who wants to play the same piece the same every time?

Quote

For further reading on the idea of structure, check out Alan Fraser's book, "The Craft of Piano Playing."

Heh, so 'The Art of Piano Playing' was already taken?  But seriously, Ill  check my local lib.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #16 on: August 22, 2004, 02:59:00 PM
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I really don't see the advantages (I know, you're rolling your eyes - "he'll see the light one of these days") of brushing as far as changing the sound.  Let's say that I brush a chord in a live performance, and maybe I hit all the notes evenly after hours of my hard work and practicing, and maybe I don't.  Then let's say I 'firm the bridge' and this time find the tone spot of the piano (I should hope I know it by now, after having performed on it) and lightly press this chord, which is (almost) guaranteed to exact every note of the chord.  Can the audience tell a difference  in chords?  Could you?  I'm actaully kind of curious, cause I don't know for sure, but my $'s on no, I/we could not.

Yes, these effects are audible, but one needs a very good piano and a good ear. So, it may be true that the audience will not be able to distinguish a chord played with a brushing motion compared to a chord played with a straight down motion at the same dynamic level. Good teachers, jurors, critiques, musicians and some listeners will. Also, one chord might not make a difference, but a whole piece played with subtle nuances in every note will give a completely different impression compared to one played with only vertical motions.
Achieving these effects requires practice on many levels. As I said, not every piano allows these nuances, only very good ones. One also must know what to listen for, so eartraining is very important too. Once you know what the sound should be like and the piano allows you to generate it, you will find a way to get it done.

Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #17 on: August 22, 2004, 06:12:56 PM
It just seems to me that either way, you are essentially doing the same thing: playing a soft chord on the piano.  Whatever means you have to get it done does not matter, because in the end, a few hammers will lightly strike the strings, which could have been activated via a human or a piano robot (wouldn't that be awesome?).  Maybe a brush and a light touch with a slightly firmed hand are like telling differences between 60 and 61 degree temperature.
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #18 on: August 22, 2004, 06:41:25 PM
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It just seems to me that either way, you are essentially doing the same thing: playing a soft chord on the piano.  Whatever means you have to get it done does not matter, because in the end, a few hammers will lightly strike the strings, which could have been activated via a human or a piano robot (wouldn't that be awesome?).  Maybe a brush and a light touch with a slightly firmed hand are like telling differences between 60 and 61 degree temperature.

Oh no. This is the secret (well, one of them) that distinguishes the amateur from the truely great pianist. I brought this up before on this forum. It makes a hell of a difference how a key is accelerated. The gist of it is that the hammer shanks acquire a certain amount of flexing during acceleration, which will give the hammer additional impact when it interacts with the strings, which in turn changes the tone quality.

Let's imagine three scenarios:
a) you hit the key in the middle and press down with constant force
b) you hit the key in the middle, but first, you start out with less force, then you accelerate
c) you hit the key in the middle, but first, you start out with more force, then you decelerate

Let's assume that in all three cases, the velocity when the the key goes through the escapement barrier is the same. Therefore, the loudness of the resulting sound will be the same, but the tone quality (harsh vs. soft, singing, etc.) will be noticeably different due to the different amount of flex in the hammer shanks. High-end pianos have carefully selected hammer shanks with resonance frequencies that are matched to the corresponding note.

The way you achieve these different types of acceleration pathways is yours to figure out. Sometimes, one has to start close to the fallboard and then slide the fingers towards the tip (there you have your brushing motion), sometimes it's the other way around. Whatever works.

Some disclaimer: all this is strongly debated. As I said above, good pianists using good equipment insist that it is possible to achieve these nuances. Somebody who does not know what to listen for may not be able to distinguish them. It requires well trained senses to hear the difference. If you are able to hear them, you will be able to distinguish a truly outstanding performance from a very good one. (I'm still working on that)

Offline allchopin

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #19 on: August 23, 2004, 09:36:29 PM
Sounds awfully pedantic to me..
Brush playing is like Jack dropping a piece of paper to Jill.  It floats around a lot and is hard to catch.  Why shouldn't Jack crumple up the paper a little, so that it falls straight and predictably?  After all, it all comes down to what velocity the hammers are travelling at when they strike the strings - same speed, same sound (and alos the release, but assuming the release is a constant in the equation).  
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Offline xvimbi

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Re: where is is the bridge of hand?
Reply #20 on: August 23, 2004, 11:01:09 PM
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Sounds awfully pedantic to me..
Brush playing is like Jack dropping a piece of paper to Jill.  It floats around a lot and is hard to catch.  Why shouldn't Jack crumple up the paper a little, so that it falls straight and predictably?  After all, it all comes down to what velocity the hammers are travelling at when they strike the strings - same speed, same sound (and alos the release, but assuming the release is a constant in the equation).  

Sorry, but this is where you are utterly wrong! The same speed does not translate into the same sound, because it is not only the speed that's important, but also how this speed has been attained. I thought I had explained why that is. Actually, there is another reason as well (just to be complete): When the key hits the keybed, it's impact is transmitted through the entire piano. These vibrations add to all the other vibrations in the instrument and affect the tone quality. Imagine hitting a note with a certain velocity but without pressing the key all the way to the keybed. Compare this to pressing the key, so that it has the same velocity as the first time around when it goes through the escapement barrier, but then keep accelerating and "slam" into the keybed. The resulting sound will be different.

You call it pedantic. The fact is that all these aspects contribute to the sound of an instrument. That's why discerning pianists play dozens of them, before they make a buying decision.

As I said before, mastering these possibilities of the piano is what distinguishes the masters from the amateurs.
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