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Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders? (Read 2101 times)

Offline scriabinophile

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Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
« on: September 25, 2013, 10:24:52 AM »
A 13-year-old student just began studying with me.  With her previous teacher she worked on such things as Bach 3-part Inventions, Debussy Arabesque #1, Bartok 6 Romanian Folk Dances; Mozart A Major Sonata, K 331; Chopin f minor Etude, Op 25, #2; and Schubert E-flat Impromptu, Op 90, #2.  I've noticed that when the student plays she tends to keep her elbows close to her body and also sit quite close to the keyboard, and to compensate she often has to play with raised wrists and shoulders. As a part of getting her to sit a bit farther back and free up her elbows and shoulders, I'd like her to work on a few pieces that require some large lateral arm motions -- ie: a lot of reaching for the upper and lower ends of the keyboard.

I've been racking my brains for appropriate pieces, but no good ideas are coming to me. Any suggestions for good pieces?

Offline theholygideons

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #1 on: September 25, 2013, 11:10:01 AM »
Allegro barbaro, by Charles Valentin Alkan.
It's not too bad. i learnt that when i was around 13. My technique drastically improved after i learnt it. It's good for building endurance and loosening up... by hammering out some octaves.  ;D

Offline stevenarmstrong

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 03:15:04 AM »
Hi there

I'd go with something with lots of long held chords; nothing overly virtuosic. I don't know that work of Alkan's but he doesn't usually make use of natural hand positions (nor does Chopin!) as compared with Liszt. Consequently, it may encourage more tension rather than help overcome it. Sounds to me like your student needs to learn to drop her arm weight and relax on impact. When my students have tension issues of the shoulders and arm I have them play a complete scale with just one finger in turn, dropping, and holding well each note. Strip it back to basics! Also I'd monitor how well they lift out of slurs: driving from the shoulder and elbow, lifting forward with the fingers in contact with the keys for as long as possible (unless staccato of course!). Like rowing I tell my students.

Another exercise, which most students find amusing, I hold their arm up above the keys from under the wrist, ask them to make a relaxed fist and then I drop their hand onto the keys. They must, however, release all tension before you drop so that only you are holding their arm up - you can feel when they are relying totally on you to hold them up. They should not control the fall but simply let go of their weight. It illustrates the volume you can create withOUT muscle tension. Next I tell them to just slightly nudge their hand toward the keys after I let go so that even more volume is created, essentially, effortlessly.

I struggled with tension by clamping my underarms. One day, my teacher finally used the right words for me "open your underarms as though resting your elbows on small beachballs."

If it is the fingers causing the tension then I'd highly recommend rhythm practice and slow staccato practice and it goes without saying that you should monitor tension. I'm sure you know that! So perhaps then Clementi's first two studies?? Fairly boring but it sounds like your student will be able to learn the notes quickly. I find that the thumb is most often the main culprit. (Get the student to play 12345 quickly and watch the thumb lift and buckle backwards!) Thumb exercises like those of Liszt's are great for training the thumb to relax and control strokes.

Overcoming tension is just so important isn't it? because tension is detrimental to the production of a good tone. If you want links to the above-mentioned works I'd be happy to find them for you. Let me know. I hope my thoughts are of some help!
 :)



Debussy Preludes 1:4, 2:9.
Beethoven Op. 22
Medtner Op. 5
Shchedrin Basso Ostinato
Silvestrov Op. 2

Offline awesom_o

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 05:42:08 AM »
My question is how badly would you say her playing is affected by the raised shoulders and close elbows?

Is it a definite problem, or is she able to get a relatively good musical result despite the unorthodox position?

That is very advanced repertoire for a person of that age.... and if they are really playing it nicely  at 13, they should be pretty good.

Offline stevenarmstrong

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 05:52:09 AM »
My question is how badly would you say her playing is affected by the raised shoulders and close elbows?

Is it a definite problem, or is she able to get a relatively good musical result despite the unorthodox position?

That is very advanced repertoire for a person of that age.... and if they are really playing it nicely  at 13, they should be pretty good.

Yeah, I was thinking...how can they play this kind of repertoire well and be so tense and whatnot? Tension effects sound so I doubt a good musical result is possible...
Debussy Preludes 1:4, 2:9.
Beethoven Op. 22
Medtner Op. 5
Shchedrin Basso Ostinato
Silvestrov Op. 2

Offline awesom_o

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 06:14:08 AM »
If there are problems with her current rep as a result of the posture, fix the posture!

Why assign an even more difficult work for her to learn from scratch, if what you are really trying to change is her physical relationship to the keyboard?

Offline scriabinophile

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #6 on: September 30, 2013, 10:06:51 AM »
Thanks for the various comments and ideas.

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...fix the posture!

Yes, that's the plan, as I mentioned in my original post:
"As a part of getting her to sit a bit farther back and free up her elbows and shoulders,..."

Quote
Why assign an even more difficult work

I didn't say that I wanted to assign an even more difficult work. In fact, I was imagining something along the lines of what Steven said:

Quote
I'd go with something with lots of long held chords; nothing overly virtuosic.

Anyway, we will continue to work on new rep in the future, and I'd like to find a few pieces for her that especially help promote some freedom of the elbows. I'll keep mulling things over.  Thanks, again for all the ideas.

Offline j_menz

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #7 on: October 01, 2013, 03:47:29 AM »
I've noticed that when the student plays she tends to keep her elbows close to her body and also sit quite close to the keyboard, and to compenesate she often has to play with raised wrists and shoulders.

Tell her that if she sits back a bit, she'll find it easier to play. If she does, the problem will be solved. If she doesn't, it's not a problem in the first place.
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline awesom_o

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #8 on: October 01, 2013, 04:30:19 PM »
Tell her that if she sits back a bit, she'll find it easier to play. If she does, the problem will be solved. If she doesn't, it's not a problem in the first place.

This seems to me an elegant solution!

Offline classicalnhiphop

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #9 on: October 02, 2013, 10:05:24 PM »
la campanella is a good piece to teach students to remove all tension

Offline swagmaster420x

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #10 on: October 02, 2013, 11:22:00 PM »
Allegro barbaro, by Charles Valentin Alkan.
It's not too bad. i learnt that when i was around 13. My technique drastically improved after i learnt it. It's good for building endurance and loosening up... by hammering out some octaves.  ;D

holy fuk u were pro when you were 13 then

Offline theholygideons

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #11 on: October 02, 2013, 11:31:37 PM »

holy fuk u were pro when you were 13 then

It was partially to challenge myself, since my teacher would never prescribed anything like that to me.

Offline scriabinophile

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #12 on: October 09, 2013, 08:13:56 PM »
Thanks again to the several people who recommended pieces. After mulling things over, I've decided to use a few short excerpts -- bits of Liszt, Brahms, and Prokofiev -- instead of whole pieces.

Offline cabbynum

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #13 on: October 10, 2013, 03:47:39 PM »
It was partially to challenge myself, since my teacher would never prescribed anything like that to me.

That piece is only hard for me on the last page with those crazy runs, the rest of it was really easy. I had it at full tempo (excluding that last page) within an hour.
If you are good at octaves it should be no problem at all.
Currently Working on
Bach Prelude and fugue no.4 Book 1
Beethoven Tempest
Chopin Barcarolle op.60
Alkan Le Festin D'Esope
Hamelin Paganini Variations
Schubert D.960

Offline elizasays

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Re: Good Rep for Freeing up the Elbows & Shoulders?
«Reply #14 on: November 25, 2013, 06:04:14 PM »
I would recommend pieces that are easier than the students level, so that the student can focus on the way the piece is played rather than challenges associated with learning a difficult piece

Bergmuller Op 100  - No 20 Tarantelle & No 24 L'hirondelle

Bergmuller Op 109 - No 8 Agitato

Hope this helps