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Topic: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT  (Read 5907 times)

Offline piano6888

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Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
on: January 04, 2016, 06:05:35 AM
Hey guys, here is a topic that has been on mind for quite a while.  Physical aspect of piano playing.  When I've read threads in the past about whether piano playing is a mental activity or a physical activity, the general consensus is that piano playing is a mental activity rather than a physical one, which is true to some extent.  

However, from my experiences, I think it is both, while more on the mental aspect (mental agility, familiarity with the keys, and the fact that the brain controls the body- arms, wrists, hands, and fingers) though.  The physical aspect of piano playing should not be overlooked and it's something I've run into when I had lessons with both of my piano teachers (pre-conservatory and during conservatory, but more so pre-conservatory). I would say piano playing is somewhere around 30-40% physical and around 60-70% mental.

This is because if one does not have the stamina and dexterity (I know I've stressed in old topics about how pianists should avoid certain exercises and sports to avoid injury, but I still support the fact that a physically fit, healthy pianist is also imperative towards successful piano playing), strength, or physical ability to do so, it doesn't matter how much your brain tells you to go, your body just cannot physically execute the action.  

One such case was when I was around age 14 I played the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, was preparing it for a recital and I was unable to play the passages quickly, let alone evenly due to fatigued, tired arms and fingers, resulting in a significant loss in dexterity.  The more I pushed, the more pain I encountered.  My teacher didn't really buy my excuse and of course she continued to scold me for playing poorly and saying that I wasn't prepared.  From that day on, I knew that the physical aspect of piano playing is still significant, especially for flashy, technical pieces.  

My conservatory teacher was more understanding and also knew more about technique, economic use of wrists, fingers, arms, not being too stiff, and more.

(I'm sure this topic has probably been discussed many times in the past as well as fairly recently, however, from my experiences, I am going to discuss a slightly different aspect of it.  Here is a little background of me.  I've played piano for over 15 years (started around age of 8), had two teachers in my lifetime, one private teacher in a private studio and another one at a music conservatory.  I've taken lessons for about 9 years, the latter part being in the conservatory.  Currently, I'm studying a different field (computer science) so I don't have as much time to devote to practicing as well as playing on a conservatory standard, much less, afford a teacher (it costs quite a bit for lessons, especially from a good teacher).  

Anyways, that's just my experiences, I'm sure there are people who will say differently or tell me that it's because I'm using the wrong technique, not relaxing enough, etc., but at the end of the day, I still believe that if given two pianists, A and B respectively, that if both are using the same (correct) technique, utilizing their arms, fingers, wrists, etc. correctly, both playing the same physically demanding pieces, then the one with more stamina and physical capability would be able to execute a technically demanding piece better than the one with less physical ability.  

Oh and here is an good example: Chopin's Etude Op. 10, No. 4, while one has to be agile (mental agility is involved for sure), one also has to have the stamina and dexterity to pull it off.  If two pianists, both are playing at the same level, correct technique, etc. but one does not have the stamina and dexterity to navigate the stream of sixteenth notes and runs, then the one with stamina + dexterity will do better than the one without.   
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Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #1 on: January 04, 2016, 05:59:32 PM
Yes stamina is a big aspect to taking next level steps in ones musicianship especially instruments like piano, trumpet, violin for example.
I have realized this in my class that my friends although do the same exercises as I do let say Schaum finger power tremolo practice , they can't make it all the way through. I always was able to do these exercises (given I know how to do the exercise properly first) but I never had a problem sustaining a tremolo for five minutes let's say straight. They can't. Yes they are ladies and not sure if they exercise physically but I have much of my life for many years. I guess as you put it, these aspects of physical condition due to ones experience w sport or physical exercise does contribute to sustaining power and stamina at the instrument. I do agree. 
It is yes a property of experience and training at the keyboard but also majorly also has to do with overall body condition.
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #2 on: January 04, 2016, 06:32:55 PM
There's some truth in this, I think. My prime example is the Chopin Military polonaise; lots of chords and octaves all over the place, lots of repeats. You can get fatigued easily even when you're playing loose, because there is a small amount of tension required in the arms to do anything at all. Of course, when it goes beyond this is when you get problems.
But yes, some pieces are fatiguing, such as the Chopin military polonaise (and perhaps the Ocean etude).

Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #3 on: January 04, 2016, 07:43:43 PM
Here is what  I observed:  Yesterday, immediately after practicing an intensive group (for me) of finger independence exercises for the left hand that I did for 2 days in a row (4 hours each day),  I decided for fun to see how well I could play trills in thirds for left hand alone using fingers 5,4,3,2 and also fingers 4,3,2,1.  I could not even play these at one quarter my usual speed.  My left hand and forearm experienced no pain, they just felt fatigued. My left hand was not used to 2 days in a row of these exercises.  Today, I was able to play these trills better than ever for a short period, but my hand still felt fatigued.  I know “endurance” is a controversial term in piano practice.  I will discuss this with my teacher when I begin lessons in the near future.

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #4 on: January 05, 2016, 04:16:31 AM
Thanks for all the thoughtful replies.  I would say that I was shaken and bothered by what my old piano teacher said about piano playing is all in the mind and ignored my complaint about physical pain.  >:( :'(  Also I would like to thank you all for agreeing with me; even partially, which means while piano playing is more of a mental activity, there is also a physical component to it (more so for more technically demanding repertoire).  

If I was a teacher or became a teacher, I would certainly include physical aspects of playing in my curriculum as I believe it is essential for students to utilize their body economically and efficiently. For the teachers that ignore the physical aspect of playing, they are only inhibiting their student's progress on more technically demanding and virtuosic repertoire.  

(About over half a year ago, I did make a similar topic talking about pianist's injuries outside of piano playing, which supports my view on how physical ability and well being is also important for successful piano playing.)
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Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #5 on: January 05, 2016, 04:42:54 AM
Earlier post: One such case was when I was around age 14 I played the 3rd movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, was preparing it for a recital and I was unable to play the passages quickly, let alone evenly due to fatigued, tired arms and fingers, resulting in a significant loss in dexterity.  The more I pushed, the more pain I encountered.  My teacher didn't really buy my excuse and of course she continued to scold me for playing poorly and saying that I wasn't prepared.  From that day on, I knew that the physical aspect of piano playing is still significant, especially for flashy, technical pieces.

Based on my experience with fatigue in my left hand today, I can relate to this 100%, except I do not experience any pain or discomfort..  My right hand is doing great today, but my left hand has not recovered from the prior 2 days.  If I had to play a recital today, I would cancel.  I am going to be careful in the future to know when I am over doing it.  Over tiring your hands, like it sounds like you did when you were 14, is something that needs to be avoided before a recital.  I would guess that this is something your teacher should have been able to help you with.  So, I am in agreement with you.

One more thought (using modify):  If you are giving a recital, you may feel the need to increase the amount of practice in the final few days.  This increase may lead to fatigue and may result in a much worse performance.  Maybe the key is to not increase practice in the few days or so before a recital.  Those with performing experience may have better things to say about this.

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #6 on: January 05, 2016, 05:54:51 AM
I think you raise a good point, though from my experiences is that I'm only going with what I know can do within the week.  Basically, if I've already learned the piece a certain way and it's already ingrained/set in stone and would require massive overhauls to re-learn, then a week's time or so is just simply not enough time to make major changes.  (Example: If I had a recital or audition in 5 days, then I'm just going to play as I do currently, not making any major changes.  However, if said recital or audition is a few more weeks ahead or at least months ahead, then yes there is time to make major adjustments.)

As far as practicing more, maybe not, however, I would say be consistent with the time (don't play less but don't play much more either), and instead of normal practice, it would be a mock program run through (similar to how a pre-concert/audition rehearsal would be).  Finally, during performance or audition, it's just do my best and let the results fall where they may.
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Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #7 on: January 05, 2016, 06:43:42 AM
Good advice.  Thank you! :) Yesterday was the first day I experienced significant fatigue and so I felt a desire to say something.  I will see what my future teacher says about technique, economic use of wrists, fingers, arms, not being too stiff, and more in regard to MY fatigue.  I have been working from Murray McLachlan's "The Foundations of Technique", but this is not the same as seeing a good teacher.  My intuition is that the Physical aspect of piano playing is also important, as you stated and it is NOT all 100% mental.

Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #8 on: January 05, 2016, 09:50:41 PM
I played sports avidly while in high school, and even now, I lift weights 2-3 times a week and exercise every day. I am quite strong, though I don't have that much endurance. I'm 21 right now.

People will probably light me on fire for saying this, but strength really does help, for me particularly so since I developed a lot of fast twitch muscles. Combine this with really economic use of my body, I can do a lot of crazy things that some of my friends can't. The difference, however, is really, really small. Because I'm stronger, I can accelerate certain parts of my body just a little bit faster, and that really helps for epic tremolos, etc. So there's a certain speed element that is gained. However, I never feel myself straining, and I never feel like it's more than a walk in the park.

In terms of endurance, however, I have never found it that much of a problem; recently I've been doing full runthroughs of Appassionata (~23 minutes in length of some pretty crazy stuff), but I find that it's more taxing on the brain than anything else. However, I find that composers are typically nice and give you some parts to rest. (Second movement of Appassionata, the first half)

In terms of 10-4, Chopin is giving you plenty of rest; you should not get tired since you are constantly juggling the melody lines between the hands. Playing little staccato chords should not be exhausting. (The end, however, is a different story, but it doesn't last that long)

10-1, however, is a different story (for the right hand), so I guess there is an element of endurance involved.

I agree, however, that there is definitely a physical element involved; you need the bare minimum to be able to go for a walk in the park. However, I think more of the problem is that people are "bleeding away" the force that they generate, usually in the form of poor structural integrity (fancy talk for not lining up your bones), and so their muscles must compensate, and so dual muscular pull occurs. (You are in essence fighting yourself) Some of this must occur, but you must reduce it to a minimum, but I think that is the main problem.
I am trying to become Franz Liszt. Trying. And failing.

Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #9 on: January 05, 2016, 11:18:15 PM
The last post is very informative!  For me, the best thing is to see a good teacher.  But I do have a question that I am hoping is helpful to this discussion. You say the Appassionata is more taxing on the brain than anything else.  What are you thinking about that makes this taxing to the brain?  Is all your mental energy devoted to such things as to keeping your bones lined up properly and maintaining good structural integrity and other items of technique?  It sounds like for you piano playing is maybe something like 95% mental and 5% physical due to having great technique.  I will never be able to have great technique because I started playing piano at a late age.  So piano will have a larger physical aspect percentage for me due to items such as “bleeding away” as you say.  But I hope to develop good basic technique with the help of a teacher.   I do believe in the importance of having the best technique possible.  Thank you.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #10 on: January 06, 2016, 12:00:40 AM
The last post is very informative!  For me, the best thing is to see a good teacher.  But I do have a question that I am hoping is helpful to this discussion. You say the Appassionata is more taxing on the brain than anything else.  What are you thinking about that makes this taxing to the brain?  Is all your mental energy devoted to such things as to keeping your bones lined up properly and maintaining good structural integrity and other items of technique?  It sounds like for you piano playing is maybe something like 95% mental and 5% physical due to having great technique.  I will never be able to have great technique because I started playing piano at a late age.  So piano will have a larger physical aspect percentage for me due to items such as “bleeding away” as you say.  But I hope to develop good basic technique with the help of a teacher.   I do believe in the importance of having the best technique possible.  Thank you.
Thank you for broaching this subject.  Most pianists seldom venture into the realm of something other than: what my teacher told me.  Your courage should be commended.

Then again, based on your geographical location, I can recommend the following:  Dorothy Taubman, Edna Golandsky, and my coach Dr. Thomas Mark have spend the better part of their adult lives writing, lecturing, and teaching on this very subject.  Their works can be perused, and if so inclined, studied through any respectable music library.

As I have referred to in many prior posts, the Taubman/Golandsky tapes/CD's can be obtained "free of cost" (they are enormously expensive) through academic sources, library or piano faculty.

Dr. Mark's two works are entitled "What Every Pianist Needs To Know About The Body," (which is in most piano department chair's personal library), and his recent book which relates directly to your this specific post is entitled, "Motion, Emotion, and Love."  Once again, you can peruse these works free of cost through any music school library, or if you want to pay for it, through Amazon.com.

Please get all of these for free if you can.  Good luck to you, and if in the future, you wish to further this discussion, "Yeah team!"

On this same website, today they featured HRH Andres Schiff lecturing on the physical concept of breathing.  Trust me, you and I probably know way more about that subject than he does.

That means:  go with your gut and make all of the inquires and comments that you so desire.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #11 on: January 06, 2016, 12:09:44 AM
As an oversight, I forgot to state my common suggestion, which is for you to contact me by private message, if that is your inclination.

Offline themeandvariation

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #12 on: January 06, 2016, 12:40:16 AM
Mr. Podesta, To say,

"On this same website, today they featured HRH Andres Schiff lecturing on the physical concept of breathing.  Trust me, you and I probably know way more about that subject than he does."

about someone who is a unquestionably master of physical technique, and perhaps one of the greatest musicians of our time, and sacrifice him upon your altar, doesn't help your repeated 'cut and paste argument'.  btw his lectures are not to be dismissed with a sneer.  His depth and breadth of understanding is not something one should deter others from hearing.

4'33"

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #13 on: January 06, 2016, 02:08:31 AM
Sounds like I got a pretty good discussion going here :P Anyways, I'm happy to hear there are more people agreeing with me and while it is easier said than done, I'm going to try not to waste energy on dwelling about my past teacher (first one) being incorrect in her teaching and scolding.

With regards to xdjuicebox's post, yes there is a minimal amount of physical force required for playing loudly, though having too much strength, muscle mass, or stiff arms could be counterproductive to good piano playing, especially when the muscle hinders one's range of motion, mobility on the keys.  All in all, you are right though, being fit and physically healthy can aid in piano playing in general. 

To everyone else, thank you for your thoughts and those that agree with me :)
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Offline iansinclair

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #14 on: January 06, 2016, 02:29:58 AM
Your teacher should have stopped and thought for 2 seconds before sounding off.  The physical is very important in piano playing (or pretty much any other instrument -- including voice!).  If you are not in decent shape -- muscles throughout the body, but also your breathing and circulation, you will have real trouble getting anywhere.

The mind controls the machinery, that's perfectly true -- but if the machinery doesn't work...

As an extreme, consider what an injury might do... :)
Ian

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #15 on: January 06, 2016, 02:40:41 AM
Well said Ian, pretty much my sentiments and I like your analogy of machinery.  In those terms, the onboard computer (software) controls the machinery, and the machinery (mechanical parts, moving parts, hardware) is the muscle or the part that gets the job done. 

As far as an injury, of course, that would make things even worse in terms of performance, which is another (but similar) topic altogether.  Mind you, if someone is not in very good physical shape to begin with, then suffers an injury, then yes their performance would go from mediocre to horrendous very quickly, so yes that in itself is another big factor too. 
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Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #16 on: January 06, 2016, 02:53:29 AM
On occasion (hopefully not too often), I like to engage in a conversation for the fun of it, and for no other reason.

Piano6888 says in the original post:  “I would say piano playing is somewhere around 30-40% physical and around 60-70% mental.” 

We have not heard back from xjuicebox yet, but it may be he is saying what I guessed before:  Piano playing is ”maybe something like 95% mental and 5% physical”.  I hope xjuicebox will correct me if I am wrong.

How can both be correct?  The differences in technical ability may be the answer.  Maybe those that believe piano playing is almost all mental are those that have great technique.  I may be misreading some of the earlier posts and apologize if I am not understanding or misstating anything here.

Also, thank you to Mr. Podesta for your suggestions!  I will look into these over in the upcoming months. 

This will be my last post for a while, but I will continue to read further posts. :)

Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #17 on: January 06, 2016, 08:04:55 AM
Please consider this part of last post (modify button is gone, sorry about that).  I just re-read my answer and I need to make 1 subtle change:  How can both be correct?  The differences in technique technical ability MAY be the answer.  Maybe those that believe piano playing is almost all mental are those that have great technique.

2 players can have the same technical ability to play the Appassionata well for example (I love that piece), but 1 may have better technique, making it easier (less physical) for him to play it.  I did not want to imply that XDjuicebox can play better than Piano6888. I also capitalized the word MAY and say that this is just a question that I am raising.  Thanks all again.  I learned a lot from this discussion!

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #18 on: January 06, 2016, 08:20:35 PM
After reading your most recent post Georgey, I had respond to your post.  In regards to players with a better technique, sure they may be able to use less force/physical exertion to achieve the same, if not better, results that one with the lesser technique, however, the use of their arms, fingers, wrists, and hands are still physical aspects.  

The point that I'm driving home is that piano playing is NEVER a 100% (purely) mental activity, there is still a fair amount of physical activity (stamina, dexterity, finger strength*) involved in playing the piano, even with the said technique.  So basically, if one has good technique, while they may be able to compensate for somewhat less physical ability/body geometry, the fact is that the physical well being of a pianist can not be ignored (fingers, wrists, hands, arms in good shape, uninjured, and healthy).

*heavily debated, but in certain pieces and times, yes it does have some impact, along with the action/feel of the keys.
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Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #19 on: January 07, 2016, 12:03:27 AM
After reading your most recent post Georgey, I had respond to your post.  In regards to players with a better technique, sure they may be able to use less force/physical exertion to achieve the same, if not better, results that one with the lesser technique, however, the use of their arms, fingers, wrists, and hands are still physical aspects.  

The point that I'm driving home is that piano playing is NEVER a 100% (purely) mental activity, there is still a fair amount of physical activity (stamina, dexterity, finger strength*) involved in playing the piano, even with the said technique.  So basically, if one has good technique, while they may be able to compensate for somewhat less physical ability/body geometry, the fact is that the physical well being of a pianist can not be ignored (fingers, wrists, hands, arms in good shape, uninjured, and healthy).

*heavily debated, but in certain pieces and times, yes it does have some impact, along with the action/feel of the keys.
Very well said, however, I wish to point out that every major music school has in their libraries the tapes/CD's of Taubman/Golandsky.  And, most of their piano/keyboard department chairs have a copy of Thomas Mark's book, "What Every Pianist Needs To Know About The Body."

In addition, Dr. Mark's recent book, "Motion, Emotion, and Love" specifically addresses the initial thesis of the OP.

This is not a subject for simple discussion, it is a matter for which years of research and writing have been addressed for quite some while.  I respectfully suggest that you avail yourself of the opportunity of perusing said knowledge.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1579999018/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=3482968587&hvqmt=p&hvbmt=bp&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_1a70bhw5ex_p

Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #20 on: January 07, 2016, 07:33:17 AM
I'm a big fan of Taubman method/Golandsky's work; there was a point where I did not play for 8 months due to the intense pain in both of my arms (ironically from playing my own compositions), and my new teacher introduced me to a modified Taubman method, which enabled me to get over the technical difficulties and "free" me.

And the actual percent of physical activity really varies. But it should always feel good, even if you're working super hard and sweating. For a piece like Chopin Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor, it's like 99% mental and 1% physical. For a piece like Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel (no, I can't play it and don't intend to for a couple years XD), it's more like 99% and 50% physical (lol jk) I'd say more like 70% mental and 30% physical. HOWEVER, it will feel like you are running a marathon. But marathons aren't strenuous, they are, however, exhausting, but it still feels like a healthy use of the body, which is important.

The main problems people have are dual muscular pull (due to the need to stabilize themselves because of weak bone alignment), and unnecessary contraction of muscles due to poor neural programming. But that's something good teachers and good practice can fix.

For example, when I play La Campanella (or I should say attempt to play LOL), once I get to the octave sections, it literally feels like a marathon, and I'm working VERY hard. In fact, I very frequently start sweating. However, it doesn't feel like any strain at all, it feels like a good use of my body, and I can keep it going for quite a decent amount of time. (If you watch Kissin's Proms performance, you can actually see the sweat dripping from his chin LOL)

In regards to my mental focus, all of that is explicitly on music; the plan I had for it, the inspiration of the moment, and my temperament decide how I want to play. I "hear" the music in my head just a split second before I play it. Then I try to make it come out.

The way I like to think of it is that the music itself is the cause for everything, and technique is the effect. I will not do a motion if there is no musical purpose for it. The "motions" of technique are supposed to be ingrained 100% into muscle memory (though I'm not quite there yet XD...far from it), so you don't have to think about them, but you sing a phrase in your head, and your hands know how to play it. However, you must spend a lot of time figuring out exactly how to move your hands to get the sounds that you want.

So the physical aspect of the piano is VERY important, because it is the vehicle that enables the most important part - the music. But the physical aspect must arise from the musical need - forming a perfect circle of cause and effect. The musical need causes the technique (the effect), which in turn creates music... Too often I see people with only one or the other (and I lack quite a bit of both myself LOL), but yeah...

Strength is great; in fact, the more the better. HOWEVER, you must be able to control how much you use; I don't mean strain, I mean pure muscle power. A perfectly "relaxed" contraction is more efficient with more strength. Say I want to pick up a really heavy object. If I "strained," then I would contract both the biceps and the triceps, and they would fight each other (really inefficient), but this gives me the illusion of strength. However, if I contracted only my biceps, I can achieve a TON of power, and it won't really feel like much if I am sufficiently strong.

I'm really thankful I had a good teacher to instill great technique in me, but it's never too late! Find a teacher, preferably one who understands Taubman technique, and you will see what I mean XD
I am trying to become Franz Liszt. Trying. And failing.

Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #21 on: January 08, 2016, 12:10:46 AM
"I'm a big fan of Taubman method/Golandsky's work; there was a point where I did not play for 8 months due to the intense pain in both of my arms (ironically from playing my own compositions), and my new teacher introduced me to a modified Taubman method, which enabled me to get over the technical difficulties and "free" me."

With all due respect, this particular analysis solves nothing.  Thomas Mark's method and its associated epistemology, addresses the overall body/mind method of playing the piano.

It is not rocket science, and every time I see someone talking about the "muscles" for this or that, I cringe.  Please avail yourselves of Dr. Mark's books and then respond back with your critiques.

And, you will not do that for the same reason Dr. Mark cannot get booked (and I have tried!) into any major music school in the nation for a seminar/master class.

Because, after he has left their campus (associated with teaching private lessons), what do the piano faculty members say to their students at their next piano lesson when they say:  what do I do now!

Offline georgey

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #22 on: January 08, 2016, 12:38:44 AM
I ordered Dr. Mark's books on Amazon yesterday.  I look forward to reading them.  Thank you!

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #23 on: January 08, 2016, 07:17:42 AM
In response to Xdjuicebox, I do want to clarify that I am talking on a very broad term of physical aspects in piano playing.  I am referring to the physical action of playing and that the physical action of course can be better or worse depending on the condition of the pianist's body at the time (fatigued, tired, injured, under-developed, neglected, etc.) 

I wish I could modify my previous posts, but it appears there is a time limit to when the post was posted.

I'm a big fan of Taubman method/Golandsky's work; there was a point where I did not play for 8 months due to the intense pain in both of my arms (ironically from playing my own compositions), and my new teacher introduced me to a modified Taubman method, which enabled me to get over the technical difficulties and "free" me.

And the actual percent of physical activity really varies. But it should always feel good, even if you're working super hard and sweating. For a piece like Chopin Prelude Op. 28 No. 4 in E minor, it's like 99% mental and 1% physical. For a piece like Scarbo from Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel (no, I can't play it and don't intend to for a couple years XD), it's more like 99% and 50% physical (lol jk) I'd say more like 70% mental and 30% physical. HOWEVER, it will feel like you are running a marathon. But marathons aren't strenuous, they are, however, exhausting, but it still feels like a healthy use of the body, which is important.


In regards Chopin's Prelude in E minor, yes there are pieces where there is less physical ability than mental ability, though to move the arms, hands, wrists, and fingers, one would still need to have the physical capacity to carry through it.  I would not claim that it is only 1%, it is much more than that but definitely less than 50%.  Now of course, you would still have to have good/adequate physical ability in order to be able to "physically" play the piece (press the keys, moving your fingers, wrists, and arms as well as the range of motion and delicate touch) to produce the sound that is needed for the prelude.

A fatigued arm, raw fingers, muscle spasm, damaged nerves, body injuries, etc. would of course compromise and adversely affect your (or ANYONE's) piano playing, but this goes without saying :P

The main problems people have are dual muscular pull (due to the need to stabilize themselves because of weak bone alignment), and unnecessary contraction of muscles due to poor neural programming. But that's something good teachers and good practice can fix.

That is an interesting assessment.


For example, when I play La Campanella (or I should say attempt to play LOL), once I get to the octave sections, it literally feels like a marathon, and I'm working VERY hard. In fact, I very frequently start sweating. However, it doesn't feel like any strain at all, it feels like a good use of my body, and I can keep it going for quite a decent amount of time. (If you watch Kissin's Proms performance, you can actually see the sweat dripping from his chin LOL)

In regards to my mental focus, all of that is explicitly on music; the plan I had for it, the inspiration of the moment, and my temperament decide how I want to play. I "hear" the music in my head just a split second before I play it. Then I try to make it come out.

The way I like to think of it is that the music itself is the cause for everything, and technique is the effect. I will not do a motion if there is no musical purpose for it. The "motions" of technique are supposed to be ingrained 100% into muscle memory (though I'm not quite there yet XD...far from it), so you don't have to think about them, but you sing a phrase in your head, and your hands know how to play it. However, you must spend a lot of time figuring out exactly how to move your hands to get the sounds that you want.

So the physical aspect of the piano is VERY important, because it is the vehicle that enables the most important part - the music. But the physical aspect must arise from the musical need - forming a perfect circle of cause and effect. The musical need causes the technique (the effect), which in turn creates music... Too often I see people with only one or the other (and I lack quite a bit of both myself LOL), but yeah...

Good observation and yes, I believe that they are both interdependent of each other.  The physical aspect is what actually creates the music (execution of the musical need/idea) and the mental aspect is what is planned (planning, musical idea).  

They both rely on each because if one has the physical aspect, but lacks the mental aspect, they have the ingredients for a dish, but lack the recipe or instructions to prepare the dish.  Similarly if they have the mental aspect but lack the physical aspect, then have the recipe but lack the ingredients to make the dish.  (food analogy lol)

Strength is great; in fact, the more the better. HOWEVER, you must be able to control how much you use; I don't mean strain, I mean pure muscle power. A perfectly "relaxed" contraction is more efficient with more strength. Say I want to pick up a really heavy object. If I "strained," then I would contract both the biceps and the triceps, and they would fight each other (really inefficient), but this gives me the illusion of strength. However, if I contracted only my biceps, I can achieve a TON of power, and it won't really feel like much if I am sufficiently strong.

With regards to physical strength, too much strength (being muscle-bound, stiff) can be counter-productive towards playing, especially pieces that require a large range of motion, sensitive touch (lighter muscles), and dexterity (important for passages and pieces that require precise notes, touch, and more).  I know there is a weight lifter that managed to do well
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimiko_Douglass-Ishizaka, but I believe she is one of the few exceptions rather than the rule (yes there are people that do make both worlds work athlete + musician, but very rare.)

The times where strength can be beneficial would be stamina, endurance, and getting a larger sound when pressing the keys.  I do agree that controlled strength is important too, just that too much strength regardless of how good a technique is will hinder your playing.
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Offline anamnesis

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #24 on: January 08, 2016, 05:14:58 PM
With regards to physical strength, too much strength (being muscle-bound, stiff) can be counter-productive towards playing, especially pieces that require a large range of motion, sensitive touch (lighter muscles), and dexterity (important for passages and pieces that require precise notes, touch, and more).  I know there is a weight lifter that managed to do well
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimiko_Douglass-Ishizaka, but I believe she is one of the few exceptions rather than the rule (yes there are people that do make both worlds work athlete + musician, but very rare.)

The times where strength can be beneficial would be stamina, endurance, and getting a larger sound when pressing the keys.  I do agree that controlled strength is important too, just that too much strength regardless of how good a technique is will hinder your playing.

Too much strength is not a problem at all if you know what you are doing.

I'm a fairly strong guy  (405 dead lift, 360 squat, 185 overhead press, 270 plate bench), and I have no problems at all.  The fundamental language of movement is virtually the same, and the required integrity of structure is common to both.   

Strength only becomes a problem when you are trained to focus on the peripheral, vertical actions of articulation rather than the centralized, horizontal, rhythmic actions between the production of tones. 

You'd be surprised at how mastery of just the bicep and other forearm flexors are involved in a light touch.  A sparkling chromatic double third run such as those in op 25 no 6 should be captured inside the continuous pull of the biceps, which helps coordinate the smaller actions of articutation into a unified statement. 

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #25 on: January 09, 2016, 12:46:58 AM
While I don't deny that there are bodybuilders out there that can play the piano at a very proficient (and even professional/virtuosic) level, they are the exception rather than the norm.  I suppose if muscles used correctly could be beneficial, but then it would have to be specific muscle groups that are compatible with touch sensitivity, control of the technique (fingers, wrists, and arms).  Since I'm not a sports doctor, physician, nor a doctor in general, I won't go into the specifics as I do not know all the inner workings and details of how each muscle is used in playing.

I will, however, make the assertion that having the too much strength in the wrong muscles can be more detrimental than beneficial in playing, especially when it limits range of motion, mobility, touch sensitivity, dynamics, etc.  Basically, having lean, toned muscles, while still being able to be limber and flexible is the best (enough strength and stamina to play well, have great control, but not too much where it impedes playing.).

Also, what I mean about the physical aspect of playing is more on a broad scale, meaning the physical action of playing the piano (pressing the keys, moving the arm, wrist, and fingers, etc.).  Strength, stamina, dexterity are just parts of the physical aspect of playing. 

In an earlier post, I've mentioned that injuries can impede with the physical aspect and at times, mental aspect (which goes without saying).  So I wrote this topic mainly to emphasize the importance of the physical ability to play the piano should not be ignored, overlooked, or brushed off as insignificant as well as a rebuttal to what my earliest piano teacher said to me about 11 years ago (which of course bothered me). While there are some pieces that require less physical effort to play, there is still a fair amount of physical ability needed to produce the musical idea/perform the piece.  To finish this post, I will leave with the remark that strength is one of the attributes of the physical component for piano playing, but the "WRONG" strength or excessive strength can be counterproductive.
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Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #26 on: January 12, 2016, 06:49:51 PM
"I'm a big fan of Taubman method/Golandsky's work; there was a point where I did not play for 8 months due to the intense pain in both of my arms (ironically from playing my own compositions), and my new teacher introduced me to a modified Taubman method, which enabled me to get over the technical difficulties and "free" me."

With all due respect, this particular analysis solves nothing.  Thomas Mark's method and its associated epistemology, addresses the overall body/mind method of playing the piano.

It is not rocket science, and every time I see someone talking about the "muscles" for this or that, I cringe.  Please avail yourselves of Dr. Mark's books and then respond back with your critiques.

And, you will not do that for the same reason Dr. Mark cannot get booked (and I have tried!) into any major music school in the nation for a seminar/master class.

Because, after he has left their campus (associated with teaching private lessons), what do the piano faculty members say to their students at their next piano lesson when they say:  what do I do now!

I'm kind of sad you assume me to be so closed-minded as to not be receptive to other views lol. I have already ordered the book and it's currently in the mail, I'll get back to you after I read it. I am curious how this may better my playing.

You are correct in saying that the Taubman/Golandsky method addresses the purely physical components of playing, but I cannot deny that it feels very good to play haha.

Thanks for the recommendation.
I am trying to become Franz Liszt. Trying. And failing.

Offline kawai_cs

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #27 on: January 13, 2016, 12:02:02 AM
Guys, when you have read Dr Mark's book(s) come back and start a thread on them, please!
I have just started reading Neuhaus's book so Dr Mark has to wait till I am ready with it.
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline xdjuicebox

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #28 on: January 14, 2016, 05:35:19 AM
Guys, when you have read Dr Mark's book(s) come back and start a thread on them, please!
I have just started reading Neuhaus's book so Dr Mark has to wait till I am ready with it.

Will do! And the Neuhaus book, in particular the first chapter, is literal GOLD.
I am trying to become Franz Liszt. Trying. And failing.

Offline twelfthroot2

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #29 on: January 19, 2016, 10:04:01 PM
I wasn't able to read all of the posts yet, but one thing I'd like to add about the physical side of piano is that having conditioned muscles to move the fingers and arms improves coordination.  This is a mental effect, but it is enhanced by physical improvements (as well as mental improvements).

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #30 on: January 22, 2016, 03:32:00 AM
^ That is true and being physically healthy is also beneficial to pianists, and musicians overall.  Having toned, flexible, yet limber muscles is the key to success since that would allow the pianist to be dexterous while having the stamina to traverse the fast runs, drills, and passages. 
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Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #31 on: July 01, 2016, 03:35:34 PM
Bumping this topic before it becomes too old, and even now, my opinion and viewpoint has remained the same, especially the physical aspect of playing. This is because one's physical faculties (their body, upper body mostly, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers - along with muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, etc.) are also important along with the mental faculties in order to be a successful pianist. Piano playing is both a mental and physical activity, while a bit more mental than physical, the physical aspect cannot be overlooked or minimized.
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Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #32 on: July 01, 2016, 11:32:12 PM
Bumping this topic before it becomes too old, and even now, my opinion and viewpoint has remained the same, especially the physical aspect of playing. This is because one's physical faculties (their body, upper body mostly, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers - along with muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, etc.) are also important along with the mental faculties in order to be a successful pianist. Piano playing is both a mental and physical activity, while a bit more mental than physical, the physical aspect cannot be overlooked or minimized.
Strictly, no offense (and I mean that), on behalf of Tobias Matthay, Dorothy Taubman, Edna Golandsky, and Dr. Thomas Mark:

Are you guys for real?

Translated, that means that none of you, along with the 200,000 worthless piano teachers in the U.S. and elsewhere, desire to perpetrate/promote anything other than the traditional piano pedagogical fraud taught since the end of World War II.

That means that one should daily play their scales, broken chords, and arpeggios, stupid exercises, and then they will eventually possess decent technique at the piano.  NOT!!

Now, you come up with the brilliant idea to consider the physical versus mental equation.  Accordingly, I guess this simplistic garbage could apply (with no concrete results) to driving a race car, flying an airplane, or driving a tractor.

What?:  With all that I have posted on this subject in the past, do you honestly expect me to just sit silently by and let this pedagogical falsehood persist/promote itself?

Respectfully, I think not.

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #33 on: July 02, 2016, 05:34:33 AM
Definitely too much is 'taught' (by these 20,000 worthless piano teachers) which a natural playing posture will simply carry out for you.  That's the essence of piano playing.
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Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #34 on: July 02, 2016, 06:11:32 AM
@louispodesta
I'm done trying to reason with you and in fact, not only have you falsely accused me of being the pianist in another video here:
(I'm not trying to promote her, but just saying). THIS IS NOT ME, IT IS SOMEONE ELSE.

You have also resorted to ad hominem attacks due to differences of opinions as well as making a very generalized sweeping statement to condemn scores of piano teachers across the world. Sure, while my opinion might not be what you or what the others have in mind, it is based on my observation and experiences. This kind of behavior and conduct is unacceptable.

@hardy_practice
Are you trying to tell me that just sitting in a specific posture will make you a great pianist, barring all other factors? I hope there is more than what meets the eye. I'm lost on what you're getting at.
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Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #35 on: July 02, 2016, 11:18:45 AM


@hardy_practice
Are you trying to tell me that just sitting in a specific posture will make you a great pianist, barring all other factors? I hope there is more than what meets the eye. I'm lost on what you're getting at.
Depends what you mean by great.  Without the right (natural) posture you certainly have no potential.  Apart from that, if you allow the body to play there's wonder!  Chopin got comments in England that he sounded like flowing water.  My students have also got these compliments.
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Offline feddera

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #36 on: July 02, 2016, 05:08:03 PM
That means that one should daily play their scales, broken chords, and arpeggios, stupid exercises, and then they will eventually possess decent technique at the piano. 

I'm sorry, but this does not follow from piano6888's quote at all. He simply stated that improving certain physical faculties will have a positive effect on piano playing. I agree with you, louispodesta, in that endless scale routines won't necessarily accomplish this, but that was not what was stated.

I can't for the life of me understand why this is even a topic of discussion. Of course there is a physical aspect to piano playing. There is a physical aspect to driving a tractor too (taking your example), but the physical requirements are low enough to be a non-issue for any healthy adult.

I improved way more by doing exercies for the hands and fingers away from the piano, than by following instructions from the Taubman-DVD's.

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #37 on: July 02, 2016, 05:19:50 PM
@hardy_practice
I see, so having a right posture will help one go far in playing really well, getting a good sound on the piano.  Then furthermore with the right instruction, correct practice, and hard work will result in playing at a very virtuosic level. 

@feddera
Thanks for coming to my defense. Also, yes pianists should also spend some time outside of their playing to take care of their body/health. A combination of safe, appropriate exercise in moderation with daily proper practice regiments would be essential for a successful pianist.
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Offline louispodesta

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #38 on: July 02, 2016, 10:19:53 PM
I'm sorry, but this does not follow from piano6888's quote at all. He simply stated that improving certain physical faculties will have a positive effect on piano playing. I agree with you, louispodesta, in that endless scale routines won't necessarily accomplish this . . . I improved way more by doing exercies for the hands and fingers away from the piano, than by following instructions from the Taubman-DVD's.
I totally agree because lately, (at the almost age of 65) I have started using a rubber chord that was designed for a chest expander that I use to use.  This is done in conjunction with my daily sit-up routine.

And, with my psoriatic arthritis, I have to do this lying on my bed with my body in reverse position and my head hanging over the edge.  The net result in two weeks time is that fingers 3-5 feel like steel.

The important thing to remember is that I am not strengthening muscles in my fingers because there are none.  What I am doing (through the natural squeezing of the hand, forearms included) is to strengthen the ligaments and tendons in my fingers.

Please holler at me by PM if you desire more information.  And, the first thing that my coach Thomas Mark taught me (who is a former Taubman practice coach and student of Golandsky) is what Taubman and Golandsky don't teach about the kinesiology associated with playing the piano (www.pianomap.com).                                                                               

Offline feddera

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #39 on: July 03, 2016, 12:31:44 AM
Thank you for the clarification, it seems like we mostly agree after all.

I will also agree that "finger strength" is a misnomer. What you really want is flexible fingers with a decent range of motion.

I noticed several years ago that when playing scales I had to use very large movements in switching from ascending to descending scales with my right hand. I could never get my right hand completely syncronized with my left at the top of the scale, even in slow tempos. However, my left hand could do this turn with no effort or big movements whatsoever. My first instinct on how to fix this was to just practice more scales. So I did. For hours every day, for months. It did not work.

Then I tried what seems to be the popular opinion on this forum. That is, analyzing my movements, trying different combinations of arm weight and rotation. Again, I did this every day for many months, and it still did not fix my scales. I could not figure out what magical movement my left hand was doing that my right hand didn't do.

On the verge of giving up, I finally figured out what was going on. Having also played guitar for many years had made my left hand fingers WAY more flexible than my right hand fingers. As an experiment, I started to practice playing guitar upside down, fretting with my right hand. Just basic chords and scales. I noticed improvements on the piano immediately. For the past year I've been practicing guitar this way for about 10-15 minutes every day, and my right hand is almost as flexible as my left now. Words can not describe how much easier it feels to play the piano now, compared to one year ago. My fingers feels like steel, as you so nicely put it.

In hindsight, I feel pretty stupid for missing what seemed to be the most obvious answer to my problem. My left hand was simply more physically capable than my right. It's no wonder though. Most of my teachers, most teaching materials and many posters on this forum keep insisting that playing the piano is purely a mental activity. It's all about imagining clouds, breathing deeply, relaxing your calves and adjusting the height of your chair. I know I'm exaggerating this last point, and that many pianists have more nuanced opinions. However, I still feel that too many people categorically refuse to acknowledge just how much pure physical aspects of the playing apparatus can and DO matter.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #40 on: July 03, 2016, 02:12:18 AM
Bumping this topic before it becomes too old, and even now, my opinion and viewpoint has remained the same, especially the physical aspect of playing. This is because one's physical faculties (their body, upper body mostly, arms, wrists, hands, and fingers - along with muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, etc.) are also important along with the mental faculties in order to be a successful pianist. Piano playing is both a mental and physical activity, while a bit more mental than physical, the physical aspect cannot be overlooked or minimized.
I've taught piano for over 20 years and never have got caught up over explaining the physical movements isolated from musical context for extended periods of time. Yes we can point out some issues but making a student focus on isolated physical movements can indeed be very distracting, confusing and not applicable in all instances. There is a danger thinking that one movement should be used for all similar cases in the exact same way, I find that technique adjusts a little for given situations and those who make up inflexible ideas on their physical playing can easily get trapped technically (or certainly do not know how to consider their technique within a musical context because they are overly caught up on the single mechanical idea of their movements).

All my long term students understand their own two hands and what it means to play something with comfort and control, a softness in their hands. I develop this by gradually forming their playing ability, not forcing a model of perfection in their hands but constantly improving how they play bit by bit, allowing their hands to naturally understand it rather than brute force cut pasting ideas which generally produces parrot like students who can't think on their own. A strong axiom of mine when teaching technique is that it is ok to not do something correct at first because once you improve upon it is really felt as an improvement over what was previously done, it is understood not just accepted.

"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
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Offline anamnesis

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #41 on: July 03, 2016, 02:50:35 AM
Thank you for the clarification, it seems like we mostly agree after all.

I will also agree that "finger strength" is a misnomer. What you really want is flexible fingers with a decent range of motion.

I noticed several years ago that when playing scales I had to use very large movements in switching from ascending to descending scales with my right hand. I could never get my right hand completely syncronized with my left at the top of the scale, even in slow tempos. However, my left hand could do this turn with no effort or big movements whatsoever. My first instinct on how to fix this was to just practice more scales. So I did. For hours every day, for months. It did not work.

Then I tried what seems to be the popular opinion on this forum. That is, analyzing my movements, trying different combinations of arm weight and rotation. Again, I did this every day for many months, and it still did not fix my scales. I could not figure out what magical movement my left hand was doing that my right hand didn't do.

On the verge of giving up, I finally figured out what was going on. Having also played guitar for many years had made my left hand fingers WAY more flexible than my right hand fingers. As an experiment, I started to practice playing guitar upside down, fretting with my right hand. Just basic chords and scales. I noticed improvements on the piano immediately. For the past year I've been practicing guitar this way for about 10-15 minutes every day, and my right hand is almost as flexible as my left now. Words can not describe how much easier it feels to play the piano now, compared to one year ago. My fingers feels like steel, as you so nicely put it.

In hindsight, I feel pretty stupid for missing what seemed to be the most obvious answer to my problem. My left hand was simply more physically capable than my right. It's no wonder though. Most of my teachers, most teaching materials and many posters on this forum keep insisting that playing the piano is purely a mental activity. It's all about imagining clouds, breathing deeply, relaxing your calves and adjusting the height of your chair. I know I'm exaggerating this last point, and that many pianists have more nuanced opinions. However, I still feel that too many people categorically refuse to acknowledge just how much pure physical aspects of the playing apparatus can and DO matter.

No one argues that piano is really purely either mental or physical.

The debate lies more with how most of the physical development for the piano should deal more with motor control and coordination rather than strength/conditioning.  The biological adaptations between both are completely distinct.

And although you investigated movements...I'm curious if you were aware or could even sense that when playing parallel scales that the hands/arms are working in opposite directions?

I could argue that the benefit from the backwards guitar approach was that it helped give your body sense the bilaterally, centralized, rhythmic coordination needed to do so because of having to switch the sensations involved.

Here's an interesting passage on parallel passages:

A glance at what happens in parallel motion, when there is a finger control for finding the key and providing the primary power for taking the key-drop, is sufficient to prove the efficacy of one control (arms) rather than ten. Every control, if it is in the fingers, is opposite to the control in the other hand: Weak fingers play against the strong fingers; one hand passes the thumb under the palm while the other passes a finger over the thumb; rotary acts in opposing directions; flexion and extension of forearms arms are opposed. The whole process is enormously complicated and difficult. But a control by the first large lever lets both arms move in complete harmony without competition or opposition. It modifies all actions automatically  by the importance of its own action for the sweep up and down the keyboard.

Piano Playing: Indispensables of Piano Playing and Mastering the Chopin Etudes and Other Essays

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #42 on: July 03, 2016, 05:30:25 AM
For the past year I've been practicing guitar this way for about 10-15 minutes every day, and my right hand is almost as flexible as my left now. Words can not describe how much easier it feels to play the piano now, compared to one year ago. My fingers feels like steel, as you so nicely put it.

 ...Most of my teachers, most teaching materials and many posters on this forum keep insisting that playing the piano is purely a mental activity.
You were wasting your time.  The body needs to know what you want to achieve then it can solve the problem.  You were telling the body 'I want to play the guitar left handed' and so eventually it solved that for you.

Yes, it's mental.  If your scales were uneven then hearing that, followed by straining to hear them as even, would have got the body working to solve that problem.  Conscious brains are crap at the physical stuff - leave that up to the expert!   
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Offline feddera

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #43 on: July 03, 2016, 08:41:47 AM
Quote
No one argues that piano is really purely either mental or physical.

As I said, I was exaggerating. But then again, look at the post right below yours...

Quote
And although you investigated movements...I'm curious if you were aware or could even sense that when playing parallel scales that the hands/arms are working in opposite directions?

Well of course, but this problem was also present when playing scales in contrary motion, and with the right hand alone.

Quote
I could argue that the benefit from the backwards guitar approach was that it helped give your body sense the bilaterally, centralized, rhythmic coordination needed to do so because of having to switch the sensations involved.

I'm sure there's some kind of benefit like that also. However, much of what I did was painfully slow stretching exercises on the guitar. You have to realize just how stiff my right hand fingers were. I could for instance not do the cross product sign, which I now can do very easily.


Quote
Yes, it's mental.  If your scales were uneven then hearing that, followed by straining to hear them as even, would have got the body working to solve that problem.

But my left hand scales were absolutely even. I struggled for years trying to make my right hand scales sound as good. Then I got more flexible fingers and the problem went away, without even practicing scales. Advice like this is the reason I feel this is an important thread.

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #44 on: July 03, 2016, 10:06:18 AM
My apologies feddera, by uneven I meant your scales were not hands together.  Are you sure they now are?
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Offline feddera

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #45 on: July 03, 2016, 10:27:35 AM
No worries, I didn't explain the issue very clearly. Hands together was a problem because of my right hand. As for my scales right now, I would be lying if I said they were perfect and without room for improvement. However they are so much more comfortable to play, and I feel like they're getting better every day. For 4 octave scales HT I was stuck at a tempo of about 120 bpm for 5 years. Now I can do them at about 160.

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #46 on: July 03, 2016, 10:33:08 AM
Fine.  It's just that speed means nothing if hands are not together.  That's music, speed is just athletics.
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Offline feddera

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #47 on: July 03, 2016, 11:18:47 AM
I fully agree, which is why I've spent so many years trying to achieve evenness. As my scales got more comfortable at lower speeds, the maximum speed increased.

Offline piano6888

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #48 on: July 06, 2016, 08:38:41 PM
I've taught piano for over 20 years and never have got caught up over explaining the physical movements isolated from musical context for extended periods of time. Yes we can point out some issues but making a student focus on isolated physical movements can indeed be very distracting, confusing and not applicable in all instances. There is a danger thinking that one movement should be used for all similar cases in the exact same way, I find that technique adjusts a little for given situations and those who make up inflexible ideas on their physical playing can easily get trapped technically (or certainly do not know how to consider their technique within a musical context because they are overly caught up on the single mechanical idea of their movements).

All my long term students understand their own two hands and what it means to play something with comfort and control, a softness in their hands. I develop this by gradually forming their playing ability, not forcing a model of perfection in their hands but constantly improving how they play bit by bit, allowing their hands to naturally understand it rather than brute force cut pasting ideas which generally produces parrot like students who can't think on their own. A strong axiom of mine when teaching technique is that it is ok to not do something correct at first because once you improve upon it is really felt as an improvement over what was previously done, it is understood not just accepted.



I did not mention anything about having a model of perfection or any inflexible technique or way of playing. However, what my topic is all about is that one cannot ignore the physical component of piano playing as that is also important towards playing well for more difficult pieces.  Furthermore, I also emphasized on keeping the body physically healthy as well as being mentally healthy too.  Piano is not overwhelmingly a mental activity, and a fair amount of it involves the physical abilities as well, which requires your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms to be of a certain temperament in order to execute certain pieces well (e.g. not 90% mental, 10% physical but more around 50-60% mental, and 40-50% physical), you would need to build not just physiological pathways, muscle memory (not fully reliant on that itself but partially), and be able to have the body respond to it (think about it this way: If it was mostly or almost purely mental, then one would never need to sit behind a piano and just look at the score to be able to play, but that's not the case with most people, let alone even professionals. Their body has to be able to find that pathway to execute said piece). You wouldn't play the piano (or continue to play) when your hands are fatigued, injured, tired, or so.  While there are many topics and discussion about preventing (piano playing related) injuries, there are just not as much about injuries from other activities outside of piano playing (day to day life, certain sports, activities, etc.).

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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Physical aspect of piano playing is also IMPORTANT
Reply #49 on: July 08, 2016, 12:54:11 AM
I did not mention anything about having a model of perfection or any inflexible technique or way of playing.
I feel there is a risk of this when you put technique into words or in terms of physical movements rather than an understanding of the sound/mechanics together with many musical examples and not isolate them.


However, what my topic is all about is that one cannot ignore the physical component of piano playing as that is also important towards playing well for more difficult pieces.
What is "difficult" music though, it certainly is not an all encompassing measurement, what is difficult for one will be not for another. One might wonder why this is the case, it certainly has nothing to do with considering the physical components of piano playing, if you are thinking too much then you are doing something you have little experience with. To play "difficult" pieces you must draw upon past experience, not recreate the wheel each time and consider everything you do in terms of your physical movements. When I teach piano I give students pieces where they do not have to create a new wheel each time and that they can draw from past experience (this of course is not easy for early beginners but you start at a very easy level so there's no problems for them), that is how you build your understanding up rather than simply learning isolated pieces each which are a mount Everest of work on their own each with a specialized physical observation, it's just all so tiresome this way and will not create a student who can think for themselves by drawing from past experiences.


Furthermore, I also emphasized on keeping the body physically healthy as well as being mentally healthy too.  
Well this is a given even doctors say the same, but pianistically I don't think it is such a big deal unless your playing causes you injury (and I've found those that injure themselves usually are thinking too much about mechanique rather than not and often practice poorly).

Piano is not overwhelmingly a mental activity, and a fair amount of it involves the physical abilities as well, which requires your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms to be of a certain temperament in order to execute certain pieces well (e.g. not 90% mental, 10% physical but more around 50-60% mental, and 40-50% physical),
The % are in actions at different rates with different people. An early beginner might indeed consider 90% physical and 10% mental! If you are isolating mental activity to physical there is a problem imho. They work together not separate if you want efficient progress. In any case if I find a student is considering their physical movements way too much I will make them stop, one should play not totally correct and clear their mind from all these preconceptions, they interfere more often than help. If I get a student to consider their technique under a microscope we take the musical context (actual sheet music and specific bar I believe their technique is failing in) and focus on that issue with the musical context at hand. We do not isolate the technique into a purely mechanical/physical consideration separate from musical context or mental thought.


you would need to build not just physiological pathways, muscle memory (not fully reliant on that itself but partially), and be able to have the body respond to it (think about it this way:
Actually when I play for myself for instance there is very little thinking going on. I am listening to the sound produced and thats about it. If I am sight reading a work the same process is going on, Im listening to the sound and not caught up over the physical and not consciously thinking words while playing. I am drawing from past experience, patterns, sound I've seen before both a mental/physical observation. If you are considering the physical aspects of playing you of course need a conscious observation of that movement, you cant just do some muscular movement and not consciously be aware of it, it might not be noticed in words in your head but it is noticed nonetheless.



If it was mostly or almost purely mental, then one would never need to sit behind a piano and just look at the score to be able to play, but that's not the case with most people, let alone even professionals.
If you develop your reading skills to a high enough level you indeed can feel how to play a piece in your head and actually feel it in your hands without having to play at the piano. Of course it will not give the whole picture but it is possible. When I read a score my hands immediately can react to the dots I am looking at without even being at a piano. This is not isolating mental and physical, both are working together. You consciously observe the notes and your physical hands will move in accordance to that.
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