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Part 2: OCTAVES.... Earlking, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6, Appassionata (coda 1st m (Read 1087 times)

Offline mrcreosote

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The original thread, http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=24891.0 is very informative and the OP brings up a great observation:  People either can do it or can't - and he wanted to hear from people that couldn't but learned how to.

I am an aerospace mechanical engine, so things like biomechanics, mass, inertia, vibration, mode shapes, etc. are how my thoughts are focused.  Also that piano technique is definitely a Marshal Art - the skill is a triangle of Speed, Strength, and Accuracy.  I know of one elite class jazz pianist that studied Wing Shun and was quite excited when he found out I had made the same conclusion(!)

MY BACKSTORY:  I am 63 and from 6 to my mid-50's, I made progress to about the age of 12 and then hit a brick wall.  I never had good instruction and was never told about tension - I was Mr. Tension - I was doomed.  All the practice in the world had no effect and luckily, I didn't develop carpal tunnel or other damage.

MY PROBLEM:  I and chomping at the bit to practice this technique, but I well know the wrong practice will yield no fruit.  So I'm not willing to horse off and try something that may or may not work.  I'm the engineer talking now - I need to have a model of how this technique works.  I have not yet read Fink's Bounce methods but the word "bounce" makes intuitive sense to me.

ISSUES & DISCOVERIES

THE PIANO ITSELF:   The type of piano is a big deal.  I've played two, mine and a friends, and the one with the stiffer action, is quite faster - it's not totally unlike how you play a snare drum and get multiple strikes with one "whip" of the drum stick.  The light action would be like a drum head that was like a stretch rubber latex glove - obviously the drum stick would not bounce.

WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP:  Genetics has been brought up and since it is well known that Fast Muscle exists and some are blessed with it, that could clearly be a serious factor.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL:  Brain Speed:  There are some runs in Mussorgsky - Hopak where you rip a 1,2,3,4,5 left hand crossed over right hand, that when played at tempo, I simply cannot hear the individual notes.  My brain simply does not process that fast.  People that speed talk.  Nope, can't do that.  I'm 63, early undetectable stage of Altzheimers?  Who knows.  But I do know that quick draw shootists are very fast and it is a talent that cannot simply be learned.

ARM WEIGHT:  

I just learned about this just months ago.  Sad.  I know.  ROTATION even more recently.  This was stuff I needed to know when I was 8 years old because at that time, I was a true virtuoso and blowing minds of every piano teach I had (4 of them).

Golandsky(Taubman) said a couple of cryptic sentences on this.  The trick was to eliminate tension from the process by using arm weight to push the keys down.  Then there is a bounce/recoil/etc. that is used to get the upstroke ready for the next arm weight relaxation.

This is in line with a study that was mentioned where if you use Boost and Buck (engineering - opposed groups) to produce an oscillatory motion, the nerve/muscle system is not fast enough.  Using arm weight eliminates one side of that.  This makes great engineering sense.

So we have the downstroke (arm weight) - how do we achieve the upstroke?  

Assuming some sort of bounce or recoil, the next question what is involved?  Fingers, hand, wrist, forearm.  Not sure on this one.  Watching Buniatishvili and Wang crush Erlkonig, the forearm does not seem to move that much, however, at high speed, small movement is still high force.  So it is difficult to determine what muscle action is going on.  Of note, Lisitsa appears to use a totally different approach - her hand lays much flatter.  Wang does some groups with totally vertical fingers - so there is no finger action for sure in that case.

My Frogger Practice:  For giggles, actually a relaxation drill, I let arm weight play the keys (does not have to be octaves), rest on them, and then make my fingers/hand/wrist "jump" carrying the "arm weight" payload to the next set of keys.  It is very weird, but I think it is non-destructive and really lets you focus on dead arms during the whole drill - and that can't be bad.  Of course, trying to speed this process up is not easy or intuitive.  I haven't tried a lot and don't know if it would yield fruit.

Bullseye:  Previous to the discovery of arm weight, if I wanted to play loud, I would rest my fingers on the keys and then "whip" them.  Then I concluded that I have to be able to hit them accurately from a great altitude.  This was a pivotal realization and a good practice.

Whip/Slap:  The next exercise for double thirds:  35, 24, 13  (Beethoven variations in Gould's 32 Short Films movie) was to hold the hands above the keys by a couple inches, and then using the wrists, ship or slap the keys, return to the high position and slap the next ones.  Perhaps not the best exercise for speed, but has merit when leaping about the keyboard - I truly love leaping.  

ROTATION:  Nothing here for octaves.

WORDS OF WISDOM:  If you are your teachers best pupil - RUN!   He won't know what to do with you.

HOW TO PRACTICE?

For fast octaves of course.

EVOLUTION?:  Emphasize minimum motion, slow, zero tension, and then slowly increase speed.  PERHAPS on the way, a few epiphanies.  But not guaranteed.  (I might also add SOFT too which really kills tension.  I once heard a great, highly advanced ragtime piano player that could simply not muster any volume/strength.  Back to the Marshall Arts!)

ONE SIZE FITS ALL - NOT:  What may work for some people will not work for others.  This is where a great  teacher/trainer can straighten a student out.  Of course some people get there with what works for them which is totally unorthodox (Lisitsa claims this and watching her technique, I'd have to agree.)
_____________________

So that's where I'm at and totally up-in-the-air about how to practice.

Offline ramibarniv

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Wow, you packed a lot into that very interesting post...
I gave advice in the old post about octave playing.
Funny how time flies...
In 1912 I published my book "The Art of Piano fingering - Traditional, Advanced, and Innovative".
All that octave-playing technique discussed a few years ago and much more is to be found in the book with photos, examples, and exercises.
The book appears now also in 2 other languages.
Available on CreateSpace and Amazon.
Best regards,
Rami

Offline mrcreosote

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I definitely need to buy a few books!

GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW:

It occurred to me when practicing some min movement octaves last night, what to practice.

Realizing that the Rach g minor Prelude which I have played at least a million times, has this one downward octave arpeggio in both hands that I have learned to "glide over" after decades of rendition.

It is clear that I have some of the elements of the desired technique already ingrained.

So then, this morning, I thought, "what about the 3-note repeat, Boom...da-da-da, that is through this piece?  Add repetitions to the 3-peat and guess what, a discover a whole new behavior already built into me - not totally unlike some movie amnesiac that learns they have ninja skills when attacked - where did it come from?

Anyhow, I'm no Horowitz, but now I have something I need to explore.  I think over the years, I simply developed an efficient way of play the 3-peat.  In fact others have commented how it is easy to play 2 or 3-peats and to simply add to them.  While that sounds obvious, I think it only works when you've intuitively already developed the technique for  2-3-peats.  Maybe the advice should be, "If you've already master 2 and 3-peats, double and triple them and Watch What Happens."

I'm guessing anyone in this racket has played the G minor to Death so it might be a good starting point.


Offline anamnesis

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The original thread, http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=24891.0 is very informative and the OP brings up a great observation:  People either can do it or can't - and he wanted to hear from people that couldn't but learned how to.

I am an aerospace mechanical engine, so things like biomechanics, mass, inertia, vibration, mode shapes, etc. are how my thoughts are focused.  Also that piano technique is definitely a Marshal Art - the skill is a triangle of Speed, Strength, and Accuracy.  I know of one elite class jazz pianist that studied Wing Shun and was quite excited when he found out I had made the same conclusion(!)

MY BACKSTORY:  I am 63 and from 6 to my mid-50's, I made progress to about the age of 12 and then hit a brick wall.  I never had good instruction and was never told about tension - I was Mr. Tension - I was doomed.  All the practice in the world had no effect and luckily, I didn't develop carpal tunnel or other damage.

MY PROBLEM:  I and chomping at the bit to practice this technique, but I well know the wrong practice will yield no fruit.  So I'm not willing to horse off and try something that may or may not work.  I'm the engineer talking now - I need to have a model of how this technique works.  I have not yet read Fink's Bounce methods but the word "bounce" makes intuitive sense to me.

ISSUES & DISCOVERIES

THE PIANO ITSELF:   The type of piano is a big deal.  I've played two, mine and a friends, and the one with the stiffer action, is quite faster - it's not totally unlike how you play a snare drum and get multiple strikes with one "whip" of the drum stick.  The light action would be like a drum head that was like a stretch rubber latex glove - obviously the drum stick would not bounce.

WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP:  Genetics has been brought up and since it is well known that Fast Muscle exists and some are blessed with it, that could clearly be a serious factor.

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL:  Brain Speed:  There are some runs in Mussorgsky - Hopak where you rip a 1,2,3,4,5 left hand crossed over right hand, that when played at tempo, I simply cannot hear the individual notes.  My brain simply does not process that fast.  People that speed talk.  Nope, can't do that.  I'm 63, early undetectable stage of Altzheimers?  Who knows.  But I do know that quick draw shootists are very fast and it is a talent that cannot simply be learned.

ARM WEIGHT:  

I just learned about this just months ago.  Sad.  I know.  ROTATION even more recently.  This was stuff I needed to know when I was 8 years old because at that time, I was a true virtuoso and blowing minds of every piano teach I had (4 of them).

Golandsky(Taubman) said a couple of cryptic sentences on this.  The trick was to eliminate tension from the process by using arm weight to push the keys down.  Then there is a bounce/recoil/etc. that is used to get the upstroke ready for the next arm weight relaxation.

This is in line with a study that was mentioned where if you use Boost and Buck (engineering - opposed groups) to produce an oscillatory motion, the nerve/muscle system is not fast enough.  Using arm weight eliminates one side of that.  This makes great engineering sense.

So we have the downstroke (arm weight) - how do we achieve the upstroke?  

Assuming some sort of bounce or recoil, the next question what is involved?  Fingers, hand, wrist, forearm.  Not sure on this one.  Watching Buniatishvili and Wang crush Erlkonig, the forearm does not seem to move that much, however, at high speed, small movement is still high force.  So it is difficult to determine what muscle action is going on.  Of note, Lisitsa appears to use a totally different approach - her hand lays much flatter.  Wang does some groups with totally vertical fingers - so there is no finger action for sure in that case.

My Frogger Practice:  For giggles, actually a relaxation drill, I let arm weight play the keys (does not have to be octaves), rest on them, and then make my fingers/hand/wrist "jump" carrying the "arm weight" payload to the next set of keys.  It is very weird, but I think it is non-destructive and really lets you focus on dead arms during the whole drill - and that can't be bad.  Of course, trying to speed this process up is not easy or intuitive.  I haven't tried a lot and don't know if it would yield fruit.

Bullseye:  Previous to the discovery of arm weight, if I wanted to play loud, I would rest my fingers on the keys and then "whip" them.  Then I concluded that I have to be able to hit them accurately from a great altitude.  This was a pivotal realization and a good practice.

Whip/Slap:  The next exercise for double thirds:  35, 24, 13  (Beethoven variations in Gould's 32 Short Films movie) was to hold the hands above the keys by a couple inches, and then using the wrists, ship or slap the keys, return to the high position and slap the next ones.  Perhaps not the best exercise for speed, but has merit when leaping about the keyboard - I truly love leaping.  

ROTATION:  Nothing here for octaves.

WORDS OF WISDOM:  If you are your teachers best pupil - RUN!   He won't know what to do with you.

HOW TO PRACTICE?

For fast octaves of course.

EVOLUTION?:  Emphasize minimum motion, slow, zero tension, and then slowly increase speed.  PERHAPS on the way, a few epiphanies.  But not guaranteed.  (I might also add SOFT too which really kills tension.  I once heard a great, highly advanced ragtime piano player that could simply not muster any volume/strength.  Back to the Marshall Arts!)

ONE SIZE FITS ALL - NOT:  What may work for some people will not work for others.  This is where a great  teacher/trainer can straighten a student out.  Of course some people get there with what works for them which is totally unorthodox (Lisitsa claims this and watching her technique, I'd have to agree.)
_____________________

So that's where I'm at and totally up-in-the-air about how to practice.


Have you ever heard of Abby Whiteside's alternating action technique?  You can actually produce tone on the upstroke, meaning no wasted action even while resetting. 

Offline ramibarniv

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mrcreosote, Re repeated notes/chords, it's all in my piano fingering book. All flapping from the wrist like a bird's wing --- I call it the butterfly technique. But there's also slight vertical movement of the wrist as well as towards the fall board and away from it. You may be doing it intuitively which is great.

Offline mrcreosote

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As an engineer, I thought the Second Arm Mode might be the trick.

First Arm Mode is the frequency of a rigid forearm/wrist/hand - it is the lowest frequency or fundamental frequency of those parts.  This mode has one node (nodes have no motion) at the elbow.

Second Arm Mode has two nodes, the second node is maybe an inch beyond the wrist joint.  This mode is much faster (as are higher modes.)  This is yes  a flapping or whipping motion - it is like trying to shake something off your finger or hand.

What is interesting is that I can "wiggle" my fight hand quite naturally, but not with my left hand.

Torsion Modes are what are called Rotation and they are much faster than the arm modes which probably should be called Flap modes (Flap is used in jet engine blade mode descriptions as is Torsion.  Bending is also used instead of Flap - depends which engine company you work for.)

Offline ramibarniv

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mrcreosote,
You are using terms that need qualification. e.g. "mode", "nod", "frequency". I have not come across these terms in piano playing technique language used by any pianist...
There's no "rigid forearm/wrist/hand" ever.
Flapping is not like "whipping motion" nor like "trying to shake something off your finger or hand." Flapping the hand is like a bird's wing; it occurs from the wrist.
Rotation has nothing to do with this and is a totally different, even opposite, technique.

Offline dogperson

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Just as an aside, IMHO, Rami is a virtuosic performer, and one of the best teachers that can be found...  his responses as well as his fingering book should be strongly considered.  I have recently purchased the book and am slowly winding my way through it..  it begins at the very beginning but advances through quite advanced technique, such as playing octaves as he referenced above.  Fast octave descents  have been one of my (many) shortcomings, so I am currently working on the butterfly technique, one octave at a time.  :) :) :)

DP

Offline mrcreosote

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The body is nothing more than a machine with actuators.  The terms I use are commonly used by structural engineers when designing, revising, and tuning these systems.

When you see demonstrations of digitizing body motion for improved performance in high paying sports disciplines, you have the crossover into the engineering realm.

Since I know the engineering side, I have been trying to use this expertise to analyze and improve my technique.  But while I'm a structural engineer, I am not privy to the biomechanical technology which has been developed in the sports arena.

In the engineering world, the following general descriptions apply to the musculature and skeletal systems:

*) Bones are rigid members with mass (stiffness can be ignored)
*) Joints are rotational connections between members (2 bending and 1 rotational at most)
*) Muscles are actuators - they either contract or relax
*) The nervous system is a control signal to the muscles where delays and speeds of contractions/relaxing are present
*) In simplistic terms, the arm/wrist/hand/fingers is a lumped mass cantilever. 

Unfortunately, the expert pianists don't know much about engineering and vice versa.  But with the information explosion of the internet, this gap is closing, bit by bit.

The ramifications of this is that teachers/coaches themselves will not have to have so much of the talent required to perceive what students are doing wrong.  And improvement of their technique will be more quantitative instead of relying on a teach with rare teaching skills.

In the old days of sports and Olympic competition, coaches had to have a fine eye and understanding to see what the athlete (or team) was doing wrong, and further, what was required to improve.  With Game Films, less coaching talent is required to provide the same level of instruction.

Right now, it is important that one seeks out all the information that is out there.  Bits of useful information and occasional great insights will come as one studies.  The internet is fueling a new epoch in piano technique.