\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Practicing without depressing the keys (Read 1473 times)

Offline alextrp7

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 20
Practicing without depressing the keys
« on: March 22, 2018, 01:02:46 PM »
Hello,

I am a new member though I have been reading the forum for a long time. I find it to be a great community and I appreciate the different point of views on a same subject. There is not only one way when it comes to play the piano ...

My message is about practicing music pieces without depressing the keys and I would like to know what you thing about this method. I keep my hands over the keyboard then I slightly depress the keys but not enough to launch the hammers. I just hear a little noise when a finger make contact with a key and it gives me a feedback to know if my rhythms are accurate and even.
This way I can better focus on the path the hands need to go through the music, I am more aware if I am doing something wrong with my body, and my wrists relaxation is under control.
Then when I come back at playing for real, everything seems very easy and effortless.
I already beat in just a few days very difficult passages that I couldn't handle after weeks of normal practice. It really help a lot in my daily routine.

Is this technique commonly used ? Is there any possibilities that it could drive to bad habit ?

Offline j_tour

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2639
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #1 on: April 02, 2018, 02:42:50 PM »
Well, I don't do it myself, unless you count purely mentally visualizing a performance, or doing rhythm work/trill/5-finger stuff on my desktop.

HOWEVER, sure, I think people used to use basically pieces of felt with the keys drawn on it to practice.

Never heard of anybody doing on a real piano, except for reducing tension or testing to make sure your hands aren't "locked down" onto the keys.

I'm interested too, so I hope some responses come rolling in.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline fftransform

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 528
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #2 on: April 07, 2018, 04:09:12 AM »
Some of the 'classic' exercise sets mention practicing fingerings at pp or ppp as a useful method.  I think stuff like this falls under the category of, 'doing it a bunch of different ways gets the muscle memory synchronized better.'  Sometimes I practice a (one-handed) passage with my body turned sideways or completely around from the piano, and seem to have gotten results with certain figures.  Sometimes I will practice a finger passage with my hand in various, incorrect positions hoping that it somehow ingrains the information in my fingers in an 'isolated' manner.  Sometimes I like to practice by staring at different parts of my hand; you wouldn't think it'd cause much change but I find it to be the opposite xD

Obviously the 'short bursts of speed' and 'accenting different arbitrary, fixed note(s)' are probably the most commonly suggested variants of this type of practicing - or ofc practicing with different touches.  Just my opinion that this is how such a variation would benefit your practice, but I don't have any idea which ones are gonna be better for any given passage and any given pianist.  I doubt anybody could tell you with much certainty, that sort of experiment would need a lot of subjects haha

Offline mike_lang

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1496
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #3 on: April 07, 2018, 01:39:46 PM »
I've mimed one hand or the other from time to time (but I don't press the keys down at all - at least not consciously) as a practice method . . . and also mimed the whole enchilada in rehearsal with a violinist/singer/piano trio/etc. Can be a useful technique in very particular circumstances, but not a regular tool for me.

Offline louispodesta

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1077
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #4 on: April 09, 2018, 10:57:11 PM »
Hello,

I am a new member though I have been reading the forum for a long time. I find it to be a great community and I appreciate the different point of views on a same subject. There is not only one way when it comes to play the piano ...

My message is about practicing music pieces without depressing the keys and I would like to know what you thing about this method. I keep my hands over the keyboard then I slightly depress the keys but not enough to launch the hammers. I just hear a little noise when a finger make contact with a key and it gives me a feedback to know if my rhythms are accurate and even.
This way I can better focus on the path the hands need to go through the music, I am more aware if I am doing something wrong with my body, and my wrists relaxation is under control.
Then when I come back at playing for real, everything seems very easy and effortless.
I already beat in just a few days very difficult passages that I couldn't handle after weeks of normal practice. It really help a lot in my daily routine.

Is this technique commonly used ? Is there any possibilities that it could drive to bad habit ?
Thank you for your very insightful post.  Assuming it is legitimate, most of which are put-up posts by this Website's so-called moderators.  I say this:  because in the entire history of this website, no one has had your specific question posted.

Therefore, (unlike many, many times before) until you can establish just who and what you are as a pianist, I will not respond in kind.  And, I can!

Parenthetically, proper tactile response is the "Essence" of proper piano technique performance.

Offline dogperson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1497
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #5 on: April 10, 2018, 12:13:40 AM »
Thank you for your very insightful post.  Assuming it is legitimate, most of which are put-up posts by this Website's so-called moderators.  I say this:  because in the entire history of this website, no one has had your specific question posted.

Therefore, (unlike many, many times before) until you can establish just who and what you are as a pianist, I will not respond in kind.  And, I can!

Parenthetically, proper tactile response is the "Essence" of proper piano technique performance.


REALLY Louis???  You expect members here to prove themselves before they will get the ‘wisdom’ of your thoughts? You have  really got to be kidding.  Once again, you question the validity of a new member for no reason.

 My advice to the OP: ignore Louis; he is not considered the king of wisdom of this forum. Others here will provide sound advice. 

Offline ca88313

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 130
.
«Reply #6 on: April 10, 2018, 11:17:33 AM »
.

Offline mike_lang

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1496
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #7 on: April 10, 2018, 01:40:07 PM »
No need for posturing, folks. Short answer is use this technique sparingly . . . I mentioned above a couple cases where I personally have found it useful. My doctoral advisor advocated this a lot for chamber music rehearsal  . . . and I think it was Galamian who used this quite a bit with violinists (i.e., finger with the LH without actually bowing).

Offline ca88313

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 130
.
«Reply #8 on: April 10, 2018, 04:59:03 PM »
.

Offline louispodesta

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1077
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #9 on: April 10, 2018, 11:07:24 PM »
I just think it is unacceptable to tell a newcomer that you are refusing to answer their questions until they have proven something. Why would you want to do that anyway?
1)  Per the OP
"My message is about practicing music pieces without depressing the keys and I would like to know what you thing about this method. I keep my hands over the keyboard then I slightly depress the keys but not enough to launch the hammers. I just hear a little noise when a finger make contact with a key and it gives me a feedback to know if my rhythms are accurate and even.
This way I can better focus on the path the hands need to go through the music, I am more aware if I am doing something wrong with my body, and my wrists relaxation is under control.
Then when I come back at playing for real, everything seems very easy and effortless.
I already beat in just a few days very difficult passages that I couldn't handle after weeks of normal practice. It really help a lot in my daily routine."

2)  "A Newcomer?"  Where do you come off responding to a post, which contradicts what every piano teacher on the Planet Earth teaches their students in terms of normal tactile response to a piano keyboard.

3)  And, I am supposed to just sit still and let this completely false dialogue become part of the normal discussion on piano technique.

4)  Ain't gonna happen!  There is no written, taught, verbal (Master Class or otherwise) basis in fact to this OP.

5)  Hey ("dogperson"), you can Troll all you want, but until you can even remotely legitimize the OP, please stop!

Offline dogperson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1497
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #10 on: April 10, 2018, 11:14:37 PM »
1)  Per the OP
"My message is about practicing music pieces without depressing the keys and I would like to know what you thing about this method. I keep my hands over the keyboard then I slightly depress the keys but not enough to launch the hammers. I just hear a little noise when a finger make contact with a key and it gives me a feedback to know if my rhythms are accurate and even.
This way I can better focus on the path the hands need to go through the music, I am more aware if I am doing something wrong with my body, and my wrists relaxation is under control.
Then when I come back at playing for real, everything seems very easy and effortless.
I already beat in just a few days very difficult passages that I couldn't handle after weeks of normal practice. It really help a lot in my daily routine."

2)  "A Newcomer?"  Where do you come off responding to a post, which contradicts what every piano teacher on the Planet Earth teaches their students in terms of normal tactile response to a piano keyboard.

3)  And, I am supposed to just sit still and let this completely false dialogue become part of the normal discussion on piano technique.

4)  Ain't gonna happen!  There is no written, taught, verbal (Master Class or otherwise) basis in fact to this OP.

5)  Hey ("dogperson"), you can Troll all you want, but until you can even remotely legitimize the OP, please stop!



Louis, You might want to take a minute and go back and read the original post before you get on your high horse. It was a question posed: is this common? Will it lead to bad habits? There was nothing stated nor implied about whether this is proper or not by the poster.  Everyone here should be allowed to ask a question without you determining whether they are worthy or not

Looking for a Troll?  Maybe you should look in the mirror.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3606
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #11 on: April 14, 2018, 01:37:11 AM »
Addressing this part:
4)  ...There is no written, taught, verbal (Master Class or otherwise) basis in fact to this OP.

I am also a student.  At this stage, for piano, I've been at it for a few years and am fortunate to have a good teacher.  Even more fortunately, "how to practice" and "how to approach things" is part of what I get taught.  Many students have to hunt for this.  I have also, on occasion, run ideas that occurred to me, past my teacher who is open to them, so that I don't have to ask in a forum.

I have also been in a position when studying another instrument where I was lost and relatively new.  I did try some strange things.  Well, in fact, some were not so strange, because later I learned there were precedents. But as a student I didn't know what was apt or not.

As students in a modern age we can google to find out a lot of information. So we can have a mix of seeming knowledgeable, and not.

IF YOU THINK THESE ARE BAD IDEAS - because no masterclass teaches them -does it not stand to reason that you advise the student, rather than tell him to go away?  For a student - who is learning to play - to prove he can play - makes no sense.  Learners by definition cannot yet play well, and may be timid to do so.  

As far as masterclasses and teachers: there is no uniform teaching by all teachers - and even if there is -- then if you are privy to this knowledge, which a student won't be, then it makes sense to explain why it's a bad idea.

If I were a student, being told that "masterclasses" teach something else - without being told what that something else is - is not helpful.  It would sound to me like somebody trying to be superior by dropping names (masterclass etc.) which would make me feel diminished.

When we STUDENTS write in the student forum, we are looking for help - not intimidation.  I can tell you from experience that it takes courage to do that at all.


Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3606
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #12 on: April 14, 2018, 03:42:24 PM »

I want to look at a totally different side to the statement I quoted before:
There is no written, taught, verbal (Master Class or otherwise) basis in fact to this OP.
What I am reading is this.  The student is trying something, and it is only ok to try it if the idea is sanctioned by official formal sources.    Is that correct?   I want to explore this.

First, from what I've seen, it doesn't seem that in the world music at large, people agree on much of anything.  We have seen many arguments of this kind in the forum.  But even if there is some main principle that all formal sources agree on, will a student know this thing?

Meanwhile in my own experience, I have found some things I have been told in some fields just did not work for me, I experimented, and I'd find some pioneer in that field having that answer.  I don't totally trust what "most experts" say about any field - in the least, I keep an open mind.

Meanwhile, this is what the OP wrote:
Quote from: OP
I keep my hands over the keyboard then I slightly depress the keys but not enough to launch the hammers. I just hear a little noise when a finger make contact with a key and it gives me a feedback to know if my rhythms are accurate and even.
This way I can better focus on the path the hands need to go through the music, I am more aware if I am doing something wrong with my body, and my wrists relaxation is under control.
Then when I come back at playing for real, everything seems very easy and effortless.
to which your object is, Louis:
Quote from: LP
...what every piano teacher on the Planet Earth teaches their students in terms of normal tactile response to a piano keyboard.
So you are saying that the OP should not be having these results, because it is contrary to what "every piano teacher teaches" - i.e. it should be different.  I know you're not a teacher, and so cannot be expected to give an ideal response (which is a rare thing anyway).

I have been lucky with some good teaching.  If I came out with something like this experiment, the good teachers I've worked with might say, "Well, let's see what is actually happening here.  You may be getting these improvements for other reasons." and then they look into it.

For example (You haven't explained the "tactile response" thing so I'll have to guess about it) - supposing that simply feeling the spring of the keys should make the student's hands become more light, so what he's doing should not make the results better.  You might want to check whether his keyboard has a horrible action (response).  Or if his hands are so tense that this phenomenon that you, Louis, expect, is not happening for him.  The good teacher would certainly not chide the student for trying things, because it has not been done in masterclasses that he has no reason to know about.

So being in the shoes of this imaginary teacher again.  The student is getting improvement by doing what he's trying.  What if he is learning to anticipate what the next note will be before going to the next note?  If you are in indecision while mid-action, your whole body will be tense through that indecision.  THAT is a principle that ** I ** was taught!  I have no idea if it is taught in all masterclasses and by learned people with names behind them.

I have also experienced being the obedient student, not experimenting, not trying things - if officially told things did not work for me, I was still faithful to those officially told things even though they tied me into knots, and brought any progress to a standstill.  So I'm afraid that I do not like the idea of sanctioning a student for trying things, and above all, because those things do not fit a principle that is not spelled out.

At this time I am digging myself out from holes in my own area of study, and I'm very glad that I'm given the freedom to ask questions and yes --- do stupid things along the way.

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3606
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #13 on: April 14, 2018, 03:59:24 PM »
Last thought:

For a student or maybe anyone.  "I'm doing this new thing, and suddenly I'm getting these specific better results."

If it works, why is it working?  If the old thing didn't work as well, what was the cause?  What is the correlation.

I don't know if masterclasses or official teachers go that route, but I have certainly been guided along it more than once.  In fact the worst results have often happened when I followed a "supposed to", and the worst teaching is when a teacher blames the student for attitude when his/her idea isn't working for the student but it's "supposed to".

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3323
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #14 on: April 17, 2018, 02:54:08 PM »

I'm interested too, so I hope some responses come rolling in.

There's always going to be some disagreement about the value of time spent not playing when you could be playing.

I see a couple of potential benefits to doing a limited amount of this.

One is to engage your audiation.  I'll try to explain.  Some of our mental patterns are connected to the stimulus constellation that attends as we do a physical action.  A couple of examples:  I brought a piece of sheet music to our organist and choir director, a simple four part chorale but with some interesting barbershop type harmonies.  He placed both hands on the table and fingered it as if sightreading, and that enabled him to "hear" what it would sound like.  I myself play mostly trombone.  I do not have perfect pitch but I can pick up my trombone in the morning and sing an F cold every time, something that I would have trouble doing without the physical feedback. 

I don't know how this stuff works, but it's sometimes called 'brass player's perfect pitch."  Doug Yeo, recently retired bass trombonist with the Boston Symphony, related that he used this to pass ear training in music conservatory. 

The second potential, maybe, is to introduce novelty.  Sometimes we get stuck because we've ingrained a previous habit that isn't working.  But on familiar music it just keeps popping back up - might be an awkward fingering, posture, breathing, anything that recurs.  Doing something in a novel way can break the cycle long enough to inject the new behavior.  Again an example from the brass world, I recently talked to a grad student who was activating her throat when playing loud.  The teacher had her stand on a chair, and bypassed the habit, after which she could get the feel of correct playing. 

Whether there's any value here for a beginner, I don't know.  It probably depends on how innovative your teacher is. 
Tim

Offline keypeg

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3606
Re: Practicing without depressing the keys
«Reply #15 on: April 18, 2018, 08:08:21 AM »
Tim, I could identify with almost everything you wrote.  I also found your last anecdote quite interesting (the teacher, the chair, etc.)

I myself am in a remediation situation on two instruments now, since I have gradually tried to get back to violin.  On both there are ingrained habits and cross-connections which you have alluded to.  You see a series of notes or imagine them, prehearing the sound, and the moment your hands touch the instrument, your body goes into the habitual response.  That habit actually starts before you start playing as we "prime" ourselves for the action we're about to do.  You can be in a loop that you can't get out of, because the very sensation of the instrument primes you to move as have always done.  You have to reprogram what you are doing, set up new reflexes for these cross-connections.

I have worked away from the instrument, or done things artificially, and then brought them back to the instrument, and it has worked quite well for me.

Additionally, I'll say that if "every teacher on the planet" says a thing works a certain way, and it is in "masterclasses" - and if they have not thought of a thing that is working for me, I am not about to abandon it on that basis.  What I will pay attention to is my own teacher, if he is the trustworthy kind, who may say "You are improving.  Keep doing what you're doing because the results are what count."

Learning is not linear, and it is multifaceted.