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Improving the fourth and fifth fingers (Read 858 times)

Offline chopins_piano

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Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
« on: June 27, 2020, 10:30:17 PM »
Hey pianostreet community!

As you all know, the fourth and fifth fingers are the weakest ones and are really frustrating if you try to do trills with them. Any suggestions or comments on how to strengthen and improve those fingers would be very appreciated!  ;D

Offline brogers70

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #1 on: June 28, 2020, 01:40:48 PM »
I think that strength is not the issue, for the most part. In normal life those fingers do not act independently. That means your brain is not used to giving them individual instructions, so to speak. I think that the fatigue you feel when you use those fingers a lot, or try to trill with them faster than you can is the result of your muscles tightening up instinctively out of frustration that the fingers won't do what you want, rather than a sign that the fingers are too weak.   It's really, I think, a question of making new neural connections in the motor cortex, rather than of building muscle in the forearm (where the flexors that flex the fingers are located). Chopin's Opus 10 no 2 is good for that. So is practicing 4-5 trills slowly. It's also worth checking that your 4-5 fingers are lined up with the keys when you are using them.

Offline chopins_piano

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #2 on: June 29, 2020, 03:59:35 AM »
Thank you so much @brogers70 for the advice! I can relate to much of what you wrote there.  :)

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #3 on: June 29, 2020, 11:01:34 AM »
Try a hanon exercise.

CDCD AGAG, DEDE BABA etc. RH 1212 5454, LH 5454 1212

Use dotted rhythms, like short/long and long/short type rhythmic couples on the notes then revert back to all the same values, cycle between them.
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Offline chopins_piano

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #4 on: June 29, 2020, 10:57:25 PM »
@lostinidlewonder Thank you! I am pretty familiar with that exercise, only to do it regularly is the problem... :|

Offline keypeg

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #5 on: July 11, 2020, 12:17:21 PM »
Here's a dumb question inspired from the opening post.  Does one usually do 4-5 trills in the first place?  How often does that happen, and does one try to avoid and change fingering?

It's not a matter of "strength" of fingers, but how to use the hand and the whole complex.

Offline dogperson

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #6 on: July 11, 2020, 01:18:42 PM »
Here's a dumb question inspired from the opening post.  Does one usually do 4-5 trills in the first place?  How often does that happen, and does one try to avoid and change fingering?

It's not a matter of "strength" of fingers, but how to use the hand and the whole complex.


Josh Wright suggests avoiding 3/4 and 4/5 but notes that 3/5 may be necessary
 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ANaWudjhJkw

Offline ronde_des_sylphes

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #7 on: July 11, 2020, 02:06:48 PM »
Tbh I find 4/5 easier than 3/5.

Most of the time when you're doing 4/5, you'll be playing an octave between 1/4 imo. This does give the hand a certain stability not present in 4/5 alone. Try to minimise the extent to which the 5 ends up flapping around with elevation when the 4 plays.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #8 on: July 12, 2020, 01:30:59 AM »
Here's a dumb question inspired from the opening post.  Does one usually do 4-5 trills in the first place?  How often does that happen, and does one try to avoid and change fingering?

It's not a matter of "strength" of fingers, but how to use the hand and the whole complex.
One does not necessarily need to do a long 54 trill, even a simple 454 turn in a scale could be problematic if the fingers are not trained correctly. There is no point constantly changing fingering to avoid the possiblity of a 454 combination.
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Offline ted

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #9 on: July 12, 2020, 10:33:02 AM »
It is very easy to discover some new movement that I cannot execute without difficulty, whereupon I work at it until I can. Then I find something else of greater difficulty I cannot do and the cycle repeats. It took me some years to realise that unless the movement has musical potential the process amounts to a pointless neurosis. I am all right with trills because I have always practised double ones in all fifteen striking combinations, still do. Don't ask me why as the sound of trills lacks interest for me and doesn't feature much in my improvisation, which activity is almost all I play these days.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline j_tour

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #10 on: July 12, 2020, 04:20:16 PM »
I am all right with trills because I have always practised double ones in all fifteen striking combinations, still do. Don't ask me why as the sound of trills lacks interest for me and doesn't feature much in my improvisation, which activity is almost all I play these days.

Can you expand on your double trills exercise a bit?

While I was extremely pleased to hear your general principle of how technique without practicality is an almost endless rabbit hole, I do use trills in, basically all kinds of American roots music (rock and roll, country music, blues, etc.), or more accurately, much more common are what I think most people would call "shakes" or just tremolos at the octave, thirds, sixths.  As well as a ton of repeated notes, more or less trills on a single note.

So, those, obviously, I don't need to practice, since they're so commonly used, but there are some pieces of legit rep that use internal trills and double trills in one hand that, I just don't touch because it seems like an incredible waste of time for just those isolated passages.

However, I think I might be able to use some of those elements in improvising jazz, so it could be something worth looking into, for me.

Thanks!
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 ted

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #11 on: July 12, 2020, 10:15:23 PM »
Can you expand on your double trills exercise a bit?


I described it in this thread.

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=66546.0

"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline j_tour

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #12 on: July 12, 2020, 11:04:12 PM »
I described it in this thread.

https://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php?topic=66546.0

Thanks, ted.  I can modify that to suit the kind of effect I'm looking for. 

One of those practice claviers is sounding better and better each time I hear about them.  Maybe you agree that the ear can be very deceptive when used as a guide to the mechanics of some aspects of perforrming.  Well, the Rhodes piano might do the trick, not amplified, just as a heavy-ish action to isolate technique.

It's so satisfying to hear the nice sound come out of the instrument, admittedly,  but it may ultimately be a bit deceptive or lead one to develop various habits that, while they may sound good, aren't adaptable to different situations, or even different keys in the same idiom.
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 ted

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #13 on: July 13, 2020, 01:14:21 AM »
I am unconventional in that I allow physical, haptic considerations to generate ideas. While admiring those who claim to know and hear everything that is coming before they play it, I can see little joy or surprise in the ability as far as my own music is concerned. My teacher, many years ago, claimed he always heard in advance what was coming, and back then I had no ground to criticise it. Decades later I realised that all his stupendous measurable ability and colossal knowledge had not produced any creations of originality or imagination whereas it seemed to me that my homegrown lack of everything had. Exactly what goes on is still a mystery but I tend to think that most improvisers are not entirely objective when they talk about their processes, and that they desire to preserve a certain personal enigma.

Anyway, as far as finger technique is concerned I have never taken to all the leaning, twisting, rotation, weight and legato advocated by most pianists. On the Virgil I use a clear, detached striking motion, not strictly staccato but not far from it either. I do actually raise the fingers but always in a way which feels so easy I could go on indefinitely. I don't, of course, I do ten minutes at the most, but it feels that way. During actual improvisation all conscious awareness of this goes out the window and I just take every risk and hope I don't fall over.
"We're all bums when the wagon comes." - Waller

Offline j_tour

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #14 on: July 13, 2020, 04:19:13 PM »
That's absolutely true, almost to the point of it being a bit of self-parody, the amount of mythologizing in jazz.

You know, people just sitting around talking about:  "No, I don't know how to read music!" (absolutely false almost 100% of the time:  I guarantee they can read a lead sheet!), "Yeah, I play all the bass on the pedals on the Hammond!" or "Yeah, I just hear it and play it when improvising" (Pat Metheny had a good bit of rejoinder to that somewhere).  And so forth.  "100% self-taught!"  Yeah, right. 

I bet some people really do end up believing in the myth of the "noble savage improviser" themselves, but more likely they're used to thinking about dynamic processes in terms of absolutes or abstract dicta, when that's not really what's going on.
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 tschilb

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #15 on: July 18, 2020, 11:49:47 PM »
Great Question! I used to have this same problem. I gained speed in my 4th and 5th fingers by practicing doing trills with a metronome and gradually speeding up. Do this exercise daily!

Also, check out PianoForAll. This is a great site for exercises and techniques to grow your dexterity and skills. Good day!
https://bit.ly/2DQV1ze

Offline chopins_piano

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #16 on: July 19, 2020, 05:08:25 AM »
My appreciation to everyone above. You guys offer great insight and the techniques really prove to be quite helpful! The metronome strategy is pretty smart; I never thought of that before!

Offline 1piano4joe

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #17 on: August 08, 2020, 04:57:18 PM »
Hi chopins_piano,

Since you asked for some suggestions on how to improve those fingers, I have a few:

1. I have practice 4-5 by trilling 5 with 1, then 5 with 2,  then 5 with 3 and then 5 with 4.

2. I then do 4 with 1, 4 with 2, 4 with 3 and 4 with 5.

3. I try to use wrist rotation to help reduce tension which slows me down. This is much easier with 5-1 then 5-4.

4. I have practiced 4-5 using wrist and/or arm staccato by starting with 5 only lower than 4 and I pretend it's a hot stove. Then as my wrist goes up, I switch fingers 5 goes up and 4 goes down while my hand is rising upwards. So, I am playing 5,4,5,4,5... staccato but by a loose flexible wrist with no finger action downward to play the note only the arm/wrist weight. Gradually, I speed up and try to make the movements smaller.

5. Also, I like to start at "infinity" by playing 4-5 together as a double note 2nd interval, playing this as fast as I can which can be limited by your piano. I then do something similar to number 4 above but is slightly different. I raise the 4th finger ever so slightly and then play what amounts to a grace note, so 4 is played a split second later but not through any finger action. On the way up, I switch fingers again so that the 5th finger is raised slightly and then come down again playing 4 first and 5 and split second later. This come out as 4-5, 5-4, 4-5,5-4, etc. This can also be done with a slight wrist rotation.

6. Yes, I have done the Hanon.

7. I try to keep my fingers (as best I can) close to the keys.

8. When practicing I alternate hands. Fatigue can set in quickly and I find I reach a point where I start to get slower. That's enough for that day. I keep my fingers crossed that the time I spent doing these things, will, with some "post practice improvement" or PPI for short, result in a small speed increase. This sometimes happens and sometimes not but I do feel more secure and in control where the day before I was not really "surefooted" or should I say "surefingered". Speed increase or not, I do find I get some endurance out of these as well which helps with the long trills and other demanding passages. So, for me it's not only about the speed.

9. I have found these "drills" beneficial even in non trilling passages that involve 4 and/or 5 in other contexts. Double legato 6ths involving 52 and 41 comes to mind, as well as double 3rds like 53 and 42.

Well that's all for now, Joe.

I hope I have been helpful.

Offline chopins_piano

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Re: Improving the fourth and fifth fingers
«Reply #18 on: September 20, 2020, 03:47:58 PM »
Woah! Thanks for the tips! You really did put a lot of time into that post and I appreciate it very much. I'm sure many others will take your advice because I am definitely trying this out right away.