Piano Forum



Tonebase - Catching the Magic Moment
An interview with tonebase's piano executive Ben Laude about the challenges he faced building the platform, but also about how to forge a unified music education, reconciling our physical and virtual realities. Read more >>

Topic: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!  (Read 1121 times)

Offline flickmusic

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 5
Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
on: April 11, 2021, 09:31:32 PM
I've been practicing for several years and much of my effort is in strengthening my 4th and 5th fingers. However, both my pinkies are still relatively weak. My hands are large but "skinny". My little fingers are skin and bone. The other day I had a session with an old professor I studied with when I was young and I realized that her hands are huge, with "fat" pinkies and I wondered, well, my fingers are not like that, they don't have a lot of "meat". Maybe I'll never be able to fully strengthen them... So my question is: have you guys seen people who, for anatomical reasons, never reach a "desirable" level of technique?

Online lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1583
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #1 on: April 11, 2021, 10:01:28 PM
If your fingers are thick or skinny has little to do with their strength or power. The muscles that control the fingers are back in the forearms and in the palm of the hand, not "in" the fingers themselves. Weakness is a coordination/tension issue (same thing). If you, for example, slightly tense any of your playing or non-playing your fingers at the same time as you move them, they'll be more difficult to move quickly and efficiently, and you perceive that as "weakness". I got skinny fingers myself and I have adequate power to play rather loudly, should I want to.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1188
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #2 on: April 20, 2021, 05:51:12 PM
It's about transmitting your weight onto the keys. I often wonder how it would be if you had a piano keyboard which is upside-down for which gravity would be working against you. It would probably make much more apparent what the fuss is all about when it comes to arm weight.

Online lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1583
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #3 on: April 20, 2021, 09:48:38 PM
I never found the idea of transmitting weight intuitive. I think I sort of get what people mean by that but I don't think that way for myself. It is sometimes talked about as if it was an obvious, absolute idea, and I never felt it was.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1188
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #4 on: April 21, 2021, 12:49:07 AM
I certainly don't think it's obvious what it means. However, elaborating on it would take a very long time, and I don't think I'm totally qualified to do so either. Basically, it means something like laying down on the keys with your weight rather than suspending the hand and pushing down, but that only gives a very vague idea.

Offline adodd81802

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1114
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #5 on: April 30, 2021, 04:59:22 PM
Interesting question but I think you're focusing on the wrong thing.

Take Chopin for example, very sick, weak and light-weight man, however we have no doubt he was fantastic at the piano and even recommended embracing the weakness's and individuality of each finger, in particular the 4th.

Piano really has little to do with weight training. Of course a small amount of force is required to press the keys, but playing the piano is far more about the connections between the brain and fingers than it is about the strength of the muscle behind them. (This is where everybody comments to remind us that fingers don't contain muscles)

I think the extra 'meat' in the hands that you refer to, probably come from 2 things.

1st being the flexibility of the wrist. What I mean by that is, if you have your hand in front of you palm down like you would at the piano, and turn your hands outwards like your pinky is reaching for a note and hold that position, you will be able to feel down the side of your hand and pinky some tense build up there. I think over time that area of the hand probably get's bigger because of that.

2nd is for the people that practice a LOT at the piano, the reality is, it's not a very cardiovascular exercise in the same way that jogging would be for example, so I think a lot of pianists are just heavier, bigger people.

I do think our technique has to make some adjustments based on the anatomy of our hands, but short of you having less fingers, I don't think the size of your hands has much to do with your ability. I think there would be another technique issue holding you back from this progression wall.
"England is a country of pianos, they are everywhere."

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1188
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #6 on: April 30, 2021, 06:29:50 PM
For what it's worth, I've never broken a sweat playing the piano, and I don't see how anyone in decent shape would. It's at most as physical as a brisk walk, possibly less.

Offline j_tour

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3080
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #7 on: April 30, 2021, 08:06:52 PM
For what it's worth, I've never broken a sweat playing the piano, and I don't see how anyone in decent shape would.

You have to be kidding, right? 

Somehow I don't think you are joking, and it might be a testament to my own inefficient technique, but I challenge anyone to play for forty minutes or an hour, with minimal pauses (that's meant as "intermediary" passages which call for comparatively little effort), and not break a sweat.

For me, I'm a bit heavy, but running 5K is a joke to me, as is walking 30 miles while manipulating equipment.  Not the picture of health, what with drinking and smoking, but pretty good shape.

I just don't believe it. 

No, I don't get out of breath while playing, including under very bright lights, but I still sweat a lot.

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 ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1188
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #8 on: April 30, 2021, 08:26:30 PM
That's interesting. I improvise for an hour or two, without breaks, almost every day, and I never break a sweat. And I'm jumping around and playing arpeggios and scales constantly, basically like I'm doing in the few recordings I've posted here. Maybe it's just genes lol.

That said, you're in better shape than me, so I'll take your word for it. Do you sweat if you walk briskly for a couple of miles when it's warm outside? As for me, I pretty much don't unless it's above around 100F and/or very humid.

Offline j_tour

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3080
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 08:45:02 PM
That's interesting. I improvise for an hour or two, without breaks, almost every day, and I never break a sweat. And I'm jumping around and playing arpeggios and scales constantly, basically like I'm doing in the few recordings I've posted here. Maybe it's just genes lol.

That said, you're in better shape than me, so I'll take your word for it. Do you sweat if you walk briskly for a couple of miles when it's warm outside? As for me, I pretty much don't unless it's above around 100F and/or very humid.

Probably just different metabolisms:  I really don't know what makes some people sweat more than others. 

Hyperhydrosis is a thing, but it's not necessarily pathological. 

It does depend on the the tempo of the music and how hard one has to think and concentrate on which tune next, or which key is such-and-such going to modulate to.

But doing hard Jerry Lee kind of rock and roll, under bright lights, at a fast pace:  I don't know how those guys and gals managed.

I will edit to respond: 

That said, you're in better shape than me, so I'll take your word for it. Do you sweat if you walk briskly for a couple of miles when it's warm outside? As for me, I pretty much don't unless it's above around 100F and/or very humid.

Yeah, actually.  It can be fairly cool outside (let's say between 7 and 16 C) and not doing anything more than walking around at a medium pace and still sweat through thin cotton "dress" shirts, as is my usual attire.  Not even an elevated pulse/heartrate. 

It's odd, in that I'm scrupulous about keeping well hydrated, as well as generally managing stress and rest pretty well.  And fairly adequate diet, aside from the vasoconstriction alcohol provides.

Well, there's been no medical cause for alarm, upon consultation:  just one of those things, I suppose.

Curiously, upon brisk exercise, there's not much difference in terms of the volume of sweat produced. 
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.

Online lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1583
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #10 on: May 01, 2021, 10:53:50 PM
I don't think I've ever become sweaty from playing the piano. Except in my armpits, but that's been in performance situations because of nerves. But I knew a guy who would need to wipe the keys between every piece because his hands would sweat so much. I guess people are just different!

Offline loveibert

  • PS Gold Member
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 5
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #11 on: May 15, 2021, 10:14:22 AM
I don't think "arm weight" has been explored here. I have pretty bad arthritis in my fingers-they are not what you would call "strong". But my fingers are equally effective because I use arm rotation , not individual finger strength. If you are curious about this technique, look at a few Youtube videos demonstrating the Taubman technique. You may net want to study this in depth, but you will at least see how this idea works. Try this :

Offline loveibert

  • PS Gold Member
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 5
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #12 on: May 15, 2021, 10:19:53 AM
Or listen to this:

Offline timothy42b

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3373
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #13 on: May 16, 2021, 11:42:09 AM
I never found the idea of transmitting weight intuitive. I think I sort of get what people mean by that but I don't think that way for myself. It is sometimes talked about as if it was an obvious, absolute idea, and I never felt it was.

Arm weight is certainly a mental concept that a lot of people find useful.  It may or may not have any actual scientific meaning.  My view is not. 

But sometimes focusing on what is really happening gets in the way of doing it.  You don't want to be focusing on which muscles must remain relaxed and which are doing the work while trying to interpret music, so an organizing mental image like this one helps some people.

And, totally frustrates others with a more analytical bent. 

Every athletic movement has similar ideas.  We now have force plate and 3D capture data and can tell what is really going on with for example a golf swing, but that can be hard to translate into teaching.
Tim

Online lelle

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1583
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #14 on: May 16, 2021, 08:07:09 PM
Arm weight is certainly a mental concept that a lot of people find useful.  It may or may not have any actual scientific meaning.  My view is not. 

My experience is also that it is definitely not, so therefore it becomes problematic when people describe it as an absolute truth, or as this IS what is happening.

Quote
But sometimes focusing on what is really happening gets in the way of doing it.  You don't want to be focusing on which muscles must remain relaxed and which are doing the work while trying to interpret music, so an organizing mental image like this one helps some people.

And, totally frustrates others with a more analytical bent. 

I agree with both those statements. I'm analytical by nature but it does not work for me to try to control my body in detail, nor does it work to think about weight. I have had to learn how to increase my ability to let go of both specific muscles/tensions and my overall body in general, without hyperfocusing/obsessing about specific parts, to get anywhere. Thinking about weight just never worked for me in accomplishing that.

Offline loveibert

  • PS Gold Member
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 5
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #15 on: December 01, 2021, 02:52:24 AM
My experience is also that it is definitely not, so therefore it becomes problematic when people describe it as an absolute truth, or as this IS what is happening.

I agree with both those statements. I'm analytical by nature but it does not work for me to try to control my body in detail, nor does it work to think about weight. I have had to learn how to increase my ability to let go of both specific muscles/tensions and my overall body in general, without hyperfocusing/obsessing about specific parts, to get anywhere. Thinking about weight just never worked for me in accomplishing that.

The Taubman approach is clearly scientific, based on various principles of body mechanics and the most efficient use of hands and arms. If you are familiar with the Alexander or Feldenkreis Technique, it is easier to understand how this technique works. That said, it is often misunderstood and not so easy to learn. It is a discipline which produces great rewards. Once the principles are totally absorbed, they become integrated into your playing so that there is great freedom of expression and technique. Dorothy Taubman was especially devoted to working with pianists who had injuries and "weaknesses", with great success.  I'm not trying to"sell" these ideas-I just want to clarify what they are about.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1188
Re: Skin and bone pinky will never get strong!
Reply #16 on: December 01, 2021, 03:46:55 AM
My experience is also that it is definitely not, so therefore it becomes problematic when people describe it as an absolute truth, or as this IS what is happening.

I agree with both those statements. I'm analytical by nature but it does not work for me to try to control my body in detail, nor does it work to think about weight. I have had to learn how to increase my ability to let go of both specific muscles/tensions and my overall body in general, without hyperfocusing/obsessing about specific parts, to get anywhere. Thinking about weight just never worked for me in accomplishing that.
Ok, so here's my understanding of what people usually mean by arm weight. If you rest your arm on a tabletop, it will weigh down on the tabletop, because the weight of the arm itself is say a few hundred grams. Now, if you do the same thing, resting this weight on your fingertips, laying down when you press a key, you are producing a force (aka weight), which then propels the key down. So you initially suspend your arm a few millimeters above the key, or even right on the key. And then you drop which results in the momentum transferring to the key attack.

For this, you will additionally need to learn to hold your fingertips up in a curved position while holding that weight, which is not very intuitive as you usually tend to flatten the fingers when pressed. This requires some strength and stability in the muscles of the hand which hold up the fingers.

I usually find that the natural weight of the arm, right from the keys, results in around a  mezzoforte to a forte. Fortissimo or very fast playing will require more power, either by dropping from a height (which tends to create a harsher sound), "bearing down" against the keys with body weight (thus resting more of your body weight on the keyboard creating a louder sound), or from raw strength at the fingertips (flexor muscles etc.). There is also a whip-like movement where you push against the keys and the head is used as a counterweight. People usually tell you to avoid using too much of the muscles in the forearm because overuse can cause injury, but some amount is still required. Taubman, I believe almost completely discourages this, but I don't think that's practical.

lelle, let me know what you think of this and if it makes any sense. I've learned most of it over the past year or so, and so a lot of it is still fairly new to me.
 

Logo light pianostreet.com - the website for classical pianists, piano teachers, students and piano music enthusiasts.

Subscribe for unlimited access

Sign up

Follow us

Piano Street Digicert