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Topic: Any advice on how to make fingers less flat/ tense when playing?  (Read 261 times)

Offline stickypedal

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Hi, I'm new here. I've been playing the piano for about 9 years now- I'm grade 6/7 level.
My major problem is that my fingers are both too tense and also have a tendency to become flat when playing. Does anyone have any advice as to how to fix these problems?

Offline ego0720

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Welcome! Iím relatively new too.

Can I ask about your body awareness and technique when you play? And do you have breaks? Usually the problem relates to posture, positioning, and technique.  Proper mechanic flow (involving tense-relaxation cycle) with good wrist movements is critical aside from the body awareness.

Do you also give your hands a break every 20 minutes? I usually do finger grasp exercises for 20-30 seconds or shake my hands when I feel the fingers curl from continuous play. I also use a hand-sized ball that I squeeze (or stress ball) and focus on finger sensitivity. I also pull backwards the fingers against the direction of the knuckles to stretch the front or anterior area of forearm for 10-20 seconds. Donít forget the thumbs. Donít pull at the digits distal from the hands but at the finger base (knuckle area and equivalent).

Lastly, I -slowly- hand squeeze (like squeezing a bottle) with nothing in my hand and focus on each finger to understand the tension-release mechanism. I internalize that feeling until it is layered deep into my subconsciousness. Maybe 5x multiple times a day when Iím away from piano. This builds my general grip strength. In this respect try to do rock climbing or any activity that requires grip. Fixing cars, Judo (with Gi), hand washing laundry, shuffling playing cardsÖ as long as you build *natural* strength as hard as you can with a complementary relaxation. I attribute my healthy hand grip from doing judo but I would probably rank rock climbing as better activity to really build grip. Constant tension eventually creates fatigue so 50% of the practice should be learning to relax the muscles while you play.

Also record a video from all angles and study yourself.  The obvious stuff u will see here to fix (on the outside). The other problem will be the underlying tension flow in the engine that runs your finger. The right way will involve relaxation during the practice or performance every other second (relates to hand techniques). The fundamentals of proper piano technique will address this problem.

You want to consciously implement the changes and eventually it will be autonomic. Do it slowly at first. It will organically be faster. I have to go into my library.. think one person wrote an entire book to solve this problem. I remember that she ran a clinic for pianist hands and wrote about her experience treating this problem for many pianists.. will look for it and if I find it Iíll update you.

When you look at the anatomy of the hands, flat hands definitely is the main culprit in the tension. The difference when the fingers are straight and perpendicular to the hand is how pressure is relieved (think how a spider walks). The movement of curved fingers is unnatural so it is something to get used to. Once a practitioner makes this dangly fingers move independently and like a spider.. that is the classical pianist hand. It needs to be incorporated. If you already formed the habit with flat hands, you may need more time to reverse that habit. It might humbly set u back but is critical for the long haul.

Iíll also mention personally I donít move just my fingers but the range extends to my knuckles at the fingers base. Combined with other forces of motion (rotation, float off, pizza cutter roll).. that mechanical action leaves my hands without any problems even after many hours of practice.

Offline stickypedal

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Thanks for the advice!
I try to sit upright and about arm length from the piano, while trying not to lean too far forward while playing. Then, I also try not to practise for too long (although sometimes I lose track of time...).
Just a lot of conscious implementation, huh? Okay. I guess I was kind of expecting that...

Offline ego0720

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Thanks for the advice!
I try to sit upright and about arm length from the piano, while trying not to lean too far forward while playing. Then, I also try not to practise for too long (although sometimes I lose track of time...).
Just a lot of conscious implementation, huh? Okay. I guess I was kind of expecting that...

Bend your fingers at the outer two digits (like animal claw). Then bend at the base of the fingers at the knuckles while keeping fingers straight. Feel the back of the hands in each case.  Youíll notice that the tension occurs most when the outer digits are bent (flat hand) and thatís the reason they tell you to ďcurveĒ fingers. Itís anatomy. The tension either goes to the back of your hand or to your forearms depending on which digits are bent during play. Forearm has more endurance and tension diffusion so we like to send the energy here. The conscious part happens initially. Practice the desired hand gesture slowly. Once you get the knack of playing with the ďwalkingĒ fingers.. eventually you donít think about it and you do this automatically. Thatís what u want. It may take some time to break habit but possible. Conscious implementation applies only when you want change because we are creatures of habit. Because you realized your problem.. think you will be able to find the fix. I just gave you my fix.

Online lelle

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  • Posts: 2011
Can you place your hands over the keys so that they are ready to play, but without actually playing, without tensing/clenching the fingers, hands and/or wrists? If not start there. Explore how your hands feel when they are soft and free from tension, vs when they are not, and learn to recognize the difference. If you have had tense hands for a long time, you've likely learned to block out/ignore the feeling in your hands and forearms that signify that they are tense. But that feeling is still there, you just need to practice "hearing" it again, so listen to your body and compare to how your hand feel when they are just relaxed.

Second thing, once you are getting better at the above, is to see if you can maintain the hands in this soft state when pressing notes. Of course, the finger holding down the key needs to be doing something, but check if the other, non playing fingers are tense. They should be free from tension. Don't forget the thumb! It's a common culprit.

Ideally, you should find a teacher to work on this stuff with, since there is a lot that can go wrong if you try to work from written descriptions. Source: this is what I did when I started retraining my hands to be more relaxed and it was no bueno.
 

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