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Topic: Play using your arms?  (Read 3197 times)

Offline TremolO

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Play using your arms?
on: February 20, 2005, 02:02:07 AM
How do you "play using your arms" and how long does it take to be able to play things like scales or thirds legato using your arms rather than your fingers.  my instructor says when doing exercises like thirds you are supposed to be dropping onto the keys using your arm not your fingers.  how do you do that?!

also is it bad if my fingers hurt after playing for a while.  does that mean my technique is bad??
All you need is love.

Offline steinwayguy

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #1 on: February 20, 2005, 04:33:04 AM
Read
On Piano Playing- Gyorgy? Sandor
and
The Indispensibles of Piano Playing- Abby Whiteside

Offline willcowskitz

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #2 on: February 20, 2005, 05:19:19 AM
I'm sure it doesn't require reading of a book to internalize the idea of this technique.  :P

Offline DarkWind

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #3 on: February 20, 2005, 03:42:22 PM
The arms is an integral part to piano playing. My instructor places the part right behind the shoulder as the most important location when playing the piano. Piano playing involves not just the fingers. It involves your whole body. Try this. Move your elbow a little bit to the left and a little bit to the right. Then move only you wrist a little bit to the left and a little bit to the right. Which do you think covers more area more quickly? The elbow, of course! And if you keep going up the arm, you'll find movement easier and easier. The first part to being able to use your arms is to be able to relax them, and to relieve them of tension. This will take a while to master. For some, several months, maybe even years, to achieve a perfect relaxation even while playing intense octave passages. This will reduce strain and arm injuries, and you will be able to play more tiring pieces with a better ease. Second part is to be able to know how to "walk" on the keys. Basically, when you stand up, do you exert a lot of power to stay standing and place your feet on the ground? You never go around stomping all the time to stay standing and to walk? You use almost no energy to stand up, and it doesn't hurt to stand up, either. There is no excessive energy wasted, and people would notice that you are heavily straining yourself. (This is an important use for having a teacher. You can never watch your arms while you play. Of course, there are millions of other reasons for having a teacher, but this is a real important one.) So, you have to learn to achieve a similar effect while playing piano. Being able to walk on the keys helps a lot, and makes lots of piano playing a lot simpler. My teacher found Chopin's Op. 10, No. 2, to be less difficult than the other etudes simply because he had known how to use his arms and the other techniques here. He also has a virtually perfect legato on that piece, too. (With no pedal!). There is a lot more to using your arms, but this is just a short, condensed version. I hope this helps.

Offline TremolO

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #4 on: February 20, 2005, 04:08:13 PM
so is it ok that in the beginning I don't 'walk' on the keys so much?  will I start to naturally build that technique from playing scales and thirds a lot?
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Offline DarkWind

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #5 on: February 21, 2005, 02:19:47 AM
so is it ok that in the beginning I don't 'walk' on the keys so much?  will I start to naturally build that technique from playing scales and thirds a lot?

Well, scales and thirds won't help much at all, maybe except for developing some finger technique, but thats about it. The problem with Czerny, Hanon, you name it, is that all they teach is finger technique. Nowhere do they teach arm and shoulder technique. You have to learn to be able to relax the fingers and the muscles. Afterwards, you have to know the mechanics of the key. Learn how much strength you need for each touch. This will take months, probably years, to somewhat master. Be able to play a pianissimo, a fortissimo, a mezzo piano, all with perfect balance with the other dynamics. Know how to create a staccato perfectily with ease. You have to know how far the note depresses before, and be able to control the need of force to have on the keys. Also, for playing louder passages, don't throw your fingers at the keys with more force. Simply, use gravity. Imagine your arm like a rag doll, and let it fall loosely on a note. Let gravity take full responsibilty for the sound of the note. You will probably make a really loud sound. Now, you don't have to have your arm like a rag doll all the time, but always use gravity to control loud passages, and soft passages too. Another concept to focus on is of using your body weight. When you stand up, all your weight rests on your feet, no? It doesn't hurt at all, or cause deep stress. So, learn to use most of your body weight in piano playing by resting it on the fingers, and you can have a stronger, deeper, tone, when you play.

Remember, I'm still in the learning stage of all these techniques, which my teacher has been teaching me for quite a while. He's a student of a pupil of Claudio Arrau's, so you can be sure that Arrau was heavy on these kinds of ideas.

Offline LVB op.57

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #6 on: February 21, 2005, 12:22:30 PM
My teacher was a student of Leon Fleisher, and usage of the arms was always an important issue for him. It's very helpful in a piece such as Pathetique for getting a strong, loud sound without banging. Even in soft, slow music you should incorporate your arms if you can. You will get a much clearer, more singing tone.

Offline SteinwayTony

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #7 on: February 22, 2005, 11:46:28 PM
My teacher was a student of Leon Fleisher, and usage of the arms was always an important issue for him.

Evidently not the right arm.  ;D

Offline steinwayguy

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #8 on: February 23, 2005, 06:38:40 AM


Evidently not the right arm. ;D

No longer!

Offline LVB op.57

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #9 on: February 24, 2005, 02:40:08 AM


No longer!

This is true. He recently released "Two Hands", on which he plays 2 hand pieces by Bach, Chopin, Debussy, and others.

Offline Radix

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #10 on: February 28, 2005, 01:41:45 AM
I would say "play using the wrists" more than "playing using the arms."

Offline bernhard

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #11 on: March 01, 2005, 12:44:27 AM

Here is a way to start.

Imagine your arms have been amputated below the elbow, and you have been fitted with these amazing prosthetics of forearms, hands and fingers. But they are prosthetics, they cannot move by themselves. Now go to the piano, and try to use your arm to position the fingers in place, your arm weight to press the keys and so on. Of course you will need to “brace” your joints (which is very different form “tensing them”). Just like you cannot properly hit a golf ball or play billiards using a piece of rope, you cannot play the piano with the joints all relaxed.

This is the opposite of Hanon (keep your arms and hands immobile and move only your fingers): you want to keep your fingers immobile and use the rest of the playing apparatus to place the fingers and press the keys. Like Hanon this is an extreme approach not to be pursued for ten hours a day. The purpose here is just to give you the general idea. Then you can start working on co-ordinating these arm movements with the finger movements.

By the way such co-ordinations are natural unless you have been doing “isolation” exercises which destroy such basic, natural co-ordinations.

When you grab a fork to eat, do you use your hands or your arms? Try using just your hands. You cannot. The hand grabs the fork, but the whole movement is controlled by the arm who brings the fork precisely to your mouth. You already know how to do it! You do it in every day-to-day activity. Just extend the concept to piano playing.

For thirds have a look here:

https://pianoforum.net/smf/index.php/topic,2477.msg21404.html#msg21404

How long will it take to get the hang of it? A fraction of a second. What are you waiting for? Go to the piano and do it! ;)

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. (Hunter Thompson)

Offline SteinwayTony

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #12 on: March 01, 2005, 12:45:22 AM


This is true. He recently released "Two Hands", on which he plays 2 hand pieces by Bach, Chopin, Debussy, and others.

Way to kill the joke, guys...  >:(

The Bach to which you are referring is Dame Myra Hess's transcription of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.  If you need a reference recording for it, there's the only reason you need to buy Fleisher's latest album; it is beautiful.

I didn't get a chance to listen to the Schubert B-flat major Sonata, D.960, and I wonder how this turned out in comparison to Andsnes, who released his respectable interpretation of it just around the same time Fleisher's album came out.

Offline lagin

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #13 on: March 19, 2005, 03:10:12 AM
I don't get the joke or what you guys are talking about with "not his right arm?"  Any one care to enlighten me?
Christians aren't perfect; just forgiven.

Offline dinosaurtales

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #14 on: March 19, 2005, 03:31:06 AM
Leon Fleischer is a semi-famous pianist and teacher.  He used to be a recitalist.  One day he "just lost" the use of his right arm.  He had several years of therapy, and played a lot of left hand stuff.  Basically he gave up the recital playing. There was a lot of speculation that this was all in his head, as I never heard an explanation that anything was really wrong with his arm (I would guess it was a way of getting out of the recital racket - it's stressful, you know!) .  Anyway, (at least according to lore) his hand started to work again!  now he's back to lecture recitals and master classes, although I do not believe he gives official solo recitals anymore - they are in a classroom setting.  This is a common "way out" for those that totally can't cope with the absurd pressures and stress of giving "perfect" recitals.  I cpmpletely understand!
So much music, so little time........

Offline rlefebvr

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #15 on: March 19, 2005, 04:14:40 AM
This is again a very interesting thread.

I am having trouble with double thirds myself. Starts great, but then my whole forearm tightens up and I can barely move my fingers.

I have go to the piano to see my technique, but I believe I use to much finger and wrist action. I know for a fact my elbow does not move at all, except left to right and right to left.





Ron Lefebvre

 Ron Lefebvre © Copyright. Any reproduction of all or part of this post is sheer stupidity.

Offline LVB op.57

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #16 on: March 19, 2005, 04:30:33 AM
Fleisher lost the use of his right hand, not arm. However, he still taught frequently while he was unable to play.

Offline doowlehc

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #17 on: March 25, 2005, 02:54:35 PM
Leon Fleischer is a semi-famous pianist and teacher.  He used to be a recitalist.  One day he "just lost" the use of his right arm.  He had several years of therapy, and played a lot of left hand stuff.  Basically he gave up the recital playing. There was a lot of speculation that this was all in his head, as I never heard an explanation that anything was really wrong with his arm (I would guess it was a way of getting out of the recital racket - it's stressful, you know!) .  Anyway, (at least according to lore) his hand started to work again!  now he's back to lecture recitals and master classes, although I do not believe he gives official solo recitals anymore - they are in a classroom setting.  This is a common "way out" for those that totally can't cope with the absurd pressures and stress of giving "perfect" recitals.  I cpmpletely understand!

He come sto TOronto's Glenn Gould School of Msic often to conduct master class.  I notice he exclusively uses his left hand to demonstrate - even to demonstrate right hand passages.  I am always amazed at how he can sight read any passage - be it octave, rapid scales, thirds, ANYTHING! - using his left hand - playing up to spead!  his left hand technique + sigh-reading skill is amazing.

Offline xvimbi

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #18 on: March 25, 2005, 03:47:25 PM
Leon Fleischer is a semi-famous pianist and teacher.  He used to be a recitalist.  One day he "just lost" the use of his right arm.  He had several years of therapy, and played a lot of left hand stuff.  Basically he gave up the recital playing. There was a lot of speculation that this was all in his head, as I never heard an explanation that anything was really wrong with his arm (I would guess it was a way of getting out of the recital racket - it's stressful, you know!) .  Anyway, (at least according to lore) his hand started to work again!  now he's back to lecture recitals and master classes, although I do not believe he gives official solo recitals anymore - they are in a classroom setting.  This is a common "way out" for those that totally can't cope with the absurd pressures and stress of giving "perfect" recitals.  I cpmpletely understand!

Er..., Fleisher has focal dystonia. This disease is not in one's head (well, in a way it is as it is a neurological condition), it is very real, and plenty of pianists are afflicted by it. I doubt very much that he wanted to get out of the recital circuit, why else would he have continued to perform left-hand repertoire?

His condition was ultimately alleviated by the injection of Botox, injections which he has to get every now and then, e.g. before a performance! Fleisher nowadays does not only play recitals, but he also plays with orchestras! I just recently saw him play Mozart's piano concerto No. 12 and watched carefully how he plays. His fingering is adapted to avoid the weak fingers in the right hand (particularly fingers 3 and 4). His playing was absolutely fabulous. He probably blows most young hot-shots out of the water when it comes to seemingly simple repertoire, because his understanding and mastery are just in a different league. Just listen to his most recent "Two Hands" (not that he is playing simple repertoire on that one, on the contrary!) I would also say that he is not just semi-famous. IMO, he had and is still having a much more substantial influence than, e.g., Van Cliburn.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Play using your arms?
Reply #19 on: April 02, 2005, 02:03:42 AM
How do you "play using your arms" and how long does it take to be able to play things like scales or thirds legato using your arms rather than your fingers.  my instructor says when doing exercises like thirds you are supposed to be dropping onto the keys using your arm not your fingers.  how do you do that?!

also is it bad if my fingers hurt after playing for a while.  does that mean my technique is bad??

It is important first of all, to know what kind of touch to employ.  The kind of touch to employ is described by Godowsky as a kind of "pulling," or by someone I know, as stroking a cat.  A cat does not like to be stroked upwards.  It is the kind of touch, like an eraser on pencil marks.  Every finger touches basically the same way. 
Then, if that touch is not succesful, it is because the  rest of the arm isn't giving the fingers enough space.  It is not important to concentrate, actually, on what "should" the elbow be doing?  What "should" the wrist be doing?  These doings are by-products, they are what happens after the attempt to make something expressive - which comes from inner stimulation, first.  it is not the other way around.  It was never the other way around, in the history of humanity.  Even Stockhausen said, in response to an interviewer asking about the benefits of certain technological advances in computers for music, that it was the music that made those demands first.

The point is, the arm, the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist, they all have to be free.  Free to do what?  Free to support, free to react.  They cannot be made to do this, at this time, at this speed, at this weight, et cetera, on until death or deterioration.  Each person develops these parts totally individually.  First we need to know the touch, then we need the sensory sophistication to identify which part of us is blocking full expression.

Walter Ramsey
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