Piano Forum



International Piano Day 2024
Piano Day is an annual worldwide event that takes place on the 88th day of the year, which in 2024 is March 28. Established in 2015, it is now well known across the globe. Every year it provokes special concerts, onstage and online, as well as radio shows, podcasts, and playlists. Read more >>

Topic: "intense" music vs. tension  (Read 2148 times)

Offline green_beans

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
"intense" music vs. tension
on: March 09, 2005, 06:07:49 AM
Hey all,

How do you approach creating intensity in your music, without allowing your body to become tense at the same time?

I've recently been reading here and there about ways to relax while playing. Working with these relaxation techniques has been helpful in practicing bland exercises but when I go back to real music, the super amounts of tension return. It's as if my brain is geared into thinking that I will create boring music if I do not tense up.

Let me know your personal ideas on this. Suggestions are also welcome!

Offline Pianostudy

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 70
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #1 on: March 09, 2005, 06:49:33 AM
It is possible to play intensely without tension.  The two are not the same thing.  For example, playing a big work such as a Chopin polonaise or a Beethoven Sonata requires much intensity, but one must in fact be tension-free to achieve such inensity.  Intensity entails a certain seriousness and emotional investment into the work you are playing, whereas tension has more to do with the physical aspect of the playing: your muscles and fingers.  In short, practice connecting to your music on the "intense" emotional level the composer intended without straining your muscles, and making sure your neck, shoulders, wrists, etc are relaxed throughout your playing.

Offline Daevren

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 700
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #2 on: March 10, 2005, 11:42:15 PM
Intensity when you talk about dynamics and musicallity and tension in the body/muscles?

Those are two different things. To me intense music can be created by applying tasteful rubato and using proper accents on some tones. Its in the phrasing and the dynamics.

Your body should always be as relaxed as possible while playing.

You have to connect 'directly' with the music. Not through your hands and the keys.

Offline green_beans

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #3 on: March 11, 2005, 02:05:04 AM
Thank you for your replies!

Intensity when you talk about dynamics and musicallity and tension in the body/muscles?

Yes...intensity as in any strongly expressive music.

It is possible to play intensely without tension. The two are not the same thing.

This I realize. Problem is, I hear/read about how NOT to approach it, but never how TO approach it. I've been reading much about more relaxed technique (especially now, due to recent diagnosis of tendonitis). It's taking a looooong time to work out the tension in my playing.

Then I realized that it's not just a physical issue, but a mental block as well. I tense up when I just listen to music!

Anyone else ever have this issue or am I just odd? I've thought of taking dance lessons...anything else I could do?

Thanks again! :)

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 7507
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #4 on: March 11, 2005, 05:12:55 AM
Can you give us an example of the peice and which exact part you are tensing up?
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline green_beans

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #5 on: March 11, 2005, 06:14:59 AM
My question isn't about a specific piece, or section, but more along general lines of just playing. I have tension problems with all my repertoire, in all levels of personal technical difficulty--say, an "easier" Bach Prelude/Fugue up to a Chopin Sonata. I am a graduate student at a university.

I suppose I shouldn't have used the word "intensity". Rather, I could rephrase: How do you express emotion in your playing without becoming physically tense?

 :)

Offline lostinidlewonder

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 7507
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #6 on: March 11, 2005, 06:36:32 AM
Yeah but give us one specific example (a bar of a particular peice) so we can think about how to increase the relaxation in that section. Are you saying if you play... lets say the first prelude in the Bach Well Tempered Clavier Bk 1 and you are totally tense?

If you just say you are tense when things get louder or this or that it is not being specific, more to yourself than anything else. In music(in anything you do really), I believe it is a good idea to always identify the cause your problem.

There must definatly be a particular aspect of the piece which causes you to tense. If an entire piece was written for one finger, i am sure you wouldnt be tensing up, so I wonder how many notes have to be added, or how do they have to be used to make you tense? So an example would give us all insight into what you are experiencing and something we could work on instead of saying generalisations which do nothing very specific.

One general thing I could say is always aim to achieve the hand form Chopin regarded as most natural at the piano. That is RH 12345 on : E Gb Ab Bb B  and LH 54321 on: F Gb Ab Bb C.  You should strive to achieve this hand posture at all times when you play the piano. Anything which distorts this shape causes tension in the hand/arm/body. This does call for flattening out the fingers while playing instead of trying to keep fingers curled.
"The biggest risk in life is to take no risk at all."
www.pianovision.com

Offline ramseytheii

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2488
Re: "intense" music vs. tension
Reply #7 on: April 02, 2005, 02:46:29 AM
Hey all,

How do you approach creating intensity in your music, without allowing your body to become tense at the same time?

I've recently been reading here and there about ways to relax while playing. Working with these relaxation techniques has been helpful in practicing bland exercises but when I go back to real music, the super amounts of tension return. It's as if my brain is geared into thinking that I will create boring music if I do not tense up.

Let me know your personal ideas on this. Suggestions are also welcome!


I had a similar problem.  I would have even described it in almost exactly the same way, "It's as if my brain is geared into thinking that I will create boring music if I do not tense up."   I really believe, and I hope I don't give a half-answer, that the answer is not to "relax."  If we "relax," we are "relaxing," and not making music.  First we make music.  We do something like relax, only to make music.  That has to be understood, to the fullest.

Why does this tension happen?  It may be physical demands that are beyond our knowledge or experience.  It may not be - either way, the answer is to cultivate slow tempos.  I mean slow tempos.  So slow, that we can hear everything first.  If we try and bunch an entire piece, into one gesture, it will cause a huge amount of tension, even if we have physically mastered the piece.
The answer, I believe, is to hear, hear hear, always hear first, then play.  The music has to have breadth in the mind, and the physical will react.  I truly believe it, like I believe my mother when she says I was born on that day.  If we do not give the music the -time- to develop, we are caught in a time trap.  We are getting to climaxes, before it is appropriate.  These are premature climaxes, they are the result of rushing through things, pushing through to the end, rather than mainly reacting.  Performance, in public or private, is a  matter of reaction, of hearing first, and playing second, playing because we hear.  We play because we hear.

Walter Ramsey
For more information about this topic, click search below!
 

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