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#951268 - 02/07/09 05:21 AM Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
chihuahua Offline
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Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 391
Loc: An Oligarchy
Dear Teachers,

There are many pedagogues and systems, and some advocate curled fingers, while others swear by flat finger techniques.

What are your views? Is there a place for BOTH techniques rather than curled versus flat?

Personally, I find melodic lines played better with flat fingers, while crystal clear fast passages are played better with curled fingers. I have been taught both techniques by different teachers.

So what are your views and beliefs?

Thanks!
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#951269 - 02/07/09 05:25 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Maybe you read this thread? http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?/topic/2/20075.html#000000
Fingers should be naturally curved. Curled or flat is for specialists who know what they're doing.
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#951270 - 02/07/09 07:25 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
chihuahua Offline
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Registered: 01/05/09
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KBK,

Thanks!

I agree with what you say - the curved (Chopin's method) finger is what I usually use. This naturally "curved" finger is classified by my current teacher (who probably has Russian training) as close to "flat fingers," which she heavily criticized.

I was taught by my previous teachers to use the "curved" fingers. One previous teacher also taught me to use the curled fingers as well, but only for selected passages (looks like the "curled fingers" in Leschetizky's method). But my current teacher swear by the curled fingers!

That is why I'm pretty confused now!
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#951271 - 02/07/09 08:31 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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If you can play Chopin with the appropriate relaxed (curved) hand then you can go ahead and curl away for Bach. Adding tension is easy (and uncomfortable) releasing it can take years.
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#951272 - 02/07/09 08:58 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
Chris H. Offline
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Registered: 10/14/05
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Loc: UK.
I think there is a big difference between flat fingers which still have a slight natural curve and flat fingers which are dead straight or even bend back at the last joint. If you straighten your fingers out completely you will feel your wrists become stiff. You can't articulate fingers like that. What happens is you start to compensate by pressing harder. This is incredibly bad but very common in those who don't know any better. Lots of people compensate for weak fingers in all sorts of unusual ways.

Curled fingers are good for pieces which are finger based. All those intricate passages with detailed articulation you get in Baroque and Classical repertoire.
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#951273 - 02/07/09 09:30 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
chihuahua Offline
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Thanks again KBK and Chris!

That was very helpful. I know that when it comes to various systems of teaching, it can become a sensitive issue. I am now trying to imbibe both system and make use of each for different kind of pieces. I guess only time will tell ...
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#951274 - 02/07/09 05:39 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
pianobuff Offline
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Why choose between the two. How about somewhere in between with firm, yet flexible fingertips (pads).
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#951275 - 02/16/09 08:15 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
musiclady Offline
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Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Relatively flat fingers, with a natural curve--I encourage my students to play this way, and I noticed most good professional pianists play with relatively flat hands. Even myself, with curled fingers (especially the extremely curled ones I sometimes see--could reach less than an octave. With relatively flat hand, a comfortable 9th, the flat hand has much less tension too.

Meri
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#951276 - 02/16/09 10:11 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
chihuahua Offline
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Thanks musiclady. I noticed that too ;\)
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#951277 - 02/16/09 10:18 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
pomona Offline
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Registered: 01/25/09
Posts: 3
Loc: Washington State
I was taught to play with curled fingers and a lot of tension, and developed severe tendonitis in my 20's. Finally went to Dorothy Taubman and began learning how to play with the natural alignment of the hand using in and out movements in white note keys to avoid curling. (moving out to the long fingers and in to the short fingers in (mostly) white key scales.) Both curled fingers and overly straightened fingers produce tension which reduces speed and fluency.
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#951278 - 02/17/09 01:20 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
pianobuff Offline
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pomona,

When you say in and out movements are you kind of "sweeping" with your fingers on the keys?
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#951279 - 02/17/09 02:33 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by musiclady:
Even myself, with curled fingers (especially the extremely curled ones I sometimes see--could reach less than an octave. With relatively flat hand, a comfortable 9th, the flat hand has much less tension too.[/b]
Interesting observation. In the 18th century keyboards were played with curled fingers that's why legato was not the norm - they couldn't reach the leaps, instead changing hand position..
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#951280 - 02/17/09 08:13 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think people tend to ignore developmental pedagogy where this topic is concerned. While both approaches are obviously successfully applied by excellent pianists, the curved finger approach is preferable for student pianists. It gives the hand a more natural shape, supports the development of a bridge, and promotes the strengthening of the fingers. From a developmental standpoint, flattened fingers are less natural and do not help develop a strong bridge and fingers.

This is one of those cases in which pedagogy is different than practice. In practice, flattened fingers have their uses - there are tone colors and articulations possible with flattened fingers that are not accessible with a curved approach.
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#951281 - 02/20/09 10:35 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
CD131 Offline
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Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 103
Loc: Canada
One must use both, depending upon the circumstance. I can't imagine playing Chopin, Op 25, No. 1 with curved fingers, nor could I imagine how one would play something like J.S. Bach's Fantasia in c minor with flat fingers. Add to that that we are all hinged slightly differently. What works for me will not necessarily work for you.
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#951282 - 02/20/09 10:45 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
MiWa Offline
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Registered: 01/23/09
Posts: 7
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
My children are taking lessons and they're being taught to play with curved fingers, shaped like the letter "c". I'm told by the conservatory where they are studying that this is the correct way.
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#951283 - 02/20/09 11:28 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
pianobuff Offline
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Loc: Pacific Northwest
Personally I think the teaching of technique is so highly individualized and opinions or so different that there is no one right answer... well I may think there is... but how can one discuss something and say, this is the way it should be done, when it so subjective.

I guess it comes down to how well students play with the technique that is taught to them as well as how many are able to continue progressing while not getting injured.
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#951284 - 02/21/09 02:24 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by MiWa:
My children are taking lessons and they're being taught to play with curved fingers, shaped like the letter "c". I'm told by the conservatory where they are studying that this is the correct way. [/b]
It was the correct way throughout the 19th century. Chopin saw it differently, he believed the hand should lie on the keys as it appears when hanging arms at your side. Check this out, though I disagree with some of their ideas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=_ydx84Sp1rc&feature=channel_page
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#951285 - 02/21/09 02:31 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by CD131:
I can't imagine playing Chopin, Op 25, No. 1 with curved fingers, nor could I imagine how one would play something like J.S. Bach's Fantasia in c minor with flat fingers. [/b]
The terminology we're using here is curved (natural) vs curled (shaped). Curved is healthy and for Chopin and after. Curled gives you plenty of tension, but is how Bach and Mozart played. I was taught to even play Bach and Mozart with the natural curve - I wouldn't teach children differently. When you have near-zero tension and you know what you are doing then you can by all means experiment.
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#951286 - 02/21/09 09:19 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
gnu Offline
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Registered: 02/16/09
Posts: 39
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Curled gives you plenty of tension, but is how Bach and Mozart played.[/b]
Although I wonder what kind of action the instruments they played on had. Did Bach ever see a piano?
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#951287 - 02/22/09 02:38 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Bach tried a piano at Frederick the Great's court and said the action was too heavy. Later on as Silberman improved the action he was more impressed. His youngest son, JC Bach, had the piano in mind when publishing his Sonatas. Mozart played on a piano with about 5mm keydip and extremely light action (more or less no resistance). But lightness is not the point of the curl. Even with no action curling up the fingers is full of tension especially all down your sides.
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#1154646 - 02/28/09 01:43 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: keyboardklutz]
alannamarie Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 15
Loc: Clarington, Ontario
I'd say there needs to be a balance. Fingers shouldn't be flat, but they shouldn't be too curled in either. For most situations, fingers should be held somewhere in the middle of those too extremes. Sometimes, certain techniques will call for slightly flatter fingers - often arpeggiated passages.

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#1154650 - 02/28/09 01:45 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: alannamarie]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: alannamarie
fingers should be held somewhere in the middle of those too extremes.
No, fingers should not be 'held' at all. They lie there undisturbed until they're needed.
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#1154973 - 02/28/09 11:21 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: pomona]
Upscale Piano Lessons Offline
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Registered: 04/29/08
Posts: 6
Loc: Plaistow, NH

Chihuahua, you're on the right track when you said there's "a place for BOTH techniques rather than curled versus flat?"

I learned as a student and subsequently taught for many years that one should always play with curved fingers. Then, about ten years ago, I actually took a close look at what my fingers were doing when I played a blazingly fast chromatic scale: Finger 3 was 'popsicle stick' flat on every black key strike and finger 2 was completely curved every time it struck F & C!

This type of adjustment (using curved fingers on white keys and straight [or arched] fingers on black keys) works well because if the 'white key curved fingers' stay in the "grey zone" close to the black keys, simply arching or straightening out a finger to strike a black key keeps the hand in a calm, comfortable, position.

But, I do notice that once in a while, I'll play certain, short black/white key passages with completly curved fingers and honestly, I'm not really sure why. Sometimes, certain articulations and certain combinations of notes just work best with all the fingers totally curved.

Now, on the other side of the coin, I've watched slow motion video of Vladimir Horowitz in concert: What a revelation! He was playing with straight (or very slightly arched) fingers on both black and white keys... constantly! I have a non-scientific theory about this: Vladimir Horowitz's super-human, super-fast, electro-chemical response time allowed him to be able to play that way, for us mere mortals, we have to make calculated, technical adjustments to our technique to squeeze out every bit of juice we can.

Excellent post Chihuahua and good luck!

Paul

www.upscalepianolessons.com

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#1155007 - 03/01/09 01:52 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: Upscale Piano Lessons]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Originally Posted By: Upscale Piano Lessons

I have a non-scientific theory about this: Vladimir Horowitz's super-human, super-fast, electro-chemical response time allowed him to be able to play that way, for us mere mortals, we have to make calculated, technical adjustments to our technique to squeeze out every bit of juice we can.
Actually the science is that the smaller intrinsic muscles of the hand move faster than the larger flexors needed for curling. Upscale, your attitude to flat/curved/curling seems spot on - let the body decide.
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#1155510 - 03/01/09 09:03 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: pomona]
chihuahua Offline
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Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 391
Loc: An Oligarchy
Thanks for all the precious input!
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#1158487 - 03/06/09 01:03 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: keyboardklutz]
keyboardmuse Offline
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Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 22
Might I add to that a further explanation of curve vs. curl? For me, a curved finger is the shape that occurs when you allow the hand to hang by your side, and not do anything to the fingers. That is the shape I use. I also move the fingers from the top knuckle, so that when the fingers extend for a chord or wide interval, the slight curve still remains, but is more open. For me, a curl is something different. It is when you draw the bottom knuckle toward the palm. This produces tension. I'm not sure everyone in this discussion makes that distinction between the natural curve, and an active curl. Does that make sense?

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#1158797 - 03/06/09 10:06 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: pianobuff]
keyboardmuse Offline
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Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 22
This isn't Pamona, but I can tell you that the in and out movements are provided by the elbow moving in and out, allowing the fingers to lift and drop in the white key area where they are more comfortable, and where the key feels lighter(it's like a seesaw in that the farther away you are from the fulcrum-pin-the easier it is to put down). And they can do it without curling, which causes tension. Curling specifically means pulling in the bottom knuckle of the finger, rather than letting it stay in its natural curve. Hope this helps.

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#1158820 - 03/06/09 11:13 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: keyboardmuse]
TimR Online   content
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Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3003
Loc: Virginia, USA
I saw Fazil Say on late night tv playing the Alla Turca.

His fingers were flat - and vertical.

???
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#1158825 - 03/06/09 11:22 PM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: keyboardmuse]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5834
Loc: Down Under
oooo, funny laugh
I just read keyboardmuse's two posts and thought: "I'm losing it! I don't remember writing that!"



(for anyone who can't see the avatars, we have the same one...)
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#1158874 - 03/07/09 02:11 AM Re: Flat Fingers vs. Curl Fingers - Which? [Re: currawong]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Neither you, TimR or kbm have an avatar even though I've 'reset' to 'show avatars' in preferences. As for using the elbow in playing that's very mid-19th century and onwards. If you can choose which era's technique to use it's more fun and much more musical to play authentically. If you have a modern piano that's not concert weight keys you can get away with some quite extraordinary curling. The tension's unpleasant but you can stop it any time.
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