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#1275181 - 09/25/09 08:48 PM Exercise for playing octaves
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
My son has a new piece that requires a melody with octaves, and his teacher has pointed out that he is very stiff when he plays them. She showed him how to relax more, but I was wondering if there are specific exercises for playing octaves in a more relaxed way. He's 13 and can reach an octave, though he hasn't really hit a growth spurt so it's not as comfortable as it would be for a grown man.

Thanks,

Nancy
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#1275185 - 09/25/09 08:52 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: NancyM333]
jnod Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
Actually, I would say exercises for octaves can be generally useful - I'm working on the Alla Turka movement of the K331 Mozart Sonata at the moment and the broken octaves near the end are really doing a number on me!
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
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#1275284 - 09/25/09 11:34 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: jnod]
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Nancy, why not ask your son's teacher? Since she can see him play and see what is challenging to him about the octaves, she can best assess what exercises would help the most and how to implement them. Octaves can be treacherous ground, for smaller hands especially.
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#1275344 - 09/26/09 01:05 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Morodiene]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Morodienne's right. You need to be careful seeking advice elsewhere. Octaves are played from the wrist. The first element of this technique is to have your hand hanging from your wrist 100% relaxed. For a millisecond you stiffen as you drop your arm weight into the keys then immediately flop your wrist level with the keys (relaxing your fingers as much as possible). Lift your wrist and start again. At no point do your fingers lose contact with the keys. The skill is to only be tense for the moment of sound production - not before and not after. But if his teacher disagrees?

Of course, Kullack is yer main man.
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#1275453 - 09/26/09 08:36 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Octaves are played from the wrist.


I wish more people understood this. Four times out of five, I'd say that when people say "your octaves look stiff," they really mean "you're not using your wrists effectively." (And the other 1 time out of 5 is usually a thumb issue.)
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#1275510 - 09/26/09 10:40 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Morodienne's right. You need to be careful seeking advice elsewhere. Octaves are played from the wrist. The first element of this technique is to have your hand hanging from your wrist 100% relaxed. For a millisecond you stiffen as you drop your arm weight into the keys then immediately flop your wrist level with the keys (relaxing your fingers as much as possible). Lift your wrist and start again. At no point do your fingers lose contact with the keys. The skill is to only be tense for the moment of sound production - not before and not after. But if his teacher disagrees?

Of course, Kullack is yer main man.


Octaves are not played 'from' the wrist in any sense at all. The muscles are not equipped for the task. The impetus comes from the upper body. Try holding your forearm still and playing a few loud octaves from the wrist alone. It's remarkably tiring and utterly futile. Octaves need to be played with a certain amount of freedom in the wrist, but they should never be played 'from' the wrist. That's merely how it appears on the immediate exterior. It doesn't even begin to represent where the motion is actually initiated. Octaves come more from the elbow and even to an extent from the shoulder. As for the idea of collapsing from the wrist, that is pure bullshit. Can anyone name a single professional who produces tone by lifting and then collapsing their wrist? For a start, it results in virtually no transfer of energy. The majority of the energy is directed down through the wrist, not into the keyboard. Frankly, this is one the single silliest ideas I have ever heard. The exercise can train a pianist with permanentyl locked wrists to release them. That is its only purpose. It has absolutely nothing to do with the movements for actually playing octaves. Letting the wrist collapse in that way actually takes away from the energy that can be channelled through the fingers. It's really very simple physics. While practising such movements might permit some very tense people to free themselves up enough to figure out how octaves are really played, I really pity anyone who takes such advice literally and thinks that they will get anywhere (from such a staggeringly inefficient and effortful manner of playing an octave).

Also, there's no better recipe for arm tensions than allowing the fingers to "relax as much as possible". Please ignore this patent nonsense (from a self-appointed expert on technique who doesn't even play to basic college level). If the fingers relax as much as possible, the only thing stopping the palm from collapsing into the keys is the employment of crippling tensions in the arm. The fingers need to support, if the arm is to be free. That has zero to do with relaxing them as much as possible. Such nonsense can cause major problems. The wrist and forearm need to be freed up, but relaxing the fingers as much as possible on an octave is about the last thing that would help anyone (other those who are sadly incapable of actually relaxing). Judging from KBKs youtube films, it doesn't even work for him, never mind anyone else. The real secret is to learn how to relax the forearm, without letting the fingers go slack.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 11:21 AM)
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#1275624 - 09/26/09 01:33 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
jnod Offline
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Registered: 04/04/09
Posts: 794
Loc: Toronto
Nyiregyhazi -
I think I may agree with you - to the extent that I'm aware of how I do this, I play octaves with a somewhat stiff, but still supple (if that makes sense hand with the motion coming primarily from the forearm. A particular challenge for me is playing the broken octaves in the alla turka as I mentioned above. I just can't seem to do it accurately.

BUT NEVER MIND THAT Nyiregyhazi - WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY?
_________________________
Justin
-------
Bach English Suite #5
Scarlatti Sonata K141 . L422
Mozart Sonata K333
Schubert Impromptu opus 90 D899
Schubert Moment Musicaux opus 94 D780

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#1275630 - 09/26/09 01:46 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: jnod]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: jnod
Nyiregyhazi -
I think I may agree with you - to the extent that I'm aware of how I do this, I play octaves with a somewhat stiff, but still supple (if that makes sense hand with the motion coming primarily from the forearm. A particular challenge for me is playing the broken octaves in the alla turka as I mentioned above. I just can't seem to do it accurately.

BUT NEVER MIND THAT Nyiregyhazi - WHY ARE YOU SO ANGRY?


laugh Sorry, it just annoys me the way KBK seems to think he knows so much about technique, but gives such truly appalling, ill-thought out advice.

As you say, it's important to find that apparently contradictory balance between stifness and suppleness. The word 'stiffness' is going a little too far for my taste, but a truly relaxed wrist is no use either. Too many people lock the forearm, certainly. However, if you don't do a certain amount of 'holding' at the wrist, you have too much slack to apply any energy efficiently. You need to keep the wrist stable, without locking it. The key is both to learn to relax first but THEN to learn which muscles need to be used. Too many 'relaxation' solutions are concerned solely with mere preparatory requirement that is the former, but ignore the importance of figuring out the most efficient ways to reintroduce the muscular activity that is required to do a proper job. The idea that the secret to octaves lies in relaxing the fingers and flopping the wrist about is simply absurd. I find this stuff annoying because I was held back for years by such utterly worthless advice. It was only when I discovered which muscles need to be used (instead of trying in vain to relax everything) that I discovered how to make progress. Finally, I am starting to play difficult music with comfort instead of effort. My octaves recently became substantially quicker and easier when a friend showed me how to introduce more finger activity within the balance. The idea of relaxing the fingers as much as possible (based on some hippy mantra that anything other relaxation is always bad) is exactly the sort of tosh that had been slowing everything down, and causing substantial effort in the upper body.

I think kbk ought to spend more time concentrating on finding a way of developing his own technical skills, before he continues to attempt to give advice to others.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 01:57 PM)
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#1275652 - 09/26/09 02:41 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree with kbk. The wrist has to have flexibility, or tension builds up. It is not that they last firmness to depress the keys, it is simply the once the key is fully depressed, you must use the wrist as a shock absorber to release the excess weight while holding the key down for sustained sound. To continue to press in the keys after the key is completely down leads to ruin.

Explaining such things on a forum is very difficult, which is why I directed the OP to their son's teacher. It must be demonstrated, tried by the student, and then the teacher responds to their attempt until it's done correctly. Words alone do not suffice.
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#1275671 - 09/26/09 03:29 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Morodiene]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree with kbk. The wrist has to have flexibility, or tension builds up. It is not that they last firmness to depress the keys, it is simply the once the key is fully depressed, you must use the wrist as a shock absorber to release the excess weight while holding the key down for sustained sound. To continue to press in the keys after the key is completely down leads to ruin.


But where does kbk's ridiculous idea of lifting the wrist and collapsing it come into this? Or the idea that you supposedly relax your wrist "100%" before striking the keys (which would presumably have the hand hanging down vertically). I agree entirely with what you say there. However, while the wrist needs to be loosened after reaching the key, to relax the fingers is a totally different issue. If the fingers do not support, the upper body is forced to support the whole arm. And the wrist is no longer capable of being loose at all- otherwise it would collapse completely. This is where dangerous tensions can come in. The fingers need the right amount of grip. Either too little or too much is bad. That is why to aim to relax the fingers as much as possible after the strike is an extremely poor piece of advice. It sends the most crippling tensions into the other muscles.

The only person who could actually benefit from such silly hyperbole about relaxing the fingers is someone who is so locked up that they aren't actually able to fully relax the grip. Even if that's the case, they need to learn how to relax completely and then learn to sense the difference between a relaxed finger and the functional one that permits the hand and weight of the arm to remain supported between octaves. The worst tensions are the result of poorly balanced hands. Only when you learn how to use the muscles that will balance everything, can you find true comfort.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/26/09 03:51 PM)
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#1275694 - 09/26/09 04:25 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11427
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree with kbk. The wrist has to have flexibility, or tension builds up. It is not that they last firmness to depress the keys, it is simply the once the key is fully depressed, you must use the wrist as a shock absorber to release the excess weight while holding the key down for sustained sound. To continue to press in the keys after the key is completely down leads to ruin.


But where does kbk's ridiculous idea of lifting the wrist and collapsing it come into this? Or the idea that you supposedly relax your wrist "100%" before striking the keys (which would presumably have the hand hanging down vertically). I agree entirely with what you say there. However, while the wrist needs to be loosened after reaching the key, to relax the fingers is a totally different issue. If the fingers do not support, the upper body is forced to support the whole arm. And the wrist is no longer capable of being loose at all- otherwise it would collapse completely. This is where dangerous tensions can come in. The fingers need the right amount of grip. Either too little or too much is bad. That is why to aim to relax the fingers as much as possible after the strike is an extremely poor piece of advice. It sends the most crippling tensions into the other muscles.

The only person who could actually benefit from such silly hyperbole about relaxing the fingers is someone who is so locked up that they aren't actually able to fully relax the grip. Even if that's the case, they need to learn how to relax completely and then learn to sense the difference between a relaxed finger and the functional one that permits the hand and weight of the arm to remain supported between octaves. The worst tensions are the result of poorly balanced hands. Only when you learn how to use the muscles that will balance everything, can you find true comfort.


If you read the whole context of what he is saying, he is referring to the fingers here: "At no point do your fingers lose contact with the keys. The skill is to only be tense for the moment of sound production - not before and not after." He is speaking of the fingers in contact with the keys remaining tense only during the sound of production. The relaxing of the fingers is relaxing the *non-playing* fingers. Problems arise if the pinky sticks straight out when other fingers are playing, for example.

Having talked with KBK and seen his posts for quite a while now, I understand that he does not advocate total relaxation: there must be tension somewhere to make sound! So it is only relaxing unnecessary tension that he speaks of. Of course, he certainly can defend himself, I just thought I'd point that out.
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#1275711 - 09/26/09 04:52 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Morodiene]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Thank you Morodienne. Yes I can certainly defend myself but, as I think you're aware I'm ignoring that user - he's not very pleasant to have discussion with and another one of those that type and type and type with nothing to say.
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#1275944 - 09/27/09 01:19 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Thank you Morodienne. Yes I can certainly defend myself but, as I think you're aware I'm ignoring that user - he's not very pleasant to have discussion with and another one of those that type and type and type with nothing to say.


But claiming that a wrist that is "100% relaxed" (which would lead to a hand hanging vertcially downwards) can play an octave is supposed to be insightful? The point is that unless somebody is incapable of relaxing 100%, to say "relax as much as possible" is staggeringly poor advice. It's a one-size-fits-all that does not fit all but those who are incapable of sensing what relaxation entails. For anyone who can relax, such absurd advice will lead to a lack of support at the keyboard- and compensatory tensions elsewhere. Anyone who is capable of genuinely relaxing their fingers after an octave will do themself great harm if they actually do so.

If you want to teach anyone about technique (despite the fact that your own technique is not even up to college standard) please stop using such idiotic generalisations and start thinking about what ACTUALLY happens. If you could see beyond the mantra that all relaxation is good, you might find that your own technique could progress beyond the sorry mess that can be witnessed from your films about the 'correct' way to use the wrist on youtube. I have rarely seen anything so laboured and evidently uncomfortable before.

I'm sorry that you know so little about simple physics, but if you stopped to consider my post (instead of deciding that anything beyond a single sentence is too complex for your comprehension), you might realise that dropping the arm at the wrist puts force through the palm- not through the fingers! That is possibly the single least direct means of applying energy to the keyboard that a pianist could ever employ- hence the fact that no pianist of competence utilises such comicallly inept movement when playing octaves. There is no less direct way of applying energy than lifting and flopping the wrist. It is ludicrously wasteful of effort. If you had ever experienced what it's like to play octaves at so much as a modest tempo (highly unlikely, judging from your youtube 'lessons') you might realise what nonsense you are suggesting.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 01:35 AM)
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#1275945 - 09/27/09 01:24 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Morodiene]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
I agree with kbk. The wrist has to have flexibility, or tension builds up. It is not that they last firmness to depress the keys, it is simply the once the key is fully depressed, you must use the wrist as a shock absorber to release the excess weight while holding the key down for sustained sound. To continue to press in the keys after the key is completely down leads to ruin.


But where does kbk's ridiculous idea of lifting the wrist and collapsing it come into this? Or the idea that you supposedly relax your wrist "100%" before striking the keys (which would presumably have the hand hanging down vertically). I agree entirely with what you say there. However, while the wrist needs to be loosened after reaching the key, to relax the fingers is a totally different issue. If the fingers do not support, the upper body is forced to support the whole arm. And the wrist is no longer capable of being loose at all- otherwise it would collapse completely. This is where dangerous tensions can come in. The fingers need the right amount of grip. Either too little or too much is bad. That is why to aim to relax the fingers as much as possible after the strike is an extremely poor piece of advice. It sends the most crippling tensions into the other muscles.

The only person who could actually benefit from such silly hyperbole about relaxing the fingers is someone who is so locked up that they aren't actually able to fully relax the grip. Even if that's the case, they need to learn how to relax completely and then learn to sense the difference between a relaxed finger and the functional one that permits the hand and weight of the arm to remain supported between octaves. The worst tensions are the result of poorly balanced hands. Only when you learn how to use the muscles that will balance everything, can you find true comfort.


If you read the whole context of what he is saying, he is referring to the fingers here: "At no point do your fingers lose contact with the keys. The skill is to only be tense for the moment of sound production - not before and not after." He is speaking of the fingers in contact with the keys remaining tense only during the sound of production. The relaxing of the fingers is relaxing the *non-playing* fingers. Problems arise if the pinky sticks straight out when other fingers are playing, for example.

Having talked with KBK and seen his posts for quite a while now, I understand that he does not advocate total relaxation: there must be tension somewhere to make sound! So it is only relaxing unnecessary tension that he speaks of. Of course, he certainly can defend himself, I just thought I'd point that out.


If he doesn't advocate it, he should not say it. Tell someone who is already too slack in their hand to relax their fingers "as much as possible" after landing on an octave and you screw things up even more.

Of course the fingers stay in contact with the keys. That is not in question. However, if the fingers do not adequately support the weight of the arm between strikes a large workload is placed on the upper body. The kind of workload that means that the typically limp-handed pianist who you see struggling their way through octaves can barely move, for upper body tension. A relaxed finger cannot support the arm's weight, without the wrist either locking or collapsing. Until a hand grips enough to allow the upper body to find rest, the upper body will have to lock up, to balance the forces. Relaxing the hand as much as possible means MORE workload upon the upper body, not less. Gravity must be supported somwhere. Anyone who has the goal of relazing their fingers as much as possible will most certainly be forced to hold their arm still from above. Otherwise their wrist would collapse. Or they have some kind of anti-gravity module.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 01:46 AM)
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#1275960 - 09/27/09 02:41 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
See what I mean? Empty barrels.
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#1276032 - 09/27/09 09:37 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
See what I mean? Empty barrels.


Yes "empty" talk about the fact that genuinely relaxed fingers cannot support gravity, or provide a spring board for the following octave. What a load of waffle that is.

Speaking of firing blanks, when are you going to upload a film of yourself putting your magical advice into practise on youtube? When you've found a method that actually works, perhaps?


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 09:39 AM)
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#1276059 - 09/27/09 10:54 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Kreisler]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Octaves are played from the wrist.


I wish more people understood this. Four times out of five, I'd say that when people say "your octaves look stiff," they really mean "you're not using your wrists effectively." (And the other 1 time out of 5 is usually a thumb issue.)


Kreisler, are you referring to the "wrist drop", where, as the octave strike is approached, the wrist is somewhat high, then the fingers depress the keys, and the wrist pivots downward?
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#1276074 - 09/27/09 11:29 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: rocket88]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
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Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Here is the late great Carola Grindea illustrating 'drop' and 'flop'. The sound doesn't sync so well but the note sounds with the 'drop' before the 'flop':
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#1276078 - 09/27/09 11:45 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
How about a film of a respected concert artist using this counterprodutice means of directing energy down through the palm (and away from the fingertips) when playing octaves in concert now? Competent pianists use an aligned wrist to transmit energy efficiently and directly. They channel energy through the fingers by pivoting from the elbow in an aligned whole. They rarely channel energy away from the keys with such a hopelessly indirect path.

The only thing this exercise can achieve is to teach the person using it how to release their wrist more. That will help to ensure that they don't tighten up more than necessary when returning to normal playing. However, the idea that a movement that carries the energy AWAY from the point of contact should be incorporated into actual playing is complete junk. This really is very simple physics. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would portray this is as a useful preparatory exercise for gaining freedom in the forearm. Not a way of actually playing.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 12:05 PM)
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#1276134 - 09/27/09 01:42 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: rocket88]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13763
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Octaves are played from the wrist.


I wish more people understood this. Four times out of five, I'd say that when people say "your octaves look stiff," they really mean "you're not using your wrists effectively." (And the other 1 time out of 5 is usually a thumb issue.)


Kreisler, are you referring to the "wrist drop", where, as the octave strike is approached, the wrist is somewhat high, then the fingers depress the keys, and the wrist pivots downward?


I mean simply that the wrist is important in the playing of octaves. What it actually does depends on the articulation, tempo, sound, and context. Dropping the wrist is counterproductive when you're trying to play staccato or quickly. It's helpful when you want a warm, rich sound or have to connect a series of legato octaves.

I see two mistakes from time to time. Someone will either not put much thought into the wrist, attempting to play octaves relying solely on the fingers or arms; or they will put all their thought into a certain "correct" way of using the wrist, which may or may not advanced their musical goals.

The wrist is a wonderful thing, capable of a wide variety and range of motions. It seems a shame to only let it work in one or two limited ways.
_________________________
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#1276137 - 09/27/09 01:52 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Kreisler]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Thanks for the clarification.

I think that one difficulty with playing octaves is that when one stretches the hand to reach the octave, that can introduce a lot of tension in the hand, which, if sufficient, will lock the wrist.

Try it...make a stiff claw of your opened hand, and the wrist is locked.

One way of overcoming that is to do exercises that stretch open the hand, such as Hanon #20, and Pischna # 29 and #30, to name a few.

As the hand becomes more comfortable being wide open, that automatically allows it to be open with less tension, and correspondingly less "locked" wrist.

Octaves, especially for those with smallish hands, do by default require some tension in the hand...the trick is to keep that at a minimum, so the locking of the wrist is minimized, yet maintain enough shape integrity so the hand and fingers do not collapse.

Thus, the is tense for the moment of playing the octave, and less so prior to, and after.

Again, this is hard to describe using the fallabilility of words.
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#1276142 - 09/27/09 02:09 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: rocket88]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Originally Posted By: rocket88

Octaves, especially for those with smallish hands, do by default require some tension in the hand...the trick is to keep that at a minimum, so the locking of the wrist is minimized, yet maintain enough shape integrity so the hand and fingers do not collapse.


I see your point, but I don't think it should be throught of as aiming for a 'minimum' in the fingers. You must have enough grip to balance on the keys- otherwise the wrist is not going to be able to relax. It will have to be held much more from within the forearm (or the elbow will have to lock). Even if the hand basically keeps its shape, it may not be offerring a stable enough platform for the rest of the mechanism to let go. The forces have to balance and if you take too much away from one, another has to compensate.

From my own experiments, what I discovered recently is that finger grip on an octave and forearm tensions can unfortunately go hand in hand. However, the key is not to relax the finger grip too much. It's to learn how to grip from the hand without also falling into the trap of locking the forearm. The two things do not have to be done together. In fact, when you learn how to get a strong enough grip that sensed in the very tips of the fingers, it actually permits the wrist to free up even more. It's only recently I've discovered how to separate these properly. By activating my fingers more, I've actually found out how to loosen my wrist and forearms more than ever before. It's not easy to learn how to do one without the other, but I think it's essential to attempt to sense the difference. I think you're treating them as if they were inseparable parts of the same thing, but they really don't have to be.

The real key is to learn how to separate the unwanted association that tends to come between gripping in the hand and locking up the forearm. The grip in the hand is not the harmful part. It's simply the holding in the wrist and forearm that needs to be released. If you throw the baby out with the bathwater, it only introduces a whole load of new problems. If you'd told me a few months ago that using my fingers more would improve the speed and comfort of my octaves, I probably wouldn't have believed it. I was thinking that I'd simply reached the limit of what was possible for my body. However, it made an enormous difference (almost instantly) when I learned how to grip more without simulateously resorting to unwanted wrist tensions.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 02:26 PM)
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#1276145 - 09/27/09 02:18 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
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"The wrist: respiration in the voice" - Chopin
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#1276149 - 09/27/09 02:25 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
rocket88 Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
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Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: rocket88

Octaves, especially for those with smallish hands, do by default require some tension in the hand...the trick is to keep that at a minimum, so the locking of the wrist is minimized, yet maintain enough shape integrity so the hand and fingers do not collapse.


I see your point, but I don't think it should be throught of as aiming for a 'minimum' in the fingers.


Correct. That is why I said "require some tension in the hand...the trick is to keep that at a minimum..."

By "hand" I did not mean minimum in the fingers, or else the whole thing is moot...the hand will collapse when the fingers do not provide support.
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#1276213 - 09/27/09 04:32 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: rocket88]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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you wouldn't classify the grasping act on an octave of squeezing between the thumb and fifth finger as an example of tension within the hand? If you think of keeping it to a minimum, it will almost certainly prevent the hand from standing up properly and result in tensions further back. It's only when you make this grip highly active (provided that you have the understanding of how to do so without clenching elsewhere) that you can free everything else up. I held myself back for years by attempting to reduce such grip, when I actually need to embrace the idea of holding actively. If relaxation becomes too much of a goal in itself, you can cause real problems. It's not about looking for the minimum simply to prevent the hand from collapsing. You need enough to create the stable structure that will enable everything else to be supported. I've actually found it extremely beneficial to work on squeezing a little harder than necessary in my slow practise, rather than to aim for any kind of minimal amount. At the moment, the more I grip (without reaching the point of strain), the more freedom I find myself achieving elsewhere. In the past, I often felt my whole body rocking about slightly while I played octaves. Gripping properly (instead of aiming for a minimum amount) has stabilised my entire body and taken out the effort. I really don't think that the fact that uncontrolled tensions can be harmful should lead anyone to think that you should always be looking to release everything as much as possible.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/27/09 04:46 PM)
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#1276394 - 09/28/09 01:16 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
jazzyprof Offline
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Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
This is how my Taubman teacher taught me to play octaves without dropping and flopping the wrist:
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#1276410 - 09/28/09 02:02 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: jazzyprof]
keyboardklutz Offline
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I cringe every time she does that! We've been here before. Dropping your weight into the keys is fine, you need to relax (even if it's not visible) immediately. The idea of the arm/hand/key bouncing is bizarre, your hand does not 'get' thrown up, you throw it up i.e. pull it up with your forearm flexors. Drop a large thick steak on the keys - I think you can guess what happens (or doesn't). Notice she uses her wrist on the fast octaves.
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#1276508 - 09/28/09 09:48 AM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Morodiene Online   content
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Yes, also do not agree with what Golandsky says about the octaves. When she plays them fast she is using her wrist, but when she does it slowly, there is no wrist movement. Her "tricks" about the hand getting thrown back up, and the thumb pivoting upward are her ways of releasing the wrist IN BETWEEN PLAYING THE KEYS. I emphasize that last part because relaxation can only happen when one is not pressing a key.
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#1276581 - 09/28/09 12:52 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: Morodiene]
NancyM333 Offline
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Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
Thanks to all of you for this helpful discussion and the great videos. It was actually my son's teacher who suggested I look around for exercises. I observed his last lesson, and she was demonstrating how he needs to play octaves so that the melody is more musical and flowing. She demonstrated several times and he followed her lead, and he did sound more relaxed. She said maybe there were specific exercises out there--besides just what she had shown us--that he might enjoy trying, and knowing that I'm active on this forum, she said maybe I could look around.

I will check out the Hanon and Pischna exercises, Rocket88. Maybe those will give him something specific to practice, rather than just a lot of dropping. Of course, the dropping will probably do the trick eventually as well.

Again, I appreciate all the ideas. I have a small hand and have this tension as well, so maybe I'll improve as my son does.

Nancy
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#1276688 - 09/28/09 04:12 PM Re: Exercise for playing octaves [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
I cringe every time she does that! We've been here before. Dropping your weight into the keys is fine, you need to relax (even if it's not visible) immediately. The idea of the arm/hand/key bouncing is bizarre, your hand does not 'get' thrown up, you throw it up i.e. pull it up with your forearm flexors. Drop a large thick steak on the keys - I think you can guess what happens (or doesn't). Notice she uses her wrist on the fast octaves.


"We've been here before" have we? So you've already cleared this up, as the technique guru, eh? You know, your knowledge of this is so limited it would be exceedingly comical to see how you regard yourself, if it were not so sad. If you think that the idea of bouncing is unnecessary, perhaps it's time for you to upload a film of yourself playing high speed octaves with your cumbersomely flopping wrist. I think we'll soon see how effective your method really is. If you are really so ignorant as to believe that the return force is not of benefit, would you like to demonstrate that it is possible to play octaves to a high standard without it, instead of spouting empty words? The greatest technicians are not always the finest teacher of technique. But then, there's a certain minimum standard that ought to be reached, before someone seriously proposes to be in a position to dole out advice on octaves. I really don't think you have adequate credentials.

If you understood more about simple physics, you'd realise that a steak falls solely downwards. Whereas a small movement of the arm can help a substantial portion of the momentum to be conserved and redirected at a different angle- as a kind of follow-through. Of course, such movements are impossible if you are so truly stupid as to believe that it would somehow be of benefit to stop and droop from the wrist (instead of lining it up at an optimal angle in the first place)- an action that takes all the energy out of the by channeling the force of gravity through the wrist instead of into the keys where it belongs. Even the average GSCE grade C student would probably know enough about levers to tell you that collapsing the wrist (instead of aligning it) would prevent an efficient transmission of energy (and necessitate greater physical effort).

I think you might want to check your eye sight, because the way she uses her wrist has nothing to do with your approach (and the movement is initiated above, not 'from the wrist'- it comes as the result of momentum elsewhere). THe hand comes up BEFORE the downward strike in faster octaves, as the direction of motion is reversed. That's conservation of momentum, not playing 'from the wrist'. There's no counterproductive collapse to be seen anywhere near the moment of the contact. If you think she's inadvertently doing anything that even faintly resembles the tripe that you're coming out with, you really ought to watch again and pay more attention. It's about as opposed to the bullshit you came out with as anything possibly could be. Who knows, if you drop the idea of dropping your wrist (instead of simply lining it up adequately in the first place) maybe EVEN YOU could learn to play octaves to a competent standard? The only reason to droop the wrist is to release excessive forearm tensions. A rather simpler solution is simply to learn how to release those unwanted tensions in the first place. If you weren't so obsessed with the idea of promoting a slack hand, you might learn how to balance the forces in a manner that would not require a tense forearm at any stage. The exercise you advocate is a preparatory exercise for learning looseness in the wrist. It has absolutely no bearing on the technique for virtuoso octaves.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/28/09 05:34 PM)
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