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#1449335 - 06/03/10 09:12 AM Relax fingers during play... some advice?
LaRate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 250
Loc: Germany
I have the problem that I tend to stretch especially my thumb and sometimes my pinky too sideways into the air whenever i play with 2, 3 or 4.

My teacher told me to try and relax the fingers I'm not currently using, letting the dumb lie relaxed on the keyboard. However, whenever I try, I either accidently play the key below the thumb or - trying to prevent that - cramp my fingers even more to keep the thumb from pressing the key.

This is especially apparent whenever I play broken chords (it seems to get worse the more a chord stretches).

I just can't seem to achieve something near a relaxed playing - even with pieces I know inside out. I'm kind of frustrated because I ran out of ideas how to overcome this...

Any advice?

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#1449427 - 06/03/10 11:23 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: LaRate]
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5557
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Try slowing wa-a-a-a-a-a-y down smile . Take it one note at a time to start. Notice not just your fingers but your shoulders and your jaw (ask me how I know). It's gotten to where I'm most relaxed when I'm at the piano because I know that I can only play as well as I want when I'm relaxed. It'll take awhile to get the hang of it, but you'll be so pleased with the results when you do that it'll be worth it.

I also try to notice whether my hands are tensed or "easy" when I'm just walking around - down to the grocery store or the post office or where ever. I tend to be a fairly tensed-up person, and it helps a *lot* in my every day life to remember that I love the piano even more when I'm relaxed smile

Cathy
_________________________

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#1449446 - 06/03/10 11:44 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: jotur]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Do you stick your elbow out when you brush your teeth? When you drink from a mug?
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1449543 - 06/03/10 02:53 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
LaRate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 250
Loc: Germany
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Do you stick your elbow out when you brush your teeth? When you drink from a mug?

Yes to the first, no to the second.

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#1449619 - 06/03/10 04:32 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: LaRate]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Should be no to both. Try it.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1449645 - 06/03/10 05:04 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
blueston Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/09
Posts: 273
Loc: MA, USA
My Piano teacher would always say to place your hands down gently in your lap (or on your legs), often right before you begin to play. It should then be the same relaxed feeling when you play.

But this finger independence takes time to develop and should not be expected of beginners.

Scales or Hannon exercises would probably help a lot.

Make sure you are not still pushing on the key after you have struck it. This will add tension. Once you have struck the key, continually pressing (hard) does nothing except waste energy and introduce tension. Strike a key then immediately relax so the finger only rests gently on the key. Use just the weight of you hand to keep it held down (don't make your finder do all the work). Do this slowly thru an entire piece to get the idea. Press. Relax. Next note-> Press Relax. Next note-> Press. Relax

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#1449752 - 06/03/10 08:17 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: blueston]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2397
Loc: Virginia, USA
It takes a lot of focus to "get" not having your fingers shoot off all over the place (I'm not all the way there yet). And relaxation, though important, is not quite what is needed here. My totally relaxed hand can show all sorts of strange movements if I raise one of the fingers. What I have to do is focus, focus, focus on keeping the other fingers still independently.

One simple exercise that I find useful. Rest all fingers on keys (C through G). Now, one finger at a time. C-D-C-D-C-D-C-D,E-D-E-D-E-D-E-D,E-F-E-F-E-F-E-F,G-F,G-F-G-F-G-F and back down. Make sure only one finger goes up and down at a time and that it returns to it's starting position. It's harder than it sounds.
_________________________
  • Liszt - Liebesträume No. 3, S541
  • Scarlatti - Sonata in D minor, K. 213

Kawai K3

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#1449890 - 06/04/10 01:18 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: Andy Platt]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
+1 on the last two posts. Making fingers independent is just as much a matter of ignoring the others as bringing any one finger to the fore.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1449948 - 06/04/10 04:17 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
LaRate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 250
Loc: Germany
Thank you for all the advice. I will surely be trying some things out.

One thing that occured to me yesterday: it might also have something to do with my wrists tending to be too low if I don't pay attention. Since I'm typing the majority of my day at work, maybe I kind of hard-wired that hand position (wrists resting on the desk) in my brain.

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#1449954 - 06/04/10 04:35 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: LaRate]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Wrist resting on the desk sounds really good. Kalkbrenner (and Liszt) used a similar device (called a hand rail) to teach beginners. As you play try and feel your forearm flexors add only enough tension to keep your wrists level, and no more.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1450320 - 06/04/10 05:32 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: LaRate]
AlleyKatt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/28/09
Posts: 119
Loc: Wisconsin, USA
Originally Posted By: LaRate
One thing that occured to me yesterday: it might also have something to do with my wrists tending to be too low if I don't pay attention. Since I'm typing the majority of my day at work, maybe I kind of hard-wired that hand position (wrists resting on the desk) in my brain.


It's so funny but I made this exact observation just this week!! My pinky, especially on my right hand, has a mind of it's own. It just wants to stick up in the air all the time. I noticed that when I raised/leveled my wrists, my pinky finger would remain on the keys much better than when my wrists were low. I really have to concentrate and work on this but I'm certain that keeping the wrists at the proper level will help a lot.

I find it ironic that we have to work so hard just to relax!!

AK
_________________________
"Without music, life would be a mistake." ~ Friedrich Neitzsche

http://www.youtube.com/user/Alleycat299

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#1450323 - 06/04/10 05:38 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: AlleyKatt]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Also be sure that you are sitting at a proper height, too. It should be high enough so that your forearms are parallel with the keys when you rest your fingers on the keys, without having to lift your shoulders or stretch up the back in any way.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1452135 - 06/07/10 05:14 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This whole business about relaxation during playing is just
so much piano quackery and charlatanism, in my view.
This of course has great appeal to people because relaxation
implies lack of effort. You'd best forget you ever heard
about it.

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#1452174 - 06/07/10 06:02 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: Gyro]
bluekeys Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/07
Posts: 1337
Originally Posted By: Gyro
This whole business about relaxation during playing is just
so much piano quackery and charlatanism, in my view.
This of course has great appeal to people because relaxation
implies lack of effort. You'd best forget you ever heard
about it.


I would also suggest drinking several shots of espresso and smoking a few cigarettes before practice. You may even find an MD willing to prescribe some derivative of methamphetamine to get you into a proper state of agitation before a performance.

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#1452284 - 06/07/10 09:28 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: bluekeys]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
KBK and Morodiene, how do I keep my hand relaxed when I'm playing right hand chords in which the melody is in the lower notes so I have to bring out the melody with my thumb and 2nd finger? I know volume should come from the shoulders and back but how do I do it with only part of my hand? (I'm talking about Brahms 119 #3.)

Thanks.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1452403 - 06/08/10 01:25 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: gooddog]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Drop 'n Flop but distribute the weight/force so the melody notes get more.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1452561 - 06/08/10 10:35 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Drop and Flop! I like that! laugh
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1452579 - 06/08/10 11:11 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: gooddog]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
Originally Posted By: gooddog
KBK and Morodiene, how do I keep my hand relaxed when I'm playing right hand chords in which the melody is in the lower notes so I have to bring out the melody with my thumb and 2nd finger? I know volume should come from the shoulders and back but how do I do it with only part of my hand? (I'm talking about Brahms 119 #3.)

Thanks.


I know that I am not KBK and Morodiene, but hope this helps:

Several advanced technique books (Pishna is one, Joseffy another, Isidor Phillip another) have a number of exercises devoted to exactly that.

In a nutshell, those exercises have the player play hold one or more whole or half notes, and simultaneously play other notes (typically 1/8 or 1/16 notes) with fingers that are not holding the first notes.

It is difficult at first, because you have to maintain just enough tension (strength?) in the hand and in the fingers that are holding the whole notes so that that construction is stable, yet not a bit more, so that the remainder of the hand is as relaxed as possible. Meanwhile, the fingers that are playing the 1/8 notes are as free as possible.

It is mostly a mental effort, and best done extremely slowly and in small bites until you get the hang of it. (you play a note, re-relax the entire hand while maintaining the form, then focus on playing the next note, re-relax everything, etc.) One note every few seconds is a good pace.

It has done wonders for not only the playing situation you describe, but for my finger independence in general.

Here is a link:

http://www.amazon.com/Pischna-Technical-...;sr=8-1-catcorr

Here is another, haven't seen this book, but it looks good:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0739019090/ref=dp_proddesc_1?ie=UTF8&n=283155
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1452877 - 06/08/10 06:19 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: rocket88]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Thanks rocket88, but the problem isn't holding some notes while playing others in the same hand. I get plenty of practice with that in Bach. I'm talking about playing a series of quick 8th note chords in which the melody is played with the thumb or 2nd finger and the other fingers are deemphasized.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1453091 - 06/09/10 01:27 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: gooddog]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Of course you do realize it's really done by your ear? You must experience the thrill of a melody soaring over the accompaniment.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1453278 - 06/09/10 11:19 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
KBK, now you are contradicting yourself. I thought I was supposed to do it from my belly. laugh

Seriously, it's interesting you say that because my past teacher pointed out that I get swept away listening to the (perfect) music playing in my head rather than listening with my ears to what's actually coming out of the piano. So you are suggesting, correctly, that I listen better...plus drop and flop.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1453294 - 06/09/10 11:34 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: gooddog]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Don't be shy, let that tune soar!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1453299 - 06/09/10 11:43 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
Got it. Thanks!
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1453301 - 06/09/10 11:44 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Of course you do realize it's really done by your ear? You must experience the thrill of a melody soaring over the accompaniment.


If it were really done by the ear, it would be no harder to bring out inner voices than upper ones. Does anyone seriously believe that to be the case? It's done by knowing HOW to bring things out. Anyone who has ever heard someone bring out an inner line can put the sound in the sound in their head easily. That doesn't mean they can do it. However, I think the widely held belief that it's by your ear certainly accounts for how many people think they are bringing out inner voices but actually fail miserably at revealing them to the listener. Ironically, I think the best judge of inner voices is not to listen specifically for them. If they still present themselves to you, they will also present themselves to the listener. Go out of your way to listen for them, and you're not listening in the way that an impartial listener would. Something that's truly voiced properly does not need to be listened out for. The most ordinary listening should be enough to detect success. It's the means which of achieving that success which is difficult.

Dropping and flopping is hardly likely to help much either. It's all very well for one isolated chord, but in the middle of a legato passage? The simplest way to voice is to activate the fingers into the keys properly.
_________________________
http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1453309 - 06/09/10 11:58 AM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
If it were really done by the ear, it would be no harder to bring out inner voices than upper ones. Does anyone seriously believe that to be the case?
Yes.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1453322 - 06/09/10 12:12 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4804
Loc: Seattle area, WA
KBK, (if I may defend you) is known for his succinct answers that say much more than the words. I believe he was referring to focusing on the intention to play the melody notes. Inward focus manifests as outward expression. I also interpret his "drop and flop" to mean relaxed weight with emphasis on the side of the hand carrying the melody. It works for me.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#1453332 - 06/09/10 12:21 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: gooddog]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: gooddog
I believe he was referring to focusing on the intention to play the melody notes.
Thanks, your post is far better put than mine. Realizing your intention to walk home is not dependent on your knowledge of human physiology - though knowing where you live helps. Realizing your intention to hear what you want to hear likewise.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1453342 - 06/09/10 12:33 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: keyboardklutz
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
If it were really done by the ear, it would be no harder to bring out inner voices than upper ones. Does anyone seriously believe that to be the case?
Yes.


Then obviously you are unaware of the fact that the human ear is automatically drawn more towards the higher pitches in chords. So to bring out an inner voice requires more differentiation than to bring out an upper voice.

There's an interesting exercise that illustrates what a lot of nonsense the idea that the difficulty lies in the ear is. Play 5 notes from C to G repeatedly as a cluster. Bring out the melody of a nursery rhyme clearly enough for an impartial listener to identify it. You must play all 5 notes every time. Still think that the difficulty lies in the ear? I can't say that I find it terribly difficult to know which finger and note I intend to voice, or to imagine the nursery rhyme. But perhaps kbk is limited only by his ears rather than his physical means here? And presumably any conductor with good ears could do this, regardless of whether they have played the piano before?

Walking home is of little relevance. Almost everyone can walk. Very few pianists know the physical means to voice like Horowitz. So they need to learn to 'walk' first- not be told that they don't know their own address. If someone already knows what they want to bring out but can't do so, to go on about the ear really is like telling them their own address.
_________________________
http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1453352 - 06/09/10 12:46 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Sheesh, just when I thought PW was getting boring!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1453372 - 06/09/10 01:12 PM Re: Relax fingers during play... some advice? [Re: keyboardklutz]
paquijote Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/10/10
Posts: 25
I second the advice given by Andy Platt, but would just like to add something not mentioned in it: When doing this exercise (SLOWLY is the key!) take the time to hold whatever key you are depressing against the keybed, and make a conscious effort to completely relax your forarm, wrist or wherever else you may be feeling EXCESS tension (there must be some tension involved to play the piano). Also, be sure that the finger currently in use isn't carrying all the workload keeping that key depressed! Allow the weight of your hand, wrist and arm to keep the key depressed. This should, with slow practice, release the majority of the tension felt in your finger.

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