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#2047018 - 03/12/13 02:25 PM Regaining finger strength...any suggestions?
morningsonata Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/07/13
Posts: 2
Good afternoon,

I'm new to this forum, and have found lots of helpful information so I decided to join. A little about my piano history:

I started tinkering with the piano at about 3 or 4 and learned to read music at 5, but couldn't get my parents to take me to lessons until I was 7. From there, I took lessons for 10 years. After going to college my practice sort of fell by the wayside, plus I didn't have consistent access to a piano or keyboard until recently. Although it was my original aspiration in life to become a concert pianist, certain factors in life (lack of support from my parents being one of them) sort of prevented that.

Needless to say, I miss playing. While I realize that I will most likely never give any sort of concerts I do consider playing necessary to my being. But getting back into it has been harder than I realized, especially after 6-7 years of playing very little. For one, I didn't have the best teacher in the world (there aren't many in rural WV). Reading music is not the problem, but I was never taught any sort of proper technique. The teacher just sat music in front of me and made me stumble through it until I could play it decently enough, and the maximum amount technical work I ever did was playing scales over and over. Somehow I limped my way up to Chopin and some Rachmaninov by doing this, but plateaued as my lack of technique and finger strength caught up with me. I most likely only got this far through sheer force of will and lucky genetics (when it comes to the hands).

I've been trying things like Hanon VP, but this quickly gets tedious, which makes it easier to play sloppily. I realize that a lot of this is going to be trudging along, but does anybody else have any (preferably less boring) methods that they've found particularly helpful for supplementing strength and speed? I'd like to work my way back up to where I left off, but be able to play these pieces better and with more consistency than before.

Thanks smile

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#2047039 - 03/12/13 03:13 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 329
Welcome to the forum! I think you'll find it a helpful and friendly place.

I'm working on the first book of Czerny School of Velocity.

I don't find it boring. I find it tortuously difficult. When my teacher plays the pieces I think many of them are nice sounding but wow I do find them very challenging. I think it will help with strength, I know my fingers are tired after I go through the exercises a time or two.

Originally it was one big book but I think now it is sold as four and I don't know that I'll ever graduate from the first one. I don't think that they are expensive; I got mine free at Paperbackswap.com
_________________________
Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A


Working on: Chopin - Waltz in A Minor / Einaudi - Samba

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#2047062 - 03/12/13 04:04 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
This:
Quote:
Somehow I limped my way up to Chopin and some Rachmaninov by doing this, but plateaued as my lack of technique and finger strength caught up with me.


Should read like this:
Quote:
Somehow I limped my way up to Chopin and some Rachmaninov by doing this, but plateaued as my lack of technique caught up with me.


There's no such thing as "finger strength." I would bet all my marbles you are experiencing tension due to improper technique. However, unless I could see and hear you play, I would be unable to take the discussion much farther than that. If you can post a video, we may be able to get a little deeper into the issue.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2047165 - 03/12/13 06:13 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: Derulux]
rnaple Offline

Silver Supporter until April 24 2014


Registered: 12/23/10
Posts: 2190
Loc: Rocky Mountains
Originally Posted By: Derulux
...
There's no such thing as "finger strength." I would bet all my marbles you are experiencing tension due to improper technique. ...


+1
Bingo!
_________________________
Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon

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#2047178 - 03/12/13 06:27 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
FormerlyFlute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 235
Loc: Maryland
There most certainly is finger strength. While the major muscles flexing and extending the fingers are in the forearm, they do lose their strength for particular movements when the movements are no longer performed. Much like not running for a year and having to begin again to get in shape. Walking is still fine but running - aghh!

I just started back up after a 4 month hiatus and am experiencing such muscle laziness. I'm doing scales and going back to easier pieces to "get back in shape."

But get a good teacher to help you get back into it properly. It makes all the difference in the world.
_________________________
Piano: Brodmann PE 187 Strauss
Flute: Sankyo CF-201 with RT2 headjoint

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#2047192 - 03/12/13 06:52 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: FormerlyFlute]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: FormerlyFlute
There most certainly is finger strength. While the major muscles flexing and extending the fingers are in the forearm, they do lose their strength for particular movements when the movements are no longer performed. Much like not running for a year and having to begin again to get in shape. Walking is still fine but running - aghh!

I just started back up after a 4 month hiatus and am experiencing such muscle laziness. I'm doing scales and going back to easier pieces to "get back in shape."

But get a good teacher to help you get back into it properly. It makes all the difference in the world.

I'm not going to get into an anatomy discussion, because it's useless in helping the OP. What you are saying is technically correct, but has very little to do with playing the piano. You do not have to have Olympiad forearms to play the piano. In fact, we use our hands enough every single day that, if you have proper technique, you don't need any additional "finger strength" (or, as you put it more anatomically correct, "forearm strength") in order to play the piano.

Playing the piano is actually very "easy", and if it doesn't feel that way, your technique is suffering.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2047336 - 03/12/13 10:53 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
morningsonata Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/07/13
Posts: 2
I see a lot of posts arguing technique, but what is proper technique? It seems that pianists and teachers I have spoken with (virtually and in real-life) each have their own opinion on the subject. Some say to engage the entire body, others say to disengage (or non-technique, I guess). In my case I was always told by my teacher not to make my fingers "lazy" and lift them higher to compensate for my "weak" fingers, which creates tension in the wrists (something I now notice after not playing for so long). Relaxing does make playing easier and is key (in my case, it has helped tremendously), to a certain difficulty level - which is where some sort of practice or technique (resulting in greater endurance and range of motion) must come into play. If it was that easy then it wouldn't take years of practice to play the works of Prokofiev, for example. I've always seen piano as both a physical and mental activity, where some of us struggle with physical limitations and others with mental (I have a friend who can play very well with ease, but has a terrible time reading music, which hinders her progress). Both need to be working properly to play well, which is what makes it challenging and worthwhile. What I mainly want to know is what techniques have people found effective for playing with greater ease, or overcoming their own hurdles and inbalances(particularly with speed and finesse - perhaps I used the wrong word with "strength")?

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#2047355 - 03/12/13 11:33 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: morningsonata
I see a lot of posts arguing technique, but what is proper technique?

Very simply put, proper technique is that which enables you to play fluidly and with ease, and which does not cause fatigue or injury.

I usually diagnose technique issues with one simple question:

Are you playing the way you would like to be playing (ideally)?

If the answer is no, there is a technique issue causing it.

You bring up another very good point, which relates to theory. I lump this under technique to a certain degree, because more than half of reading music means translating what's on the page to what comes out of the piano (unless you like to sit around and academically enjoy a composition--which I would argue has very little to do with playing the piano).

With regard to teachers, I would discover if that teacher can play with the fluidity they would like to play, or has students who have been able to do so. Ideally, you want to see both. This shows the teacher can translate their knowledge to students. If this scenario doesn't exist, then there is at least a part of "good technique" that they either do not know, or do not know how to teach.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2047475 - 03/13/13 05:45 AM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 325
Ok I won't go into the debate about fingers strength or what not. I personally believe its more about dexterity rather than strength.. Anyway...

To answer your question about playing with greater ease. If I am tackling a virtuostic piece for example, I usually start at a slow tempo of course like everyone else but also paying attention to EACH note and how I got there. I visualize my finger "dancing" to get to the note and with as little effort as possible.

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#2049080 - 03/16/13 10:37 AM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
FormerlyFlute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 235
Loc: Maryland
strength is a component of dexterity
_________________________
Piano: Brodmann PE 187 Strauss
Flute: Sankyo CF-201 with RT2 headjoint

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#2049129 - 03/16/13 12:20 PM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
"...

Good afternoon,

I'm new to this forum, and have found lots of helpful information so I decided to join. A little about my piano history:

I started tinkering with the piano at about 3 or 4 and learned to read music at 5, but couldn't get my parents to take me to lessons until I was 7. From there, I took lessons for 10 years. After going to college my practice sort of fell by the wayside, plus I didn't have consistent access to a piano or keyboard until recently. Although it was my original aspiration in life to become a concert pianist, certain factors in life (lack of support from my parents being one of them) sort of prevented that.

Needless to say, I miss playing. While I realize that I will most likely never give any sort of concerts I do consider playing necessary to my being. But getting back into it has been harder than I realized, especially after 6-7 years of playing very little. For one, I didn't have the best teacher in the world (there aren't many in rural WV). Reading music is not the problem, but I was never taught any sort of proper technique. The teacher just sat music in front of me and made me stumble through it until I could play it decently enough, and the maximum amount technical work I ever did was playing scales over and over. Somehow I limped my way up to Chopin and some Rachmaninov by doing this, but plateaued as my lack of technique and finger strength caught up with me. I most likely only got this far through sheer force of will and lucky genetics (when it comes to the hands).

I've been trying things like Hanon VP, but this quickly gets tedious, which makes it easier to play sloppily. I realize that a lot of this is going to be trudging along, but does anybody else have any (preferably less boring) methods that they've found particularly helpful for supplementing strength and speed? I'd like to work my way back up to where I left off, but be able to play these pieces better and with more consistency than before.

Thanks

..."



Whether you know it or not, it takes 6 months for your brain, not your fingers, your brain, to be able to process your knowledge, whether it is typing, playing the piano, or doing math in your head like you did 10 years ago.

But understand, you won't be better than you were when you picked up where you left off. Whether you are typing or playing the piano or a guitar, you must do it in a relaxed fashion. If you were typing a love letter you could type it fast and without mistakes. If you were typing a medical report, you would have to crawl through the long unknown words slowly. So, too, it is the same with music. Learning to play a musical instrument is a slow process. You must do so slowly and accurately. I am personally not in favour of just doing scales or Hanon exercises for hours on end or until you have tired hands. You don't need boxer's stength to play the piano. You need a mind that is reading music at a comfortable pace and you are alert. When you are playing the piano you should be relaxed and your fingers must be relaxed. Over many days of practice you will learn to play the piece. Usually after 20 miniutes of playing my back and body get tired and I take a quick walk around the block in the fresh air and go back to the piano bench.

I recently had surgery and had no pain but had discomfort sitting - so after a month I had to start slowly like I hadn't played for years and after about 2 weeks of slowly and accurately playing music at my level I am just about back to where I was. Even not playing for a month, it was like I couldn't play a few pieces like I had never played them, so it is critical to play everyday to keep your brain trained to play the piano.













Edited by Michael_99 (03/16/13 12:24 PM)

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#2049529 - 03/17/13 07:14 AM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: morningsonata]
FormerlyFlute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/21/06
Posts: 235
Loc: Maryland
the brain is a component of dexterity
_________________________
Piano: Brodmann PE 187 Strauss
Flute: Sankyo CF-201 with RT2 headjoint

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#2049545 - 03/17/13 08:15 AM Re: Regaining finger strength...any suggestions? [Re: FormerlyFlute]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
"...the brain is a component of dexterity
..."

Yes, the brain is a component of dexterity. If you don't have a growth, or other deformaty and your fingers/hands operates properly, no arthritis or deformity, then it is the brain that enables the fingers to operate and the brain controls the speed at which it operates and that is where the "slow" learning comes in. The brain is, of course, awesome, but it learns at a certain rate and recalls memory at a certain rate. The best example of this is someone who learns to play the piano at some time in their life, for example, 3, 5, 8, 20, 40 or 60, and then at 100 starts playing the piano again - it takes 6 months for the memory to recall you ability to play the piano providing you start playing daily for 6 months and you brain will bring your piano knowledge back again to where it was - providing, of course, that you have not had brain damage, a stroke or some brain damage. It takes on average 6 to 9 months to recall memory/skills of the past.

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