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#2087142 - 05/23/13 02:18 AM Should I stop looking at my hands so much
earlofmar Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1776
Loc: Australia
Perhaps it's a bad habit I have picked up, I don't know, but I constantly watch my hands as I play memorized pieces.
I have now found as I am tackling harder pieces (to me anyway), especially faster ones, that my eyes cannot watch both hands. I thought I had been watching my hands to avoid mistakes now I feel this might be hindering me from moving forward. I also have a couple of pieces that don't seem to flow as well as I would like, even after playing for a while and was wondering if this is caused by my visual fixation on the movement of my fingers. I suspect my brain can't interpret the visual information as fast as my fingers could do it in automatic mode (muscle memory). I could fix this problem early so any advice comments appreciated
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#2087147 - 05/23/13 02:33 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
mattroilanh_tt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/27/13
Posts: 66
Arrange your memorized pieces from easiest to hardest, then practice to play without looking at your hand from the easiest piece to the hardest. I think it will work out OK after a time.
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#2087153 - 05/23/13 03:12 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 1022
Loc: Italy
Have you ever watched Martha Argerich play? She looks at her hands most of the time and it doesn't seem to affect her wink

Btw, yes there are many pieces where you just can't look at both hands at the same time. Usually I try to learn the LH better so I can forget about it, and look at my RH more, but it can't be done all the time.
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Martha Argerich... is an incarnation of the artistic metaphor of the "eternal feminine" that draws us upward. (Sergio Sablich)

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#2087167 - 05/23/13 04:25 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5379
Loc: Philadelphia
It's perfectly fine to look at your hands. However, it's not okay (in advanced repertoire especially) to find the notes by looking at them. Your brain will have to develop a body map of how to move between keys on the piano. To do this, the easiest way is to not look at your hands. wink
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#2087168 - 05/23/13 05:05 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 632
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Not looking at your hands *at all* is quite tricky. I know, because I'm trying to get my exam pieces so ingrained into my muscle memory that I can literally play them with my eyes closed. It's a challenge, even though the music I'm playing isn't really all that complicated.

That said, once you can do it (and I can, with some pieces), it's awesome. Some say you have to memorise a piece to get it to where your nerves can't touch it. While that may be true for some, it isn't for me. But when I can play something without looking at my hands, well ... then there is nothing left to stop me from giving a perfect performance.

Just like memorisation, though, it's something you need to work on for each piece individually -- even though playing without looking will, of course, get easier as you do it more often.
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#2087174 - 05/23/13 05:32 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
earlofmar, I have read your post, here:

Perhaps it's a bad habit I have picked up, I don't know, but I constantly watch my hands as I play memorized pieces.
I have now found as I am tackling harder pieces (to me anyway), especially faster ones, that my eyes cannot watch both hands. I thought I had been watching my hands to avoid mistakes now I feel this might be hindering me from moving forward. I also have a couple of pieces that don't seem to flow as well as I would like, even after playing for a while and was wondering if this is caused by my visual fixation on the movement of my fingers. I suspect my brain can't interpret the visual information as fast as my fingers could do it in automatic mode (muscle memory). I could fix this problem early so any advice comments appreciated

_________________________
I thought I understood endurance sport; then I took up piano

_____________________________________________


I understand from reading lots of posts that some teachers are fussy if their students look at their hands and other teachers are not fussy if the students look at their hands --> say the students that post! !

As a beginner I read in the beginner's method books that say in big red letters:

--> Always look at your
music, not at your hands. <--


But looking at your hands is much, much, more. I read the music to be able to play. If I can't read the music, I cannot play the piano - so I have to look at the music to read it. From the beginning I have always read the music and never looked at my hands. Of course, for a doing a right over your left or left over your right, I have to look to land my hand/finger(s) at the right spot and in the middle of a piece if there is a second hand position, I have to look to position my hand. Otherwise I haven't had to look.

Except recently - I noticed myself looking and having a problem and I was not happy when I caught myself looking at my hands. The situation was I had to play with my left hand the little finger on G# and my index on D and thumb on E. Two things occurred - that I often made a mistake with the little finger playing B# instead of the G#. I analyzed the situation and realized I loved the piece and I hated making a mistake so I looked. No excuse, of course.

So I played the piece I love so much - just a bit slower - so I could put my fingers/hand in position without rushing and looking at my hands/fingers and it worked. Because I am self-taught because I can't afford a teacher I have to be very, very, very careful at everything I do because there is nobody looking at me playing the piano and correcting me.

If you looked at your hands when you ate your food - looking at the fork stabbing the food on the plate and watching your hand/fork as you lifted the food to your open mouth, it would take you much longer to eat your food. It is true that sometimes we miss our mouth but millions of times you go to your mouth, you do it correctly.

Except for jumps and leaps, etc. where an experienced piano player sometimes looks and tries not to look - or has to look because without looking they cannot do the jump or leap - that is a different story.

Now I find that I am learning not to "freak out" and look or stop if I play a wrong note either because of lack of concentration or hand position, reading the music wrong, etc. I simply immediately allow my hand/fingers to find the correct note without looking at my hands and keep on playing the music with as little interruption as possible in the music's smoothness. So the point is there are a million reasons not to look at you hands and a million reasons that are a benefit for not looking at your hands because it is absolutely not necessary if you don't play the piece too fast allowing your fingers to find the notes correctly and confidently without mistakes.

So sadly in playing the piano it is all about not playing too fast causing you to do something wrong or bad - no exception!

The other thing I should add is that I never play scales without looking at the music and saying the note names forwards and backwards as I read the music of the scale and play the scale because else one wants to look at their hands while playing because you can do that - but you don't ever want to do that - so I keep my eyes on the music and not the hands!

cheers,

from a beginner!


Edited by Michael_99 (05/23/13 06:19 AM)

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#2087198 - 05/23/13 07:34 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
You're going to look until you no longer need to. I think you're at that point now. You've realized it's becoming more of a hindrance than a help. You just want to know if it's ok to rely on the keyboard map gradually developing in your fingers. Yeah, it's ok, like it's ok to take the training wheels off your bike. (It's more than ok, eventually you have to do it.) That said, that doesn't mean you should never look at your hands. Sometimes you need to, especially for big jumps, but that's just a fleeting glance, not staring at your hands. Also I've found that alternately and deliberately watching my hands is helpful in learning fast runs, like some of those in Chopin, just until I've got them mapped in my head. Sometimes selective watching can help the learning process, especially at the very beginning of learning a section, you just have to wean yourself of it to develop any fluidity.
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#2087200 - 05/23/13 07:42 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12216
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
When it's OK/beneficial look at your hands:

-when you have the music memorized
-when you have to change hand positions/leap
-when playing a particularly difficult passage watching your hand may help

When you should look at the music:

-when your hands stay in one position or only move in 2nds through octaves (no leaping)
-when you are first learning the piece, but if there are leaps you will have to look where you're leaping to and then back to the music

Earlofmar: I don't think that looking at your hands is that the root of your problem. Perhaps it's more of an issue of how you practiced these pieces up until this point. I have found that if I start out learning a piece with bad practicing (just playing straight through) then it's not learned as well and not as accurately as if I started out from day one with good, deliberate practicing in little sections.

That doesn't mean there's no hope for these pieces, but perhaps take them way down in tempo and rework them slowly, focusing on difficult measures. The faster the piece should be, the more slow practice you will have to do and be very careful about tensions creeping in as you gradually speed up the tempo.
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#2087208 - 05/23/13 08:00 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Andy Platt Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2424
Loc: Virginia, USA
I have the spatial awareness of a bull in a china shop so it's difficult for me not to look. But as I get to know a piece better, a very quick glance is all it takes and, often, only occasionally. I do work on "blind" exercises though to try to improve things.

We all get those leaps where the left and right hand go in completely opposite directions and there's not much choice for those anyway!

The thing that I just realized, with my teacher, is that it's not looking that's the problem (this is when I'm reading, not with memorized music), it's slight head movements. I'm trying to train myself to glance with just the eyes, not the whole head!
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#2087223 - 05/23/13 08:24 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12216
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Peripheral vision is helpful too, when it's not possible to watch both hands.
_________________________
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#2087313 - 05/23/13 11:04 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: Andy Platt]
stumbler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/22/10
Posts: 300
Loc: Toronto
Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
I have the spatial awareness of a bull in a china shop so it's difficult for me not to look. But as I get to know a piece better, a very quick glance is all it takes and, often, only occasionally. I do work on "blind" exercises though to try to improve things.


Like Andy I sometimes do "blind" exercises. I close my eyes and try to internally visualize the keyboard. I may do this for a particular bar or two where I am making mistakes. I sometimes do this with technical exercises like 4 note chords. I should probably do this more often.
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#2087333 - 05/23/13 11:27 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3879
Loc: Northern England.
Has anyone tried playing Gymnopedie 1 without looking at thier hands? It`s an awkward, infuriating piece . . . . !
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#2087334 - 05/23/13 11:31 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
Daniel Corban Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/17/13
Posts: 215
Loc: Canada
I wondered this as well, but I noticed that I only look at my hands after I have the piece memorized. I think it is because I no longer need to look at the music, but I need to look somewhere! So I look down.

Lately, I have been trying to just follow along with the score, without reading into it much, but avoiding the urge to look down.
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#2087380 - 05/23/13 12:20 PM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: peterws]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 821
Originally Posted By: peterws
Has anyone tried playing Gymnopedie 1 without looking at thier hands? It`s an awkward, infuriating piece . . . . !


Gymnopedie no 1 should be doable without looking at your hands because the tempo is slow. When you're not looking at your hands, I find there are three ways one compensates:

* Intuition of the interval distances. Ragtime uses a stride bass (boom / chuck). That's one of the biggest hurdles for folks starting to study that form. I recall missing and missing and missing my notes, but over time, I'm having to think much less about it because my hand, by default, is starting to go to the right place. Gymnopedie's left hand, IIRC, very much has similar leaps.

* Feel of the keyboard terrain. The black keys allow your hands to feel where they are on the keyboard. Sometimes, your "landing" notes are convenient, as well. Say you need to zip up to a high F with the right hand... there's a two-white note gap of E and F, followed by the black note F#. Without looking, if you can move your hand up the keyboard at close to the right angle and distance, you may find finger 5 "bumping" against that F#. The F you're trying to hit will be right under your fingers at that point.

* Peripheral vision. Close your eyes and play something... or look to the left of the keyboard and play something very high up the keyboard. That can be pretty challenging. Now, stare at the front of the music desk and then play something directly in the middle of the piano. I find, at least, the latter to be much easier, even if I'm not looking directly at the keys.

It's fast or very technical passages where I find my motor cortex isn't up to the accuracy standards needed and for which I'm working on memorization skills (so that I can look at my hands while playing).
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Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2087418 - 05/23/13 01:24 PM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
dynamobt Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/07/13
Posts: 739
Loc: NH
I look at my hands only as absolutely necessary when learning a piece and then when playing it from the music. One of the things that has made memorizing music very difficult for me was that this is when I start looking at my hands and I find it very confusing. It's like I have to learn the piece all over in a completely new way so I'm familiar and not confused by seeing my hands do what they do.

Now I'm in a "state" because I'm not sure I can rely on my memory well enough in a recital. I get performance nerves. I'm afraid my memory will go out the window. But I find now that the piece is memorized that looking at the music is strange!!!! I really am going to look like a nodding fool as I go from looking up to down at my hands!!!

I was always taught not to look at my hands much when learning a piece. The keys don't move on the piano. And the only way to learn their position is to trust your perception of where they are. It gets better over time. Lots of time!!!
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#2087606 - 05/23/13 07:28 PM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: Daniel Corban]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1651
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: Daniel Corban
Lately, I have been trying to just follow along with the score, without reading into it much, but avoiding the urge to look down.


Same here -- I think it might help with sight reading to be accustomed to following the chart while playing. Looking away from the page and then trying to find my place again usually crashes my mental computer.

I'm not sure if it's better to practice never looking away, or to practice finding my place again.
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Knabe Grand # 10927
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#2087745 - 05/24/13 02:09 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: Morodiene]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5379
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Peripheral vision is helpful too, when it's not possible to watch both hands.

I use this sometimes, too. But I tend to use a "scanning" method more often. That is, looking back and forth between my hands, and purposely focusing on the hand that isn't anchored for that particular passage. Though, more often than not, I end up looking at the LH rather than the RH.
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#2087799 - 05/24/13 07:15 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: Derulux]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12216
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Peripheral vision is helpful too, when it's not possible to watch both hands.

I use this sometimes, too. But I tend to use a "scanning" method more often. That is, looking back and forth between my hands, and purposely focusing on the hand that isn't anchored for that particular passage. Though, more often than not, I end up looking at the LH rather than the RH.
Ya or sometimes you just have to get the feel down of the leap in one hand so you don't have to look at the other (usually I look at my RH too).
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#2087882 - 05/24/13 10:16 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 2036
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
I am working on it on the organ right now. It's just a bit harder since it involves three lines. My organ teacher is teaching me how to feel the pedal keys to play the notes. All the same principles suggested here apply to organ, 1) knowing the geography of the keys, 2) blind playing, 3) pattern recognition and 4)know what note your finger / foot is on etc.
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#2087918 - 05/24/13 11:22 AM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: FarmGirl]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5379
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: FarmGirl
I am working on it on the organ right now. It's just a bit harder since it involves three lines. My organ teacher is teaching me how to feel the pedal keys to play the notes. All the same principles suggested here apply to organ, 1) knowing the geography of the keys, 2) blind playing, 3) pattern recognition and 4)know what note your finger / foot is on etc.

A bit harder?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HrhZ1-cPJE
_________________________
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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#2088091 - 05/24/13 02:54 PM Re: Should I stop looking at my hands so much [Re: earlofmar]
sinophilia Offline

Gold Supporter until Sept. 05 2014


Registered: 06/26/12
Posts: 1022
Loc: Italy
One thing I realized today while trying to play Bach's Bourrée in E minor, which was giving me a headache (Bach and I have a problem getting along), is that I could only play it right by looking intently at my left hand; I think by looking at it and visually memorizing its movements I finally understood what needed to be done. Plus it was the only way to control the hand and prevent it from taking the wrong direction. So for me it was kind of a necessary step in order to learn this.

I must say that I am a very visual person though (one of the reasons why I majored in Chinese).
_________________________
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Martha Argerich... is an incarnation of the artistic metaphor of the "eternal feminine" that draws us upward. (Sergio Sablich)

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