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#2148385 - 09/11/13 06:06 PM Thirds technique - complete block
Hfffoman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/24/09
Posts: 12
Loc: Kent, England
I have a weakness at playing thirds which I can't understand. I can descend in the right hand 53 - 42 - 31, but climbing especially 42 to 53 feels totally unnatural and my fingers feel paralyzed when I try to play at speed. For example Beethoven op 81 (Lebewohl) allegro bar 13, I can play the rest of the movement up to speed (including bar 17 which is supposed to be much more difficult) but I can't play those rising thirds.

Is there something about the technique I might be missing? Is there an exercise that might help? I doubt that simply playing rising thirds is going to work as I have practised that bar hundreds of times and still can't play it.

Many thanks for any advice

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#2148387 - 09/11/13 06:10 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6037
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
This may be a technique that takes much time and practice to develop... Thirds at any speed were horribly difficult for me, but from practicing various exercises each day, they improved over a long time. There are countless exercises, but try looking at some of the thirds exercises in the third section of Hanon.

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#2148388 - 09/11/13 06:11 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2061
Loc: Canada
What is your fingering for the full passage (just the thirds)? If I recall mine correct, I only ever had to do 4-2 to 5-3 once, the rest were just 1-3 and 2-4.
_________________________
Working on:
Beethoven - Piano Sonata op. 109
Brahms - 6 Klavierstucke op. 118
Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto no.3

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#2148419 - 09/11/13 07:13 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5075
Loc: Philadelphia
Since you only have the problem up, and not down, I would instinctively guess that your hand is "collapsing" to the right, making it increasingly difficult to play your 3rd, 4th, and 5th fingers as the third progress.

When you're pressing the keys down, make sure you're pressing them straight down, or even a little to the left while ascending to the right, because that will help prevent such collapsing, and also will help prep those smaller fingers to be able to play the next third in the group.
_________________________
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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#2148432 - 09/11/13 07:43 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7462
Try practicing this way - very slowly, play the upper notes as legato as you can make them, while playing the lower notes staccato.

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#2148434 - 09/11/13 07:44 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1500
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
You could look for a way to play them which is easier for you but not the final "right" way. For example you might find that playing them staccato, or using wrist flapping, or some other peculiar approach is easy. Then over time, work toward the right sound, building on the confidence acquired. In other words, try changing anything rather than continually reinforcing a notion of difficulty.
_________________________
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#2148443 - 09/11/13 07:59 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6085
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Try some of the exercises in Dohnanyi's Essential Finger Exercises, No.26 ff.
_________________________



Music is my best friend.


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#2148629 - 09/12/13 07:39 AM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Hfffoman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/24/09
Posts: 12
Loc: Kent, England
Thanks all, for the quick replies.

Kuanpiano, I am doing 31-42-31-42-53. You are right, the problem only occurs in one place. (One too many).

Derulux, when you say, "a little to the left" do you mean tilt the hand slightly so that 5 and 4 are raised and the keys are being attacked slightly from the left?

I have ordered the Dohnanyi, ignoring Amazon's suggestion that I ask the publisher to release it on Kindle. I had Hanon, Joseffi and Czerny but rarely used them and the Hanon at least seems to have gone during the last house move clearout. (I figured that if I took the difficult passages in pieces I was working on and used them as exercises that would be as good - do you agree?)

The strange thing is I can sometimes play these thirds at speed but sometimes it feels so unnatural the rhythm will go crazy or I will miss notes. The same problem does occur on the descent but much less. An interesting example is the descending thirds right at the end of Mozart K545 (the C major sonata). I can play this with a conventional fingering (53-42-31-21) but it is not reliable and will occasionally fluff. With the more awkward fingering 42-31-42-31, I can play it reliably.

Kuanpiano as you are working on the Lebewohl, you will have faced the other passage where I have to use a very unconventional fingering: bars 53-56 in the final movement (and various recurrences). Playing trills while holding down notes on 4 and 5 was a contortion. Since it's pedalled it was a lot easier if I let go of the top notes, but it was still awkward. My solution is to play 121313 131313 131312 121212, with 5 on all the top notes. At first this seems extremely awkward but with practice I can play it comfortably at speed and it sounds much better than the with conventional fingering. Is seems crazy to play 5 instead of 4 on the A but somehow 4 doesn't want to work independently. I wonder if there is something weird about my nerve wiring.

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#2148742 - 09/12/13 12:16 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5075
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: Hfffoman
Derulux, when you say, "a little to the left" do you mean tilt the hand slightly so that 5 and 4 are raised and the keys are being attacked slightly from the left?

This is where it gets tricky to try and type what you mean over an internet forum. Meaning can become muddled, words can be misinterpreted, but I will do my best. Feel free to PM me if you want something in a little more detail in the way of technique. I'd be happy to discuss it further, but I don't want to take up the forum space to do that. smile

What I mean, in as visually meaningful and succinct way as I can try to describe, is to keep your arm weight evenly distributed between your fingers. It may help to practice accenting the lower note, which will keep your arm weight to the "left" instead of collapsing to the "right", and that may help you begin to feel what your hand is doing.

Let me know if that makes more sense. I'm trying to be concise, because fewer words lead to easier corrections of meaning. wink
_________________________
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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#2148755 - 09/12/13 12:46 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Hfffoman
I have a weakness at playing thirds which I can't understand. I can descend in the right hand 53 - 42 - 31, but climbing especially 42 to 53 feels totally unnatural and my fingers feel paralyzed when I try to play at speed. For example Beethoven op 81 (Lebewohl) allegro bar 13, I can play the rest of the movement up to speed (including bar 17 which is supposed to be much more difficult) but I can't play those rising thirds.

Is there something about the technique I might be missing? Is there an exercise that might help? I doubt that simply playing rising thirds is going to work as I have practised that bar hundreds of times and still can't play it.

Many thanks for any advice


This is an infamous passage, although most pianists have trouble later on, with the repeated chord. Yes, you are missing an understanding about the technique. No, you do not need exercises.

Fingering starting with A-C: 1-3, 2-4, 1-3, 2-4, 3-5. From your brief description it sounds as if you are trying to play the thirds as separate units, that is, by articulating with up/down arm or hand movements or by isolating your fingers. From the B flat-D (2-4), feel hinged on 4, release 2 and rotate slightly in the direction of the music (right). Then, turn back to 1-3 (left). The third finger will cross over 4, the principle being that a longer finger may easily cross over a shorter finger.

You mention that 4-2 to 5-3 feels unnatural. Again, it's likely that the rotation is missing. Feel hinged on 4, rotate to the right, turn back to 5-3. This has the effect of playing 4 to 3. Alternatively, moving from 4-2 to 5-3 can be accomplished easily by shaping slightly in the direction of in, toward the fallboard as you move to 5-3. These movements are much easier than they sound when described in words. A demonstration is much easier to grasp.

Good luck. Let me know if it helps.


Edited by NeilOS (09/12/13 01:26 PM)
_________________________
Concert Pianist, University Professor, Private Teacher in Los Angeles
Blog: http://www.pianoteacherlosangeles.com/

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#2148805 - 09/12/13 02:33 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
NeilOS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/06
Posts: 599
Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: Hfffoman
Thanks all, for the quick replies.

Kuanpiano, I am doing 31-42-31-42-53. You are right, the problem only occurs in one place. (One too many).

Derulux, when you say, "a little to the left" do you mean tilt the hand slightly so that 5 and 4 are raised and the keys are being attacked slightly from the left?

I have ordered the Dohnanyi, ignoring Amazon's suggestion that I ask the publisher to release it on Kindle. I had Hanon, Joseffi and Czerny but rarely used them and the Hanon at least seems to have gone during the last house move clearout. (I figured that if I took the difficult passages in pieces I was working on and used them as exercises that would be as good - do you agree?)

The strange thing is I can sometimes play these thirds at speed but sometimes it feels so unnatural the rhythm will go crazy or I will miss notes. The same problem does occur on the descent but much less. An interesting example is the descending thirds right at the end of Mozart K545 (the C major sonata). I can play this with a conventional fingering (53-42-31-21) but it is not reliable and will occasionally fluff. With the more awkward fingering 42-31-42-31, I can play it reliably.

Kuanpiano as you are working on the Lebewohl, you will have faced the other passage where I have to use a very unconventional fingering: bars 53-56 in the final movement (and various recurrences). Playing trills while holding down notes on 4 and 5 was a contortion. Since it's pedalled it was a lot easier if I let go of the top notes, but it was still awkward. My solution is to play 121313 131313 131312 121212, with 5 on all the top notes. At first this seems extremely awkward but with practice I can play it comfortably at speed and it sounds much better than the with conventional fingering. Is seems crazy to play 5 instead of 4 on the A but somehow 4 doesn't want to work independently. I wonder if there is something weird about my nerve wiring.


There's nothing wrong with your wiring. In the last movement, the passage you describe is quite easy to play if you consider that the technical grouping is from the last 16th in the accompaniment to the next melody note. Feel a slight up on that last 16th in order to come down on the chord. The principle here is that we group from heavier to lighter, the chord being heavier.
_________________________
Concert Pianist, University Professor, Private Teacher in Los Angeles
Blog: http://www.pianoteacherlosangeles.com/

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#2148871 - 09/12/13 04:00 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 605
Originally Posted By: Hfffoman
I have a weakness at playing thirds which I can't understand. I can descend in the right hand 53 - 42 - 31, but climbing especially 42 to 53 feels totally unnatural and my fingers feel paralyzed when I try to play at speed. For example Beethoven op 81 (Lebewohl) allegro bar 13, I can play the rest of the movement up to speed (including bar 17 which is supposed to be much more difficult) but I can't play those rising thirds.

Is there something about the technique I might be missing? Is there an exercise that might help? I doubt that simply playing rising thirds is going to work as I have practised that bar hundreds of times and still can't play it.

Many thanks for any advice


As a private student of my coach Thomas Mark, who learned it from Dorothy Taubman, who borrowed it from Tobias Matthay, this is the way I have been taught to play all double notes, including octaves.

As Laguna Greg can tell you, when you depress a key with an articulation of arm weight, there is a corresponding push back from the key. That is why it is so important not to press or push down on a key.

So, whatever direction you are playing the double notes, in whichever hand, you let the two notes you are playing spring you on to the next two notes. As long as you are properly balanced, you just play them as fast as you want.

I play the Prokofiev 1st, and also the Schumann Concerto. In the first movement of the Prokofiev it has ascending staccato double thirds, which are played at a fairly decent rate of speed. In the very beginning of the third movement of the Schuman, you also have ascending double notes in both hands.

If you let the piano do the work for you, it is not that big of a deal. And trust me folks, there are many a female pianist that have hands and fingers twice the size of mine, so that doesn't have anything to do with it.

Just start with a few groups until you can actually feel the first set of double notes pushing you up and on to the next. It works exactly the same way with octaves.

If you want to send me a PM for further clarification, that is okay.

Hey, when I was young and just starting out, everyone I told me that double thirds were hard. That is simply not true.

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#2148938 - 09/12/13 05:18 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
Hfffoman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/24/09
Posts: 12
Loc: Kent, England
Thank you these are very helpful posts.

I wasn't rotating my hands at all, though I had noticed that if I rotated my hand 45 degrees to the right I could walk up the keyboard very easily from C-D-E flat. However, a slight rotation as you say is enough and like this I can now do the first three chords at reasonable speed and it's not even necessary to pedal over a gap between d and E flat. The final G+E flat is the hardest. It does seem that rotating to the left just before playing it provides some extra movement that helps 5-3 onto the keys. I need to practise this to see if I can work it up to speed.

I am encouraged to hear that it is recognized as difficult. Listening to Kempf, it sounded like a breeze. This music thoroughly deserves the minutest attention to tiny details. I have a couple of other points of detail. It is probably best if I post them separately.

Thanks again. I will give an update in a few days.



Edited by Hfffoman (09/12/13 05:37 PM)

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#2148978 - 09/12/13 06:35 PM Re: Thirds technique - complete block [Re: Hfffoman]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2594
Loc: Netherlands
Chopin op.25/6 and Saint-Saens op.111/1+5, the best etudes for thirds, minor and major.
_________________________
Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!

Chopin op.28/20/31/39/54

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