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#2190170 - 11/29/13 05:20 PM The way I see it!
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1578
Loc: Australia
Forgive the misleading title but I could not resist the pun. Also am I a bit unsure about posting on the teachers’ forum, surely you guys come here to escape the questions of students. However, if you do I am sure you will ignore this.

So as I understand it, unlike the good old days, it is ok to look at your fingers while playing. My own teacher has said she doesn't mind but obviously was not taught that way. Now that I have been playing for a year I now understand the method I use to practice and learn new pieces better and I am wondering if I can improve on it. I always look at my hands and memorize everything. This seems to work fine until both hands are doing something that normally I would be looking at. So I decide which hand really needs to be looked at and try hard to ignore the other. On other occasions I find those nasty little hesitations in a piece that come from the brain, eyes and fingers not being in sync. I feel my looking at my fingers has become a control mechanism, if I am not looking at the exact right place at the exact right time mistakes happens.

My question is should I try to ween myself off this habit of watching my fingers altogether and will there be benefits in doing so? While I understand there are some great pianists who look at their hands I can’t help think it may be holding me back and that eventually when I play faster and more technically challenges pieces my looking it just going to be a needless step at best and a hindrance at worst.

If you want to waste six minutes of you life and watch me play then here is my latest work. The third movement actually shows me watching my hands while the others have all those nasty hesitations. here

Thanks for taking the time and any comments would be greatly appreciated.


Edited by earlofmar (11/29/13 05:22 PM)
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#2190184 - 11/29/13 05:44 PM Re: The way I see it! [Re: earlofmar]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5929
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: earlofmar
I always look at my hands and memorize everything.
What will fail to develop with this method is your reading ability. (I'm guessing that what you do is slowly and laboriously decode the notation, learn where to put your hands and rarely look at the music again.) I'm a bit surprised your teacher hasn't alerted you to this. Being a good reader helps you learn new pieces more quickly, and gives you a lifetime of satisfaction in being able to pick up some unknown, unheard music and give it a go. It's worth it.
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#2190194 - 11/29/13 05:57 PM Re: The way I see it! [Re: earlofmar]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Yes, aim to look mostly ahead (or at the music) and glance down occasionally at your hands. That way you will be able to (1) read music and (2) direct your hands without looking at them all the time. You will have less trouble when the hands move far apart and need to jump.
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#2190277 - 11/29/13 09:18 PM Re: The way I see it! [Re: earlofmar]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
I had the habit of hand-watching, partly because I write, and partly because I was not ardent enough at acquiring the skill of fluent reading when my mind was young and plastic.

In the end, I had to break the habit, since I greatly desired to read better. It is not easy! But, the effort is greatly worthwhile. Having the hands know, of themselves, where they are on the keyboard, and having the fingers guided by eye to the key patterns, are two completely separate skills. Either way has its hazards and its benefits. It is true, that performers in concert often do look at the hands (unless they're performing as a mime at the same time).

Facility at reading will take you much further, and a lack of facility will greatly hold you back as a musician. But there is nothing wrong with memorizing the score, and then enjoying the pleasure of watching the hands at their work--- or as they create new music, for which a score may not even exist. Both skills is a good thing if you have it; some people can only read.

One thing I found of great help, is to follow in the score while I listen to recordings. It helps the mind to make sense of the ink spots on the page, seeing the way chords and rhythms are notated on-the-fly--- for that is just how fast it will have to be taken in by the eye when you play. This is how we learn our native language, and this makes it easier for the mind to connect page/eyes/fingers/keys/sound-and-feeling. And if the performer and score are reliable, it helps save us from unseemly solecisms (the same as if we had mispronounced some word through only having read it on the page, rather than having heard it spoken by someone who knows how).


Edited by Jeff Clef (11/29/13 10:32 PM)
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#2190280 - 11/29/13 09:30 PM Re: The way I see it! [Re: earlofmar]
stalefleas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/16/13
Posts: 249
Excellent post Jeff Clef. You mentioned what I was wanting to contribute and more.

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#2190297 - 11/29/13 10:06 PM Re: The way I see it! [Re: earlofmar]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
There is nothing wrong with looking at our hands. Every professional soloist memorizes their pieces and looks at their hands. I dare anybody to play a Liszt or Chopin étude at concert tempo and NOT look at their hands.

And you also have to be able to look at the book, too. It's a mistake to say that you'll never look at your hands, because everybody has to occasionally when they sight-read. I worked as a staff accompanist at my old university for a while and, believe me, you have to look at your hands sometimes when sight-reading!

The skill is to be able to read from the book, look down when you need to, and then find your place again in the score without interrupting the music, and freaking out at the same time. This is among the most complex neuro-physical actions the human body can perform, and it requires an amazing amount of training to accomplish it even at a rudimentary level. So if it takes a while, it's worth investing.
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Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2190341 - 11/30/13 12:50 AM Re: The way I see it! [Re: laguna_greg]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4801
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: laguna_greg
There is nothing wrong with looking at our hands. Every professional soloist memorizes their pieces and looks at their hands. I dare anybody to play a Liszt or Chopin étude at concert tempo and NOT look at their hands.

And you also have to be able to look at the book, too. It's a mistake to say that you'll never look at your hands, because everybody has to occasionally when they sight-read. I worked as a staff accompanist at my old university for a while and, believe me, you have to look at your hands sometimes when sight-reading!

The skill is to be able to read from the book, look down when you need to, and then find your place again in the score without interrupting the music, and freaking out at the same time. This is among the most complex neuro-physical actions the human body can perform, and it requires an amazing amount of training to accomplish it even at a rudimentary level. So if it takes a while, it's worth investing.

Another way to put it: develop fast eyes. That's what all good sight-readers have, the ability to take quick looks, and a lot of those looks are more peripheral than we realize.
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