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#2231986 - 02/15/14 11:05 AM Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
I have started practicing this etude with the express purpose of improving my overall finger dexterity and control.

What do you all think of this piece as a technical study? Does it help a lot with developing finger strength and evenness of touch?

Do you have any specific practice tips to get the most out of this etude?

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#2232008 - 02/15/14 11:30 AM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: JanVan]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5296
Loc: Philadelphia
It is difficult to answer at least one of the questions you pose, because there is no such thing as "finger strength". When you ask that question, what do you mean?

EDIT: I should probably reword this to say that "strengthening your fingers is impractical and unnecessary for piano playing." What I mean above is that there are no muscles in the fingers. What I mean here is that you don't need any additional "strength" to press down a key. I hope that's clearer. wink


Edited by Derulux (02/15/14 11:32 AM)
_________________________
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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#2232021 - 02/15/14 11:52 AM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: Derulux]
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
What I mean is that my fourth finger feels quite weak compared to my other fingers and that I need different degrees of effort (mental and physical) to push down the piano keys depending on the finger used.

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#2232051 - 02/15/14 12:54 PM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: JanVan]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5296
Loc: Philadelphia
Got it. That's actually a pretty common symptom, and some famous pianists have struggled with it over the centuries. Robert Schumann and Leon Fleisher might be two of the most recognizable examples. While Fleisher suffered from focal dystonia, Schumann supposedly tried one of several extremely damaging techniques to improve the strength of his fingers (particularly the 4th finger).

The truth of the matter is this: it is most-likely that you are suffering from one or more symptoms of issues in technique. What you feel is that you have difficulty pressing down the 4th finger, but what caused it may be a lack of alignment of one or more elements of the playing mechanism (fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, and arms) that can come either before, during, or even after a particular movement where you actually feel a symptom.

This may be a lot to digest, particularly if you're just beginning piano, so let me give you an easy example. Play a five-finger scale (C-G is easy). First, play it with a flat hand, straight fingers, low wrist, and above all else keep your pinky on the surface of the keys. Do not let it lift up. Now, this isn't proper technique -- far from it -- but I'm using it as an over-exaggerated example of some common issues. If you do it "properly," you will have almost no ability to play your 4th finger.

Now, I want you to do the same thing again, but this time, lift your pinky high into the air and keep it there. This still is very very bad technique, but what you'll notice is that your fourth finger now has more freedom to move.

You can accomplish the same thing on the way down if you substitute your 3rd finger. So, play 5-4-3-2-1. First, keep the 3rd finger on the surface of the keys. Then lift it up into the air.

Why does this happen? To skip the anatomy lesson, let's just say that the tendon on your fourth finger isn't entirely independent.


So, when you play, you have to play in such a way that you are not creating tension by holding artificial positions, that your movements compliment and enhance each other to create efficiencies and synergies, and that those synergies create the sound you are trying to get out of the instrument.

Unfortunately, to further describe what might be of value to you is impossible because we have very little information (factual, tactile, or otherwise) about your playing. We can stab in the dark -- keep your wrist up!, elbows in!, elbows out!, keep your fingers curled!, etc etc etc -- but at the end of the day, they are just blind stabs in the dark. If you can post a video where you try to play something (even a scale) and fail, we might be able to diagnose things that are visible in the video.

----------------------------------------------------

Now, I would also like to address one other facet of your original question: an exercise/etude is only as good as your technique. That is to say, if you play it wrong, you will be practicing (and learning) something that's wrong. The etude/exercise itself is not capable of teaching you proper technique. You have to learn it external to the exercise (though sometimes in conjunction with the exercise). Once it is learned, these etudes/exercises are supposed to help you internalize the concept, but they can't teach you what to do. It would be like saying a book of math problems can teach you how to do math. It can't. Unless you know how to do math, the book is meaningless. Yes, through a long and endeavored struggle, you may come to understand some concepts in the book, but if the book is significantly advanced/foreign in ideas and concepts, two things will happen:

1. You won't learn much, if anything
2. You may not have actually learned what you think you learned because there is no way to "check your answers"

Now, in music, there actually is a way to "check your answers," but it usually takes years of study and discipline to even begin to develop the ability. Even then, you may only ever discover "what's wrong," but not "how to fix it" (much like, with an answer key, you know the math problem is wrong, but you have no idea how to get the "right" answer).

I could continue, but I don't want to overwhelm you with my own thoughts. I look forward to your response, and am happy to keep the dialogue going if it's beneficial to you. smile
_________________________
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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#2232106 - 02/15/14 03:02 PM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: JanVan]
StarvingLion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/30/13
Posts: 226
Originally Posted By: JanVan
What I mean is that my fourth finger feels quite weak compared to my other fingers and that I need different degrees of effort (mental and physical) to push down the piano keys depending on the finger used.


Godowsky Progressive Exercises is probably best.

Also try Brahms #15 in the Brahms 51 exercises book. I think the entire book is the best for strengthening fingers, thumb coordination, etc.

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#2232391 - 02/16/14 02:50 AM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: Derulux]
JanVan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/13
Posts: 51
Derulux, thank you for your insightful reply.

I will try out your 5-finger scale exercise during my next practice session and report back with the results.

It's funny that you mentioned sticking my pinky up in the air as an experiment because I do have the very bad habit of raising my right pinky straight up when trying to play something fast, especially scales and other types of runs.

That's one of the reasons I chose this particular etude, to learn to relax my hands and fingers even when playing difficult passages. I would like to use it both as technical material for learning and also as a benchmark for measuring progress.

In my experience, both the left hand and right hand in this piece are difficult (although for different reasons) and combining both hands presents yet another challenge.

My main difficulties are with the right hand triplets of Hanon style finger patterns. They are rhythmically uneven, often wrongly accented, uneven in tone, and become increasingly uncontrollable as I get past the metronome mark of 80.

Still, after practicing in sections, hands separately and together, several times a day for about a week now, I start to notice some real improvement.

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#2232408 - 02/16/14 04:04 AM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: JanVan]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5296
Loc: Philadelphia
Anytime. I hope some of it was insightful. smile

Quote:
It's funny that you mentioned sticking my pinky up in the air as an experiment because I do have the very bad habit of raising my right pinky straight up when trying to play something fast, especially scales and other types of runs.

I mentioned it because I had a feeling this might be the case. I'm not clairvoyant, obviously, but this is one of the absolute most common symptoms among pianists. Figured the percentages were pretty good.. lol grin

If you want an exercise that may help, try this: set up your hand to play a five-finger scale (proper alignment, not the wacky one I presented before; and let's assume C-G). Play each note without tempo. There's no time. You have all the time in the world to get to the next note. This is an exercise in relaxation, not an exercise in tempo. So, play your thumb. Make sure the finger is active, and that it moves. Make sure the weight of the hand/arm is behind the thumb, so the finger movement is not isolated. When the note is depressed, relax every other finger, your hand, your arm, everything. Now, prep (lift) and play (drop) the next note (index finger). As you enter the D, release the C. With the D depressed, relax everything from fingertip to shoulder. Go all the way up to the G like this. It might take several seconds on each note. Don't worry about time/tempo. Focus on relaxation. That is the goal.

If you notice your pinky (or any other finger) flaring up, chances are there's some tension you need to iron out. Go back to the exercise, and keep the focus on making it as relaxed as possible. (If you want a benchmark.. I've been playing for 25+ years, and this single exercise still took about 15 seconds. That would be equivalent to a tempo of q=36.)

When you get the five-finger scale down, try a major scale. Pay special attention to the crossovers.

If you find any tension you can't get rid of, or something that doesn't feel right, report back. Not sure I can do much with words, but I'll try my best. smile
_________________________
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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#2232859 - 02/16/14 10:45 PM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: Derulux]
Charles Cohen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 1258
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Quote:
. . .
My main difficulties are with the right hand triplets of Hanon style finger patterns. They are rhythmically uneven, often wrongly accented, uneven in tone, and become increasingly uncontrollable as I get past the metronome mark of 80.

Still, after practicing in sections, hands separately and together, several times a day for about a week now, I start to notice some real improvement.


FWIW --

I consider anything that I can't play well, a candidate for a "technical exercise".

Run the Hanon slowly, at a tempo that you can play _well_. And watch your fingers -- no lifted pinkie!<g>

And then _slowly_ increase the tempo, until it just starts to fall apart. Back the tempo down a little bit, and watch for tension and "bad technique".

And if your technique is OK, and you're not tense, increase the tempo a little bit . . .

Improvement may take time (weeks, not days), but it will happen. The problem is partly to move quickly, and partly to _maintain full consciousness of what you're doing_ when you move quickly.

. Charles

PS -- I don't teach, so take this FWIW.

PPS -- Derulux's "slow playing" exercise is one I've never tried. It sounds interesting.

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#2232949 - 02/17/14 06:10 AM Re: Czerny Op. 849 No. 1 for basic finger dexterity [Re: Derulux]
Ataru074 Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 310
Loc: Houston, TX
Originally Posted By: Derulux

If you want an exercise that may help, try this: set up your hand to play a five-finger scale (proper alignment, not the wacky one I presented before; and let's assume C-G). Play each note without tempo. There's no time. You have all the time in the world to get to the next note. This is an exercise in relaxation, not an exercise in tempo. So, play your thumb. Make sure the finger is active, and that it moves. Make sure the weight of the hand/arm is behind the thumb, so the finger movement is not isolated. When the note is depressed, relax every other finger, your hand, your arm, everything. Now, prep (lift) and play (drop) the next note (index finger). As you enter the D, release the C. With the D depressed, relax everything from fingertip to shoulder. Go all the way up to the G like this. It might take several seconds on each note. Don't worry about time/tempo. Focus on relaxation. That is the goal.

If you notice your pinky (or any other finger) flaring up, chances are there's some tension you need to iron out. Go back to the exercise, and keep the focus on making it as relaxed as possible. (If you want a benchmark.. I've been playing for 25+ years, and this single exercise still took about 15 seconds. That would be equivalent to a tempo of q=36.)


that is the exercises of the "little ants" as we where used to call it as childs... it's gruesome if you don't relax.
additional tips... keep the finger as curved as needed to allow full wrist relaxation and no collapse of the finger joints... (typical is the outer one in the 4th finger and the inner on in the 5th finger)
the knuckles need to show up more evident in the finger playing the note (means that the palm of the hand is relaxed too ).
Last tip... don't do it on middle c or with the wrist / hand misaligned. find the most comfortable position where the 3rd finger is aligned with your forearm.

sorry for hijacking but I felt this exercise needed few more tips to avoid injuries.
_________________________
===============================================
working on:
Bach: BWV 871
Mozart: Kv397
Beethoven: Op 14 #2
Prokofiev: Op.10
Bartok: Notturno
===============================================

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