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#2232509 - 02/16/14 10:17 AM So-called Arm Weight Method?
Psychonaut Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 233
I recently found a teacher, and have had two lessons so far. She seems smart and sounds like she knows what she's doing, but it's messing with my head.

I showed her the two Bach Inventions I've learned and she says I'm "digitizing" too much, and gave me a C major scale outline that shows "In" and "Out" positions. She also seems to be suggesting that my fingers remain mostly flacid and that I need to use my arms to press the notes...

So I've done some googling, and this seems to be the "arm weight" method. While I'm not averse to learning a new and better technique, I'm a middle-aged guy, have played non-classical stuff for a long time, and if this is going to be some 5 year tear-down and rebuild project, I'm probably not interested in going through that. But if there is a reasonable, more or less organic way to integrate this into the way I already play, then I have an open mind.

Practically speaking, when I practice "arm weight" on my own, I have no idea whether I'm "doing it right" or not. While I do (I think) understand conceptually what she's trying to impart, I still have no clue on the physical sensation/feedback level. Can anyone recommend any online resources that might give me a better insight into this?
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#2232517 - 02/16/14 10:34 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1185
Loc: uk south
full kudos for bringing this up. I've never understood it. What does playing piano with arm weight feel like? How different can it be to what I do naturally? I know my arms weigh something but so what?

Bring on those insightful replies!!!

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#2232547 - 02/16/14 11:31 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5455
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I'd love some insight into this, too. I have trouble with playing forte, and some people have told me it comes from arm weight, or even that I have to use my back and torso. I have no clue. Help!

I'm with dire tonic, thanks for bringing it up.

Cathy
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#2232575 - 02/16/14 12:31 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Psychonaut Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 233
Yeah, hopefully some of the heavy-hitters here in terms of formal piano technique will be willing to chime in.
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Yamaha P120, MO6, Steinberg MR816, Galaxy Vintage D, Komplete 8 & various other VIs, Reaper

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#2232599 - 02/16/14 01:53 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
pwl Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 05/31/13
Posts: 186
Loc: Bay Area CA
I recently purchased Paul Wirth's Gravi-DVD here:

http://www.wirthcenter.org/support.htm

Haven't fired it up yet - has anyone else tried this dvd?

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#2232626 - 02/16/14 02:47 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Someone may come in with a better explanation than the one I'm about to give. In fact, I hope they do, because I have never found an adequate way of typing out the explanation. But I'll do my best.

I am most familiar with "finger-weight" playing being referred to as "isolation". When you play with only your fingers, they are disconnected from the rest of the playing mechanism, which includes everything up to your shoulders (but for practicality, you can usually stop thinking at the elbow). When you use finger weight alone to press down a key, you have to use additional forearm strength because the finger doesn't weigh very much. In order to generate the force needed, you have to add speed, which means you have to use your muscles. The more you use your muscles, the faster you will feel fatigue. So, when your forearms tighten up, one reason is because your fingers are playing independent of the arm. Sometimes this is because of misalignment; sometimes it is because of isolation.

In order to eliminate this kind of isolated movement, your fingers, hands, wrists, arms, and elbows must all be in alignment, and must all move actively in order to depress each key that you play. If the arm is aligned and moving down through the finger, you add the mass/weight of your arm to the finger, and as a result, you don't need to use as much muscle to play the note.

Try this: suspend your arm over the keys and play a five-note scale using only your fingers. Don't move your hand, wrist, arm or elbow. Lock them in place. If you have to, hold your arm with your LH. When you play, the movement will feel extremely isolated.

Perhaps an even better example is what we're doing right now: typing. If your wrists are resting on a gel pad, the desk, etc, and the only thing you're using to type is your fingers, then you are isolating and using only "finger weight". This is much easier to get away with on a keyboard, because the weight of a letter is significantly less than the weight of a key on a piano.

I hope this helped a little..? smile
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#2232675 - 02/16/14 03:58 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Miguel Rey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 285
. Suggest these vids

[video:http://youtu.be/_CtFxe9pLME[/video]

If you like jump to 9:00

[video:youtube]http://youtu.be/eMzdigll8jY[/video]
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Bechstein B c1905


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#2232685 - 02/16/14 04:11 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 630
Loc: Leicester, UK
Derulux, I think you pretty much said it well. Which is NOT easy!

Building on what you said, it comes down to efficiency. We can use tiny muscles on the underside of the forearm to control fingers. Because those are the muscles that control fingers Or we can use as much of the weight of bodies as we need to get the same effect. It's about alignment and using body weight and mechanics efficiently.

The big general idea of it is the same as in a sport where the coach say "Put your body into it." It comes down efficient transfer of weight to generate force.

It's the same exact thing in many martial arts including Taichi in particular.

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#2232717 - 02/16/14 04:52 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5455
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Thanks for the explanations and the videos! I found them quite useful. Some stuff I had sort of experimented with and it was nice to have that reinforced, and some stuff I had heard of but not really thought about, so it was good to see. More things to try incorporating!

Cathy
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#2232778 - 02/16/14 07:41 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Graham Fitch has recently written several articles on the history of keyboard technique that I highly recommend. The first is here: http://practisingthepiano.com/history-piano-technique-part-1/

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#2232885 - 02/17/14 12:13 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
hreichgott Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 900
Loc: western MA, USA
Arm weight means you let the keys take the weight of your arm, instead of wasting energy using your bicep or forearm to hold up the arm. It's an extremely efficient way to play.

The fingers still have to be strong, but they are a support mechanism, not the engine driving the movement. Let gravity drive the movement. (the feeling of arm weight is like doing a handstand on one finger.)
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Sounding the depths of small pieces: Beethoven Op. 33
Daily attempts at 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 4, Pischna
Totally loving Fauré/Barcarolles and Ravel/Tombeau de Couperin
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2233057 - 02/17/14 10:21 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1185
Loc: uk south
Derulux, Hriechgott, thanks both for your input, more to get a grasp on than either of those videos could offer IMHO. Although I'm a big fan of Graham Fitch, he didn't seem to have enough to say about arm weight. Without having a proper physical demo by a good teacher it's going to remain something of a mystery to me.

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#2233067 - 02/17/14 10:38 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5455
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I think I've gotten much better with the "arm-weight" part over the years. I spent some time just exaggerating the movements and using gravity to play chords, etc, so that I got some extra oomph and volume, and exaggerating some wrist movements so that it became more fluent and part of what I use to both get around the piano geography and to find differences in touch. But I'm still out of it on how to use the rest of my body. I've also discovered, tho I'm not as good at using it yet, the importance of leaning to one side or the other to help with alignment and reaching things. But I've seen people actually come off the piano bench when they do big fortes. So I guess that's a clue that maybe I should explore, eh?

Cathy
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#2233086 - 02/17/14 10:56 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: jotur]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1185
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: jotur
I think I've gotten much better with the "arm-weight" part over the years. I spent some time just exaggerating the movements and using gravity to play chords, etc, so that I got some extra oomph and volume,

Yep, for big block chordy stuff in ff, it's more meaningful. But for the more fingery sort of playing, I can't see how I can get 'weight' to work.

Quote:

But I've seen people actually come off the piano bench when they do big fortes. So I guess that's a clue that maybe I should explore, eh?

Call me small minded but I would pay to watch a concert of various performers each coming off their bench in turn. But only if it were the real thing. I don't want artificial slapstick.

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#2233122 - 02/17/14 12:09 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Psychonaut Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 233
+1 for saying thank you for the comments. If I can integrate this in any kind of natural, organic way I want to start incorporating some of these concepts. But it HAS to be organic.
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#2233173 - 02/17/14 01:39 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Yep, for big block chordy stuff in ff, it's more meaningful. But for the more fingery sort of playing, I can't see how I can get 'weight' to work.

I think it's more important for softer playing (in terms of sound production) than loud playing. If you don't use arm weight, there is a tendency to "brush" the keys and not play to the bottom of the key. It makes sound production very hard to control, and often leads to uneven sound, with slight accents where you don't want them. smile
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#2233199 - 02/17/14 02:14 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Derulux]
Miguel Rey Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 285
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Yep, for big block chordy stuff in ff, it's more meaningful. But for the more fingery sort of playing, I can't see how I can get 'weight' to work.

I think it's more important for softer playing (in terms of sound production) than loud playing. If you don't use arm weight, there is a tendency to "brush" the keys and not play to the bottom of the key. It makes sound production very hard to control, and often leads to uneven sound, with slight accents where you don't want them. smile

thumb

Much harder to shape and play soft than loud.


Edited by Miguel Rey (02/17/14 02:15 PM)
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#2233239 - 02/17/14 03:15 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11590
Loc: Canada
What I'm concerned about is that you have a new teacher who is teaching you about these things, but you are asking for information on the forum. There are several considerations here. One is that changing how you play physically is no small undertaking. It requires careful work with a competent and observant teacher. If you do have such a teacher, then you should be under that person's guidance and work with her. Extra information may be helpful or hinder. You also have learn how to balance your instincts together with what you're told, and know where to let go which time. If you are NOT with someone who knows what they are doing and who just has superficial knowledge, it might be a mess.

I went through this on another instrument the whole nine yards. There were a lot of concepts that I misunderstood and it created a mess. When I came to piano, I was resuming what I had done self-taught decades before, and by then I knew my playing mechanism was off (ironically from that first experience). I am working with my teacher right now with these kinds of things and it is working.

The concept of "arm weight" is also talked about in other instruments. For me it was with violin, and I thought you had a "heavy" arm that kept its weight as a kind of dead weight. The same problem arises with "relaxed" anything, which does not mean limp or flaccid (my original concept). Both of these ideas can come into piano, with the same misperceptions.

DIGITIZING is the idea that the action comes from your fingers (I had that). The bottom line is that your whole body works together. There is a flow along the body - I won't even try to describe it - but it does change how you play, makes things easier, and prevents injury.

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#2233367 - 02/17/14 06:50 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
DinaP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/12
Posts: 151
For another view -- go to the site below, locate the archive in the right hand column, and start with 2010 and work through the articles in order. Andrew Thayer has helped me a great deal -- but it takes time and patience to read and do the exercises.

His site is: http://pianoscience.blogspot.co.uk/

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#2233531 - 02/18/14 04:37 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Derulux]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1185
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Yep, for big block chordy stuff in ff, it's more meaningful. But for the more fingery sort of playing, I can't see how I can get 'weight' to work.

I think it's more important for softer playing (in terms of sound production) than loud playing. If you don't use arm weight, there is a tendency to "brush" the keys and not play to the bottom of the key. It makes sound production very hard to control, and often leads to uneven sound, with slight accents where you don't want them. smile


Well trust me to get it completely ar$e about face. grin

A quick observation; I notice immediately the more I concentrate on feeling or 'letting' my arm weight somehow participate then my wrist is inclined to sag. The only way I can find to overcome that is to introduce some rigidity into the wrist, which is bad medicine. Either that or I raise some part of the arm (elbow/shoulder) to relax the wrist but this defeats the effort to bring weight to bear. I'll have to revisit this after the next recital but I'd like to make it work.

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#2233558 - 02/18/14 06:27 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: keystring]
Ataru074 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 291
Loc: Houston, TX
Originally Posted By: keystring

The concept of "arm weight" is also talked about in other instruments. For me it was with violin, and I thought you had a "heavy" arm that kept its weight as a kind of dead weight. The same problem arises with "relaxed" anything, which does not mean limp or flaccid (my original concept). Both of these ideas can come into piano, with the same misperceptions.


well said.
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working on:
Bach: BWV 871
Mozart: Kv397
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#2233607 - 02/18/14 08:52 AM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: Psychonaut]
mabraman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/24/12
Posts: 321
Loc: Valencia, Spain
Watch this gem (thanks Bobpickle to link this man's vids in your signature):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAnYPsa4saA

An example of finger work which gets a loud sound:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovyQXNKO6QU
_________________________
Learning piano from scratch since September, 2012.
Kawai ES7.

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#2233718 - 02/18/14 12:29 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: dire tonic]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Yep, for big block chordy stuff in ff, it's more meaningful. But for the more fingery sort of playing, I can't see how I can get 'weight' to work.

I think it's more important for softer playing (in terms of sound production) than loud playing. If you don't use arm weight, there is a tendency to "brush" the keys and not play to the bottom of the key. It makes sound production very hard to control, and often leads to uneven sound, with slight accents where you don't want them. smile


Well trust me to get it completely ar$e about face. grin

A quick observation; I notice immediately the more I concentrate on feeling or 'letting' my arm weight somehow participate then my wrist is inclined to sag. The only way I can find to overcome that is to introduce some rigidity into the wrist, which is bad medicine. Either that or I raise some part of the arm (elbow/shoulder) to relax the wrist but this defeats the effort to bring weight to bear. I'll have to revisit this after the next recital but I'd like to make it work.

hahaha it happens to the best of us. I was on your original statement's side a decade ago. grin

The simple answer is -- don't let your wrist break. wink However, make sure your wrist is being held up "naturally" and you're not actively fighting with your muscles, "gripping" your wrist hard to make sure it stays there. (This is a tough one to describe in words, because it's all about feeling..)
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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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#2233949 - 02/18/14 09:31 PM Re: So-called Arm Weight Method? [Re: keystring]
Psychonaut Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/13
Posts: 233
Originally Posted By: keystring
What I'm concerned about is that you have a new teacher who is teaching you about these things, but you are asking for information on the forum...


Thanks for your concern. Yeah it's maybe a little weird, but I want to get a wider swath of opinion, since I'm hyper-aware of how people (including me) can get hung-up on certain schools of thought about something, and just want to get more of universal context in which this arm weight deal is embedded... This thread has bewen extremely helpful. Thanks again.

Originally Posted By: DinaP
For another view -- go to the site below, locate the archive in the right hand column, and start with 2010 and work through the articles in order. Andrew Thayer has helped me a great deal -- but it takes time and patience to read and do the exercises.

His site is: http://pianoscience.blogspot.co.uk/


Thanks for this. I am indeed going go through the material.
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