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#391855 - 06/26/08 03:00 PM No universally good or bad technique?
pianovirus Offline
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Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 951
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Sorry for a rather long post - I hope some will care to read at all. I have tried to write up my current way of thinking about piano playing and would be very happy about any kind of feedback. I am not at all sure about it and am also discussing with my teacher, but I'd be happy to hear from a larger pool of people as well --- also completely dissenting opinions please! For example it might be that thinking about these issues might be better spent practicing or even would do more harm than good (in the way of the millipedes (?) who wonders about how he is able to coordinate so many legs in moving forward and afterwards is no longer able to do so).

My starting point is that on internet forums I read a confusing variety of (often mutually contradicting) extreme positions on piano technique like (examples):
- Person A: always play with arm weight
- Person B: always play from the wrist or arm with the fingers mostly as alert/awake but not-so-active executors (or from even more distant parts of the body -- a recent quote in another thread to play from the heart I definitely agree with but in the thinking below I strictly separate between imagining sound (heart&brain) and realizing sound (body) )
- Person C: always use very active fingers
- etc.

But how about the following way of looking at it: Let's say I have some (more or less blurry) idea in mind of how I'd like a specific phrase (or any other unit) to sound and now want to realize this ideal sound as closely as imagined on the piano. Then wouldn't it be the most obvious thing to expect that there can be no single technique (as in the "Person X" list sketched above) that works for any group of notes to bring my actually produced sound close to what I want it to be[/b]? In other words, there can be no universally good or bad technique[/b]. Rather, a technique can only be more or less suitable for producing a specific target sound. For any specific phrase there may be an infinity of different technical realizations corresponding to an infinity of imaginary sound ideals. And one specific ideal might also be practically approximated in several different ways depending on my manual abilities/preferences. This also means that a teacher should never say e.g. "you must use your fingers more actively, keep your wrist calm", but rather, "if you want to produce a sound similar to this (play example) than it's better to use your fingers more actively".

If this would be true, then the path of growing/improving as a musician and pianist would consist exactly of the following two things:
(1) Work on hearing/imagining a "target sound" as precisely as possible, so that before I play a phrase I can have the sharpest possible expectation of how I want it to sound.
[my target sound is of course subjective and can change from day to day, year to year etc. The inspiration for potential "ideals" may come from all kinds of sources: imagination, experimentation on the piano, listening to others, life in general,...]
(2) Work on translating my ideal imagined target sound to actual sound coming out of the piano in the closest possible approximation
[This could involve all kinds of specific technical "schools". In fact I don't even have to care if and how much I play with fingers, wrists, arms, or feet, as long as I keep checking if there is less and less arbitrariness in my going from imagined to real sound. As a practice it might be even good to imagine completely absurd/tasteless target sounds that I would not seriously consider for an interpretation, but still try to play a phrase in such absurd ways].

In an attempt to make this a bit more concrete just a couple of (completely arbitrary and sketchy) examples:
- Chopin 25/9: I want a clear, crisp, elegant sound - the least thing I want here is something heavy or clumsy (the latter sound is not generally unwanted and might be sought for in other pieces!). For me to realize this "target sound" would be easiest with attempting of very active finger work, particularly from the thumb.
- Liszt, some random section with "leggierissimo" written on top. I want an extremely light, volatile sound in which the individual note vanishes. To realize I would try: no weight on the fingers, fingers barely going to the bottom of the key, alert, but with the feeling that the arm moves the fingers rather than they themselves
- Some characteristic Brahms examples: I want to hear a very heavy (not especially loud) sound in which each note carries a lot of weight. To realize this I will also try to put a lot of weight from the body through my arm into the keys. The fingers have to stand under this weight, but they could also be involved actively or I could try to further involve the wrist. I could even with a phrase change the degree of finger involvement to slightly change the sound. But my fingers will have to stand weight "from above" throughout the entire phrase.
All these examples would involve different approaches to playing and this might be necessary in one single piece, from phrase to phrase. I hope the point is clear.

But if all this would be correct it becomes more and more unclear to me how you can write books on good/correct piano technique? (I should say that I have not read thoroughly, but rather glanced over several of them). Now I am not suspecting that people like Neuhaus didn't have very clear reasons for their endeavours. I rather guess that I don't yet understand them in the context of my thinking above. Or people like Abby Whiteside with their dismissing of finger technique -- their suggested way of playing might be exactly the right thing for realizing some target sounds in some phrases, but not as a universal approach to realizing all sound images. I am confused...
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#391856 - 06/26/08 03:24 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Dear I am confused..., you seem to be convinced that you are in charge of the sound you make. Trying that just becomes crass. No, it is gravity that's the boss. The more you allow gravity to do it's work, rather than fight it, the more you'll hear a beautiful sound coming through.
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#391857 - 06/26/08 07:26 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Good post!

If I may, I think some of the problem comes from the rhetoric we use - "good" technique and "bad" technique.

It's often more useful to think in terms of "schools of thought." This or that group uses this or that approach, and the approaches evolve over time. When a pianist or teacher talks about "good" technique, I think they often mean that the technique in question is in line (orthodox, if you will) with their views.

That being said, technique reminds me a little of how doctors diagnose people. When a patient comes in with a set of symptoms, those symptoms could usually cover a range of illnesses. The diagnosis is usually the one that the doctor feels has the highest percentage chance of being right. If 80% of the people with bloodwork, history, and symptom lists like yours have disease X and 20% have disease Y, then they treat you for X and see if it works.

Piano is similar. If someone says they're having trouble with playing evenly, teachers will suggest practicing rhythms and/or with a metronome, because that's what works for most people. That doesn't mean it will work for all, but it's the best place to start.

When I was taking lessons at the Aspen festival, I was in a studio that was team-taught. We alternated lessons with two teachers regularly and played in masterclasses for a third. (Coen, Perry, and Perry.) I remember working on the Waldstein and was having some trouble with octaves in the first movement. The first teacher I played it for said the problems were in my little finger, that it was collapsing occasionally. The second teacher said the problems were in my thumbs, that they were too heavy. At first, I was annoyed by the fact that my problem had two diagnoses and two treatments. But as I practiced, I figured out the underlying cause (something about the general feel of what I was doing that fouled everything up.)
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#391858 - 06/27/08 12:45 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
When a pianist or teacher talks about "good" technique, I think they often mean that the technique in question is in line (orthodox, if you will) with their views.
[/b]
Very true but also very wrong of the teachers.
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#391859 - 06/27/08 01:31 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
When a pianist or teacher talks about "good" technique, I think they often mean that the technique in question is in line (orthodox, if you will) with their views.
[/b]
Very true but also very wrong of the teachers. [/b]
Fascinating. How specifically would you propose that teachers extract themselves from their own often decades long learning and resulting playing, personal technique, teaching methods (and thus inherent bias)? In my old age I have grown to believe that teachers are people too...

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#391860 - 06/27/08 01:46 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Your only recourse is extract yourself from them.
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#391861 - 06/27/08 01:51 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianovirus:

If this would be true, then the path of growing/improving as a musician and pianist would consist exactly of the following two things:
(1) Work on hearing/imagining a "target sound" as precisely as possible, so that before I play a phrase I can have the sharpest possible expectation of how I want it to sound.
[my target sound is of course subjective and can change from day to day, year to year etc. The inspiration for potential "ideals" may come from all kinds of sources: imagination, experimentation on the piano, listening to others, life in general,...]
(2) Work on translating my ideal imagined target sound to actual sound coming out of the piano in the closest possible approximation
[This could involve all kinds of specific technical "schools". In fact I don't even have to care if and how much I play with fingers, wrists, arms, or feet, as long as I keep checking if there is less and less arbitrariness in my going from imagined to real sound. As a practice it might be even good to imagine completely absurd/tasteless target sounds that I would not seriously consider for an interpretation, but still try to play a phrase in such absurd ways].
[/b]
This is exactly the way my current teacher works with me in our coaching sessions and I believe that you provide a key insight here.

However, for this to work I believe it does require assuming that you first have a basic understanding and preparatory foundation laid of:

- how the piano works;
- how your body is put together and moves;
- how to sit and move at the keyboard naturally;
- how to avoid unnecessary tension & unnatural movements;
- how to always keep mindful awareness of your mental, emotional and physical states and adjust dynamically;
- and finally that sufficient physical motor control movement "basics" have been appropriately trained and moved to unconscious control.

This of course is not a trivial list and the process towards meeting the conditions of this list might be called by many "being trained in technique", which brings us back to where we started.

Nevertheless once achieved, instead of thinking about the mechanics of technique when studying and playing, you can be imagining, intuitively experimenting and playing, listening and adjusting towards your imagination and aural image.

In general, to perform such an enormously complex task as "playing piano music expressively", we are better off having most of the work done in an integrated and synthesized fashion by the various "me"s in our body and nervous system, rather than trying to squeeze work through the narrow bandwidth of our conscious mind's "I".

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#391862 - 06/27/08 04:09 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
What a terrific post, pianovirus.

I've given this perplexing topic some thought, too; it's another one of those issues of piano pedagogy that I likely find so interesting because my own formal lessons were of such limited duration and quality. I agree completely with your conclusion and with theJourney's excellent follow-up.

Though you mention Abby Whiteside only in the context of her dismissiveness of "finger technique," she too believed in the player's conception of aural image as the starting point for the realization of that image through physical action—the integrated, organic, wholistic system of movements she called basic rhythm.

I imagine basic rhythm to be whatever movements are necessary to produce that predetermined aural image ("target sound"), as informed by:
 Quote:
Originally posted by theJourney:
- how the piano works;
- how your body is put together and moves;
- how to sit and move at the keyboard naturally;
- how to avoid unnecessary tension & unnatural movements;
- how to always keep mindful awareness of your mental, emotional and physical states and adjust dynamically;
- and finally that sufficient physical motor control movement "basics" have been appropriately trained and moved to unconscious control.
[/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianovirus:
This could involve all kinds of specific technical "schools". In fact I don't even have to care if and how much I play with fingers, wrists, arms, or feet, as long as I keep checking if there is less and less arbitrariness in my going from imagined to real sound.
[/b] When I try to think consciously about those individual elements, I feel much like the overanalyzing millipedes you described in your first paragraph. How could one dogmatically follow the orthodoxy of "arm weight," "active fingers," coins-on-the-backs-of-the-hands or anything else as though such techniques were universally applicable?

Maybe no one really does, after all, and it only seems that way because of the disproportionately vocal proponents of the extreme positions of those various technical "schools"!

Steven
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"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#391863 - 06/28/08 06:56 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
pianovirus Offline
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Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 951
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
Many thanks for your responses!

keyboardklutz, if I interpret your first reply in the light of my posting I'd say you could be added as person D in my list above, because you seem to believe in a single universal solution: gravity. But possibly you might actually use much more in your playing (maybe subconsciously -- which could be very good if it works for you). For example, how would gravity help in voicing issues (i.e. creating a "layered" sound)? Would you lift the fingers to different heights and let them drop down from there? ;-)

Kreisler, your analogy with medical diagnosis is very convincing (I would speculate that good teachers are way more efficacious than many marketed drugs, though). A teacher may help our target sound to evolve and may direct us towards how to produce it. But some things we can probably only identify on our own, as you say.

theJourney, you make good examples of what is actually necessary to be able to bring a wide range of imagined sounds alive. And it's interesting to hear that you work with your teacher in exactly this way.

sotto voce: I wrote in my original posting that I have not carefully studied the different books out there and without wanting so immediately provided proof for that statement. Therefore, many thanks for correcting my simplistic view of what the name Abby Whiteside stands for! I didn't know that she was also teaching about aural images. And I guess your last sentence "maybe no one really does" may be a key to dealing with the confusing variety of extreme positions that exist.
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#391864 - 06/28/08 07:10 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
pianoloverus Online   content
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Registered: 05/29/01
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pianovirus:

It seems to me that the idea that different techniques are useful for different pieces/passages is *extremely* obvious.

Would any good pianist or reasonable piano teacher recommend using the same technique for Chopin Op.25 No.2 vs. the opening of the Brahms Rhapsody from Op. 119? or for a Mozart Sonata vs. the opening of Tchaikovsky's PC No.1?

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#391865 - 06/28/08 07:24 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Age_of_Anxiety Offline
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Registered: 11/25/07
Posts: 273
Loc: home
Yeah, I was going to say something like pianoloverus. Would you play Moussorgsky's promenade with all finger action or Chopin's prelude no.16 with all arm action? I don't think so.

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#391866 - 06/28/08 09:03 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
sotto voce Offline
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Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
It seems to me that the idea that different techniques are useful for different pieces/passages is *extremely* obvious.[/b]
Sure, it seems obvious to us!

Why does it seem—to me and pianovirus, anyway—that the ideologues of any given technique advocate "their" technique alone at the exclusion of other techniques?

Do they? Or is that a misrepresentation based on our misperception?

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#391867 - 06/29/08 01:41 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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I totally agree with the last posts. You must be aware of the composer's technique and be capable of applying it. In the end, much of the contention about 'techniques' really boils down to how much tension and where it is, not what muscle coordination to use.
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#391868 - 06/29/08 04:38 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
pianovirus Offline
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Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 951
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by sotto voce:
Why does it seem—to me and pianovirus, anyway—that the ideologues of any given technique advocate "their" technique alone at the exclusion of other techniques?[/b]
Yes, exactly! pianoloverus and Age_of_Anxiety, you may be two steps ahead of me which could explain why this was not obvious to me.

keyboardklutz, your answers are confusing me a bit. In your first post you say it's all about gravity, now you say it's about tension and about the specific composer's technique which you need to apply. It seems you are moving away from your first post in which you advocated an all-for-one solution... In any case, in my opinion the composer's own technique doensn't matter. There are many composers who were not outstanding pianists (Ravel, Tchaikovsky, ...) so what would be the point in knowing or even applying their technique?
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#391869 - 06/29/08 05:59 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
theJourney Offline
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Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
For keyboardklutz it is all about 1 to 2 sentence long cryptic soundbites. \:D

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#391870 - 06/29/08 06:07 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Alan Belkin Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/23/08
Posts: 9
Loc: Montreal
Perhaps of interest:

# It is not easy to communicate physical movements and coordinations without visual and tactile feedback. Ideally, the student not only needs to see someone demonstrating what is described, but also to feel the sensations which go along with the discussion (good teachers often demonstrate sensations on the hand or arm of the student), and also to hear the results. Eventually, I hope to provide video examples to accompany the text.
# It is important to distinguish descriptions of how piano playing feels to the pianist, from what a pianist is actually doing. Even great pianists' descriptions of what they are doing may be grossly inaccurate from a scientific point of view. For example, often one reads about aiming for "complete relaxation". As a scientific description, this is nonsense: Complete muscular relaxation only happens after death! Piano playing requires muscle tone, and even muscular effort. What is being described here is how a good pianist looks and feels: uninhibited, without excess tension. A talent for playing the piano is not the same as a talent for teaching, or even for accurate observation. Within anthologies of discussions and interviews with great pianists, the differences between what they say about technique are almost comical at times. One pianist swears by five hours of scales per day; another says scales are useless. One pianist says technique is all about relaxation, another says he stays fit and muscled like an acrobat. And even among good teachers, useful images may not be scientifically accurate. Keeping this distinction (scientific description versus felt sensation) in mind helps to see past this confusion.
# Watching great pianists is always useful, but a lot of what goes on in advanced pianism is almost invisible. Virtuosity requires the utmost control and economy of movement; that often involves coordinations which are extremely subtle and almost impossible to observe - especially from a distance and when the performer is playing at full speed.

(from my essay at http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/personnel/Belkin/Piano/PianoTechnique.html )

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#391871 - 06/29/08 07:07 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by pianovirus:
keyboardklutz, your answers are confusing me a bit. In your first post you say it's all about gravity, now you say it's about tension...[/b]
They are different ends of the same spectrum. Tension is mostly our fight against gravity. A good technique involves maximum balance between the two. Cryptic? Just the facts ma'm.
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#391872 - 06/29/08 09:45 AM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
pianovirus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/07
Posts: 951
Loc: Basel, Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Alan Belkin:
Perhaps of interest:
[/b]
Definitely of big interest, Alan! And thanks for linking to your full essay which I am keen on reading as soon as possible -- I'll have a lot of time during worktime on Monday :-)

 Quote:

# It is not easy to communicate physical movements and coordinations without visual and tactile feedback. Ideally, the student not only needs to see someone demonstrating what is described, but also to feel the sensations which go along with the discussion (good teachers often demonstrate sensations on the hand or arm of the student), and also to hear the results.
[/b]
My last teacher also used to let me feel her hands and arms while playing or vice versa. I found it very helpful.

 Quote:

# It is important to distinguish descriptions of how piano playing feels to the pianist, from what a pianist is actually doing. Even great pianists' descriptions of what they are doing may be grossly inaccurate from a scientific point of view. For example, often one reads about aiming for "complete relaxation". As a scientific description, this is nonsense: Complete muscular relaxation only happens after death! Piano playing requires muscle tone, and even muscular effort. What is being described here is how a good pianist looks and feels: uninhibited, without excess tension. A talent for playing the piano is not the same as a talent for teaching, or even for accurate observation. Within anthologies of discussions and interviews with great pianists, the differences between what they say about technique are almost comical at times. One pianist swears by five hours of scales per day; another says scales are useless. One pianist says technique is all about relaxation, another says he stays fit and muscled like an acrobat. And even among good teachers, useful images may not be scientifically accurate. Keeping this distinction (scientific description versus felt sensation) in mind helps to see past this confusion.
[/b]
This is a very good point - the big hurdle/discrepancy between doing something and accurately describing how you do it. What may be a very good metaphor/imagination for a particular pianist may not be a correct description of what *actually* happens and it may or may not be helpful to another pianist. However, that doesn't diminish the value of the metaphor at all - if there is one person to who it is helpful that's already enough (for example, if it helps people to think they are in a state of complete relaxation while playing, they should not change their view despite lack of anatomical adequacy).

 Quote:
# Watching great pianists is always useful, but a lot of what goes on in advanced pianism is almost invisible. Virtuosity requires the utmost control and economy of movement; that often involves coordinations which are extremely subtle and almost impossible to observe - especially from a distance and when the performer is playing at full speed.
[/b]
Again, fully agree. And also Kreisler has shared similar personal experiences a couple of posts above.
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#391873 - 06/29/08 12:07 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Rick Offline
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Registered: 08/01/01
Posts: 559
Loc: Chicago
 Quote:
Tension is mostly our fight against gravity
I think every piano player considers tension to be something different. I've heard others describe it as the ability to only use the muscles that you need to use for the particular job, keeping other muscles relaxed. Your partial description of "tension" above, keyboardklutz, is quite unique I think. I'm not saying it is wrong, since we have a word here that everyone seems to define and picture differently. But to clarify your statement, let's say they put a grand piano up in the space station, and adjust it as necessary to make up for the "zero gravity". That is, they would add a few extra springs to replace the normal gravitational force acting on the hammer heads, etc. Are you saying that since the "space station pianist" is playing with no sense of gravity (no net downward forces on his arms and all), he would have no "tension" in his playing? I think your answer to this may help clarify what you mean by "tension" in playing.

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#391874 - 06/29/08 12:26 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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It wouldn't be fair to put springs in the "space station pianist's" piano. 'As is' would be a good illustration of how tension and gravity are related. Rick, I don't think you realize how much of your life is a fight against gravity - we all know who wins.
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#391875 - 06/29/08 01:16 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
theJourney Offline
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Loc: Banned
kbk, I respectfully submit that you might not appreciate the gravity of Rick's question to your hypothesis.

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#391876 - 06/29/08 01:30 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Very funny tJ, how about this:
 Quote:
he would have no "tension" in his playing? I think your answer to this may help clarify what you mean by "tension" in playing.
No, he would have more because he lacks the advantage his own weight (this is with the 'springs'). Also he will have to hold his arms in position rather than have gravity position them.
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#391877 - 06/29/08 02:36 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Rick Offline
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Registered: 08/01/01
Posts: 559
Loc: Chicago
I decided to put extra springs in my space station piano only to make it feel as closely as possible like it would on the surface of the earth. They wouldn't be a perfect substitute, but if chosen correctly (initial length and spring constant), they could reasonably approximate it.

But really, I thought my question might make you think about what you mean when you say tension. And also offer you the opportunity to clarify or restate your statement about tension mostly being the fight against gravity. I assume you meant the players' own gravity (arm and hand weight). I assume this because the gravity portion (as differentiated from the friction, spring, and inertial force portion) of the piano resistance could be reasonably duplicated (perhaps not cheaply) by other means (springs or solenoids). So if you were playing on just such a piano, on Earth, how would you define tension in your playing? If you respond with "the fight against gravity", then obviously your arms are what you are referring to. You need to keep your "system of interest" consistent, and I think it should be the player - not the piano.

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#391878 - 06/29/08 03:15 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Rick, the 'fight against gravity' is indeed mostly arms though obviously sitting up is involved as well. What isn't tense is under gravity's influence (you are no longer fighting it). You need to know when that is desirable and when it's not. How about a more concrete example? You need to hold your forearm up (fight against gravity) but do you really need to stick out your elbow (position your upper arm) when gravity will do it for you? But, on the other hand, when you release your forearm you are allowing gravity to become a partner in the playing mechanism. What I am saying is too many players fight gravity (too much tension) when they should be making it their partner.
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#391879 - 06/29/08 06:06 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
Alan Belkin Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/23/08
Posts: 9
Loc: Montreal
I'm glad you foud it useful. Let me know how you find the essay, and you might want to check out the "practice capsules" as well:

http://www.musique.umontreal.ca/personnel/Belkin/Piano/TechAdvice/AdviceMAIN.html

best wishes,

Alan

 Quote:
Originally posted by pianovirus:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Alan Belkin:
[qb] Perhaps of interest:
[/b]
Definitely of big interest, Alan! And thanks for linking to your full essay which I am keen on reading as soon as possible -- I'll have a lot of time during worktime on Monday :-)

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#391880 - 07/03/08 01:19 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique?
DuCamp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/02/04
Posts: 263
Loc: Mexico City
In my opinion, technique is relative to the piano you are playing and how you perceive the sound you are producing with it. Plain and simple.
Practice on your piano/keyboard using only fingers, body/shoulder weight and whatever fancy or new techniques you come across, because let's face it: if you go to a house, school or stage, and they ask you to play the piano residing there, most likely the technique you use at home will not work to get the sound you want because of the level of maintenance and preparation that particular piano has.
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#1495322 - 08/13/10 04:26 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique? [Re: pianovirus]
Hjalmar Jakobsson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/31/09
Posts: 33
Loc: SWE
But if all this would be correct it becomes more and more unclear to me how you can write books on good/correct piano technique? (I should say that I have not read thoroughly, but rather glanced over several of them). Now I am not suspecting that people like Neuhaus didn't have very clear reasons for their endeavours. I rather guess that I don't yet understand them in the context of my thinking above. Or people like Abby Whiteside with their dismissing of finger technique -- their suggested way of playing might be exactly the right thing for realizing some target sounds in some phrases, but not as a universal approach to realizing all sound images. I am confused... [/quote]

I agree with you that it might be a bit strange to label these books as "books that are about the most great and appropriate technique" but maybe we should look at them this way: as BOOKS OF EFFICIENT TECHNIQUES:D
After all, isn't that what all of these books are about?? Techniques of efficiency and not the best or the most superior technique:)
This might be the way to look at it!

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#1495332 - 08/13/10 05:03 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique? [Re: Hjalmar Jakobsson]
JustAnotherPianist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/20/08
Posts: 798
Loc: United Kingdom
There IS such thing as universally good technique. Unfortunately, two pianists, both with the same beautiful techique, might each describe their technique in terms of very different vocabulary. One might stress the importance of the arms and shoulders, while the other would emphasize the importance of the fingers. Same technique, different ways of describing it.

Keyboardklutz has demonstrated in the past, through his videos, that he knows very little about technique. He thinks dropping arm weight and flopping around with loose wrists is the solution to just about everything. This could not be farther from the truth. He will read this and try to refute what I'm saying with detailed references to Matthay ad nauseum. Ultimately, kbk, the proof is in the pudding.

Real pianists tend to be highly efficient in their movements at the keyboard. Highly economical. They don't flop their wrists around needlessly.

I cannot explain proper technique on a forum. It's just not that easy. The ability to develop an excellent technique can only be taught to a certain extent. Ultimately, much of it depends on talent.

There IS of course a range in what is healthy, proper technique, which depends on individual factors like body shape and size, but the parameters are not all that wide. Most pianists with good technique look pretty similar at the piano.

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#1495349 - 08/13/10 05:19 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique? [Re: JustAnotherPianist]
John Chan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 124
Bottom line: if the music
- sounds the way you want it to sound
- pace the tempo you want
without hurting or tiring your hand, than the technique is *good enough*.

Piano performance is about:
- figuring out the way you want different types of music to sound
- expanding your repertoire by improving your technique

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#1495380 - 08/13/10 05:59 PM Re: No universally good or bad technique? [Re: John Chan]
Brandon_W_T Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/18/10
Posts: 1940
Loc: Omaha, Nebraska
I am sure the piano can relate in some ways to the harp.

The old style of playing the harp was called the French method. It was the way you held your hands. Some people swear by it, but many I have talked to say it causes problems.

The movements if I recall correctly, were stiff, and very uniform

Peoples hands would literally lock up after playing for so long. Its a difficult position.


Salzedo in the 1920s developed a much easier and proficient way of playing. Which allowed for greater dynamics. Moving the hands and arms. Flowing, less uniform and more free.
____

PS Salzedo was probably the most inventive genius that ever came to the musical performance front.

Look him up. Great musician for the harp and orchestra, Probably the greatest known harp figure ever.
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