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#402076 - 07/13/01 08:02 PM Bach and Technique
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
My teacher told me that studying Bach is very important for many reasons, like for counting and timing, I haven't learned any Bach yet; is the Well-Tempered Clavier a good place to start? Also, what is a good way to attain good wrist technique and movement? Playing octaves and other things in Hanon don't seem to be helping, how should they (the wrist-related exersizes) be played? Thanks!

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#402077 - 07/13/01 08:45 PM Re: Bach and Technique
LadyElton Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 521
Loc: Southeastern Pennsylvania
I was just about to post the same question. I'm currently playing Bach's Prelude 1 in C major from WTC. I have small hands (well, I can reach a 9th) and would like some suggestions on playing octaves. I know I need to relax my wrists and try using a circular-like motion, which is easier said than done. Take care.
Hilary aka LadyElton


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#402078 - 07/13/01 09:11 PM Re: Bach and Technique
Brendan Offline

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5346
Loc: McAllen, TX
You'd probably be better starting with some two and three part inventions before you set into the WTC. Your teacher is right - rhythm is extremely important in Bach; not that everything needs to be metronomic, but there needs to be a very strong, energetic rhythmic pulse.


First off, octaves are difficult for many pianists. Being able to do something like Schubert's Erlking (repeated octaves in triplets at quarter note = 152) is something that one is born with; I don't think that you can train yourself to do something like that. I know one person at school who can do it, and he's one of the professors. For the rest of us, though, here are some general rules that we should try to live by when playing octaves:

Rapid octaves depend on how fast you can move your wrist. Ideally, to get as quick a wrist movement as possible, you should keep your hand very close to the keyboard. If there are black notes, you can use your fourth finger if your hands are big enough. As for the rest of your arm, KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS DOWN AND YOUR ELBOW SLIGHTLY RAISED. This is kind of tricky, because when we raise our elbows we also tend to raise our shoulders, but some slow work will help you with this problem if you have it. If you do it right, the only part of your arm that should move will be your wrist.

Fortissimo octaves require you to push from your shoulder and let the entire weight of your arm fall into your hand. Again, keep your shoulders down, but allow your elbows to push your forearm up and then bring it down so that your hand can "fall" into the keyboard. Sigh....this is easier explained in person.

Don't neglect the thumb. One of the easiest ways to overcome octave troubles is to work on the thumb. It's big, clumsy, slow-moving and is what slows us down when we play octaves. Again, keep it as close to the keyboard as possible.

Hope that helped.


#402079 - 07/13/01 09:42 PM Re: Bach and Technique
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18623
Loc: Victoria, BC
While the WTC is sometimes considered - along with the 32 Beethoven Sonatas - as the pianist's Bible, I agree with Brendan that, if you have not yet played any Bach, you might be well-advised to start with the two- and three-part inventions. The Inventions are great works in their own right - don't think that they are just easy pieces for beginners - and they display wonderful variety of mood and feeling, ingeniously condensed into a few minutes each. They are also very satisfying to play and are wonderful works for developing independence of fingers.
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#402080 - 07/13/01 10:05 PM Re: Bach and Technique
Joe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/01
Posts: 86
Loc: New Jersey
The 2 and 3 voice Inventions are some of my favorite pieces! His 'Six Little Preludes' are also very good, and a good precursor even to the Inventions.

That statement about being born with that octave abilty has me puzzled. We're all born with certain capacities, but don't you have to learn everything? It's true some people seem to be able to do certain things more naturally than others, but still... I'll bet if you want to play those octaves that way badly enough, you'll eventually get it.

[ July 13, 2001: Message edited by: Joe ]

#402081 - 07/13/01 10:12 PM Re: Bach and Technique
Alex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Plano, tx

I am not sure I agree. I can practice 8 - 10 hours a day for the rest of my life and, quite frankly, I will have no where near the technique of Horowitz. There is some degree of "being born with it". How much - you may debate.

Now, as far as Bach goes, you need go no further than to hear the recording of Glenn Gould playing in Moscow live the three part inventions (except no. 1 which was lost for some reason) to realize just what great pieces these are. I would hazard to say, however, that many of the 3 part inventions are tougher to play than many of the movements in the suites. The 3-part inventions, IMHO, are great. They are real pieces of music. It's a shame that we are pretty much brainwashed that these are "studies". And like I said, they are very difficult.

#402082 - 07/13/01 10:55 PM Re: Bach and Technique
Brendan Offline

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5346
Loc: McAllen, TX

There are certain motions that you can learn which will make it easier, but there are areas of technique which just come naturally to people. Horowitz had lightning-fast octaves; do you think that there was any thought on his part about how to do it? I think not. We all have our highs and lows with technique - for some reason thirds come easily to me but octaves take more work. Same thing with left hand trills...I always fear them for some reason.

#402083 - 07/14/01 06:03 PM Re: Bach and Technique
MacDuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 560
Loc: Southeast, U.S.A.
I don't like the concept of playing "from the wrist." In my opinion, the wrist is merely the "hinge" for moving or pulling the hand down, which transfers force to the fingers for the octaves. I prefer for the back of the hand to be at the same level as the forearm as the hand/wrist action starts. To raise the elbows, as Brendan points out, you lean the torso slightly back from the hips--this doesn't raise the shoulder.

Rapid octaves are usually in groups where you give arm weight to the first one of the group, then play the others (on weak beats or divisions of the beat) with much milder force "from the wrist" and often with the pedal down.

I don't remember the rule about "leading from the thumb"--or does this apply to broken octaves?

#402084 - 07/14/01 09:44 PM Re: Bach and Technique
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
Are playing octaves, with the wrist-only, without arm movement, good to attain good technique? Is it dangerous? Also, when I play octave exersizes, I feel pain around my palm area (could be wrists), but it goes away the second I stop, is it normal?


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