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#540193 - 12/09/07 12:32 PM Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
[EDIT 2-09: The title of this thread was originally "Finger-Strengthening Advice from Bodybuilders." I just changed it to "Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!" for the following reason. I started this post to provide a link to a conversation I had with bodybuilders in which I asked several questions about building finger strength. What I learned was that we pianists do NOT need to develop finger strength, but rather POWER, which means SPEED. My choice of original title thread was, therefore, a poor and misleading one, and it caused many to assume the thread was advocating the need to develop finger strength - MY FAULT. Now that this 14 month old thread has been resurrected I noticed it happening again - again, MY FAULT. My only excuse is that the terminology is a little confusing. My understanding was that Bodybuilders consider "raw strength" and "power" to be two different types of "strength." In general conversation, though, if one uses the term "strength" by itself one is thought to be referring only to "raw strength." When reading through this thread please be aware that many respondents were responding to my original title.]

For whatever it's worth, I thought I'd provide a link to a very interesting discussion I've been having on a bodybuiding forum about developing finger strength and exercising in general. I have found the comments to be fascinating and illuminating. A warning to those opposed to the "finger school" of playing, though - you might want to skip this.

Bodybuilding Forum Finger Strengthening Thread

[EDIT: I realize now after reviewing this thread that I inadvertently may have caused some confusion. STRENGTH is the ability to lift or move a heavy object. POWER is the ability to move an object QUICKLY. Pianists DO NOT need to develop STRENGTH because it doesn't take much strength to push down a piano key. We need to develop POWER - the ability to activate the individual fingers with great QUICKNESS.

STRENGTH is developed by working against ever-increasing resistance (think weight-lifting). POWER is developed by moving (in our case the fingers) QUICKLY. Again, we DO NOT need to develop STRENGTH, we need POWER.

The rubber band exercises referred to here and in the linked thread are not central to what is being advocated, as they are designed to build STRENGTH. They were mentioned in the body-buildling thread because it was suggested that, while building STRENGTH is not our main goal, SOME (limited) strength-building does contribute to building power - there is SOME interconnection.]

[EDIT 2: Wanting to know more about the role STRENGTH building plays in buildling POWER, if any, and why I should do ANY strength-building, I PM'd the BodyBuildling.com forum member who provided the most thorough information with the questions. Here is his response:

QUOTE:
First, good advice for any skill-based performer is to train for a level of competency or exertion that is greater than required for standard performance. It's why athletes do wind sprints, why chess players play against computers and, now, why pianist do resistance training!

Keeping that in mind, your actual level of raw strength needed for playing is relatively low but should be greater than needed for your most challenging piece (Rach 3???). Also, the need for progression beyond that level is minimal. Not necessarily useless or ill-advised, but maybe not efficient. For example, if I want to lift 85lb. boxes, I might deadlift 300-400lbs. in the gym, but deadlifting 500-800 lbs. won't give me much value-added for the task. It has other benefits, but if I spend lots of time and risk injury on a 500+ lb deadlift, is it worth it to pick up the same 85lb. box?

I think I answered the question about raw strength above, but let me add something. You cannot develop more power without more resistance. Remember, moving weight without regard to time is strength. Moving that weight rapidly is power. So moving more weight rapidly requires/develops more power. Like strength, your need for power has a useful ceiling. You could keep pushing your limits up, but then you will approach injury with diminishing benefit to your art. So, again, I suggest you train to a level just above what's needed to play optimally.]

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#540194 - 12/09/07 01:14 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3910
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
Interesting thread, and seems to have many useful suggestions; I'll have to take time to read it in detail.

My hands were in best playing condition when I was in basic training in the army. We spent several minutes each day swinging over a horizontal ladder. Roughened up the skin, but was very effective at developing finger strength, and, it seemed, velocity at the keyboard (doesn't make a lot of sense, I know, but that's what I experienced).
_________________________
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

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#540195 - 12/09/07 01:49 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
The rubber band thing looked real dangerous - I wouldn't try it. I checked out body builders a year or so ago but not as fruitfully as you've managed. Since then though, I've realized strength can and should only be achieved at the keyboard.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#540196 - 12/09/07 02:10 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
The rubber band thing looked real dangerous - I wouldn't try it. I checked out body builders a year or so ago but not as fruitfully as you've managed. Since then though, I've realized strength can and should only be achieved at the keyboard. [/b]
Yeah - that's an idea that I approach with a lot of caution, but I do want to keep an open mind. In moderation in both strength of resistance and time spent doing it, I don't think it needs to be dangerous, though. In fact, I think it can be pretty innocuous.

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#540197 - 12/09/07 03:48 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Ralph Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/01
Posts: 1293
Loc: Delaware (slower/lower)
It's this sort of thing that finished Robert Schumman's career as a pianist. He developed terrible tendinitis after using a mechanical contraption to strengthen his 4th finger. We all know how that ended up.
_________________________
Do or do not. There is no try.

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#540198 - 12/09/07 10:27 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ralph:
It's this sort of thing that finished Robert Schumman's career as a pianist. He developed terrible tendinitis after using a mechanical contraption to strengthen his 4th finger. We all know how that ended up. [/b]
Not knowing how accurate this well-known story is (there are doubts about it and other theories about what befell Schumann), nor any details about just how he may have used, abused or overused it, still, if we take it as fact, I hardly think cautious use of a rubber band to provide a very controllable amount of resistance by a someone who is well aware of the need for moderation needs to be feared quite so much. Any form of strength building can be dangerous if done incorrectly, and slowly introducing and increasing resistance is a proven method of building strength. At any rate, this was just one suggestion that came out of my discussion, and since resistance is geared more to developing "raw strength" than "power," (read the thread for explanation of the difference between the two) I don't ever see the need for a level of resistance approaching a dangerous level. I see it as something akin to playing on a piano with a hard action. Anyway, while I find the suggestion intruiging and the reasoning compelling, surely this form of exercise cannot be essential - after all, what pianists do we know who practiced with rubber bands? Personally I am attracted by the scientific reasoning of it and the potential for increasing the efficiency of a strength (power)-building program. I do share your wariness, though, just not to the same degree, and I approach it with caution. There were so many other things I learned about how one develops strength (power) and exercising in general that I feel confident I have a good chance of enhancing the efficacy of my current exercise program even sans-rubber bands.

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#540199 - 12/09/07 11:24 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
You know I am reading their website carefully - because it could make sense to do some exercise without becoming over involved with it. More creating ability to move with agility and strength and simple options. After all how much do/can the fingers move at any one time, and for how long is that needed. You don't want to overdevelop arms and fingers as a piano player.

I always notice with the sports group at high school when they've had a meet - swimming, tennis, volleyball - their energy for piano is gone for the day, but their muscles have tightened up too from neck to fingertips would impact the piano playing, and fatigue level can be very high to interfere with playing.

Go carefully here!

I met a young man for an interview last week, and he uses a gripper for hand exercise. He was telling me it was his preparation to get ready to take piano lessons and have a strong hand. I was actually speechless. I suggested he keep interviewing because I wanted for him to have the teacher he feels most comfortable with and that this was an important decision on his part. If he should return in January, I will have to address this issue with him. This is one of the reasons why I'm reading this topic and the link.

I don't think our needs of the equipment and the constant exercise is needed, outside of what we gradually develop by playing. We eventually get a workout in techniques, and touches with enough piano lessons under our belt. But I could change my mind if it's proven that there are things in the body building area that transfer to good conditioning for musicians.

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#540200 - 12/10/07 04:57 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7427
First of all, pianists have been doing all sorts of things to try to build what they perceive as "strength" in their fingers for almost 200 years now. Don't you think that if anything actually worked, of the sort of exercises these body-builders are coming up with, we'd all be quite familiar with them? This is not new territory. I think it's an attempt to reinvent a wheel except that the wheel doesn't actually exist.

Second, I'm rather small-boned, and have never in my 50-odd years of life ever imagined myself to be muscular, nor do I have anything resembling a good technique. Nevertheless, I've managed to break piano strings right and left. And hammer shanks, too. I actually bought my current piano because I was destroying my old one, and thought (incorrectly) that a new instrument would mean that newer strings would no longer snap. Wrong!!!

What I'm basically saying is that if a shrimp like me can drive a piano beyond the breaking point, with no special strength, I can't figure out what you hope to achieve by working in this direction. It doesn't take a huge amount of "finger strength" to reach the limits of what a piano can do before starting to break apart. It's all in the attack and the use of the whole body when playing, and doing finger body-building exercises won't affect that.

Once I realized that the issue wasn't the condition of the piano nearly so much it was the way I played, my focus changed. I can actually feel a string-breaking moment coming on now, and try to remember to back off. The tech expenses aren't worth it, even if it is thrilling for a second or two. If I got to that point in a public performance (which I don't do, so it is moot, but just pretending that I would play in public), I think I might go for it anyway, just because the sound right before the string breaks is so glorious.

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#540201 - 12/10/07 06:17 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
drumour Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 829
Loc: Scotland
Sorry to say this, but playing which breaks strings is not good playing. You should try and find a teacher who knows something about technique. You should warn them first, though, so they can update their insurance.


John
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#540202 - 12/10/07 07:08 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
SideShow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Belgium
I am practicing bodybuilding for quite some time now, the only thing I can say is that my grip is quite strong \:D

But is it good for pianoplaying? I think it is .. although I don't do exercises for my fingers in particular, I think any form of muscle training is good.

I have asked some people on youtube who do the same, and they all say that bodybuilding has a positive effect on their pianoplaying.

I don't think it has anything to do with strenght, but with muscle control[/b], which is the main thing you train when bodybuilding...

Also, I don't believe in those silly isolating exercises with springs etc
_________________________
Notes are easy, music is hard
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

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#540203 - 12/10/07 07:59 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
First of all, pianists have been doing all sorts of things to try to build what they perceive as "strength" in their fingers for almost 200 years now. Don't you think that if anything actually worked, of the sort of exercises these body-builders are coming up with, we'd all be quite familiar with them? This is not new territory. I think it's an attempt to reinvent a wheel except that the wheel doesn't actually exist.
[/b]
I find the hundreds of etudes and exercises left behind by generations of piano pedagogues to be strong proof that building of finger strength has always been regarded as a central goal in attaining a fluent piano technique - the wheel always existed. All I'm doing is trying to think outside the box and enhance the efficiency and efficacy of my practice by taking advantage of "sports science" - a field that did not exist until recent times, and one that is responsible for significant record-breaking in almost every athletic field.


 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
Second, I'm rather small-boned, and have never in my 50-odd years of life ever imagined myself to be muscular, nor do I have anything resembling a good technique. Nevertheless, I've managed to break piano strings right and left. And hammer shanks, too. I actually bought my current piano because I was destroying my old one, and thought (incorrectly) that a new instrument would mean that newer strings would no longer snap. Wrong!!![/b]
How is your 4-5 trill? Have you ever broken a string by playing your 4th finger in isolation? Could you? Could you even come close? Obviously that is not my goal, but I do wish to increase the power of each of my fingers as much as possible, especially my weaker fingers. Why is this so frowned upon? More importantly, why is the value/necessity of this not obvious? It was obvious to Chopin - look at Op. 10, Nr. 2 (His SECOND etude!)

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#540204 - 12/10/07 08:11 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Talking of Chopin, I found his op25 no 1 exceedingly good for the RH fourth finger - esp bar 15 (though I play the whole thing bringing out finger 4).
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#540205 - 12/10/07 08:25 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Jan-Erik Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/05
Posts: 1302
Loc: Finland
What you need is not so much strength than

- flexibililty and independence of fingers
- speed
- stamina to be able to make repeated movements

My opinion from my own experience is that hard physical work, gymnastics, rowing, sailing and cross country skiing have all a negative impact on my piano playing, expecially on the sensitivity and control of fingers.

Quite good on the otyher hand is horse-riding (dressage) where you must keep a soft contact to the horse's mouth.

Karate and body building are out of my exsperience.

IMO the strength you need in piano playing is best developed with various finger exercises.

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#540206 - 12/10/07 08:37 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
What you need is not so much strength than

- flexibililty and independence of fingers
- speed
- stamina to be able to make repeated movements

IMO the strength you need in piano playing is best developed with various finger exercises. [/b]
Jan-Erik - my experience and plain logic has shown me that speed is directly correlated to strength. It's so simple: the more EFFORT it takes to play a note, the more TIME it will take to play it. I agree with your last statement - that's what my whole discussion was about - how to make finger exercises as efficiently effective as possible.

As to independence of fingers, that, I have found, can be achieved well through pattern exercises (through constant changing of patterns) and by playing polyphonic music. Personally I love pattern exercises where you hold one or more fingers down while others play, as they combine two exercises in one - finger isolation and brain-finger control - both exceedingly effective at building independence.

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#540207 - 12/10/07 08:48 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
SideShow Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/07
Posts: 150
Loc: Belgium
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
IMO the strength you need in piano playing is best developed with various finger exercises. [/QB]
Jan Erik

It's not about strenght, it's about control

My experience is opposite to yours... When I did hard chores with my hands, I expect my hands to play very 'stressed', but it's quite the opposite .. they feel very much in control
_________________________
Notes are easy, music is hard
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music" - Sergei Rachmaninoff

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#540208 - 12/10/07 08:49 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Talking of Chopin, I found his op25 no 1 exceedingly good for the RH fourth finger - esp bar 15 (though I play the whole thing bringing out finger 4). [/b]
Yes - I don't see how anyone could play it CLEANLY without a powerful 4th finger.

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#540209 - 12/10/07 08:53 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by SideShow:
It's not about strenght, it's about control
[/b]
It's about strength AND control.

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#540210 - 12/10/07 09:12 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
This topic turns up on a regular basis. I'm with Jerry - strength IS control. I am also coming to the conclusion that it's more about ligaments. The flexors are, after all, extremely powerful and any fatigue I feel is always in the fingers or palm. But then I also work out my interosseous and lumbricals.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#540211 - 12/10/07 10:55 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2895
Loc: Florida
Many years ago, I did some finger strengthening exercise (not for piano playing) by holding a 4" diameter top of a water bottle (about a gallon) with just the finger tips and swinging it back and forth from the wrist like a clock pendulum. My fingers were very strong, I could easily do push up with curled fingers. But as far as piano playing, speed, control, articulation didn't improve any. If what I did had any effect on my piano playing, I'd think it's in the negative direction.

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#540212 - 12/10/07 11:02 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by LisztAddict:
Many years ago, I did some finger strengthening exercise (not for piano playing) by holding a 4" diameter top of a water bottle (about a gallon) with just the finger tips and swinging it back and forth from the wrist like a clock pendulum. My fingers were very strong, I could easily do push up with curled fingers. But as far as piano playing, speed, control, articulation didn't improve any. If what I did had any effect on my piano playing, I'd think it's in the negative direction. [/b]
Did you read the discussion? There is a difference between "raw finger strength" and "power." Also, what you describe is so far removed from exercising the movement involved in articulating the individual fingers, I don't think it applies and I'm not surprised it did not positively effect your playing.

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#540213 - 12/10/07 11:26 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2895
Loc: Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
Did you read the discussion? There is a difference between "raw finger strength" and "power."[/b]
Yes, I read a few posts over there. I saw someone posting about grip strength in gymnastics and rock climbing so I just share what I used to do; I know it's a bit off from what you are after. But to have power/speed/agility in piano playing, I think there is no need to do anything else but practice and practice on the piano. My OLD piano teacher often said I played like a little girl because she could produce much bigger sound than I could on the same piano, and she could also play a fast technical piece much faster than I could. And all she did was playing piano.

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#540214 - 12/10/07 11:35 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by LisztAddict:
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
Did you read the discussion? There is a difference between "raw finger strength" and "power."[/b]
Yes, I read a few posts over there. I saw someone posting about grip strength in gymnastics and rock climbing so I just share what I used to do; I know it's a bit off from what you are after. But to have power/speed/agility in piano playing, I think there is no need to do anything else but practice and practice on the piano. My OLD piano teacher often said I played like a little girl because she could produce much bigger sound than I could on the same piano, and she could also play a fast technical piece much faster than I could. And all she did was playing piano. [/b]
Until I started doing Dohnanyi holding exercises I never had an idea what a huge difference there was between doing dedicated individual finger-strength building exercises and just playing and playing. This from someone who's been playing for over 42 years, including, by the way, hours and hours spent practicing etudes. I think you may be surprised yourself if you give it a try, LisztAddict. Playing pieces just doesn't target weaknesses with enough sustained focus and suffers from the same deficiency of all etudes and hanon-like exercises - they do not ISOLATE the individual fingers, forcing them to be developed WITHOUT the aid ("contamination") of weight transference and rotation. Mind you, when one actually plays pieces there is nothing wrong with using weight and rotation where they serve artistic and technical purposes.

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#540215 - 12/10/07 12:21 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Steve Chandler Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2629
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I find it interesting to read so many different experiences. It just goes to show you that what works for one may not work for someone else. I came to exercise late in life (long after piano). I found that exercise was very beneficial to my playing, but it was about the same time I discovered the secrets of dedicated practice. I would like to respond to some of the comments in this thread.

To Betty: you mentioned students who had no energy after sports meets, well DUH! Of course they'll have no energy. Did they even bother to have a lesson because you weren't willing to reschedule? Competitive meets are extremely strenuous, everyone's trying to win! They give it everything they've got and I'd be disappointed if any of them had anything left for a piano lesson. Why not reschedule around meets if you want your students best? Any significantly strenuous exercise will negatively impact any subsequent piano playing that day.

For those who believe that speed is correlated to strength I'd say yes and no. Speed is correlated to the strength fast twitch muscle fibers. Some have lots of them, some don't, weight training does tend to build the fast twitch fibers especially if one concentrates on speed when training, i.e. working the weight quickly rather than slowly.

However, all of this is ancillary to work at the piano. Dohnanyi is great stuff for finger independance. Probably the most important thing is to take your time warming up and being thorough about it (especially during the winter). It takes me 20 minutes to a half an hour before I feel like I can play my hardest pieces and when I try to rush the process I just play them badly. However, your mileage may vary.

The real benefit of exercise is overall health and strength. During a recent medical procedure my resting pulse was 46 (normal is 72). There is no substitute for good health and that means eating well and exercise. The benefits accrue to all aspects of life, including piano.

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#540216 - 12/10/07 12:33 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Chandler:
For those who believe that speed is correlated to strength I'd say yes and no. Speed is correlated to the strength fast twitch muscle fibers. Some have lots of them, some don't, weight training does tend to build the fast twitch fibers especially if one concentrates on speed when training, i.e. working the weight quickly rather than slowly. [/b]
Very interesting, Steve - a corroboration of what I learned on the bodybuilder thread - raw strength vs. power.

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#540217 - 12/10/07 12:58 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
It takes very little strength to depress a piano key, but lots of agility and control to play anything but the most rudimentary beginner pieces.

From reading the Piano Tuners & Technicians forum, it takes about 55 grams to depress a piano key, if I remember correctly. 55 grams is slightly less than two ounces...not a lot of weight.

Perhaps there are those who have such weak hands and fingers that "strengthening" is appropriate...but I would exhaust completely the traditional avenues of technique (such as Hanon for warm-up and basic agility, and Pishna and Joseffy for strength derived from isolated finger movements while other fingers are held down) before even thinking about pumping iron with my precious fingers!
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#540218 - 12/10/07 01:44 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
It takes very little strength to depress a piano key [/b]
Yes - a point I make in my original post in the discussion. This fact is used frequently as a rationale for dismissing the need to develop finger strength at all, but I think that's a faulty conclusion. The power one needs to develop seems to have more to do with the power to move each finger with great speed than with the strength needed to overcome the resistance of the key. Again, this apparently is explained by the difference between training for power vs. raw strength.


 Quote:
Originally posted by rocket88:
Perhaps there are those who have such weak hands and fingers that "strengthening" is appropriate...but I would exhaust completely the traditional avenues of technique (such as Hanon for warm-up and basic agility, and Pishna and Joseffy for strength derived from isolated finger movements while other fingers are held down) before even thinking about pumping iron with my precious fingers! [/b]
I agree - I just wanted to know how to go about it in the most efficient and effective way. [Edit: Actually, I like to keep an open mind about untraditional methods of achieving my goals with maximum efficiency (with a healthy dose of caution), but I don't think it's necessary.]

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#540219 - 12/10/07 03:11 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Jan-Erik Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/05
Posts: 1302
Loc: Finland
Strength and speed is very different properties.

Compare a tractor to a sports car. Or a brewery horse to a quarter horse!

What you develop with bench pressing and many body working tools etc. is static muscle strength, not necessarily speed.

And the perfect control of all fingers and the sensitivity for pianissimo playing you will not gain with eccessive muscle training, only by playing excercises and listening to the result.

Playing scales pianissimo without and with accents on every 5th, 6 th or 8th note is very good for the control of the dynamics

Piano playing is more like ballet dancing, not log lifting.

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#540220 - 12/10/07 05:30 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7427
Drumour, I know that breaking strings isn't "good" playing. But it was interesting playing, back when I did it. As I said, I don't do it anymore, because even without a teacher, I learned how to not go there.

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#540221 - 12/10/07 05:34 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
Strength and speed is very different properties.
Compare a tractor to a sports car. Or a brewery horse to a quarter horse!
What you develop with bench pressing and many body working tools etc. is static muscle strength, not necessarily speed.
[/b]
Jan-Erik - I wonder if you read the discussion I linked to or are mainly responding to the topic of this thread. There is a whole discussion about developing different KINDS of strength - the one you describe, bench pressing, would be "raw strength," not the main goal for pianists. If you do your bench presses with less weight but by lifting FASTER, then you are developing "power." To use your analogy, just as a sportscar has more horsepower and therefore can go faster and accelerate quicker, having the ability to move my fingers quicker and with more force does allows me to play not just faster, but faster with far greater ease. I want each of my fingers to be sportscars, not tractors. Anyway, you have a perfect right to disagree with me, but I would encourage you to try it before dismissing the whole premise. Even the work I've done in this area without all the new knowledge I've learned has given me astonishing results.

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#540222 - 12/10/07 06:22 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7427
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
First of all, pianists have been doing all sorts of things to try to build what they perceive as "strength" in their fingers for almost 200 years now. Don't you think that if anything actually worked, of the sort of exercises these body-builders are coming up with, we'd all be quite familiar with them? This is not new territory. I think it's an attempt to reinvent a wheel except that the wheel doesn't actually exist.
[/b]
I find the hundreds of etudes and exercises left behind by generations of piano pedagogues to be strong proof that building of finger strength has always been regarded as a central goal in attaining a fluent piano technique - the wheel always existed. All I'm doing is trying to think outside the box and enhance the efficiency and efficacy of my practice by taking advantage of "sports science" - a field that did not exist until recent times, and one that is responsible for significant record-breaking in almost every athletic field.

I think we've got a semantics issue - if I consider all those etudes and exercises, I think they are aimed at agility, not strength. Sure, the player needs sufficient physical strength to move the piano's mechanism, but it's really not the kind of strength I think of body-builders as being expert in.

But anyway, I was referring back to all the mechanical devices and non-keyboard exercises that have been tried over the last couple of centuries, besides keyboard-based drills, when I said this was not new territory. People have tried all sorts of stuff similar to that rubberband exercise, and my point is that you are pretty likely to be doing what's already been tried and has been proven unfruitful and possibly harmful. I don't know if anyone has written about all the ideas and gizmos that have been tried, but it wouldn't surprise me if a library or periodical search might turn up some information along these lines.

It'd been great if you actually did come across new concepts that worked, but if it were me, I'd be looking far more broadly in sports science and medicine than in the limited area of bodybuilding.

 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
Second, I'm rather small-boned, and have never in my 50-odd years of life ever imagined myself to be muscular, nor do I have anything resembling a good technique. Nevertheless, I've managed to break piano strings right and left. And hammer shanks, too. I actually bought my current piano because I was destroying my old one, and thought (incorrectly) that a new instrument would mean that newer strings would no longer snap. Wrong!!![/b]
How is your 4-5 trill? Have you ever broken a string by playing your 4th finger in isolation? Could you? Could you even come close? Obviously that is not my goal, but I do wish to increase the power of each of my fingers as much as possible, especially my weaker fingers. Why is this so frowned upon? More importantly, why is the value/necessity of this not obvious? It was obvious to Chopin - look at Op. 10, Nr. 2 (His SECOND etude!) [/b]
Do I need a 4-5 trill? Actually, whether I need one or not, it seems to be coming along nicely. And yes, I think I could break a string with my fourth finger in isolation, since it's attached to the same arm and wrist and body that moves the other fingers that broke strings (one of which was a fifth finger in isolation).

Again, I think we're possibly having a semantic difference here, rather than a real one. I'd never think of that Chopin etude as being about finger strength for the weak fingers. I think of it as being about agility, touch, and finger independence. And I think how to get those qualities is mainly through practicing. But if you can find another, better, more efficient and safe way, more power to you.

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