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#540223 - 12/10/07 07:04 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
As a Physical Therapist, with Certifications in Hand Therapy, Sports Medicine, Orthopedics, Vestibular and Cardiac Rehab, the thought of going to a website where bodybuilders chat to find out how to better improve function and strength of the hands and fingers for playing the piano defies logic. When I walk into the gym and watch most body builders train, I know by what they are doing and how they are doing it that they will some day be my patients. I would be VERY cautious about taking advice from people who believe they know more than they really do. It is also possible to attain results while simultaneously setting oneself up for future injury. I do not mean, by this post, to demean bodybuilders, as I am one myself, but, sometimes a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.
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#540224 - 12/10/07 08:35 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
Double post

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#540225 - 12/10/07 08:41 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 wr:
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.[/b]
My 4th and 5th fingers are weak - a lot weaker than my other 3 fingers, so, yes, I believe I need to strengthen their ability to move independently with more power. I don't see this as agility vs. strength because I think you need BOTH. The fact that the piano's mechanism is relatively easy to operate does not mitigate the weakness of my 4th and 5th fingers, and music is not written so that every time you play with your 4th and 5th fingers softer sounding notes are called for. Music is blind to the abilities of my individual fingers.

You make an excellent point about the apparent mismatch between body-building kind of strength-building vs. the kind of skill or strength needed for playing the piano, but as far as I'm concerned the body building website wound up being a gold mine of great information, starting with superbly usefull information addressing that very issue. I basically learned that I don't want to do typical body-building exercises at all, but rather power-building exercises. I would love to have the same discussion with other kinds of athletes and sports scientists.

 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
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).
[/b]
We cannot possibly be talking about the same thing. I do not mean swinging your entire arm at the keyboard and hitting a note with the 4th finger, I mean tapping the 4th finger with as much power as you can while holding down the other fingers. I doubt anyone who claims they could break a string that way. Again, that is obviously not my goal, just to maximize the strength of each finger so I am not playing with 6 relatively powerful fingers and 4 relatively weak ones - why is that so bad?

 Quote:
Originally posted by wr:
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.[/b]
I think of it as all of those things AND individual finger strength.

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#540226 - 12/10/07 08:53 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 CC2 and Chopin lover:
As a Physical Therapist, with Certifications in Hand Therapy, Sports Medicine, Orthopedics, Vestibular and Cardiac Rehab, the thought of going to a website where bodybuilders chat to find out how to better improve function and strength of the hands and fingers for playing the piano defies logic. When I walk into the gym and watch most body builders train, I know by what they are doing and how they are doing it that they will some day be my patients. I would be VERY cautious about taking advice from people who believe they know more than they really do. It is also possible to attain results while simultaneously setting oneself up for future injury. I do not mean, by this post, to demean bodybuilders, as I am one myself, but, sometimes a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. [/b]
Your comments are well taken. For me the key word is "cautious." Again, one can injure oneself doing any kind of sport or athletic in an unhealthy way and I don't doubt that many body-builders wind up with health issues as a result of their sport. However, I can assure you that I have a VERY healthy dose of caution when I am exercising and playing at the keyboard and I take great pains to inform myself about how to reach my goals safely (two of my original questions on the bodybiulders' forum related to the issue). I think any conservatory musician would be shocked at how much I limit the amount of time I spend on exercises - rarely more than 30 minutes, often closer to 20, and almost never more than 5 days a week. I agree with you that a bodybuilders' website was a very unlikely place to seek advice about improving my abilities at the piano, but personally i think most of the information I got was terrific.

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#540227 - 12/10/07 09:30 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
Actually, the more I think about it, CC2 and WR, the more I think the decision to seek information from a bodybuilder's forum was not such a bad one. Most areas of athletics have benefited greatly from sports science, especially those involoved in competition. Piano pedagogy, on the other hand, amounts to a hodgepodge of hand-me down traditions with little or no real scientific scrutiny, at least nothing comparable.

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#540228 - 12/10/07 10:11 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Jerry,
Sports science is not something people come up with by trial and error while preparing for competitions. The people who develop the experiments in exercise science and physiology that wind up changing the face of sports are very careful to prove their work using scientific methodology. There is a huge difference between a somewhat knowledgeable athlete and a highly trained medical professional or scientist. We are talking about people's bodies and well being here. Even so called "personal trainers", can get certified as such by simply attending a weekend course and then passing an exam. It took me seven years to get my degree, so maybe that explains my discomfort with your choice of advisors. Please note that I did not advise you to go to a piano teacher for information about this particular topic.
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#540229 - 12/10/07 10:27 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Schubertian Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 937
Loc: Dallas, TX, US
CC2 = interesting posts

Do you know if there are muscles in the fingers or only tendons - what do 'finger exercises' actually do?
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#540230 - 12/10/07 10:42 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2598
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
"For a long time we have been acting against nature by training our fingers to be all equally powerful. As each finger is differently formed, it's better not to destroy the particular charm of each one's touch but on the contrary to develop it. Each finger's power is determined by its shape: the thumb having the most power, being the broadest, shortest and freest; the fifth as the other extremity of the hand; the third as the middle and the pivot; then the second (), and then the fourth, the weakest one, the Siamese twin of the third, bound to it by a common ligament, and which people insist on trying to separate from the third - which is impossible, and, fortunately, unnecessary. As many different sounds as there are fingers." Fryderyk Chopin
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#540231 - 12/11/07 01:58 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7424
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
Actually, the more I think about it, CC2 and WR, the more I think the decision to seek information from a bodybuilder's forum was not such a bad one. Most areas of athletics have benefited greatly from sports science, especially those involoved in competition. Piano pedagogy, on the other hand, amounts to a hodgepodge of hand-me down traditions with little or no real scientific scrutiny, at least nothing comparable. [/b]
Look, I'm not going to try to talk you out of this, or argue about it. Do whatever you want, and I hope it works out well for you. But don't expect me to agree that it's a good idea, because although I do agree that pianists may have something to learn from sports science and medicine, I don't agree that an internet bodybuilding forum is a good filter through which to obtain that information.

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#540232 - 12/11/07 02:00 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...
Allow me once again to applaud your quest. Exercises away from the keyboard have been a holy grail for at least 150 years.

I have come to the conclusion though that kinesthetic memory/response in piano playing is far more diverse. Every work you study is a distinct path through a jungle of body/key resistance. i.e. playing the piano does not involve anything like the number of repetitive actions as sports.

Isn't it more like billiards (something Mozart was good at)? Is any shot ever the same as another? Repetitive actions, and I have seen this many times, could well have a dulling effect on performance.
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#540233 - 12/11/07 02:47 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Jan-Erik Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/05
Posts: 1302
Loc: Finland
I seems obvious that body builders' excercises do not develope that kind of strength you need in piano playing. Piano players have therefore their own excercises and the main tool is the piano. With those you develope strength and control simultaneously

It is no draw back to aim at equal strength between fingers although you will not reach that goal. Speaking abouot acting against nature (Jazzuprof), I think many of man's inventions and skills can be held as beeing aginst nature. Was piano playing part of nature's plan? No - then we would have had 8 fingers of equal strength!

"Le tout c'est de savoir bien doigter" (it is all the question of good fingering), said Chopin. That means good fingering makes it easier to play. And hence, when planning the fingering for a piece you must of course, when possible, avoid weak fingers on critical spots.

But I do not agree with the idea that each finger develops their owm sound. That is IMO absolute nonsence! And there is no sence either in increasing the differences between fingers either.

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#540234 - 12/11/07 07:03 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 CC2 and Chopin lover:
Jerry,
Sports science is not something people come up with by trial and error while preparing for competitions. The people who develop the experiments in exercise science and physiology that wind up changing the face of sports are very careful to prove their work using scientific methodology. There is a huge difference between a somewhat knowledgeable athlete and a highly trained medical professional or scientist. We are talking about people's bodies and well being here. Even so called "personal trainers", can get certified as such by simply attending a weekend course and then passing an exam. It took me seven years to get my degree, so maybe that explains my discomfort with your choice of advisors. Please note that I did not advise you to go to a piano teacher for information about this particular topic. [/b]
Yes, but just as it would be wrong to assume that everyone on a forum dedicated to bodybuilding is well-informed, it would be just as wrong to assume they are all ill-informed. It seems to me the odds are that at least some would be very well-informed. Scientific knowledge has a way of trickling down to the general public, and especially to those who are seriously dedicated and motivated to use the information to their benefit. I'm pretty confident I could weed out more well-informed from less well-informed - there are clues one can detect, including whether something sounds logical, how much the information includes safety warnings, how much concurrance their is, language and vocabulary, etc, etc. Of course there's no guarantee, so, again, I approach it all with caution - but I don't dismiss it.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
I seems obvious that body builders' excercises do not develope that kind of strength you need in piano playing.[/b]
As I learned from them.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
It is no draw back to aim at equal strength between fingers although you will not reach that goal.[/b]
I agree 100%. The 4th and 5th will never be equal in strength to the others - I understand and accept that fact. I just want to increase their strength as much as possible in a safe, efficient, and effective way.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
"Le tout c'est de savoir bien doigter" (it is all the question of good fingering), said Chopin. That means good fingering makes it easier to play. And hence, when planning the fingering for a piece you must of course, when possible, avoid weak fingers on critical spots.[/b]
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
"For a long time we have been acting against nature by training our fingers to be all equally powerful. As each finger is differently formed, it's better not to destroy the particular charm of each one's touch but on the contrary to develop it. Each finger's power is determined by its shape: the thumb having the most power, being the broadest, shortest and freest; the fifth as the other extremity of the hand; the third as the middle and the pivot; then the second (), and then the fourth, the weakest one, the Siamese twin of the third, bound to it by a common ligament, and which people insist on trying to separate from the third - which is impossible, and, fortunately, unnecessary. As many different sounds as there are fingers." Fryderyk Chopin [/b]
I am very familiar with Chopin's famous quotes about how happy he was that every finger has different strengths, and I was waiting for someone to bring it up. All I can say is it baffles me because all the music the man wrote belies the comments he made (indeed all music in general), if not we would be playing his/all music with an intolerable jumble of accents and ghost notes according to what finger happens to be playing. There is just so much clever weak-finger avoiding one can do. Perhaps he was referring to people attempting to LITERALLY make every finger EQUAL in strength - something that I readily agree is impossible, ill-advised, and most certainly NOT my goal (that would indeed be going against nature to an extreme). Perhaps he underestimated the difference between his "weak" 4th and the average pianist's.

I appreciate everbody's comments here - I fully expected to be challenged, and I take all the negative reaction as well-intended advice meant to keep me from harming myself (and others reading the thread from harming themselves). Just as I have not convinced you to try the path I am taking, I am sticking to mine because I have found it to be extremely effective. Thank you everyone for engaging in this thread.

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#540235 - 12/11/07 07:34 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
double post

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#540236 - 12/11/07 08:43 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Shubertarian asked:

 Quote:
Do you know if there are muscles in the fingers or only tendons - what do 'finger exercises' actually do?[/b]
There are muscles in the hand, called the lumbricals and interossei, that do contribute, to a much smaller degree, to the movement of the fingers. However, by far the greatest contributors to wrist and finger extension, flexion and other more complex movements in lateral and rotational planes comes from the muscles on either side of the forearm, which connect to the fingers and wrists via long tendons. Finger exercises can be used for increasing dexterity, strength and speed of movement depending on how they are trained. The way one trains should be task specific in order to improve in a particular task. Think of piano playing as a very highly evolved form of target practice. The idea is to hit the right target at just the right time at just the right speed. When a particular finger is perceived as "weak", what people are really experiencing is a significant lack of control and proprioception, (the ability of the brain to determine where a joint is in space), and the reason for this is that the neural pathways in the motor/sensory centers of the brain that control these particular fingers, (digits 4 and 5), typically devote less neurons for motor control and sensory input to them than the other three. The brain will compensate, when challenged with a particular task that requires it, by devoting more neurons for the function. At the same time, practicing the task at different dynamic levels and speeds will build the connections between the muscles and the brain and, thus, create hypertrophy (growth) in the muscle fibers of the forearms.
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#540237 - 12/11/07 09:40 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Jerry wrote:

 Quote:
Yes, but just as it would be wrong to assume that everyone on a forum dedicated to bodybuilding is well-informed, it would be just as wrong to assume they are all ill-informed. It seems to me the odds are that at least some would be very well-informed. Scientific knowledge has a way of trickling down to the general public, and especially to those who are seriously dedicated and motivated to use the information to their benefit.[/b]
Depends what you mean by well informed. On this I'll make two points. Most people will take snippets of scientific information and studies that conclude things that benefit their particular agenda, and ignore those that may contradict. A good example is the fact that there are many studies that support the fact that the use of certain anabolic steroids will rapidly increase muscle hypertrophy. Those same studies are also replete with information on the disastrous long term health effects of doing so. Knowing bodybuilders as I do, they are more inclined to take the first set of "scientific proof" and run with it, because it's what they want to hear, while sadly ignoring the other, more relevant information. The second point I'll make relates to the information even the best informed bodybuilder is able to give you and its relevance to what you are trying to accomplish here. Read my post just above this one and you will see that what they do in their training, and what they may be knowledgeable in, really has absolutely nothing to do with what you are trying to accomplish here. Be that as it may, there is much medical literature to support the benefit of the placebo effect. Whatever, I have done my part in cautioning you. I wish you the best in your quest to improve your playing.
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#540238 - 12/11/07 10:14 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
JerryS88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/06
Posts: 638
Loc: Ringwood, NJ
If what I've been experiencing in terms of ease of playing, fluency, and control [EDIT: and EVENESS! I never realized how uneven myplaying was, and what a HUGE difference it makes - how it makes music come alive!] are all placebo, I'll take it! \:\)

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#540239 - 12/11/07 02:47 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2598
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
Was piano playing part of nature's plan? No - then we would have had 8 fingers of equal strength!
[/b]
Or, better yet, 88. \:\)
_________________________
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

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#540240 - 12/11/07 04:07 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
jello_g Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 214
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
At the same time, practicing the task at different dynamic levels and speeds will build the connections between the muscles and the brain and, thus, create hypertrophy (growth) in the muscle fibers of the forearms.
Is it not overload that causes hypertrophy? ie. Muscles will not grow, but merely retain muscle mass if activity, however varied, is no more strenuous than what one is normally used to doing/performing. Growth will occur if muscles are pushed beyond the limits of what one is normally used to, thus the muscle will adapt by growing. Adapting this to piano exercises, does this necessarily mean playing Hanon louder, with more and more repetition, and fewer rest periods until soreness due to hypertrophy is achieved?

 Quote:
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
The brain will compensate, when challenged with a particular task that requires it, by devoting more neurons for the function.
As pianists, isn't this, the devotion of more neurons to the most challenging tasks, what we are after, instead of relying on brute force alone?

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#540241 - 12/11/07 05:34 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19097
Loc: New York City
) Are there different KINDS of strength? I ask this because it doesn't really require alot of strength to push down a piano key, and not a lot of strength to move one's finger, and yet if one tries to play a note with, say, the 4th (ring) finger in isolation (hold down the other fingers while trying to tap the 4th strongly on a table top), one will see that the finger is "weak." Is this just plain-vanilla muscle weakness?

Although it is certainly true that the 4th finger is weaker than the rest, I think your method of isolation as evidence of this is faulty because one does not play the piano like this.

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#540242 - 12/11/07 05:42 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 pianoloverus:
) Are there different KINDS of strength? I ask this because it doesn't really require alot of strength to push down a piano key, and not a lot of strength to move one's finger, and yet if one tries to play a note with, say, the 4th (ring) finger in isolation (hold down the other fingers while trying to tap the 4th strongly on a table top), one will see that the finger is "weak." Is this just plain-vanilla muscle weakness?

Although it is certainly true that the 4th finger is weaker than the rest, I think your method of isolation as evidence of this is faulty because one does not play the piano like this. [/b]
I see it differently - as a way to reveal a weakness that shows up in playing all over the place, whether we are aware of it or not.

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#540243 - 12/11/07 08:49 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Jello g asked:

 Quote:
Is it not overload that causes hypertrophy? ie. Muscles will not grow, but merely retain muscle mass if activity, however varied, is no more strenuous than what one is normally used to doing/performing. Growth will occur if muscles are pushed beyond the limits of what one is normally used to, thus the muscle will adapt by growing. Adapting this to piano exercises, does this necessarily mean playing Hanon louder, with more and more repetition, and fewer rest periods until soreness due to hypertrophy is achieved?[/b]
A muscle can only attain hypertrophy if the neural connections are available to create maximum depolarization, (contraction), of the fibers available in the muscle. The muscle can be "tricked" to grow without necessarily overloading it past a level it's been previously. I'll give you an example. In order to contract, a release of calcium occurs in a structure called the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This calcium is vital to the chain of events that causes certain molecules called myosin and actin to ratchet over one another and shorten the muscle fiber. After this occurs, a certain period of time must go by, during which the calcium gets resequestered in the sarcoplasmic reticulum and lactic acid, (a metabolic waste product that hinders further muscle contraction), is flushed out of the muscle. During this period of a few seconds the muscle fiber is unable to contract, and is unavailable to assist its neighbors. If someone trains in such a way that they rest between sets for a short enough period of time that the fibers they just finished using in the previous set have not yet recuperated, then the remaining fibers are left to perform all the work. What happens in this case is the muscle perceives an otherwise medium level of resistance as very heavy, and adapts with hypertrophy. Now, how do we put this into practice for the pianist? Let's say we want to train digits 4 and 5 for increased speed and strength. To use this principle for speed, one might perform a trill with digits 4 and 5, starting slow and progressively increasing the speed until the finger flexors/extensors in the forearm are unable to continue. At this point we stop, count out 3 to 4 seconds and then resume this again for three to four sets. To build strength, we do the same thing, except this time we start out pressing lightly, (PP), on the key and then slowly build up to FF, go to muscle failure, wait 3 to 4 seconds and resume x 4 sets.
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#540244 - 12/11/07 10:10 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
jello_g Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 214
Loc: Toronto, Canada
CC2 thanks for the clarification.

An often sight at gyms are young bucks swinging weights far heavier than they can safely handle. Of course, they think they look tough and cool I suppose, but who's kidding who when they're throwing their whole body into a dumbbell curl for example, certainly this isn't the best way to work the bicep! In terms of building finger strength using exercises at the keyboard, how important is it to keep the hand quiet (ie. motionless) while isolating movement only to the target finger, the motion limited to the finger's full range of motion?

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#540245 - 12/11/07 10:18 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1502
Loc: New York
I dont believe a pianist should be looking to body building to help their piano playing. I have seen too many pianists play so tight trying to be strong that its a wonder they dont develope carpal tunnel syndrome. Actually some do. This is also what makes their sound choppy and less lyrical. I believe I have obtained a good degree of finger control because my Crane school of music trained teacher had me doing scales with both hands 4 octaves up than 4 down accents on every fourth note. go for even ness and keep them simultaneous. Then do all the minor scales then all of them in 10ths then 6ths. Then play lots of Bach. I played so much Bach in my early years I cant stand to play it anymore. Then if thats not enough for you I did Hannon and Czerny. Try this instead of body building but keep your muscles loose not tight, you will find speed strength and control. And thats my 2 cents worth.

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#540246 - 12/11/07 10:48 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 LJC:
I dont believe a pianist should be looking to body building to help their piano playing. I have seen too many pianists play so tight trying to be strong that its a wonder they dont develope carpal tunnel syndrome. Actually some do. This is also what makes their sound choppy and less lyrical. I believe I have obtained a good degree of finger control because my Crane school of music trained teacher had me doing scales with both hands 4 octaves up than 4 down accents on every fourth note. go for even ness and keep them simultaneous. Then do all the minor scales then all of them in 10ths then 6ths. Then play lots of Bach. I played so much Bach in my early years I cant stand to play it anymore. Then if thats not enough for you I did Hannon and Czerny. Try this instead of body building but keep your muscles loose not tight, you will find speed strength and control. And thats my 2 cents worth. [/b]
Increasing the power of my weaker fingers has made my playing far more effortless, giving me a far greater range of power to control whatever sound I am trying to achieve. All the relaxation and effortlessness I was trying to achieve by relaxing and using weight and rotation it turns out I have been able to achieve much more successfully by building finger power. I agree with the suggestion to play lots of Bach - it has a similar effect to holding exercises, especially fugues where you actually do hold fingers while simultaneously articulating other fingers in the same hand. Scales, Czerny, Hanon, all are useful, but, as I said, they all are less efficient at building indivicual finger power since they allow weight and rotation to assist the fingers. I think throughout this thread people have assumed that what is being suggested is buildling brut strength, as in weight lifting. It is not. As I learned, it is about developing the ability to move the fingers quickly and is achieved not by working against heavy resistance, but by working against light to moderate resistance at quick speed.

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#540247 - 12/12/07 07:12 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 JerryS88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
) Are there different KINDS of strength? I ask this because it doesn't really require alot of strength to push down a piano key, and not a lot of strength to move one's finger, and yet if one tries to play a note with, say, the 4th (ring) finger in isolation (hold down the other fingers while trying to tap the 4th strongly on a table top), one will see that the finger is "weak." Is this just plain-vanilla muscle weakness?

Although it is certainly true that the 4th finger is weaker than the rest, I think your method of isolation as evidence of this is faulty because one does not play the piano like this. [/b]
I see it differently - as a way to reveal a weakness that shows up in playing all over the place, whether we are aware of it or not. [/b]
I answered this comment in haste and I'd like to elaborate on it a little. Not only is it an excellent way to reveal the relative power and lack of power of each individual finger, but mainly I use it as a superb way to isolate and super-focus on building power and independence of each finger. Yes, mostly one doesn't play like that (although there are passages in music where fingers will be held while others have to play). Think of it as an athlete who needs to develop raw strength for their sport (Again, pianists do NOT have to develop RAW STRENGTH). It is the difference between relying on the sporadic and unfocused use of that strength in actually performing his or her sport vs. truly focusing and working intensely, and therefore efficiently on the weakness by doing dedicated strength-building exercises tailored to target the precise muscles being used - far more efficient and effective in the end.

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#540248 - 12/12/07 07:17 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
The other component that should not be overlooked in ths discussion is the importance of stretching the muscles of the forearm. This goes a long way to preventing injury and maintaining flexibility and proper muscle length. The comments LJC makes regarding what has worked for him go to something I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. That in order to improve at a specific task, the exercises one uses should mimic that task (be task specific). So, if one is looking for smoothness and accuracy while moving the hands up and down the keyboard, one should practice scales and such. If, however, one needs to be able to isolate finger movement, for whatever reason, then only exercises that attempt to isolate the finger will give the sought after result. If increased proprioception and tactile sensitivity/accuracy are desired in the smaller fingers, then it is logical to give these digits more attention than the larger ones, which already have a greater degree of these desired qualities. One should look at it the way we technicians look at the mechanics of the piano's action mechanism. The more you can do to minimize the variations in response and sensitivity from key to key, by things like regulation and voicing, the easier and more controllable the piano will be to play. In that same way, the more we can minimize the variations in speed, strength and sensitivity from finger to finger, the easier and more enjoyable our playing will be. Undoubtedly this is the effect that Jerry is experiencing as he has worked on improving his smaller finger's strength and speed.
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#540249 - 12/12/07 01:17 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
Shellman Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/05
Posts: 133
Loc: East Riding, Yorkshire, Englan...
All I used to do to strengthen my fingers when I was younger was to play everything in octaves. It seemed to do the trick!
_________________________
Best regards,
Jonathan

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#540250 - 12/12/07 05:48 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
computerpro3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/12/04
Posts: 367
Loc: Connecticut/Cincinnati
 Quote:
Originally posted by drumour:
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 [/b]
Breaking strings has nothing to do with the quality of your playing, regardless of whether it is good or bad.

Just walk up and down the practice rooms at any conservatory to see plenty of broken strings. Are you going to say that none of the students at places like Julliard are any good?

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#540251 - 12/12/07 08:16 PM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
LJC Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/04
Posts: 1502
Loc: New York
Strings just break they get fatigued and then they break...
Doing what I say will develope power and independance of movement...and control and evenness and musicality....

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#540252 - 02/20/09 07:40 AM Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1446
I read somewhere that the hand of a professional piano player is not much different than a hand of a regular person, as far as muscle strength are concerned.

Lately I am starting to realize that piano playing requires very little in strength... it's just more efficient to use the weight of the arm and rotation, and think of the fingers as merely guiding the direction of gravity. By focusing on exercise like this you are ignoring the complexity of the body movements that is required in piano playing, from the use of forearm, the shoulder, and the entire body.. speed comes from coordination and control, i just don't see how that relates to "power" as you describe it.


There are child prodigies out there who are able to play very demanding pieces at a very young age.. the hands of an 8 year old are much weaker than the hands of an adult, and yet some kids can play through chopin etudes with no problem.

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