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#560414 - 03/06/08 03:30 PM How does one develop 'touch'?
jasperkeys Offline
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Registered: 02/22/05
Posts: 411
Loc: Safford, AZ
This is something I would really like to get better at. Maybe I'm being too self critical but I really want my playing to sound smoother. Most of the times right now it seems like it's hit or miss on getting a consistent tone and key velocity across a slow melody line. Perhaps my problem is that I try to control the velocity mostly with my fingers as opposed to utilizing arm weight but I really don't know how to use arm weight.
I do some Hanons prior to practice (I now do up to exercise #12) and some scales but it seems difficult to achieve the same smoothness of volume pressing the keys as I hear in my head. Now sometimes on 'those days' almost everything sounds wonderful but I'd like to be able to do it consistently.
Does anybody have some sorely needed advice for this?
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#560415 - 03/06/08 06:24 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
PassionatePianist Offline
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Registered: 02/09/07
Posts: 61
Loc: New Jersey
It's difficult to give you straight advice here. You really need a (good) teacher for something like this. We can try to explain to you how to use your arm in playing but it won't be nearly sufficient. You need someone experienced to listen to you and show you ways on how to practice certain things. Playing well consistently has a lot to do with: listening to yourself (aural skills and knowing what you want to hear), fingering (you must understand the mechanics of piano playing to use reliable and consistent fingerings).etc...

Know what you want, and practice accordingly to achieve it. Again, you need a teacher.
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"Simplicity is the final achievement." - Chopin

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#560416 - 03/06/08 08:16 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
kenny Offline
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Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 7051
By listening, really listening.

Few of us listen well when we play.

I've had many piano parties in my home.
One guy sat down and it was like the piano was 10 times better, even though he was playing pieces that were not that advanced compared to what others were playing.

Later I asked him, "How do you get a tone out of a piano that is better than what others get?"

He said from his earliest lesson his teacher kept slowing him down and made him listen very intently to the sound he was making.
He hated it.
He wanted to just play.
But he was held back until he *always* produced good tone.

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#560417 - 03/06/08 08:31 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
David-G Offline
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Registered: 01/17/06
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Loc: London
Kenny, I think you have absolutely hit the nail on the head.

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#560418 - 03/06/08 09:57 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
signa Offline
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Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
it's hard to listen to oneself actually. whenever i play at lesson, my teacher always says whether my sound is good or not, and then would ask me to change fingering or hand shape (more curled) or hand positioning for better sound. but i couldn't tell that much myself, unless my teacher points out. it's all about the sound you create from your playing...

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#560419 - 03/06/08 10:21 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Loki Offline
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Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
When you work on scales and Hanon, are you trying to achieve a consistent tone then too?? If not, trying to may help you do it when you play it in the music.
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#560420 - 03/07/08 12:59 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
PassionatePianist Offline
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Registered: 02/09/07
Posts: 61
Loc: New Jersey
signa, you probably can't tell the difference because you don't know what a good sound really is. When you can truly listen to yourself and know what sound you want at the keyboard - this is the very meaning of being a good musician. Forget all that technical stuff - playing quickly and clearly...etc.. None of that matters if you can't achieve a good sound from the keyboard. Without good sound, playing piano becomes not much different than any other activity that requires hand/eye coordination (tennis for example). The main difference here is that playing piano is an art. Any kind of art requires more than just technical ability.


This might be ot but here is how I see it. A pianist must be taught proper technique as well as aural skills from an early age. Technique and ear training should be the main concern from the start since a child has simply not experienced enough in his/her life to be able to play emotionally(although playing emotionally should never be overlooked). The emotions will come with age and so will the music. But chances are, if the student was taught well, technical problems should not get in the way of anything else - trying to achieve good sound for example.

This is basically the Russian method of becoming a strong musician. I recently spent quite some time studying in Moscow at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory and this is what I found. Most pianists in that conservatory started playing piano by age 5 and had technique inflicted on them from that age.

(sorry if I was rambling) ...do you understand the point I'm trying make?
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#560421 - 03/07/08 01:12 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Online   content
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Obviously we can do nothing about starting at five, if we are no longer five, but the art of hearing and hearing toward, so that discernment can exist, must be developed somehow. One thing that puzzles me on these piano forums is that sound is hardly ever mentioned. It all seems to be eye-hand coordination, reading, accuracy, and speed. One almost gets the impression that a silent instrument is being played. Am I the only one?

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#560422 - 03/07/08 01:43 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
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Passionatepianist you're right on the button.

Keystring I think your intimating what is rarely appreciated on piano forums and that is that conception (hearing the music) happens before execution. The poor development of this fundamental art often comes out when posters comment on performances - it is obvious many cannot hear what is or what should be going on.

If you produce the music with your ears the technical aspects will take care of themselves.

Here's the Chopin E minor prelude I played very slowly to illustrate using wrist/arm-weight. http://youtube.com/watch?v=9jWP_DH2654 You drop your weight+force into the keys (with a stiff hand for the millisecond it takes for the sound to happen) then totally flop your hand. There are others I've uploaded that show the same.
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#560423 - 03/07/08 02:11 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Jan-Erik Offline
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Registered: 10/18/05
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Loc: Finland
The eternal discussion about touch and tone has again popped up. As should arm weight or finger position have something to do with sound you create! Rubbish IMO - and I am suppoerted by hundreds of forumists.

The music you experience in your heas is a result of the actual avoustic vibrations filtererd by your ears and spiced up by your imagination.

About listening to yourself: Your wishes (conception before execution) and imagination of what you want to achieve (temder, brilliant, warm, hard etc. sound) will influence the perception.

You have to master the dynamic and tne time values of all notes. and then use the sustain correctly. That what it is all about to create a good soud.

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#560424 - 03/07/08 02:13 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
Touch, I find, has to do with learning to orchestrate each voice on the piano. When someone is said to lack 'touch' I often interpret that to mean piano banging. All the notes are equal.

Whether in Classical or Jazz, there's lower (bass) voices, (tenor and Alto) inner voices, (soprano) melody voices. At different times you become sensitive to hearing which one should rise up and you adjust your dynamics accordingly.

Are you aware now of the difference in voices and dynamics of each? Or is this a new concept?

The best pianists don't make the dynamics even. Something is always meant to stand out (like the melody) and the rest are relegated to various levels of dynamics. Learning to control this one finger at a time is I think the secret to having the 'touch'.

It starts, IMO with awareness and intent.
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#560425 - 03/07/08 02:16 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Jan-Erik:
The music you experience in your heas is a result of the actual avoustic vibrations filtererd by your ears and spiced up by your imagination.
[/b]
Totally disagree. The music you hear in your head happens before the 'acoustic' sound. So how can it be affected by 'acoustic vibrations'? The ear is far more complicated than you assume.

Off to work.
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#560426 - 03/07/08 02:40 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Online   content
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Keyboardklutz, I have indeed been taught by an excellent teacher to perceive what I want to produce before producing it, to listen while I'm producing it to make certain I am still producing it, and while thus listening to perceive the next thing and already be in anticipation of it. The idea of producing a sound, wondeirng what it will sound like, and then being surprised and either happy or sad about it is in essence absurd, but how I used to play for years. My exercises were not done on piano, and they included intonation which the piano does for you.

Jan Erik, I have no idea what the enternal debate is about - I'm rather new to this. However, sound is vibration regardless of instrument so I'm already lost at that point. No, you cannot create "love", "fear", "sadness" on the piano, though you might feel these things as you play. But assuming that you have an acoustic piano with actual hammers and actual strings, surely there are a thousand nuances you can create by how you activate those hammers. How hard or fast do you set them in motion? How do you release for the next note, therefore how long will the note sound and sustain itself? How will it blend into the next note, or jump into it abruptly? What is the pause between the notes? What is the increment of crescendo? What is the dynamic contrast? How are you accenting within the measure, and with what kind of dynamic ranging from staccato to legato? Which notes of the chord do you voice more? Almost all of them are touch. "Expressiveness" is at the same time a natural emotion, and a very artificial mechanical device: heightened emotion through a crescendo ... a lingering on a particular note without going into rubato to make a statement ... and although artificially and purposefully created (planned ahead), it creates emotion or an impression on the listener.

Yes, we can and often do hear what we want to hear instead of what is there. That is why we need to perceive accurately the sound we want to produce and be clear on it, so that we can listen for exactly that, rather than for an emotion: something I know about imperfectly, but cannot yet do.

PassionatePianist: You say that the Russian pianists played for the sound, but also that they had the technique to enable them to play for the perceived sound? So they had a means of control?

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#560427 - 03/07/08 02:54 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
cruiser Offline
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Registered: 02/19/07
Posts: 1171
Loc: Cornwall, England
Great post jasperkeys, on an essential topic. You've echoed my own concerns exactly.

And, what great replies too! Summed up, I guess, by the advice that my teacher is constantly giving me - really LISTEN to the sounds you're producing. However, personally I find this to be easier said than done! 'Listening' to, as opposed to - or in addition to! - simply 'hearing' what one plays. I haven't yet discovered the essence of this ability - to really listen 'with meaning', for want of a better description. I'll read the replies posted here again and hopefully, with effort, I'll 'get it' \:\)

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#560428 - 03/07/08 03:55 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
whippen boy Offline
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Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
Carefully listening to oneself play is a good approach.

However it is not the only answer.

Why?

Because the piano sounds differently to the audience, than it does to the player.

Also, the player sometimes thinks they are making a certain sort of tone or effect, when they are not - it may be internalized by the player.

That is where a teacher's input is invaluable.
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#560429 - 03/07/08 10:19 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
jasperkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/22/05
Posts: 411
Loc: Safford, AZ
Thank you all for your good replies!

 Quote:
When you work on scales and Hanon, are you trying to achieve a consistent tone then too??[/b]
As a matter of fact, I tried that this morning; just relaxing and concentrating on getting the same volume on each note. I'm not quite there yet but this is probably a good route to pursue.

This morning I made an effort to try an hear the music (the notes) just before pressing the keys, trying to make the intended melody note stand out from the others (Moonlight Sonata is a good one for working on this), and slowing down slightly to avoid the sound of someone on the verge of having a wreck.

[QUOTE ...the piano sounds differently to the audience, than it does to the player.[/b]
[/QUOTE]

Boy, this is true! I actually don't have a piano of my own so I go to our church early in the morning to practice on a Yamaha P120 digital piano. Anyway, one of the nice things about this piano is that it gives me the opportunity to record myself and then I play it back listening from the back of the church. It's funny but when I slowed the tempo down it sounded good but what's strange is that on the playback, the tempo sounded ever so slightly faster than it did when I played it. The playback didn't sound too slow but it sounded more natural. So now I'm going to try and make a conscientious effort to slow my playing down and give the music an opportunity to 'breathe', so to speak. Less chance of a mistake too. Coupling this with trying to get more consistent volume through my Hanons and scales, I'm looking forward to playing better.
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#560430 - 03/07/08 10:26 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Minaku Offline
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Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
Listening is key, but getting the physical aspect down is also key. We want consistency in tone and that won't ever be achieved without the ability to make the same movement over and over again.

One way to practice this is to take the technique you want to use for that nice, deep touch - whether it be in a scale or a melody - and play the melody line by itself, very slowly, exaggerating the movement, at forte. If you're vocally inclined, sing as you play the melody. Once you feel comfortable with that, sing the melody as you play it, with the accompaniment. Lastly, get rid of the singing. Sing in your head, and your legato line and your tone should be better thanks to the forte practice, the exaggerated deep touch, and your singing. Don't forget to breathe!
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#560431 - 03/07/08 10:39 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Akira Offline
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Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I think this is one of those things where it just takes a little time to develop finesse.

I would also agree that listening to yourself with a dispassionate ear helps a lot. Since you have a digital piano, it shouldn't be to difficult to record yourself playing. When you play it back, listen to yourself with a critical ear, as if someone else was playing it. Have your sheet music handy and mark the measures that don't sound quite right to you. Then go back, focusing on those passages. If your passage sounds like 'clunk, clunk, clunk' and it should be legato, focus on smooth, connected and flowing notes. After you've played it, ask yourself 'was that smooth?'. If the little voice inside you says, no, repeat the process until it is. Once the little voice says, "yes, that's it," go back and record yourself again. Now listen closely again. I find this process works for me.

I think too often listening as we're playing doesn't allow us to focus properly on the problem. We are also dealing with the element of unforgiving time and forced to continue going, leaving our problem behind. By the time we get to the end of the song, we've forgotten our little mental note of the passages that didn't sound quite right.

Anyway, give it a try and see if that helps your situation.

Hope this helps.

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#560432 - 03/07/08 10:56 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
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If you can manage (and this is where slow practice comes in), know what you wnat it to sound like before you play, measure by measure, even at the level of a single note itself, listen for that sound as you play it, and immediately shift to what you want to sound like again. You don't want to by mulling over note # 2 when you're on note # 7. It takes a bit of practice. When I first learned this I found my maximum attention span lasted about 5 seconds,and that was without an instrument.

 Quote:
If your passage sounds like 'clunk, clunk, clunk' and it should be legato, focus on smooth, connected and flowing notes. After you've played it, ask yourself 'was that smooth?'. If the little voice inside you says, no, repeat the process until it is. Once the little voice says, "yes, that's it," go back
Yes, except that while you are playing you should be aiming for those smooth legato notes. (Obviously you should also know how to produce legato notes.) Listen as you play whether they are legato.

Akira, I like the idea of recording. Despite what I've written, I discovered my critical listening was not that great. My impression was that I had played legato, or whatever, but the recording would reveal things that I totally missed. It is deflating at first, as in "Oh my! That's what my teacher hears?" But of course he has heard it all along, but now you get to improve it and theoretically your teacher would also be hearing a change, if that matters.

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#560433 - 03/07/08 11:16 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
signa Offline
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Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by PassionatePianist:
signa, you probably can't tell the difference because you don't know what a good sound really is. When you can truly listen to yourself and know what sound you want at the keyboard - this is the very meaning of being a good musician. Forget all that technical stuff - playing quickly and clearly...etc.. None of that matters if you can't achieve a good sound from the keyboard. Without good sound, playing piano becomes not much different than any other activity that requires hand/eye coordination (tennis for example). The main difference here is that playing piano is an art. Any kind of art requires more than just technical ability.


This might be ot but here is how I see it. A pianist must be taught proper technique as well as aural skills from an early age. Technique and ear training should be the main concern from the start since a child has simply not experienced enough in his/her life to be able to play emotionally(although playing emotionally should never be overlooked). The emotions will come with age and so will the music. But chances are, if the student was taught well, technical problems should not get in the way of anything else - trying to achieve good sound for example.

This is basically the Russian method of becoming a strong musician. I recently spent quite some time studying in Moscow at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory and this is what I found. Most pianists in that conservatory started playing piano by age 5 and had technique inflicted on them from that age.

(sorry if I was rambling) ...do you understand the point I'm trying make? [/b]
i understand you perfectly, and you're right. my teacher was trained pretty much in Russian school type of system since he's 5, although he's not Russian. anyway, i was always fascinated by what he can hear that i could not... he complaint as well about US music education system, which is lack of ear and solfeggie training for kids.

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#560434 - 03/07/08 11:41 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
I ought to mention that my ability to control my 'touch' or in my own description, my ability to orchestrate the dynamics of each of the voices did not get developed until I used an acoustic.

The level of control possible with a good Grand, is still so far more than even the best digitals available today. I should know, I've owned the best digitals.

So to build this technique, one needs the proper tools.
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#560435 - 03/07/08 01:05 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
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I travel by train quite a bit. Trains in this country have a 'quiet' carriage where mobile phones and ipods are not allowed. Last week a women sat a few seats away and took about 30 minutes to eat her lunch - all of it wrapped in some extremely crackly cellophane. Every few seconds a huge storm of crackles engulfed the carriage. It was obvious she couldn't hear the noise as effectively as we others. I've always noticed the same thing with children unzipping bags in classrooms. Just as the body does with tension, our ears shut out habitual noise. I think this is why people can't hear themselves play the piano - they're so wrapped up in the mechanical doings (like the lady with her lunch), they have difficulty focusing on the sound.

This also explains why Hanon et al are so injurious - the sound becomes habituated; it begins to always sound the same. Yet no repeated passage can ever sound the same.
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#560436 - 03/07/08 01:26 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
To me, “Touch” implies an exceptional correlation between your own piano technique (relaxed weight, evenness, sensibility) and your own personal, essentials achievements.

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#560437 - 03/07/08 01:39 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Minaku Offline
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Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
So in other words, a person without the ability to drop the weight and without a lot of pianistic experience will have a poor touch? (But that's how we learn, by practicing the relaxation and playing a wide range of repertoire...) I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say, Cultor.
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#560438 - 03/07/08 01:40 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
jazzwee Offline
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7096
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
This also explains why Hanon et al are so injurious - the sound becomes habituated; it begins to always sound the same. Yet no repeated passage can ever sound the same. [/b]
I agree. I can't imagine for myself how repeating hanon exercises could improve my touch, especially an exercise geared for evenness.

But repeatedly playing Chopin Prelude 28-15 seems to do a lot more to my sensibilities...
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#560439 - 03/07/08 01:43 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Minaku Offline
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Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
Hanon can only do so much. There is a point at which we outgrow exercises, and have to rely on scales and arpeggios to maintain our skills in addition to repertoire.

That said, picking certain Hanon exercises in which fingering patterns are presented, as well as exercises where there are skips that have to played evenly will help develop a sense of evenness. It's easy to hear what notes stick out!
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#560440 - 03/07/08 01:46 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Stanza Offline
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Registered: 01/18/02
Posts: 1458
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Q: What is a major feature in lack of touch?
A: "Banging"

Q: What is the opposite of banging?
A: Playing softly

That is it!

Try this experiment: Play a key so slowly that there is no sound. Gradually increase until you achieve a sound. Work in this range playing pianissimo fragments/melodies and work your volume slowly up from there, listening to the variety and color in your tones.

Remembering that dynamics are relative and not absolute is also critical.

Now use this in nice slow, lyrical piece, a nocturne etc. and see if your "touch" doesn't improve immediately. Good luck!
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#560441 - 03/07/08 03:07 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
whippen boy Offline
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Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 3886
Loc: San Francisco
This topic reminds me of a post made by Varcon, about the practice regime of Guiomar Novaes. Of special interest is the part that mentions crescendo in one hand and decrescendo in the other, plus her methodical practicing of arpeggios.
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#560442 - 03/07/08 03:09 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
U S A P T Offline
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Registered: 10/20/06
Posts: 1645
Loc: An Indiana University
with your ear.
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#560443 - 03/07/08 03:26 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Cultor Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 342
Loc: BsAs
 Quote:
Originally posted by Minaku:
So in other words, a person without the ability to drop the weight and without a lot of pianistic experience will have a poor touch? (But that's how we learn, by practicing the relaxation and playing a wide range of repertoire...) I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say, Cultor. [/b]
I’m trying to say that if you don’t have a sensitive, experienced soul and a proper technique, you will never develop any touch.

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10/21/14 03:19 AM
First Digital Piano - Advice needed
by chicobalay
10/21/14 02:37 AM
How to Regulate a Studio Upright for Greatest Sensitivity?
by Paul678
10/20/14 11:05 PM
How do I tackle my goal.
by imustlearn
10/20/14 10:29 PM
Advice? First digital piano for family--already own a GP
by SCD
10/20/14 07:58 PM
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