Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!

Posted by: JerryS88

Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 12:32 PM

[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.]
Posted by: Palindrome

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 01:14 PM

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).
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 01:49 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 02:10 PM

 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.
Posted by: Ralph

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 03:48 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 10:27 PM

 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.
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/09/07 11:24 PM

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.
Posted by: wr

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 04:57 AM

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.
Posted by: drumour

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 06:17 AM

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
Posted by: SideShow

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 07:08 AM

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
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 07:59 AM

 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!)
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:11 AM

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).
Posted by: Jan-Erik

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:25 AM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:37 AM

 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.
Posted by: SideShow

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:48 AM

 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
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:49 AM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:53 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by SideShow:
It's not about strenght, it's about control
[/b]
It's about strength AND control.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 09:12 AM

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.
Posted by: LisztAddict

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 10:55 AM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 11:02 AM

 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.
Posted by: LisztAddict

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 11:26 AM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 11:35 AM

 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.
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 12:21 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 12:33 PM

 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.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 12:58 PM

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!
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 01:44 PM

 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.]
Posted by: Jan-Erik

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 03:11 PM

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.
Posted by: wr

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 05:30 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 05:34 PM

 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.
Posted by: wr

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 06:22 PM

 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.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 07:04 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:35 PM

Double post
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:41 PM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 08:53 PM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 09:30 PM

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.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 10:11 PM

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.
Posted by: Schubertian

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 10:27 PM

CC2 = interesting posts

Do you know if there are muscles in the fingers or only tendons - what do 'finger exercises' actually do?
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/10/07 10:42 PM

"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
Posted by: wr

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 01:58 AM

 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.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 02:00 AM

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.
Posted by: Jan-Erik

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 02:47 AM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 07:03 AM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 07:34 AM

double post
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 08:43 AM

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.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 09:40 AM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 10:14 AM

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! \:\)
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 02:47 PM

 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. \:\)
Posted by: jello_g

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 04:07 PM

 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?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 05:34 PM

) 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 05:42 PM

 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.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 08:49 PM

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.
Posted by: jello_g

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 10:10 PM

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?
Posted by: LJC

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 10:18 PM

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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/11/07 10:48 PM

 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.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/12/07 07:12 AM

 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.
Posted by: CC2 and Chopin lover

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/12/07 07:17 AM

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.
Posted by: Shellman

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/12/07 01:17 PM

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!
Posted by: computerpro3

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/12/07 05:48 PM

 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?
Posted by: LJC

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 12/12/07 08:16 PM

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....
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/20/09 07:40 AM

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.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/20/09 07:59 AM

*** NECROPHILIA ALERT! ***

Before anyone else posts in this thread, please note that it had been dead for more than 14 months before the post above this one resurrected it.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/20/09 08:06 AM

well, I am only responding because someone mentioned this thread in an active thread \:\)
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/20/09 08:55 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:
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. [/b]
It's really about where the tendons attach to phalanges. 'Pro' playing puts loads of stress there.
Posted by: EJR

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/20/09 07:29 PM

I just stumbled on this interesting thread (I haven't read it all but...

There are some "at keyboard" finger strength build exercises available from Richard Meyrick.

Checkout: http://www.thepianostudio.co.uk/finger-workouts.php

The download is a PDF (and some of them seem 'Chang-esque' to me)...

There's some explanatory videos on the site that you may want to review.

The emphasis is on power, speed and 15 minutes a day maximum.... He uses a "dummy" weighted keyboard and some of them are far from musical. He works through finger independance, wrist and full arm power exercises in beginner/intermediate/advanced grades.

He actually warns you to build up gradually and draws an analogy with weight lifting (checkout the video) as otherwise '..it would be like trying to clean and jerk 200 1bs in you first session....' (or similar)...

Elwyn
Posted by: btb

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 05:19 AM

The absurdity of this thread evokes the image of the Charles Atlas advert ... of a 97 lb Chopin weakling having George Sand kicked in his eyes ... but later changed into a Body Building tough-guy to knock the tar our of the bully ... all good stuff.

I too was a 97 lb weakling ... and some might think I still am ... but heck ... who wants to finish up with a body-builder’s frame and have to carry 240 lbs around for a lifetime ... I prefer to be able to dodge the traffic ... and play my piano.

Sorry chaps ... couldn't resist the barb.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 05:38 AM

Yea I just don't see how strength, and even independence fit in all this either.. when I play, I am not pressing down on the key, I just shift the center of gravity so that the right finger falls on the keyboard.. you don't need much resistance to keep the fingers from collapsing if coordinate it just right.

Maybe I am just more into the arm-weight school.. I guess I treat the piano as something you play with your mind, and not so much the body.

My biggest concern for these exercise is that some people may stop seeking more efficient way of playing because they have enough strength/power to muscle it out.

Piano playing is not anything like sports, most atheletes decline in performance once they reach their 30's but most great piano players are able to play at a high level even at a very old age. it's something that even 8 yr old or 80 yr can do well, if its done right.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 06:11 AM

Try shifting your weight round this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExH1DQjsG3M
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 11:25 AM

Wow - somebody resurrected my 2 year old thread - guess nothing dies on the internet!

People - before you comment on this thread, please read it - including the original linked thread. It is saying exactly what most of you are arguing - that to play the piano YOU DO NOT NEED STRENGTH. Repeat: YOU DO *****NOT**** NEED STRENGTH.

I realize my original subject line may have caused some confusion - I have just changed it.

In the linked thread I basically asked what kind of strength fingers need since it DOESN'T take strength to play a note on the piano and yet some fingers are more capable of playing than others, and in fact we commonly refer to the 4th finger as being weak. The answer was that there is a difference between RAW STRENGTH (the ability to move a heavy object) and POWER (the ability to move a body part or object with great speed) and what is needed to play the piano is to develop fingers capable of moving at great speed (POWER). That was the conclusion of the conversation I had on the original linked thread and the whole point of this thread - a point that has apparently been missed by many of you who have posted here. There is nothing absurd about it. I found the distinction useful, especially as thousands of exercises have been written for the piano with the stated purpose of "strengthening the fingers."
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 12:12 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by SideShow:
It's not about strenght, it's about control
[/b]
It's about strength AND control. [/b]
Jerry, I feel that it is rather disingenuous of you to go back and change the title of a 2-year old thread that you started, a thread that was all about STRENGTH as you yourself state in the above quote. Your original thread was not about building finger speed. By going back and rewriting history it makes it look as if all those respondents didn't know what they were talking about. I think Piano World should disable this ability we have to rewrite history.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 12:29 PM

You mean we know what we're talking about? Could have fooled me! Still, I like the new title.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 01:28 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by SideShow:
It's not about strenght, it's about control
[/b]
It's about strength AND control. [/b]
Jerry, I feel that it is rather disingenuous of you to go back and change the title of a 2-year old thread that you started, a thread that was all about STRENGTH as you yourself state in the above quote. Your original thread was not about building finger speed. By going back and rewriting history it makes it look as if all those respondents didn't know what they were talking about. I think Piano World should disable this ability we have to rewrite history. [/b]
I'm sorry you feel that way, jazzyprof, and that certainly wasn't my intention. I changed the subject line to more ACCURATELY describe the content of my thread. In fact the thread was NOT all about strength, but about the distinction between strength and power. It seems many who responded did not get past the subject line and came to false conclusions about its content without reading through my original post.
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 02:10 PM

Jerry, I am sorry if I sounded a bit harsh. I do feel, however, that if your original intent had been a discussion of finger SPEED, you would have titled your thread accordingly. The thread would certainly have developed differently, with responses ranging from "fast twitch muscles" to Czerny's School of Velocity. As it is, your thread began with a link to a body-builders' forum where you write:
 Quote:
Classical Pianist Seeks Finger-Strengthening Advice

Hello Bodybuilding Forum members - this is my first post here.

I am a dedicated advanced amateur Classical pianist. After many years of struggling to improve my ability to play piano at a high technical level, I have come to the realization that the foundation of a virtouso piano technique is an extremely high level of individual finger strength, including what are naturally weak fingers, namely the ring-finger (4th) and pinky (5th). I am posting here because I'd like to know if there are lessons I can draw upon from body-building science that I can apply to my piano practicing.
So, contrary to your current revisionist stance, your original thread was all about STRENGTH. I feel that a discussion of SPEED and POWER is certainly worthwhile, but that should be a new thread instead of a new title for an old thread on finger STRENGTH. If your ideas on the subject have evolved, perhaps you could just say so in this current thread without going back to change the title.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 02:26 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
Jerry, I am sorry if I sounded a bit harsh. I do feel, however, that if your original intent had been a discussion of finger SPEED, you would have titled your thread accordingly. The thread would certainly have developed differently, with responses ranging from "fast twitch muscles" to Czerny's School of Velocity. As it is, your thread began with a link to a body-builders' forum where you write:
 Quote:
Classical Pianist Seeks Finger-Strengthening Advice

Hello Bodybuilding Forum members - this is my first post here.

I am a dedicated advanced amateur Classical pianist. After many years of struggling to improve my ability to play piano at a high technical level, I have come to the realization that the foundation of a virtouso piano technique is an extremely high level of individual finger strength, including what are naturally weak fingers, namely the ring-finger (4th) and pinky (5th). I am posting here because I'd like to know if there are lessons I can draw upon from body-building science that I can apply to my piano practicing.
So, contrary to your current revisionist stance, your original thread was all about STRENGTH. I feel that a discussion of SPEED and POWER is certainly worthwhile, but that should be a new thread instead of a new title for an old thread on finger STRENGTH. If your ideas on the subject have evolved, perhaps you could just say so in this current thread without going back to change the title. [/b]
Jazzyprof - I'm sorry, but there is nothing revisionist about my changing the subject line of my thread - it just makes more clear what the thread was always about. If you had read just a little bit further in that post (the first post) from the thread you quoted above, you would have read this - MY VERY FIRST QUESTION:

1) 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?

Again, what evolved was a discussion about the difference between raw strength and power with a clear conclusion that power (speed) is what we should be after. If you read through this thread and the one quoted you will see that I talked about the distinction throughout. Nothing has changed about that.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 08:36 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:

1) 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?

Again, what evolved was a discussion about the difference between raw strength and power with a clear conclusion that power (speed) is what we should be after. If you read through this thread and the one quoted you will see that I talked about the distinction throughout. Nothing has changed about that. [/b]
I still don't get why any of this is relevent to technique... tapping a finger implies that you need to slightly lift the finger before you press it down, and with the use of your arm weight that kind of motion is not even necessary.

I remember reading somewhere that we already have the ability to play at incredibly fast speed. If you use rotation, you can play 1-2-3-4-5 extremely fast.. the problem is that you won't really have control over it. Likewise the apparent 'weakness' in 4th finger can be solved through control and coordination. I can easily support the weight of my arm with my 4th finger with coordination and it requires very little strength.

I dont think I am misunderstanding the thread.. correct me if I am wrong, but by power, you seem to mean the ability to move weights as rapidly as possible, kind of like when you do fast reps with less weights?

I think the whole premise of your exercise really based on a very narrow view of piano playing. You're basing your ideas on strict finger-school approach to piano playing and you're ignoring the use of arm-weight and rotation.

Forgive me if I sound too harsh, but your comments on Chopin really made me wondered about how much you knew ab out piano playing.. or at least where chopin is coming from.  You sounded like you knew more about chopin's playing then chopin himself.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/21/09 08:40 PM

Gee i wonder why the font become different at the end of that last post...
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 02:51 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Try shifting your weight round this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExH1DQjsG3M [/b]
etcetra, how about a response to this?
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 09:13 AM

I may have made the point too much about finger school... I guess my biggest concern (and the point I am really getting at) is that I feel like these exercises are being promoted as if you're supposed to play the piano soley with your fingers... and it ignores the complext body movements that is involved in piano playing

I can play pieces at extremely fast tempo.. but it will be extremely sloppy... the problem, as far as I am concerned, is not so much about speed or "power", but the ability to able to control the speed.. which has more to do with coordination.

I am student, and not an expert or anything but I guess the 'tapping' analogy(and his assesement of the chopin quote) got me questioned about Jerry's ideas. When you are playing the piano I just don't think it's necessary to lift your fingers like you do when you tap on a table.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 09:59 AM

One of the hardest things to do on the piano is play pp. There are times when it needs be done with fingers, other times with wrist/arm either way it takes a hell of a lot of control. What name you give to the physical property that allows that control is neither here nor there, but it is not coordination, that only plays a part.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 12:46 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
One of the hardest things to do on the piano is play pp. There are times when it needs be done with fingers, other times with wrist/arm either way it takes a hell of a lot of control. What name you give to the physical property that allows that control is neither here nor there, but it is not coordination, that only plays a part. [/b]
Don't forget the responsiveness of the instrument you are playing on. I used to find it very difficult to play a wide dynamic range until I got my Steinway. Now ppp seems effortless.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 01:52 PM

Alright, pppp then (it's all realitive anyway}.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 03:58 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
quote:
Originally posted by SideShow:
It's not about strenght, it's about control
[/b]
It's about strength AND control. [/b]
Jerry, I feel that it is rather disingenuous of you to go back and change the title of a 2-year old thread that you started, a thread that was all about STRENGTH as you yourself state in the above quote. Your original thread was not about building finger speed. By going back and rewriting history it makes it look as if all those respondents didn't know what they were talking about. I think Piano World should disable this ability we have to rewrite history. [/b]
I'm sorry you feel that way, jazzyprof, and that certainly wasn't my intention. I changed the subject line to more ACCURATELY describe the content of my thread. In fact the thread was NOT all about strength, but about the distinction between strength and power. It seems many who responded did not get past the subject line and came to false conclusions about its content without reading through my original post.
Jazzyprof - I thought a little further about what you said. While I maintain that my new title more accurately describes the content - content which has not changed - I understand your point that many of the posts here responded to the original title. The original title was inaccurate and elicited many responses thinking I was advocating the need to build finger strength - my fault. It happened when I originally posted the thread, and it started happening now that the thread has been resurrected. For that reason I am choosing to keep the new title. However, I have added a paragraph at the top of my first post in this thread explaining the change in title. I hope that will satisfy both the need to respect those who posted under the original title, and the need to correct my original poor and inaccurate title choice.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 04:03 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:
I may have made the point too much about finger school... I guess my biggest concern (and the point I am really getting at) is that I feel like these exercises are being promoted as if you're supposed to play the piano soley with your fingers... and it ignores the complext body movements that is involved in piano playing

I can play pieces at extremely fast tempo.. but it will be extremely sloppy... the problem, as far as I am concerned, is not so much about speed or "power", but the ability to able to control the speed.. which has more to do with coordination.

I am student, and not an expert or anything but I guess the 'tapping' analogy(and his assesement of the chopin quote) got me questioned about Jerry's ideas. When you are playing the piano I just don't think it's necessary to lift your fingers like you do when you tap on a table. [/b]
etcetera - I have made this argument many times on this forum - you don't use just finger articulation or just arm weight and rotation - you use all three in varying degrees depending on the music you are playing. Being able to articulate with the fingers is just one skill required to play the piano - an essential one. In developing finger articulation it helps to isolate it from the arm movements. That is not to say that you do that always when you are playing (sometimes you do, though!).
Posted by: hotWings

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 04:21 PM

As a pianist, I don't define technique as the ability of playing "fast". The fact is that most people can play fast and most people have speedy fingers, it's just that the professionals know their pieces better than the amateurs do.
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 07:23 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JerryS88:
Jazzyprof - I thought a little further about what you said. While I maintain that my new title more accurately describes the content - content which has not changed - I understand your point that many of the posts here responded to the original title. The original title was inaccurate and elicited many responses thinking I was advocating the need to build finger strength - my fault. It happened when I originally posted the thread, and it started happening now that the thread has been resurrected. For that reason I am choosing to keep the new title. However, I have added a paragraph at the top of my first post in this thread explaining the change in title. I hope that will satisfy both the need to respect those who posted under the original title, and the need to correct my original poor and inaccurate title choice. [/b]
Not to give you a hard time or anything, but since this thread has been resurrected, I believe that a discussion of all these issues regarding finger strength, power, and speed is in order.

Your new title "Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH!" is also not quite accurate. You imply in the title and your comments that Power and Speed are essentially the same thing or that one leads to the other. Power is FORCE times SPEED so for the same power you can have a lot of force and little speed or a lot of speed and little force.

Sprinters need power because they are fighting gravity. They propel themselves by applying a mostly vertical force to the ground with their legs. The reaction force bounces them up and sustains them briefly above ground. The force times the rate at which this force is applied is the power. For a pianist, however, gravity is an ally not a foe. It helps us depress the keys as it pulls our arm down. We do not need much force to depress the keys hence the power requirements are minimal. In fact we achieve the greatest velocity by minimizing the distance through which the fingers move. You play fast by keeping the fingers close to the keys. Speed is obtained through the coordinated rapid downward motion of the fingers plus a sideways motion of the arm, aided by rotation.

To demonstrate that pianists don't need much POWER in order to obtain SPEED, let me pose this question: what is the fastest that one can play the sequence of notes CDEFG? The answer: infinite speed! You simply play the sequence as a chord, all notes in parallel. This same infinite speed is achieved whether you are a 2-year old baby or a 400lb weight-lifter. If you insist that the notes be heard separately, then the fastest you can play the sequence is limited by how fast you can wiggle your fingers or rotate your forearm. In my humble opinion, all of this has very little to do with power or strength.

Sprinters need strength and power to gain speed. Pianists gain speed by, well, playing fast! \:\)
Posted by: chihuahua

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 07:47 PM

Leon Bates is a concert pianist who also does body building; I have yet to hear him say that weights training helped his playing ;\)
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 09:11 PM

jazzyprof

thanks for your post!! you've managed to say what I was trying to say, except 10 times better \:\)

I totally agree with your point. Anyone can play very fast, the problem is that we lose control the faster we play. The solution is not to increase "power" but to find the most efficient arm/hand/finger movement that will allow you to play whatever passages you're having difficulty on.

We can all wiggle our fingers very fast, and with rotation you can play CDEFG even faster...anyone can play super-fast, but they will sound sloppy and uneven. The problem really isn't about speed, its about control.
Posted by: JerryS88

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/22/09 10:27 PM

Jazzyprof and etcetera - I don't have the time or energy to argue your points in detail right now, but I do want to mention that the example both of you provide, that of playing a sequence of five consecutive notes, is simply unrealistic. Of course one can easily play five consecutive notes with exceedingly fast speed relying mostly if not entirely on quick weight transference and rotation, but how much music is made up of groups of 5 consecutive notes? Real music changes directions in infinite combinations and puts us in situations where rotation and weight transference are near to or completely impossible. Additionally, we all know that our fourth finger is weaker than the rest. Relying on weight and rotation every time the 4th finger is played is a compromise solution that is problematic in my experience - it is not always possible, and often using just finger articulation allows for greater speed. Finally, if all we did at the piano was to drop our fingers (gravity) we would stop dead in our tracks as soon as we've played all five fingers unless they are lifted after they play. Relying solely on rotation to lift them forces us to play with rotation all the time, which means always involving movements of the forearm. My experience has shown me that lifting the fingers alone is far more efficient, which makes logical sense to me - it is far lighter to lift a single finger than it is to rotate the entire forearm. I know I am going to get blasted now for these comments, but these are my thoughts based on my long experience which includes a lot of weight and rotation training. I leave the last word to both of you - I've run out of steam for these discussions (I did not resurrect this thread).
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 12:42 AM

Jerry, I really dont know what to say, but to tell you perhaps it will help you to be better acquainted with the idea of rotation/arm weight, rather than arguing about it based on your interpretation of what those ideas mean

btw I decided to comment on this only because you mentioned this in the "Hanon ... it's not that bad !!" thread. In the thread You specifically said ", but if you really want to develop your technique in as efficient a way possible, I suggest you check out my comments regarding Hanon exercises in the middle of this thread".

I personally don't have problem with you sharing your experiences and your discoveries, but I do find it disconcerting that you are willing to suggest your method as if you were an authority on this subject. Your methods are not scientifically/academically proven nor is it a widely accepted method of learning. My biggest concern is that a less-informed beginning student might take what you say seriously and end up hurting themselves

Again, I don't have problem with you sharing us what you've discovered.. I do appreciate it, even though we may disagree on how helpful it is. But it would have made a big difference if you presented this information as your personal opinion/experience instead of preaching it like an authority on this subject matter.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 02:29 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
...then the fastest you can play the sequence is limited by how fast you can wiggle your fingers or rotate your forearm. In my humble opinion, all of this has very little to do with power or strength.
[/b]
So, you could keep this up for a lengthy period of time without fingers getting strained/tired?
Posted by: jazzyprof

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 02:58 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
...then the fastest you can play the sequence is limited by how fast you can wiggle your fingers or rotate your forearm. In my humble opinion, all of this has very little to do with power or strength.
[/b]
So, you could keep this up for a lengthy period of time without fingers getting strained/tired? [/b]
I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you talking about endurance and stamina? Again those have nothing to do with power and strength otherwise sprinters would routinely win marathons. In any case I would think the fingers are less likely to get strained/tired if aided by a relaxed arm.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 03:03 AM

doesn't that really depend on how you wiggle your fingers? how do you explain people who practice 7-10hrs a day without getting strained? did they develop an enormously strong muscle that can withstand that much practicing?

Some people play in such a way that you actually see fingers moving up and down to press the keys.. some people play in such a way that you barely see their fingers moving at all.

My teacher used to say that if your hands are getting tired from practicing then you're probably doing something wrong.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 04:01 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzyprof:
Are you talking about endurance and stamina? Again those have nothing to do with power and strength otherwise sprinters would routinely win marathons. In any case I would think the fingers are less likely to get strained/tired if aided by a relaxed arm. [/b]
Surely pianist with their hours of practice and 90 minute programs are closer to marathon runners than sprinters? So yes, maybe I'm talking about endurance and stamina.

 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:
My teacher used to say that if your hands are getting tired from practicing then you're probably doing something wrong. [/b]
That's interesting but simply not true.
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 04:52 AM

I think the whole comparison between pianists and atheletes are misleading.. how do you explain kids and 60 year olds playing Chopin etudes? how many 8 year old are physically fit enough to run a marathon?

If playing the piano requires that much endureance/power, than clearly adults will be in a advantage learning the piano, but that is simply not true, in fact, its often harder for beginning adults to learn how to play the piano than beginning children

Trumpet players can only practice for limited amount of time because of muscle fatigue.. Pianists on the other hand don't have that kind of limitation.. some ppl can practice 10 hrs a day with no problem.
Posted by: btb

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 04:54 AM

etc (his teacher) is quite right, O Pigeon-watcher ... what the guru is saying (to great applause from my corner) is AVOID TENSION ("something wrong") ... and thereby cancel out any weedy excuse of the hands getting tired from practising.

It is an interesting that "the Moment" often debilitates the performer ... whether caused by nervousness, sight-reading hang-ups, bad notes, lack of sleep, ill-health, lack of confidence, idealism ... and many other similar psychological bogies which pressure the mind to unnecessarily PULL ON BRAKES ... and shatter the flow.

What the teacher hasn’t told us is how to reach this ideal ... but at least has given etc a clue to free up the fingers ... and lighten up!!
Posted by: etcetra

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 05:23 AM

Btb,

interesting comment..My last teacher I had did change my way of thinking about the piano... he was really into getting rid of any unnecessary tension/force from the playing and find the most efficient way of playing.. the focus should always be doing less to do more.

It doesn't mean you don't need finger muscle at all but instead of making the machine stronger and perform faster, why not focus more on make the machine more efficient?
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 06:05 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:
I think the whole comparison between pianists and atheletes are misleading.. how do you explain kids and 60 year olds playing Chopin etudes? how many 8 year old are physically fit enough to run a marathon?


Trumpet players can only practice for limited amount of time because of muscle fatigue.. Pianists on the other hand don't have that kind of limitation.. some ppl can practice 10 hrs a day with no problem. [/b]
Show me some 8 years olds playing etudes with vigour. As for practicing 10 hrs a day, you are obviously not going to go full tilt all the time - and there's your answer.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 06:07 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by etcetra:

It doesn't mean you don't need finger muscle at all but instead of making the machine stronger and perform faster, why not focus more on make the machine more efficient? [/b]
Couldn't agree more, though why not do both?. I wouldn't listen to btb, he stays out in the sun far too long.
Posted by: btb

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 07:01 AM

Looking back over an eventful lifetime at those magical moments "when the act came together" ... in each case there was a sense of SUBLIME RELAXATION ... a mysterious super-confidence carried the day ... gone were all the negative vibes ... a moment to reach the stars.

During moments at sport, sketching, water-colours,piano playing, writing, architectural designing, problem-solving, etc ... there was a floating awareness of perfect timing ... with no conscious application of force.

Ease up on the brakes when you’re piloting a Ferrari ... use those horses you've got under the bonnet.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Building Finger SPEED (Power) - NOT STRENGTH! - 02/23/09 12:59 PM

What did I tell you about that mid-day sun on the veldt? Still you're quite right, let the body take care of it's business and the mind will be freed to observe.