Playing Octaves - Relaxed?

Posted by: Piano World

Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 11:12 AM

I'm sure playing octaves has been discussed before, but I couldn't find the answers doing a search.

There is a fun old Billy Joel piece I like to play at parties, called Root Beer Rag.

(You can see/hear Billy play it hear)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VB1_aZ-Psk

I can get through the piece ok, although admittedly not as well as he can :-)

But...
I find my wrist tightening up on the octaves.

Suggestions for how to loosen up my wrist when playing octaves?

Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 11:37 AM

Try playing them very slowly, allowing your hand to relax back to normal in between each octave. Also make sure your wrist mobile. Continue this slowly until you can do it easily, then gradually increase the speed (use of a metronome can help). As it gets faster, your movements will be less exaggerated, but the feeling should remain the same.
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 12:29 PM

Oh, just do it like Lisitsa in the Rach prelude in G minor.

.
.

Prelude in G Minor

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.
.
\:D


A little more seriously, my son was recently taught exercises to essentially drop in to the octaves so that the weight of the arm is doing the work. The wrist is just a hinge, and in fact he is supposed to be able to bounce a little on drop in so that the wrist doesn't tighten. It worked for him on that piece.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 01:13 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Try playing them very slowly, allowing your hand to relax back to normal in between each octave. Also make sure your wrist mobile. Continue this slowly until you can do it easily, then gradually increase the speed (use of a metronome can help). As it gets faster, your movements will be less exaggerated, but the feeling should remain the same. [/b]
Thanks Morodiene,

As an old rock musician I tend to try to play evertything too fast. I'll try slowing it down.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 01:18 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
Oh, just do it like Lisitsa in the Rach prelude in G minor.

.
.

Prelude in G Minor

.
.
.
\:D


A little more seriously, my son was recently taught exercises to essentially drop in to the octaves so that the weight of the arm is doing the work. The wrist is just a hinge, and in fact he is supposed to be able to bounce a little on drop in so that the wrist doesn't tighten. It worked for him on that piece. [/b]
Nice performance, and I like her prom dress :-)

So, are you saying the wrist should be stiff, and the arm doing most of the work, or is it a combination?
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 04:19 PM

Stiff? Oh no. Flexible.

I'm not a piano teacher, and I don't want to get arrested for practicing the art without a license! ( \:D )

I'm just relaying what I observed at lessons devoted specifically to the relaxed playing of very fast moving chords and octaves. The first thing she had him learn was just 'dropping in.' She had him put his completely relaxed hand six or eight inches above the keys and just drop into the keys. At first, she didn't much care what notes he dropped on ... a sixth, a fifth, heck, a seventh would do! She wanted to see two things. First, as he made contact with the keys she wanted a slight grabbing of the keys from the side. That allows control. Secondly, she wanted his wrist loose enough so that when he made contact his wrist would bounce a bit, i.e. the wrist shouldn't be stiff and rigid as you are playing the moving chords or octaves.

cheers,


Oh, here's his version of the same piece after training:

Prelude in G Minor

Not all the tension is gone. Developing relaxed playing is a multi-year task.


P.S. One of MY favorite Joel tunes is another piano killer .... Angry Young Man. That piece has an entirely different set of technical challenges.
Posted by: Jim Frazee

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 04:44 PM

Frank,

Try this: put your hand, all fingers down, on a desk, table, piano, whatever. Now, move your wrists up and down in a "wave" motion, roughly 3" to 4", top to bottom, per wave. Let your wrists just bounce up and down until it feels comfortable. You will notice that the strongest part of the wave is at the bottom and the lightest part is at the top. Now, take that same technique to the piano, up/down, up/down, up/down, slowly at first then a little faster, then, ultimately, (meaning after a week or so) up to tempo. Never let tension into your arm or wrist - you can play octaves without tension or pain for hours. If you want more help, contact me off line.
Posted by: Piano World

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/07/08 06:02 PM

Thanks Jim (and Piano*Dad),

One of the problems of being essentially self-taught is I've managed to develop bad habits, and my own way of doing things.

Now that I'm in my middle age years (or is it I was born in the middle ages?), I've finally realized I should clean up my playing.

Suggestions are much appreciated.

Best,

Frank B.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/08/08 12:16 AM

For the page you posted, practice the inside and the outside. Play the octave without the middle note, and practice the middle note without the octave.

When you practice the middle note by itself, be sure you use a knocking motion.

Also, pull the hand up a little higher than normal while you're practicing slowly. You want to train your "pickup" muscles. With both the wrists and the fingers, I've found that many people are very good at the "down," but not as good at the "up."

Another common octave culprit is the thumb. Practice the thumb notes by themselves, being sure to play it on the corner (not the knuckle) and with a light touch.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/08/08 09:36 AM

Frank,
It's good that you are working on pieces that challenge your technical abilities. I was self-taught for about 10 years after 10 years of piano lessons, and did pretty much the same thing. However, I did get to a point where I felt I couldn't progress without the guidance of a teacher. I'd recommend it, just because it's so much easier to have someone watch you and get feedback and watch them do it correctly. Just a thought \:\)
Posted by: Minaku

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/08/08 10:04 AM

I wanted to chime in with a comment for Piano*Dad's Youtube video. Since Valentina plays the prelude more quickly, she ends up having to utilize a technique called double bouncing (and sometimes triple bouncing) where the chord is performed as normal, with the wrist used as a shock absorber, except that one movement turns into two or three bounces.

In addition to the slow practice, I'd suggest creating a warm-up exercise for this piece for both hands. Do a chromatic scale in octaves with the minor sixth, ascending and descending, for two octaves. Start slowly, telling yourself to relax between each chord and to allow the momentum to transfer fully into the keybed. Speed it up once you feel you're able to play the exercise without undue amounts of tension.
Posted by: MasterofHarmony

Re: Playing Octaves - Relaxed? - 07/08/08 02:24 PM

how can we play the detached notes on left hand in measure 6.Some teachers says detached notes must be played non legato some teacher says detasced notes can be play two ways legato or non legato