Piano Technique

Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 11:32 pm
I'd like to know the best way of learning, teaching piano playing technique? I have got various answers to this from different people like.. some say that it is all about continuous practice to develop strength in your fingers, while some others say its just the patterns of finger movements the brain has to learn and so on.. Can somebody say how to rate my technique? If I can play really fast, do I have a better technique than somebody who can't?
Reply Fri 6 Mar, 2009 12:53 am
some say that it is all about continuous practice to develop strength in your fingers, while some others say its just the patterns of finger movements the brain has to learn and so on..

There's certainly no reason why it can't be both of those things, and more.

If I can play really fast, do I have a better technique than somebody who can't?

Not necessarily. Technique has less to do with how fast you can play than with how easily and efficiently, in terms of hand- and finger-muscle, you can play. You can have the fastest fingers in the world, but if you're using unnecessary muscle movements to do it, then you don't have better technique than someone who can play slower but with less muscle. A truer test of technique would be endurance, not quickness. Pianists with good technique can play quick passages for long stretches of time without tiring their hands. Pianists with bad technique who play for long stretches of time can severely damage their arms. I have a friend who didn't catch his bad technique until it was too late: his forearms swelled to the size of loaves of bread and he basically had to wear metal braces around his arms for almost a year.
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Reply Fri 6 Mar, 2009 09:38 am
Piano technique is part finger speed, part lower-arm speed (for jumps and octave passages), part coordination, timing and control. On top of that, the most important part is to do command these skills without ruining the muscles, tendons and joints in your hands and your lower arms.

How to learn these things? From a good piano teacher, as judged by how his or her students play. If you're asking about technique-building pieces, I'd go with Chopin. Start with some easy waltzes or mazurkas, then work your way up through the nocturnes and preludes to the etudes. I have no idea why Chopin has such a good effect on the technique -- but he does.
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Reply Fri 6 Mar, 2009 10:18 am
Echoing what the others have said, there are 'naturals' who just play piano effortlessly without formal instruction. But a good piano teacher, at least for awhile, is highly recommended to ensure that bad habits are not developed as these can be extremely difficult to break.

For the less experienced student, Clementi sonatinas, with their myriad scales and repetitious patterns, are pleasant and excellent for building both technique and endurance.
Reply Sat 7 Mar, 2009 01:41 pm
Yes, it's important to find a good teacher who recognizes the individuality of a performer's body but who can also recognize when something just isn't working and who can figure out how to fix it. One of my teachers used to caution me that one of the worst ways to mold one's technique is to emulate other pianists. It's risky business because some pianists, because of the make-up of their body, are able to do things that just wouldn't work with other pianists. His primary example was Vladimir Horowitz, an indisputable giant of the twentieth century who violates just about every basic rule of technique and posture that piano students are taught: he sits low, close, hunched over, and with flat hands. And yet it works for him. I have cellist friends who make similar complaints about Yo-Yo Ma... great sound, awful posture.
Reply Sat 7 Mar, 2009 01:50 pm
I had forgotten about Horowitz but you're right. He's not somebody most teachers would use for an example. Smile

The other thing is that the size of one's hands also affects technique. Chopin, for instance, must have had very large hands because his compositions are much easier for people with large hands to play. My sister (master's degree in voice and piano) specialized in Chopin when she was in college because she really likes his stuff, but her hands are fairly small and she had to learn to compensate for that. My son, also an enthusiast as well as part time piano teacher, has very large hands and its a whole different ballgame for him.

And me? Lots of love for music and much appreciation, but little aptitude for piano I fear. I taught both my kids until they passed me at a fairly early stage, and then turned them over to teachers who knew their stuff.
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