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Craft of Piano  with Alan Fraser

CRAFT OF PIANO LESSONS:

 

ALWAYS MAINTAIN A SENSE OF THE
FINGER MANIPULATING THE KEY

 

 


This lesson now forms part of chapter 8 in Alan Fraser's Honing the Pianistic Self-Image.


Differentiate finger and arm to empower your piano technique

Always maintain a sense of the finger manipulating the key. We tend in octaves, chords, or even single notes to use the arm, the finger becoming merely transmitting tool for the arm’s force. This tends to eradicate all finger individuality, vastly reducing the possibility for tonal variety.

An aware looseness for a more sophisticated piano techniqueloose fingers for clearer bone connections, a more sophisticated piano technique

Thus the type of looseness we seek is not generic but extremely sophisticated, highly intentional. Maintain total looseness, yet ensure that in the moment of key manipulation the shock of contact is clearly felt through each bone of the finger. If you didn’t, chances are that your alignment is out somewhere. Thus immediately your potency is vastly reduced. The alignments must be maintained and remain floating. Floating has a strong tendency to disempower, to disalign, but we must be smarter than that. It takes a very high state of attention to monitor this – we are not used to functioning at this level of physic intensity.


When you find this, it is even possible to feel different parts of your upper arm musculature working to move your different fingers. The feeling of each finger as an individual whip can be felt all the way to the shoulder!

Relax only to better activate - for a potent piano technique

Because, of course, muscular activity is needed to move your finger! That’s the other big mistake – to be loose and then not to activate. Disaster! Butter fingers! Overcooked spaghetti! Actually, when you stay loose but maintain the power to stay in alignment, you will have a tremendous feeling of fullness in your hand: looseness does not equal emptiness. The purpose of looseness is to facilitate lightning-quick finger attacks, and the impulse for these is muscular.

Basically, the quicker, smaller and more precise the attack, the better the tone. Get that key down quick, even in pp, there’ll be no time for your parasitic movement tendencies to mess things up. The intention to make a precise movement with maximum speed focuses your attention, makes it razor-sharp. You can avoid many of the errors of the relaxation school – there’s no time for all those errors to occur when you zip that key down with a lightning flick of the fingertip.

Keep the fingers moving in octaves for a more fully differentiated piano technique

Always maintain a sense of the finger manipulating the key. Especially in octaves.

mash hand, curl finger for a differentiated piano techniqueStep 1: Lay your thumb and fifth finger in the keys of an octave, or a smaller interval for smaller hands, and curl and uncurl your fifth fingertip while holding on to that key. Your fingertip will slide around on the key surface a bit. Do you see how much mobility your finger can have, even when it is extended to play a large interval?

Step 2: Try the same with your thumb. Notice that it too has good mobility possibilities, even if these are more localized in the distal phalange….

Step 3: Try curling and sliding both at once. Can you sense the internal action in your hand, forearm and upper arm even though there is no external movement of these parts? This is good – you are teaching your muscles the feeling of what they should be doing while playing octaves on the fly. This is that feeling of fullness.

Your arm may indeed move in octave playing. But make your arm’s movement accessory to the action fundamental to all piano playing: that of an individuated finger manipulating a key. The benefits are incalculable!

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