Manual aspects of technique of playing the piano; analyzing these drawings that teach you would surely get better understanding of the way ENERGY could most easily flow inside of the acting pianists' hands.
Motto: "First the image (i.e. the meaning, content, expression, the What-is About). Second tone in time (the embodiment, the materialization of the image). And, finally technique as a whole, as a sum total of all means essential for solving the artistic problem of piano playing as such, i.e. mastery of the muscular movements of the performer and of the mechanism of the instrument. This is my general pattern of the study."
Harry Neuhaus (1888 - 1964)
Looking for better comprehension of 'manual aspects of playing the piano', one should not interpret hands' dexterity as something that could be trained in isolation from general-musical abilities and be understood in the purely physiological categories! Everything physically done doubtlessly depends on our mental and emotional dispositions, too; any physical action should be seen yet as the result of action of the truly diversified factors, which belong as well to corporeal, as to the virtual, mental part of our mind & body entirety.
Indeed, very many complicated psychophysical factors are conditioning the pace of our progress in music. We do not know much enough about many of them. Moreover, recognizing them, but especially understanding the way, into which they are functioning, surely would considerably increase our effectiveness in the piano studies. That is why the awareness of what we really want to express must have a decisive effect on choice of the technical solutions, which should be used for realization of any musical idea.
One should be informed yet that the piano is a machine, which will very straightly TRANSMIT OUTSIDE everything what might be present as conscious AND subconscious content of his/her thoughts, feelings and emotions in this moment, in which he/she might decide to press on any key of the instrument. Immediately and entirely together with the sound gotten one way or the other (the piano is used to "accept" everything) such musically vivid or "sleepy" content would be definitely transmit to persons who just are listening to this performance; the first one of course is the pianist himself. The artistic quality of the pianist's thought and emotion, their artistry or pointlessness everything, completely everything what the pianist consciously and unconsciously would pack into "interiors of the sound" will actually be revealed by the piano tone including all the most particular details. Machines are ruthless, also definitely sincere; and no excuses will be given! Chopin and Neuhaus, I suppose, knew very well how it could happen, and it is only a pity that so little about such really important matter they have written clearly enough...
Problem: the musical performing is the art of creating the entirely MEANINGFUL SOUNDS smoothly "carried forward" in and by the time that always is passing ahead; indeed such process could not been realized in any other environment as inside of the musically talented human being's mind. Thinking about basic aspects of the piano technical schooling, we habitually do not comprehend how powerful impact of the vigorous experiencing of TIME could be used in the entire process. For instance, in my opinion, without adequate understanding of the MUSICAL TIME'S properties, the artistically acceptable performing of (so important to Chopin) "short and long sounds" would actually be nearly impossible.
As well apart from the active INTONATION the real art of the piano playing, factually, could not be developed at all. According to the Russian (let us remember Prof. Neuhaus' standing) piano teaching methodology, INTONATION could be described as a way of the musical thinking that does NOT concerns "the notes themselves, but what occurs between them", it "presides in the realm of innuendo and bridges the gap between music and language, between artistic expression and social conventions." It works "much like neurons in the brain" and "duplicates those sinuous structures; it is a synaptic process that telegraphs meaning across distance." All these quotations above have been taken from the paper presented at the World Piano Pedagogy Conference in Fort Worth, Texas at October 22, 1998 by Mr. John Bell Young.
Question: whether this way of thinking about the most secret and as well most fundamental aspects of the piano art is just your way, Dear Visitor, too?
Here you are the 11 samples that display WHAT and HOW could take place inside of the pianists' hands when they are co-operated with the piano keyboard [practicing and/or playing this instrument]. All of the samples interpret the problem seeing it from such point of view as it has been explained above.
The first sample:
All parts of the hand actively participate in playing the piano: A - shoulder, B - elbow, C - wrist, D - fingers.
Activity of these parts should be managed in accordance with needs of any particular situation; consequently fingers are the most active elements of a system.
Prof. J-J. Eigeldinger wrote, "In Chopin's playing, the fingers activate the whole arm...".
Very well! But, additionally, one ought to become informed HOW it could be possible to rationally DIVIDE the roles and "competencies" among all the acting parts of the hands; it should be very clear that no one part of the hand may stay inactive in playing. It means too that the famous relaxation cannot be interpreting as any kind of passivity!
The second sample:
The most frequent errors in the usage of energy in playing the piano...
Such errors occur if shoulder, elbow, arm or wrist becomes used as the main source of power in playing the piano. That manner must cause real difficulties in playing because:
The hand, if starts to enforce the fingers TOWARD the keyboard, will persistently "provoke" the pianist to use the muscles' power as the sole source of energy. Consequently, in that situation the muscles would actually be forced NOT ONLY to hold the full weight of hands in the air, but in the same time to move the fingers and that is why a feeling of physical discomfort and/or even of the real pain would appear in a very short time as the first concrete result of the work.
The action should be managed just inversely: the greater (upper) parts of the hand between shoulder and wrist must purposefully act as the real and powerful support for fingers. Consequently, the upper parts of the hand must act as a [virtual] bow that would directs the player's energy to the side, musical development of the phrase would actually go in. Such 'bow' should factually TAKE OFF all the WEIGHT that might be useless one in any particular situation. Only in case we need the full fortissimo, we need to use nearly whole available hand's weight and energy.
The "Rostropovich's gesture" fits the situation very well let you have a look at the photo below:
Once again: any UNNECESSARY extra load or pressure would cause the physical troubles to the fingers. Still of course: sometimes even very much POWER must be put into the play...!
Seeing the problem from another point of view: sometimes the pianist just actually MUST use his shoulders, elbows, arms or even wrists as the main source of power when playing the piano. Let us agree yet, the artistic INTENTION [purpose, goal] should decide, which part of the hand should be used in seeking for the most clear implementation of the each one musical idea; sincerity of our artistic "answers" given to the composer's artistic "questions" must be identify as the actually most important thing in shaping of any particular phrase, sentence and the entire Form. I know, it is not easy to clarify in words... Maybe, after watching these both musical illustrations below one could better understand, which kind of thinking does actually exist in my mind...
- Musical (video) illustration No 1, and...
- Musical (video) illustration No 2; let you, please, go to the fragment that would start about 3' 30" after beginning. Thank you!
The third sample:
Necessity of "sawing-like" (pumping-like) motions...
If the shoulder, elbow, arm or wrist would be used as the main source of energy in origination of the sound, the fingers' own energy becomes useless and would cause likely unpleasant physical feelings in the hands. This manner (look at the picture above!) generates necessity to the "sawing-like" (pumping-like) motions, which consequently become the sole imaginable solution in such uncomfortable situation (knocking on the keys...).
As well, if the pianist might like to use the fingers as the strictly independent mechanism, the result would be of the exactly poor kind, too. Having no possibility to get any bit of help from upper parts of the hand, the fingers will quickly experience very confusing effect: the keyboard becomes "heavy", difficult to manage, just hostile...
Of course, such playing manners must produce the sound of a defective kind, the wooden one. This unhappy events would occur because fingers, acting in any of just described ways, must work using the up & down directions only and being as well SEPARATED from the help, which could be given by the upper parts of a hand. Additionally, the sounds that would not have no PAST nor FUTURE virtual extension in the pianist's imagination, consequently would not possess any artistic value and will represent the truly non-singing character.
The fourth sample:
The most common "solution": hyperactive fingers are bombing the keys...
This extremely "unmusical" manner apparently comes as result of the very simplified deduction: once the keys definitely MUST be pressed down and once the pianists sometimes need a very powerful sound...
That is why many tutors are used to begin the entire piano technical schooling just from that point. Fingers are habitually forced to rise as high as possible and to strongly attack the keys. Sometimes the tutors would not like to attack the keys "from the air" (hammering), thus in such a case fingers become trained to act using very rapid "pressing" on the keys, realizing it in state of persistent contact with the surface of a keyboard.
These both solutions are nearly irrational: they factually ISOLATE the physical acting from musical entirety of the piece; the fingers' action starts to become The Value in and per itself. The pianist, having NO ONE possibility to become liberated from any possible kind of the physical stress in the hands, factually is about to lose a possibility to become interested in any higher, artistically involved activity.
Fingers' ENERGY, being aggressively directed straightly DOWN into the keyboard's bottom, would continually disappear somewhere in the keyboard's depths and its, such intemperate output must cause physical exhaustion of the muscles. At the last end the acting of that kind should be seen as the very substantial SOURCE of many injuries, stresses and fears, because separating the pianist from possibility to harmonious realization of the MUSICAL duties, such "bombing" or "pressing" additionally must cause a feeling of absurdity, psychical discomfort, irritation etc.
Normally, the fingers' power and agility IF the whole piano education is being realized just RATIONALLY, and IF the student possesses even very mediocre musicality is the last question that might cause any greater pedagogic troubles. The problem is mainly provoked by inexperienced tutors and/or by highly ambitious but not enough diligent or musically gifted students, who are used to expect TOO MUCH from their fingers only, having still rather less musical resources, which might guarantee their instrumental progress in general.
At the last end we should bring to light the one, simple and easily understandable aspect of the matter that unfortunately very rarely comes to light when pianists are starting to discuss the problems concerning methods of playing the piano. The EACH ONE of these all misfortunate practical solutions described above, COULD BE SEEN as the truly good! It might still solely happened if the pianist would like to very precisely examine the CORRELATION between completed physical MOTION, realized by the fingers in their perfect co-operation with the upper parts of a hand and a sounding EFFECT of that motion. However, not the EXTERNAL forms of a way the hands are moving in, make the distinction between Masters and Non-masters, but the strictly INTERNAL, invisible processes that factually decide the quality of any thinkable kind of our corporeal activity. Let you, please, compare again a content of this paragraph with the content of the second presentation of the Subject, which is available here. Thank you!
Possessing even mediocre musicality, but wanting to preserve oneself from any physical injury as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, etc, etc., one can do it ONLY via persistent tries to produce NOT "artistically overloaded" sound that must come from the "physically overloaded" fingers and hands. Let us be truly precise indeed: "physically overloaded" cannot mean physically "underloaded"...!
If ones ambitions to WIN the physical Nature of ones hands are stronger than ambitions to display the very Nature of played music, one surely could be forced to asked for the doctor's help and it could happen sooner than he/she could be able to imagine today.
- Musical (video) illustration No 3. Welcome!
The fifth sample:
The optimal solution...
Stream of energy continuously flows to and through the right Zone (look at the samples 6 and 7, too) of the proper keyboard depths' level and is being directed to the side the musical progress is going on. The tendency to steer fingers' motions a little bit backwards and, simultaneously, to guide the whole hand to the side that accurately corresponds with the musical progress (left & up or right & up) brings greater easiness to the action. Especially if connected with famous portamento (let you look up the V. Horowitz's explanations in the D. Dubal's book), this technique offers possibility to almost endless fingers' activity without any physical fatigue. It is worth to maintain that such spiral-like motions fully correspond with motions suggesting by the famous Alexander-technique; seemingly "thoughts for wisdom and truth and the perfection of our soul" represent the same nature; from the ancient India and TAO up to our times.
Famous Russian piano teacher, A. S. Essipova (former student of Leszetycki), wrote about necessity to focus the finger's energy at the correct point. As I see, such static elements as the POINT is, should be replaced by the Zone that gives possibility to act [move] inside of it; if somebody wants to find such elements yet, he/she firstly must be able to imagine them...
One could ask: "OK, the Zone is the desired place. But what should happen when the fingers' energy just actually is situated herein?"
This is the very essential question! Once the battle is won, something MUST happen 'after', too! It should be very clear to us all that 'after' the pianists should act in the similar way as commonly the string and wind instrumentalists or the singers do. They all, due to their instruments' nature, MUST persistently CREATE (actively produce) THE SOUND. The similar attainment would bring the real NATURALITY to playing the piano and greatly help the pianists to focus their attention on truly generous sound-making. Persistent and firm interest toward the quality of actually producing sound, including its all possible intellectually and emotionally SIGNIFICANT BACKGROUNDS, is the most difficult skill the piano students must obtain if they would like to achieve artistically higher levels in the piano art.
The pianists then should be able to:
1. Activate the VISION of the 'arriving SOUND' in their imagination (anticipate it), and...
2. Consciously 'fulfill the SOUNDS' with artistically exciting (beautiful, attractive, vivid, etc) CONTENT.
Due to always and everywhere active emotional resonance [you surely know this text], the implementation of these points could quite easily improve our instrumental technique, which consequently becomes much more VALUABLE to ourselves as well, as to our eventual listeners. These points, maintained above, should be noticed as the practical implementation of one of the Chopin's definitions of music: the sounds if separated from their mental and/or emotional backgrounds must be identify as something EMPTY and be perceived as an event that virtually SPEEKS NOTHING.
The sixth example: Five Great Bonuses
The fully integrated System... - all the elements of any system must act harmoniously; this is the indisputably truthful fact.
Firstly: the pianists' hands cannot properly work being persistently compelled to fight against the force of gravitation. They should act taking constantly advantage of THIS indispensably greater help. Getting such benefit, the fingers' action would not longer be focused on fighting against the resistance power of the keys. Reversibly, the fingers BECOME ABLE to start theirs very fruitful co-operation with the keys. The most natural manner of the pianists' work then, should be defined as the motion, which "employs" the hands' and fingers' LIBERATED still STRONGLY CONTROLLED weight (Godowski) and their [fingers' own] liveliness as the real source of the sounds-creative power. As well, the activity of fingers, which should been STRONGLY INTEGRATED with the whole hand and the pianist's corpus, should be seen as the greater benefit that actually will help in transferring the hands' energy to the proper Zones of the keyboard's depths.
Of course, being above all PHYSICALLY FOCUSED on transmitting the entire system's power to the ARTICTICALLY proper ZONE in the keyboard's depths, the fingers must actually be guided by the "virtual bow" (the entire upper parts of the hand forms it), but firstly they must be guided by the pianist's artistic imagination and hearing. This is the MOST RATIONAL SOLUTION, which finally connects physical side of the action with its mental and emotional backgrounds.
- Musical (video) illustration No 4; let you, please, pay your attention on the soloist's DIRECT connection with the SOUND. Such kind of being involved in the real music making is as well possible on the piano. Let you believe me, please! Thank you!
Just from the Chopin's era the piano teachers started, however with greater "carefulness", to think about necessity to understand the technique of playing the piano as the physical process that totally depends yet on intellectual and emotional procedures, which must FORMERLY happen in the pianist's mind...
- Musical (video) illustration No 5; let you, please, go to the fragment that would start about 3' 40" after beginning. Thank you!
Seeing traditional methods of the piano technical training from the Chopin's point of view, one may say that many of them are analogous to incompetent tries to teach the handicapped child writing by strengthening its fingers. In any case, coming back to our filed, the fingers are NOT ABLE to decide WHAT is ARTISTICALLY proper or not; such kind of work transparently belongs to the human's mind! Moreover, not the BODY creates artistic values in playing the piano so, having the BODY in center of our attention, we focus it on truly secondary aspects of the entire matter.
Handicapped child's hand cannot properly write NOT BECAUSE it is physically not prepared to writing, but because its MIND is UNABLE to produce and operate the adequate IMAGES. In the same way, we have to interpret the question of manual aspects of the piano technical training. Fingers become weak NOT because they are PHYSICALLY limited, but because they are getting too weak (uncertain) SIGNALS from the pianist's mind. Only they, who were advantaged by possibility to observe HOW very less talented students of the piano uses all their potencies to perform even some sounds on the piano PROPERLY, are able to definitely understand: HOW the whole piano-instrumental complex is being constructed, HOW it really works and HOW it should adequately be managed in teaching.
Well, being the most mobile parts of the body, hands can simultaneously move in various directions; such mobility greatly stabilizes the fingers' action. It actually happens by real steering the fingers' motion to directions, which would harmonize with directions of the musical progress of Form; the acting of that kind must be realized likely habitually, always and everywhere.
Practically using the Five Great Bonuses, which definitely support the whole technique of playing the piano, one becomes able to manage the physical part of his/her playing in the truly easy and professional way. The Bonuses could be characterized as below:
A: the weight, power and agility of the each particular finger.
B: the weight, power and agility of the palm (must include bonus A).
C: the weight, power and agility of the forearm (must include bonuses A and B).
D: the weight, power and agility of the whole arm (must include bonuses A, B and C).
E: a real "bowing" realized by the acting hands (must include bonuses A, B, C and D).
The Chopin's-like approach to question of forming the manual aspects of piano technique has been very clearly defined by Maestro Leopold Godowsky, who described the main physical procedure of the piano playing as follows: "a free fall of the mobile mass". Carrying this simple formula to generations that will play the piano in the XXI Century and trying to make the whole thing as transparent as possible, I still would like to divide this famous Godowski's explication into more precise parts and enriched it by the notion of the "powerful virtual bow".
Many masters of the past, including Chopin, saw the distinctive nature of singing and/or playing the string instruments as the incredibly beneficial pattern to the pianists. In my opinion, these golden bits of advice should never be forgotten! All of my generalizations and conclusions strictly follow this path.
Godowsky's opinion, however, enlightens the very basic essence of the matter, only. In fact, and that could be discerned for instance at the video films, which are leading all 'the musical illustration' links to, the pianists must accurately manage the freely falling weight of the "mobile mass". But as well the weight of the hand, as fingers' energy should be appropriately slowed down and nearly stopped on the appropriate depth of the keyboard, and this, especially in the faster tempos, must happen in less then nanosecond long time... I would like to strongly underline the word, 'NEARLY' [nearly stopped] because factually nothing may be stopped at all. "Play must go on" up to the last taken sound or even some seconds longer, and its physical side should be understood as a persistent flow of events having the definitely wavy character, even in the extremely fast tempo. Let us come for a while to the Godowsky's comment a propos the "free fall of the mobile mass". As you could detect watching the video clips linked to this text, the pianists are used to take advantage of this way and do it quite often. In my opinion yet, what apparently seems to be the fully "free fall", factually is the perfectly controlled occurrence. The less talented pianists possess a reduced amount of capacity to adjust the motions of their hands then they, who are more talented, up to they of the genius dimension, who are able to use their hands having the nearly 100% corporal freedom. I strongly believe that the actual Godowsky's own feelings provoked him to express this idea in that way; being the piano genius, he doubtlessly felt himself truly free. The mental and physical aspects of the pianists' SELF-CONTROL become more visible in performances given by the fewer gifted piano players. In certain cases, it could be experienced as a kind of psychophysical stiffness, inflexibility or simply greater stress.
- Musical (video) illustration No 6. Let you, please, focus your attention on upper parts of the pianist's acting hands, too. Thank you!
The seventh sample: Five Great Obstacles
Upper parts of the hand should firmly support the fingers' action - steering theirs motions to the side (up or down, which physically means here: left or right), always in accordance with direction of the musical progress that happens hereby in every motive, phrase, etc. Factually, these "hidden bows" (in the left and in the right hand) decide the instrumental easiness of playing: less bow = less instrumental comfort; it should however be clear that "too much bow" might cause as bad consequences as "too less" too! "Bowing" in fact just helps to take off the unnecessary WEIGHT; the unnecessary pressure overburdens the fingers only.
The technical capacities of fingers and hands depend of the proper usage of A, B, C, D and E bonuses. In case their help could not be fully applied, so if one uses the shoulder, elbow, arm or wrist as the straight source of the physical power in origination of a sound, all these Great Bonuses could change theirs nature EVEN into The Five Great Obstacles! If such happens, THE FINGERS would not be able to activate the arm, they quickly become overburdened by the weight of all upper parts of the hand that starts to compel fingers to pressing on the keys. The unemployed arm will quickly cause the "sawing-like" (pumping-like) motions or another one of the similarly poor kind; the fingers' energy becomes throwing down to the uncontrollable levels of the keyboard's depths and "the dull knocking on the keys..." begins again.
"All technique originates in the art of touch and returns to it" the both greatest piano giants in the whole history of the piano, Chopin and Liszt, have used to express the exactly this opinion. Therefore, every pianist who firmly wants to improve his instrumental technique should start practically use that wisdom in his work. One ought to BE SURE, that all THIS that happens inside of his hands, begins in his FANTASY and in his INTERNAL, ANTICIPATIVE hearing, which if would not work properly enough, they will cause the adequately poor final effects. Moreover, the pianist's thoughts and understandings, ideas and visions always FACTUALLY determine the quality of any muscular motion and that is why all the VIRTUAL side of playing the piano must become the real point of interest, especially in the professionally oriented teaching and playing the piano.
Nobody could improve ones technique starting from fingers and hands! The proper way begins from definitely another point; let you have a look at the Motto, please! Besides, the anatomic and physiologic features of each one pianist's hands differentiate him from the other pianists as apparently, as his others likings and habits make him different as the particular human being. That is why the each one pianist must use his fingers and hands in, if even a little bit, still different way than does it the another one. It means, what is very good to you, not obviously must be fine to me. Moreover, that is why again each one pianist must look for the best, just to him, piano instrumental solutions with the truly greater determination. Only the sounding results' quality should decide if the used technical habit was actually the excellent one.
One could ask if it is even possible to create the one and sole, eternally well-working Method of the piano then? My answer is: it depends on HOW we would like to understood this notion [a method]... If we understand it as something of the deeply sophisticated character, combined from very many very precise and concrete instructions related to very many strictly detailed instrumental circumstances I must say, NOT! Such kind of a method could not even be taken into consideration. It would be as unpractical and unnecessary as a catechism in 21 parts, each one the 999 pages large. Nevertheless, if we would like to understand the method as several the generally shaped paragraphs, my answer surely is, YES!
Look at the Chopin's Method and look at the Neuhaus' unforgettable Art of the Piano Playing! Independent artistic creativity + proper management of fingers & hands; culture, erudition, healthy feeling of humor, soft version of workaholic approach to the piano.
Well, thinking about proper "management of fingers & hands", openly said, we must decide the direction firstly:
- We rather would like to press on the keys or beat down on them using the powers of our musculature, or maybe...
- We would rather prefer to try to use gravitation as the main supporter of our work and try to find out any solution built on the co-operative basis?
What is your choose?
The eighth sample:
A. Dynamic levels of the sound and...
B. Relative Zones hidden in the keyboard's bottom.
In the depths of the keyboard (diagram B), one could found the endless amount of levels being able to 'produce' endless amount of the sounds' values. Factually, majority of them is "located" quite deeply: to detect them one must use the professionally trained ANTICIPATIVE hearing. The object (the adequate quality of the sound) could be found only in case, the player formerly created the virtual pattern, a vision of the needed sound that could be compared with the physically realized tone. If such PATTERN would not be created, any correction could practically NOT be realized.
As a rule, because in the traditional piano schooling this very specific piano technical problem is not taken into consideration at all, the young pianists must study the solfège focusing theirs attention on the same aspects of hearing as the other students do. The proper intonation in the purely acoustic meaning of word CANNOT be the basic point to the piano students yet! The pianists' hearing should be based on the different soil. Pianists, due to particular mechanical disposition of the piano keyboard, have to be trained in the artistically valuable intonating of the virtually imagined sounds because just such skill, primarily, would give them the guarantee of professionally high quality in playing. Due to powerful impact of the emotional resonance, piano playing deprived of its mental and emotional backgrounds doubtlessly would always be perceived as artistically empty, trivial one, etc. Additional bits of information related to this question could be found here. Thank you!
- Musical (video) illustration No 7. What about this sample?
The ninth sample:
Chopin said, "The intonation of the piano belongs to the piano tuners". Therefore, just for pianists, harmonious schooling in anticipative hearing, which should especially be focused on dynamic & coloristic aspects of the piano sound, should be situated at the very honorable place in theirs solfège as well, as in the whole piano instrumental education.
B. Zones, hidden in depths of the keyboard's bottom.
A. Dynamic values of the sound.
Diagram A presents some zones from theirs about limitless dynamic range factually, they form the sounding equivalencies to zones being "hidden" in the keyboard's depths. These both Zones of physical feeling in the pianist's fingers and of the sounds' quality, their identification and practical use of them should become the main area of interest in professionally oriented piano education.
Of course, this nearly theoretical part of the matter could not be used in the everyday practice in any dry or formal way. Seeking for artistically valuable results, the experienced tutor would surely like to inform the students (the children too) of all the theoretical aspects and elements of the matter. Still working on the particular pieces he should doubtlessly use the colorful, metaphorical language that could activate the students' fantasy and build strong connections to the real life via manifold associations, humorous comparisons etc, etc.
This kind of work should be based on the very firm piano instrumental knowledge yet, which must include clear understanding related to material aspects of the thing in the similar way as it happens in engineering, IT, psychology or medicine.
Chopin said in his Sketches to the Method that, "In this immensity of sounds we should find a region in which the vibrations are more easily perceptible to us". This great idea determines the direction our searches for the best piano technical solution should be guided in.
The tenth sample:
On this diagram one can see how, commonly, piano disciples are listening to the piano sound produced by themselves: the green line shows the real time of the realized sound (note), the red one shows the time they really control the quality of the actually played sound in.
The whole thing begins from the one sound. One ought to imagine its motion (the development that happens in the real time) and virtually carry on this moving image in ones fantasy; synchronically listening to the real sound in its whole duration one should virtually SUPPORT its growth. At the end one should try to "round" it so, that its "postscript" would not produce the psychologically negative "remembrance", disappearing somewhere in depths of ones mind; it should virtually be directed upwards. As well the hands' energy that is used in playing should be rounded and directed upwards, too. It will cause the psychologically positive associations if energy would not disappear somewhere in depths of the keyboard, but will consciously be "returned to heaven". Such habit MUST truly positively affect the quality of realizing motives, phrases and at the last end of the whole Form.
Exactly, in the same way our eyes observe the moving object, our hearing should observe the sounding tone. Or even more, it should support it, offering the virtual power that would give it as much energy as possible... Otherwise, internally NOT clearly enough intonated sound would not be recognizable to the listeners. Many, even perfect pianists evidently do not like to SING OPENLY... Why? Why the piano is sometimes treated as if it would NOT be the full-bodied musical instrument? Look at this, please! In addition, after, let you please compare it to that. Thank you!
Unfortunately, THIS manner [offering the energizing mental support] becomes not very often to the pianists' use. Commonly trivial mechanic-like practice brings especially bad results when the student realizes truly shorter sounds (as sixteenths, even in moderato), especially in staccato. When the tempo becomes faster and faster, his attention becomes slighter and slighter, up to the "negative zero". It explains WHY the speed in itself and, generally, possibility to play FAST arises so intensive emotions among unskilled pianists and amateurs, who endlessly try to increase their piano skills via various kinds of physical exercising, which unfortunately only overload their hands and make them and their play actually poor.
Artistically EMPTY pushing on the keys, which cost much power, and focuses the attention on secondary, purely physical aspects of the matter, definitely would take away a possibility to achieve the positive results in the instrumental or vocal studies. The phrases formed in such a way and, consequently the Forms become shaped as if they would the chains of better or poorer organized sounds, without any valuable idea inside. NOBODY could improve ones technique starting from fingers and hands! The proper way begins from understanding the musical idea, furthermore it goes along via activation of the anticipative HEARING and the Fantasy, which both together should be able to create the adequately clear IMAGES. This rule is very substantial for all the students at all the piano schooling levels from the first lessons with the 5, 6 or 7 years old child, up to the highest academic levels.
The eleventh sample:
"The whole thing begins from the one sound" (Neuhaus). One should carry on the image of moving sound in ones fantasy, simultaneously listening to the real sound up to the last moment. Finally - one should "round" it virtually up so, that it could produce the psychologically valuable "postscript", vitalizing ones fantasy as well...
If many sounds? Nothing else of course! One should imagine their moving and listen to them up to the last moment. Finally, one should try to "round" their virtual moving so, that the energetic "postscript" will produce psychologically valuable reaction and revitalize ones fantasy...
Chopin has written in his Sketches to the Method, the pianist should be able to skillfully play the "long and short sounds as well". One could ask, what could be difficult in playing the LONGER sounds?
Well, LONGER SOUNDS, unfortunately, very easily could become musically EMPTY, just FORMAL. Especially when the counting begins...! They likely automatically become motionless, indifferent, boredom, etc. Just the LONGER sounds make difficult all the slower pieces as Baroque Arias and Sarabands, classical Adagios and Andantes, romantic Nocturnes and other lyrical miniatures, slower parts of any Sonata or Concerto, etc. According to Chopin & Neuhaus' wisdom, the appropriate solution of the problem is the mentally and emotionally active "being with" named by Russians as "the artistic intonation of the sound". Controlled by anticipative and simultaneously supervising by the real listening as well, the playing built on such a basis make possible to forget almost all of the typically mechanic piano problems, even if musical gift of the student might really be problematic.
What could be difficult in the shorter sounds then? The "shorter sounds" can very easily divide our musical thinking and, as well, they can crush the Form producing musical vacuity. The danger, mainly, comes via about musically purposeless parts of time coming up BETWEEN the sounds; unskilled pianist habitually realizes the short sounds as the definitely separate events.
As it happens to the longer, solution related to the shorter sounds could as well be found in the mentally and emotionally active "being with the tones", named by Russians... etc, etc. It should become crystal-clear that the singing "intentional legato" begins just from human's intentions, desires, likings, etc that forced they, who musically are very wealthily given by the Nature, to express themselves via singing or playing. Working with them yet, who just "simply study" the piano [in spite of the level of their advancement], we should especially strongly be interested in all the "possible and impossible" pedagogical techniques, which could encourage the students to activate their artistic oriented thinking and start to independently search for even very small bits of Beauty in the object they not only should to get to know, but more: to re-create again in accordance with the composer's will. Once the Form is the most importance value in professional music-making, and once its integrity is the truly essential duty for us, such kind of articulation of the shorter sounds (as in staccato or when the pauses would appear), which could disintegrate the musical flow producing many separately thought parts, must be seen as one of the greater errors in playing. I would like to say: as big as the "empty" longer sound or even more serious due to its nearly comical character. Many classical pieces are in the real danger when incompetent pianists try LITERALLY interpret each one staccato dot, rise the hands up after each one phrase-bow, realize many subtle chords in the accompaniments as series of the secco strokes, etc, etc.
Verily, surely: NOT the fingers only realize longer and shorter sounds. What in Music is deprived from its mental and emotional background, it does not belong to the Art. On the other way round: incompetent realization of the shorter and/or longer sounds is the evidence of an incompetent understanding of the interpreting piece of music.
This is how about the Chopin & Neuhaus' model of the thing PROBABLY could look alike. My interpretation of its wisdom had been reconstructed and put into my everyday piano pedagogic practice thanks to many lessons of Prof. Neuhaus' and David Oistrakh's former students and pedagogic assistants that I have experienced within many years. My personal studies on the Chopin's Method were greatly helped by continuous piano-pedagogic experiments, realized mainly in Finland and in Poland.
According to Chopin's tradition, hands and fingers are not allowed to realize any brutal action against the keys; Bach, Mozart, Debussy, Abby Whiteside and all the Russian piano masters presented very similar opinions! When practicing, the fingers should rather use as less PHYSICAL power as possible! Certainly, the pianists should focus their personal activity on making themselves musically creative because only the artistic creativity brings the physical ease into playing! It ought to be clear to us all that here does not exist any other way round!
As the most significant support here I see the samples of jazz instrumentalists, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian or Ukrainian folk musicians and other "PROFESSIONALLY" non-trained musical miracles as Bach, Mozart, Chopin or Godowsky, who were and are UNABLE to experience any shadow of physical injury coming from practicing and playing the instrument. This happened and happens just because THEY have used and they use to manage the musical Ideas and Images instead of being too strongly interested in the hands. That is how the whole Piano Technical Paradox seemingly looks alike.
Doubtlessly, the technical easiness would not cause any physical weakness in the hands and in the playing, too. Using Chopin's pedagogic system, the pianists would gain benevolent PHYSICAL power and increase own ability to play faster and stronger then they, who try to achieve such skills using any mechanical way. Overusing the hands' musculature, brutally pushing & stroking on the keys, forcing the sound etc, one would never develop any harmonious, artistically functional piano technique.
Physical ease is and was the main goal to several piano-pedagogic systems. But however managing piano instrumental studies via focusing the attention on particularly physical aspects of the matter doubtlessly could bring even revolutionary great help to them, who have formerly been taught by incompetent tutors, in my opinion, such kinds of schooling apparently represent the minor character. Of course, if seeing the problem in a longer perspective...
Additionally said, the best violin tradition represented by such Masters as Bronislaw Huberman, David Oistrakh and Sir Yehudi Menuhin, proposes the very similar way of thinking about the technical problems of playing, as the way proposed by the Chopin's & Neuhaus' great piano methods.
If something might be unclear yet, let you feel free to ask for any additional information!
Thank you very much for your patience - Stefan Kutrzeba
"The proof of the pudding is in the eating!" so...
Last revised: 2007-02-17