the technique of playing the piano is all about?
as the truly good sample…)
Friend – X. – asked, "It is often said that technique is developed by
each player. So the core is, according to you, what technique is all
about? How can it be obtained?"
My answer: We can go into the good direction using many
different ways. One of them, for sample, could be of the kind described
1. Let you imagine, please: here, in front of us we see the concrete
2. That concrete human being possesses certain mental and corporal abilities;
all of them could be developed and this should happen via various forms of
education and training. As the result, the concrete human being would
obtain certain skills – mental and corporal as well. All of these
skills we can define as the operational devices; they are of the
truly sophisticated character, remembering software as well as
3. Our operational devices could not be used in any other
way, apart from this accurate one, they were completed for. Look at the
sample: swimming skills are rather useless in kitchen, and piano playing
skills are rather useless in driving the car.
4. The operational
devices' quality could nearly endlessly be improved, still via their
persistent and competent usage only (look at the point 3, think about the
problem and keep smiling, please!).
5. Competency (or not) of operational
devices' usage, thinking about the technique of playing any musical
instrument, strictly depends upon artistic needs the concrete person might
experience. The real technique, unfortunately, could not be formed if the
concrete person does NOT EXPERIENCE any greater artistic need...! The best
samples, which could approve this opinion are the jazz musicians,
especially these from the past: many of them could even been the
"musical analphabets" in the modern understanding of that
problem; as well many highly talented folk musicians even cannot read the
musical scores, while they do not understand the musical notation. Such
limitation yet not obviously must reduce their potentiality of
music-making. As well, such samples as Godowski or Hofmann (Josef, originally - Józef) approve above presented opinion in full: having
SO MUCH to say and possessing nearly infinite memory, these both masters
even did not have to practice a lot; especially Hofmann. To him it was
nearly enough to hear or even SEE the piece (sheet music) twice and the
appropriate IMAGE of the piece became "ready to work" in his
"No wonder Rubinstein [Anton] called him
a phenomenon such as the world of music had never before seen. Rosina
Lhevinne (1880-1976) loved to tell the story of
Hofmann's visit to Tbilisi, where her husband Josef (another all-time great
pianist, 1874-1944) was teaching before World War I. They spent the
afternoon together. At one point, Lhevinne played a piece that Hofmann did
not know. Lhevinne told him it was the Liszt 'Lorelei'. "Play it again,
please" said Hofmann. They then had dinner and escorted Hofmann to the
concert hall. "He played wonderfully," recollected Rosina.
"For his first encore he came out, winked at us, and played 'Lorelei'
exactly as my Josef had done."
6. For the best understanding
of the very nature of process of obtaining the piano playing technique,
one should observe HOW the greatly talented people work and play, and
observe as well, HOW practice and try to play they, who actually have truly
less talent. The Greatest Talents are used to pay out very less time for
THINKING about "how this or that should be done" – they
just are READY to do it. Their processors do need as less time to
prepare the whole system to the action – that for us all, who represent the
standard level of musicality, it seems to be nearly zero. When the size of talent goes
smaller and smaller, so, when the COSCIOUSNESS of the musical object
becomes more and more incomplete, proportionally, the musically less
talented adepts must start to deliberate "how this or that
could be realized" within actually long time.
Wronski, who was a member of
the Jury of many international violin competitions, in one of his very
interesting books (The Problems of Violin Teaching; talented and untalented students.
PWM Krakow, 1979) described the way
Treger, the first
American violinist who won the Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition in Poznan/Poland, practiced a one
of the Caprices of Paganini: at the first time he played the whole piece in
a proper tempo, still with incredibly large amount of the false notes;
after then he played the same piece much better and in the proper concert
tempo. For the third time he played the whole piece with crystal-clear
intonation, freely and putting in it the truly marvelous emotion. The whole
process took less than the half of an hour.
them, who are gifted poorly, belongs the lazy finger syndrome.
Only teaching the deeply ungifted piano adepts one could understand at
last, where such syndrome could come from: it becomes indisputably apparent
in the very short time that the lazy finger syndrome is
exclusively caused by inactive hearing, slow thinking and poor imaging.
Having nothing to offer to the fingers, one becomes fully disabled for any
efficient instrumental action.
could do such simple test: let you take a pencil and ask your hand to write
down the proper result: 2 + 5 = .....! For how long time you must wait for
adequate result? For small part of a second, I suppose.
23.599,7 x 16.834,2 = .....! And what? Wow, our hand becomes stiff and the
fingers become non-working at all. Why such problems suddenly have
occurred? Such count is still trouble-free to them, who mathematically are
highly gifted. Let you have a look at fascinating book of Prof. Sylvia Nasar! Reading A Beautiful Mind
one could found much more information that would enlighten his
understanding of real possibilities and impossibilities in music, too;
maybe even more, than after reading several books
"professionally" clarifying the problems related to very old
question: how to teach the piano efficiently?
me, please: in certain kind of musical internal inactivity, even most
simple melody causes the actually big piano instrumental problem. The
FINGERS become non-working in the full extend. Getting NO PROPER SIGNALS
from the brains, the fingers become unable to realize even one sole
rational motion. All the possible intermediary forms of the matter would
happened on the exactly same basis: more musicality = less piano
instrumental problems; less musicality = more interest in purely technical
the majority of teachers and students strongly believe in possibility to
obtain the virtuoso-like instrumental technique just working, working
and working in strong, stronger, strongest way, I would rather
like to say that NOT ONLY duration and intensity of practicing decide the
final quality of playing. Of course, in certain period of their life, many
future masters have practiced in uncommonly huge extend. For instance, Paderewski before his first American
tour practiced for 17 hours daily. The same has happened to Arthur Rubinstein. Young Liszt worked
extremely strongly as well. One must take into consideration yet, WHO
worked in such a style...? They did not become Liszt or Paderewski, or
Paganini, Hofmann, Horowitz, Lang Lang – BECAUSE they practiced so much.
They WERE just Great and they MUST work on their instrumental technique,
because the things they wanted to EXPRESS, forced them to such uncommon
That is how I see the problem of "the technique that is developed by the each one
9. Within the time of my
autumn master-classes in Poland (2005), I experienced the real shock: I saw
and heard the DVD containing recorded recital given by Mr. Lang Lang in
Carnegie Hall (2004; live recording)! Wow! Such natural, beautiful,
full-bodied piano playing I have never heard before! As I suppose, his
piano talent could remember the genius of Franz Liszt only. Observing his incomparably
great art, I have – nearly – got an illumination...
Lang - Chinese pianist, born in 1982 in Shen Yang, China; he
began studying piano at the age of three and won the first of numerous awards
at age of five. He studied in China in the China Central Music Conservatory
by Prof. Zhao Ping-Guo. In 1995 he won first prize in the 2nd Tchaikovsky
International Young Musicians Competition in Japan. In 1997 he started his
studies in Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia by Prof. Gary Graffman. Mr.
Lang Lang played with such great orchestras as London Philharmonic, NHK
Symphony, NDR Symphony Hamburg, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic,
Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San
Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Houston Symphony and many, many
Attention, please: I am actually speaking about Mr. Lang Lang's
playing recorded in 2004, so - after his studies in Philadelphia. Just for
a while I listened to his recordings available in Internet and I have to say that these mp3 present a pianist
who is light years afar from the Liberated Master named Lang Lang, who
appeared in 2004 in the Carnegie Hall and offered such jewel as Wanderer
Fantasie of Schubert...! We do not even must speak about his interpretation
of the Liszt's Réminiscences de Don Juan (Don Juan Fantasy)! The most interesting in the matter yet, is to me
the Lang Lang's incomparably great artistic growth...!
This sounds very
optimistically: development is possible!
10. Apart from Mr. Lang
Lang's perfectly tuned hearing, apart from his fantasy that suggests him
such surprisingly beautiful musical solutions fulfilled with genuine
musical and human wisdom, we should not disregard the level of his
neuromuscular reactivity and of his physical and SPIRITUAL elasticity,
which give him entirely phenomenal potential to DO anything he might want
to do on the piano. Consequently, thinking about the problem from the
pedagogical point of view: we SHOULD seriously work and definitely improve
our own neuromuscular reactivity as well, as our mental and corporeal
11. Having today NOT such unique
skills and abilities as Mr. Lang Lang got from the Nature and developed
within years of professionally well-oriented work, we still can go forward
AFTER him and try to use his great sample as a "traffic sign" to
our work. We should, of course, practice using much slower tempos than he
does. Especially, playing in the very slow tempo, we could try to
accelerate the fingers' motion up to borders of our possibility, still persistently
WATCHING for the perfect physical comfort, smoothness and precision of
acting. The fingers' energy should be placed in the proper level of the
keyboard's depth, if needed – with very great speed, if not – much slower, but
always absolutely freely and without any shadow of brutality. The time the
finger could rest after just realized sound should become truly much longer
then it formerly, habitually happened. Of course, the finger's energy
should NOT become just simply thrown down: it should be virtually rounded
up and virtually, come back to our use again. As I think, some
additional valuable comments could be found under this link,
12. To become ready for such
experiments we should persistently remember: one cannot be able to properly
use the weight and energy of his fingers and hands up to the moment, he would
get the ACTUALLY full awareness and certainty of the artistic purpose,
which elements – according to his deepest will – should be carried forward
by the each one produced sound as its real content. As long the pianist
(violinist, singer, percussionist, etc.) is not fully convinced how
factually looks alike the artistically valuable THOUGHT, he has been born
to proclaim it to all the countries and nations worldwide..., he must
suffer from many afflictions and to a lot of ways.
Focusing the interests of all
of them, who just begin their piano studies, on manual – not musical, not
related to the musical expression aspects of using the piano must guide to definitely
poor consequences. Saying "poor", I have in a view all the
possible aspects of the matter, firstly: misusing of the hands, which must
be forced to work being all the time devoid of primarily important bits of
information that could exclusively been shaped by our brains in closest co-operation
with the anticipative internal hearing. Consequences could consist very
many levels of poverty: from light, still unexpected tiredness up to
tendonitis and the truly large range of the truly painful illnesses. Secondly:
lack of confidence! The not enough developed hearing skills must cause the
chronic uncertainty: where am I, what the sound I should take as the next one?
Thirdly: lack of a joy and satisfaction...
said, "True music is for the ear alone..." Why for we should try to
produce the empty sounds thinking about our suffering muscles, bones,
joints, notes, scores, keyboards that are too hard or too soft, etc, etc?
I would say, not unexpectedly, so well correspond with the Prof. Neuhaus'
famous sentence, "Music lives within us, in our brain, in our
consciousness; its "domicile" can be accurately established: it
is our hearing." As well as painting must be started from SEEING and
the entire process of schooling in it must persistently be based on the
eyes', on perceiving the reality with the eyesight, the piano professional
schooling cannot be successfully realized in FACTUAL isolation of the
believe me or don't like to agree with my diagnose? Well! I truly cordially
suggest examine all the actually most 'modern' piano methods, ideas and
systems. Hearing is maintained herein as something of absolutely marginal importance.
In addition, it is very clear, why it happens so? The Authors of these Methods,
Ideas and Systems just do have no foggiest image about how to
train it in the professionally high level. If we start to discuss the professional
ear training related to the pianists, we have to be sure that the general
solfege is the absolutely another thing. Due to the very specifically unmusical
character of the piano mechanism, the pianists should be equip with the
very special hearing skills the "general solfege" unfortunately has
totally been not informed about.
At the last end I would like
to stress once again: the real technique fully depends upon realization of
personal artistic needs and would never become ready, being grown on any
artificial ground or in any artificial way.
That is the first and last
thing we should been aware about if we really want to gain some more joy
from practicing, playing and teaching the piano.