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Thread: What's the best advice for pianists you've come across?

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    Default What's the best advice for pianists you've come across?

    We all benefit from good advice. Not all advice is equally well received by everyone, but there's normally some nugget or gem of advice out there which will suit you...

    I'd be interest to hear what pieces of advice have resonated with others when it comes to playing the piano.

    If I might start, I really appreciated the advice that requires you to place your five fingers on five successive keys. The advice was that, having done so, bravo! - you are now playing at infinite speed...
    It's really a way of changing your perception about the difficulty of playing at speed. You can see it's more a mental limitation, than a physical one. My piano technique certainly picked up speed after I absorbed that advice.

    Another tip I would share is to try playing all the major scales with C major fingering. I think it might have been Mozart who used to practise that way...can't quite recall now but it was one of the greats...again, I responded well to that bit of advice.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    The biggest technique tip that has helped me (which isn’t necessarily saying much considering my mediocrity) is always making sure your fingers alone are doing all the work. There are technique books that try to emphasize playing “from the wrist,” but this leads to awkwardness and even occasionally soreness for me. YouTube pianist Paul Barton does a great job at demonstrating this; even though his “performances” are mostly dry run-thrus you can really see that all the power is in the fingers alone and this leads to great articulation. And then there’s the great Richter, who unleashed amazing storms of sound with barely any effort - but it all comes from the fingers. One more little unrelated thing - when I was learning Liszt’s Liebestraum no. 3 a couple years ago with those cadenzas in thirds, when I was just sitting around I would practice that RH double-trill figure (2-4 to 1-3 over and over) on a tabletop or my lap, and when I sat down to play it just flowed out of me effortlessly. I think that’s a good way to practice a number of things.



    My blog, for everyone interested in reading my ramblings.

    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    The biggest technique tip that has helped me (which isn’t necessarily saying much considering my mediocrity) is always making sure your fingers alone are doing all the work. There are technique books that try to emphasize playing “from the wrist,” but this leads to awkwardness and even occasionally soreness for me. YouTube pianist Paul Barton does a great job at demonstrating this; even though his “performances” are mostly dry run-thrus you can really see that all the power is in the fingers alone and this leads to great articulation. And then there’s the great Richter, who unleashed amazing storms of sound with barely any effort - but it all comes from the fingers. One more little unrelated thing - when I was learning Liszt’s Liebestraum no. 3 a couple years ago with those cadenzas in thirds, when I was just sitting around I would practice that RH double-trill figure (2-4 to 1-3 over and over) on a tabletop or my lap, and when I sat down to play it just flowed out of me effortlessly. I think that’s a good way to practice a number of things.



    Wow, that's the opposite of what my teacher always tells me, she's big on using arm weight for articulation, with the idea that playing in such a way leaves you less susceptible to injury. And I never saw Richter as a "fingers only" pianist. Edit: Yeah, he is using his wrists and arms a lot here in this video you've shared. I don't think this is a good example of the style of playing you're describing.
    Last edited by flamencosketches; May-24-2020 at 19:27.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    ^Well, maybe I’m just seeing it differently. Arm weight is certainly important, but I’ve learned to play a bit lighter and more flexibly by focusing more on the work my fingers are doing rather than how they’re being supported. I make no claims that this works for everyone (I haven’t taken lessons for a while now), and it may indeed not be correct. Maybe Horowitz is a better example of the kind of style I’m talking about? (Though he’d be a nightmare for many piano teachers because his fingers are so flat!) Then again maybe I’m just imagining things and dispensing bad advice.

    My blog, for everyone interested in reading my ramblings.

    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    ^Well, maybe I’m just seeing it differently. Arm weight is certainly important, but I’ve learned to play a bit lighter and more flexibly by focusing more on the work my fingers are doing rather than how they’re being supported. I make no claims that this works for everyone (I haven’t taken lessons for a while now), and it may indeed not be correct. Maybe Horowitz is a better example of the kind of style I’m talking about? (Though he’d be a nightmare for many piano teachers because his fingers are so flat!) Then again maybe I’m just imagining things and dispensing bad advice.

    Oh, I didn't mean to imply that what you're saying is bad advice. If it works for you then go for it, and of course you can feel free to spread the advice if it's what works for you, but it's not the only way to play. All I meant by that last post is that I don't think Richter fits into that style of playing you were describing. Horowitz maybe a bit more so, but the only great pianist I can think of who is really "all in the fingers" like you say is Glenn Gould. He is one of my favorites, but never someone I've strove to emulate.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    If your kid is learning get them a decent instrument with an even touch

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    Senior Member Fugal's Avatar
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    "Don't practice mistakes." Well, duh, might come to mind, but how many times do many of us robotically repeat a difficult passage in hopes that it gets better? The key is to analyze what makes a particular passage difficult--big stretch, wide leap, awkward fingering, etc., then work on that specific issue rather than mindlessly repeating the passage.

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    I think the best pianists are using the whole of their bodies and their minds! I've often noted that some of the greatest male pianists have a lot of muscle mass in their upper back. Women I notice sometimes compensate for deficiency in that respect by throwing their whole body weight into the more physically demanding performances.

    People sometimes forget that the piano is a percussive instrument and that it is struck with the fingers and nothing else, so it makes sense to focus on controlled power in the fingers. The difficulty is making sure that fits in with a harmonious holistic approach that includes posture, shoulder-elbow-wrist action and so on.

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