My own study of piano technique began after my initial rapid progress (from 0 to Grade 8 in 1 year) began to subside and I needed to go back and cover much needed groundwork and really understand how to control the instrument, my muscles and my thoughts!
In the following years I came up against various dead ends and numerous technical methods which in my opinion, are flawed. I now possess a reliable technique with a good tone which (on good days) is completely effortless – so that my concentration can be entirely devoted to hearing the music (which is a difficult enough task!)
The article below (re-printed with kind permission) is written by Canadian pianist ALAN FRASER who has developed an approach to technique which I wholeheartedly endorse. His thinking is based upon sound scientific thinking and over 30 years research and performing experience.
For further reading and many, many fascinating articles (look out for the one on Horowitz!) please visit:
The Craft of Piano – an Introduction
Why yet another piano method?
Countless excellent methods exist today – but some pianists still fall short of their full potential. Many pianists play with unquestionably beautiful tone and expression, but fewer possess the big, orchestral sound that was the trademark of the Romantic virtuoso. The mark of each artist’s personality is less visible than it was in a bygone era – and there’s a hidden underlying cause: limitations in one’s physical organization.
Craft of Piano also effectively addresses another pressing concern: performance injury.
Recent insights into the nature of human movement offer new opportunities for improvement. We know more about how the brain uses the sensory-motor feedback loop to control the muscles and bones, fine-tuning a movement’s accuracy literally dozens of times a second. More is known about the hand’s innate structure, and how its natural grasping function is hidden in virtually all finger actions. Craft of Piano links these developments in kinesiology to piano technique, creating a focus on the physical that enriches personal expression rather than sterilizing it.
What are the basic components of the method?
Instead of defining a particular movement as good or bad, Craft of Piano enriches the sensory picture of your hand, allowing you to find the best way of moving in any pianistic situation. In Craft of Piano, old terms take on new meaning – for instance, relaxation is no longer an end in itself but becomes a means to greater activation of the hand. And new terms are introduced, such as skeletality: how the bones would move if you were a skeleton and nothing more. You learn to make your bones do more of the work, your muscles less. Freed from the need to stiffen or take over the work of the skeleton, your muscles can now fine tune movement, leading to a new level and quality of control – more refined and more powerful.
Craft of Piano analyses whole body actions such as standing, walking or running, then creates a pianistic analogy to give your hands the sense that they are really starting anew, learning from scratch, with the exciting possibility of leaving old counter-productive habits behind and developing new combinations of grace and power, sensitivity and brilliance.
At the piano we first look at legato, the foundation of piano technique. We discover the structural integrity needed in the hand to create a legato that really joins notes together but avoids stiffening physically – the combination of structural stability and moveability that your hand needs to do the job. We then examine other types of finger action before moving on to the role of the arm in this complex and multifaceted process. Every physical step is linked to listening: to the aural result any particular physical organization will obtain.
How can one put it into practice?
– Learn to sense your own structural power. Lessons in Feldenkrais Method © can help you experience the incredible release of muscular tension that happens when you access the skeletal power of your body.
– Learn how to stand, walk and run skeletally at the keyboard. The Craft of Piano Playing video and book will guide you in developing these qualities in your own playing.
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