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{12} The “Protean” Hand. 

May 9, 2017

{12} The “Protean” Hand.

While playing piano our hands are constantly assuming different shapes.  There is a different ideal shape for every note or chord we play.

In this entry I want to restrict myself to talking about the amazing ability of the hand to take one shape and then another.

Where is your right hand right now?  Is it on your lap, is it resting on a table, is it engaged in scratching an itch on your face?   Wherever it is, consider these questions:

-How precisely did the hand get there?

– By what route through space did it get from wherever it was to where it is now?

-When precisely did it get there?

– How fast did it move?

-At a constant rate?

-At a modulating rate?

-How far did it have to move from where it was before?  Where was it before?

If you are currently sitting, is your hand on your knee? Is your hand holding a ball?

-How did hand get into the shape that molded itself to the three dimensional shape of your knee or of the ball?

The proper answer to all these questions is: “I don’t really know”.  My motions happened automatically.   One of the unnatural things we do at the piano is to make motions that are planned and intentional, when in fact, unconsciously the body will do the same to much better effect.

To understand the difference, make everything involved a conscious decision.

First set a “goal”.  For instance “I am going to pick up that ball” or “I am going to embrace a C Major Triad in my hand”.

Consciously move your hand into the new place and position.  Be aware of the succession and identity of as many of the movements into which the motion can be subdivided.  Be conscious of whether the hand is moving to the right or the left to get to the goal, and how many inches or feet it needs to travel.

The result is a stilted, hesitant, un-smooth motion, that may or may not bring the hand to the intended goal.

In doing it consciously, you made the task of the hand much harder.  Suddenly there are a multitude of details you have to concern yourself with.

I will develop this theme in future entries.  I will deal with things such things as:

When playing, are the shapes of the hand three dimensional or just two dimensional.

How quickly can the hand develop amnesia regarding the previous shape, so that it act spontaneously to take the next shape (the next notes)?

What is the function of the “topology” of the keyboard: its hills and valleys?

That the hand is like a molten material being poured into a temporary mold.

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