Micro-managing the motions of the fingers by micro-managing time

September 17, 2018

When playing we are lulled into a sense that we make one physical motion for every note we play.  That, however, leaves out many subtle motions we make before we play a note and while we hold a note (even if the note is brief).

I wanted to call Irving’s attention to motions that take place so rapidly that we are unaware of them, but at the same time are motions that are critical to the successful execution of the connection from the current note to the next note.

As an example we used the “Revolutionary” Etude (Chopin’s op 10 / 12).

The first four notes in the left hand at the beginning of the piece (A-flat, G, F, D in the octave of middle C).  We used the fingering 2 1 2 4.

I raised these questions for Irving.  They were rhetorical in the sense that I did not want a verbal answer, but wanted him to be aware of what he was doing physically from instant to instant in time.

-At what exact instant does the thumb start moving under the second finger on its way towards the F.

-At what exact moment does the second finger, in turn, start its motion leftwards to pass over the thumb (the latter now being on F).

When our awareness re-sets itself only one to three times per second, we sometimes we ‘lump’ together certain physical motions.  We assume that they either will occur together, or one right after the other.  This is often too vague a description of what goes on in our hands.  Smoothness is something that exists to the finest perceivable granularity in time.  The smoothness of the execution of a group of notes depends on the exact moment during that execution when one particular component of the motion begins relative when another component begins.

Note, too, that the exact proportion of when these timings occur will probably need to change if you change the tempo.  Sometimes one of the components does not make this adaptation, and the group is spoiled.

We can call the above an example of “finger ergonomics”.