Tag: Energy

The Elbow

In terms of its use in the playing mechanism, the elbow can easily be the forgotten part of the arm.  It is remote from the hand and remote from the connection of the arm to the back.  It seems “remote from the action.” However, it is of critical importance as a mediator – a negotiator between shoulder and the fingers.  It is that which insures that energy coming down the arm is not blocked or detoured before reaching the fingers.

When tension occurs and mobility is reduced, the hidden cause often lies in the elbow.  It will often make adaptations in its alignment, not because they are useful to the transmission of power to the hands, but because we are concentrating on our hands and wish to have the hand be in a certain position.  The tension simply gets “referred” up the arm to the elbow, where we are often unaware of it.  But whether recognized or not, when there is tension in the elbow, when its freedom of movement is inhibited, we sever the free connection between shoulder and fingers.

Often the elbow is doing what it “wants” to do, but is at the service of something else.  How do we find out what the elbow naturally wants to do?  It is actually a simple procedure.  If we want to know what the right elbow is doing, use the left hand to embrace, or better, to “cradle” the elbow of the right arm.  If we now play a passage with the right hand, the cradling hand will actively sense what the right elbow wants to do, or more importantly, what it is forced to do in order to accommodate an awkward hand or wrist position.  It will notice when the elbow is coerced into making a sudden or jerky motion, usually to compensate for something occurring at the extremities.

If there is a sudden, unexpected or awkward motion in the elbow, we will want to smooth it out, or slow it down to make it flow.  By keeping in mind that the hand and the shoulder should be two stable points between which is extended the length of the arm, then the elbow modifies its alignment and attitude to find a way of sustaining this equilibrium between the two end points of the arm.  If there is a breach in the continuity of the arm, it is most likely found in the elbow because the elbow controls the motion of both the forearm and the upper arm.

Most illuminating in this regard is to play a scale or an arpeggio.

When you play a scale in the right hand, you may be surprised at what the elbow is doing as you play the scale.  It compensates for, it balances out, it supports what is happening in the lower arm and hand.  If a sudden lurch occurs in the elbow while playing the scale, it is easy to smooth out, especially if the left hand is there cradling the elbow (see above).  The supportive hand of the left arm is, figuratively speaking, saying to the elbow: don’t worry, you don’t have to make a sudden defensive or reactive gesture, because I’m here to support, balance, and give you a grounding against which to move.

Leave Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The hand can act like a bouncing ball

Release a rubber ball so it falls to the ground.  It does not remain on the ground but bounces back up and then repeats the same cycle over again a number of times until it is finally still. If we treat our hand as if it were imitating a bouncing ball, then the impetus we need to repeat a note a second (third, fourth…) time originates from what we did to play the first note: no additional energy is required.

The use of this effect isn’t limited to repeating the same note, it can apply to any series of notes or chords of equal duration.  Our physical intent can be limited to playing the first of the series, and simply allow the others to happen.

If the arm is in motion horizontally at the same time that the hand is bouncing, then the effect is like skipping stones at a lake.  The stone makes contact with the water (keyboard) then leaves the keyboard to make contact again, further in the same direction.  The only intentional motion required is the one initiating the process, the rest happens as if on its own.

The most useful way to apply this at the piano is to do it simultaneously in both arms, in a motion that begins near the extremes of the keyboard and works its way inwards towards the center of the keyboard.*  This puts the two sides of the body into symmetric harmony with each other, one side aiding and advancing the progress of the other.

* in some cases there is enough momentum left for the hands actually to cross each other.

 

Leave Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Springs: Easily created, and then able to release a sudden surge of energy

Originally published on Facebook on 2.8.16

There is no technical or musical difficulty at the piano that will not yield to a sufficient application of energy. We must have, however, a reliable way to create such unstoppable energy, and create it at the moment we need it.

A spring is a way of storing up potential energy, usually in a gradual fashion, for the purpose of a sudden release, or sudden burst of energy. Many of the more difficult technical issues at the piano, which compared to what comes before and after in the same piece of music, require such a heightened release of energy, and though briefly, at an energy level much greater than the rate at which we are expending energy in our playing.

Playing situations requiring this sudden ability to release copious amounts of energy in a brief burst of time are: skips, extreme speed, and in general those technical situations that suddenly arise that are ‘dense’, where the hands and fingers feel somewhat lost in the keyboard and unable to navigate from note to note, or finger to finger, with alacrity.

The principle of the spring is fairly simple. It requires something that has the ability to be temporarily deformed and which will spring back to its original shape with great speed.

As it turns out almost any part, or even part of a part of the body can behave in this fashion.

In the future we will enumerate examples of these many springs.

Leave Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{9} ENERGY: THE UNIVERSAL REMEDY

{9} ENERGY: THE UNIVERSAL REMEDY

With sufficient ‘energy’ any technical or musical difficulty can be successfully overcome.  This includes any difficulty that can be described in terms of time (for instance speed), or motion in space.

The issue is how to suddenly generate the required amount of energy.   It can seem unfair when two consecutive measures of a piece sound quite similar, but the second one requires a much greater outlay of energy than the first.  Without that extra energy a listener will notice only that the two measures did not flow equally.  Only with the sudden increase will the listener approve in the negative sense of not noticing anything untoward.

‘Springs’, which we have talked about already (see entry #7), offer us one of the ways of suddenly generating a great amount of energy.  The force of a spring unwinding if compressed, or contracting if it is stretched, can be as small or large as one wishes.

Tags:
Leave Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Practice Procedures: Part 15: Minimum Effort: The Principle of the Least Difference

A Starting Point:

While in a relaxed state of stillness in the body, regardless of what position or attitude the body is in, say to yourself “This is all that I have to do to play this passage”.   “I am in fact playing the passage right now just by holding still.”  “All I have to do is perpetuate this state.”

Another Starting Point:

While in the relaxed state of stillness, consider every joint, every part of the playing mechanism, one by one, and ask “is this joint capable of moving in response to slightest vagrant breeze, the slightest intention of moving.  If yes, then say: “This is all I have to do to play the passage”.  “I am in fact playing the passage right now just by feeling internally these minimal, nascent virtual gestures that are invisible from the outside.

A Third Starting Point:

I hold out my hands in front of me, turning the palms towards my eyes.  I look at my fingers, which should not be moving in any way – nor should be tense in any way to prevent them from moving.  Then I say to my fingers, as they remain in a quiet state: look, guys, all you have to do is … and then I say or sing the local passage … or simply speak its rhythm.   Then taking a leap of faith I do it a second time with no conscious difference from the first, but allowing the notes to sound at the keyboard as written.

The implication is that any effort, or put in a better way, any conscious addition of effort, is already too much effort.  That the proper measure of the activity does not feel quantitatively different than when I felt no activity in the hand.  That the difference is so slight (principle of least difference) that any conscious difference is already too much.

Leave Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *