Tag: Skips and Jumps

Maintaining Control of Both Hands

Cross fertilization of the hands, bordering on hybridization

Bach: The Italian Concerto: II

Irving is having difficulties maintaining control over both hands at once.  I attribute this to the very different rhythmic character of each hand (in general, the right hand has faster notes while the left hand has relatively slower notes).

He has been trying to maintain separate but simultaneous control of each hand.  This wasn’t working.  To solve this, we established a process in which the notes in one hand could flow back and forth into notes in the other hand.

An example:

A frequent occurrence in the movement is for the left hand, as part of its melody, to play an eighth note on the first beat of a measure, and then, after a pause of a thirty-second note, the right hand plays three thirty-second notes as part of its melody.*

In this situation, we connected legato between the left hand eighth note at the beginning of the measure and the right hand thirty-second note that followed a thirty-second later.

There were also the analogous occurrences when the right hand melody contained several thirty-second notes followed by the left hand playing an eighth note.  We formed a sonic bridge between the last right hand note and the left hand note.

Unlike the more usual procedure in Bach, which is to separate the voices, we did the opposite.  We fused two voices together to create a single, new voice line: one that was a hybridization of each of the two original voices.

In this way the sound of one hand could cross-fertilize with the sound of the other, creating a series of “shunts” interconnecting their notes.  The next note in one hand could derive its momentum, both pulse-wise, and melody-wise, from the note just prior to it in the other hand.

It was the ear that forged these unions, and the body responded by organically connecting the two hands.  Each hand took renewed life from the other hand.

*In many of these cases the right hand had just tied the last note of the previous measure over into the downbeat of the new measure.

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Practice Technique Number 23:  Skips and Jumps On The Keyboard

Skips and Jumps: How to connect smoothly two notes more than an octave apart, without pedal.

To describe this procedure, “Fred” is the right thumb, and his friends are the four other fingers, plus the hand as a whole.  The friends say to Fred “let’s visit Sally” (she lives two octaves away).  His response is: “you guys go ahead. I’ll catch up to you by the time you get to Sally’s.

The hand and the other fingers start moving in the direction of “Sally’s House” (let us say rightwards in pitch).  Because all the friends are attached to the same hand, at some point Fred can no longer stay on his current note, and is pulled to the right to by the rest of the hand.

This procedure produces a seamless connection distant notes, having a flow that is legato-like without any suddenness or jerkiness.

This procedure falls under the broad heading of “Vectors and Counter Vectors”.   First, a distinction between static and dynamic equilibrium.

If you and I take hands and neither of us exerts any extra pull, our hands will remain in the same place as when we joined them.  This is static equilibrium.

If the two of us reach out towards each and join our hands, but then each of tries to pull the other person’s hand towards themselves, and both people exert exactly the same degree of force, the result is a dynamic equilibrium.

If the two of us keep raising the ante, and pull harder and harder against the other person’s pull, but at all times maintaining an equality of force against each other, the hand remains motionless.  But it is a motionless-ness pregnant with potential motion.   For now, if one of us, without warning to the other, suddenly ceases to pull, or lets go of the other’s hand, the other person’s hand will go flying towards their body.  This wouldn’t have happened in a static equilibrium and in a dynamic equilibrium, if the two people are not resisting each other with a considerable amount of force, the sudden motion of the other person’s hand would not be as far and with as sudden a burst of energy.  Enough energy that, with the combination of the two opposing vectors, and the sudden cessation of one, the hand can fly from having the thumb on, E.G., middle C all the way to, E.G. two C-s above middle C.  There is more than enough energy to get to the higher both accurately and rapidly.

This procedure would have failed if both of the following didn’t occur simultaneously: Fred (thumb) exerts as strong a counter-force to the left to avoid being dragged off of his note, as the rest of the hand exerts a force to move Fred to the right.

At the moment the motion takes place, as a result of the counter forces building up, it is almost like winding up a spring until it cannot be wound any more whereupon it suddenly unwinds with tremendous force.

I don’t think that this principle for executing sudden pitch-jumps is original with me, although some of the wording may be.  I wish I could remember from whom I got this principle.  It could be from my second teacher Edwina Behre*, her colleague Frieda Rosenblatt, or from having read about the work of Dorothy Taubman.

* I was 16 years old when I began studying with Edwina Behre, and she was 96.  The last time I heard her give a concert, she was over a 100.  She studied with who studied with Theodor Leschetizky, who studied with Liszt, …. Czerny …. and ultimately with Beethoven.

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