Speed – Evenness – Relaxation: “Tapping” and “Clicking”
A basic procedure that fosters rapidity in playing is to keep the physical involvement of the body to an absolute minimum. The more tension there is in the muscles, and the further in space the fingers must move, the more inhibited is the onward flow of the notes through time. Speed requires relaxation. So does evenness.
We are looking for the least amount of weight and force that will cause to make the notes audible, and put that together with the least distance of motion by the fingers. The necessary amount of motion and muscular contraction to create a sound is so little that many of us cannot make the distinction between that amount and no amount at all. That even if we try intentionally to do the least effort possible, it will prove to be too much.
It is difficult to get to this minimum if we start with having too much tension and effort, and then gradually trying to lessen these amounts . It is far better to approach the ideal minimum of action from the side of no action, and gradually add to it the least possible additional action. We start from absolute zero: no sound and no motion and then make the least significant change.
Here are two techniques that will bring the body action to an absolute minimum, which will then be the most ergonomically efficient way of playing, especially in speed.
1 – Tapping.
Have the fingers lightly and silently tap out the sequence of notes in a passage. By “tap” I mean an action so minimal, so gentle, that the key does not budge downwards, nor is there any sound even from the key mechanism. All there is, is a slight, momentary feeling of contact between the finger tip and the key surface. After doing this for a measure or two – as you follow along in the score, ask your body: “what now is the least amount of anything I need to add, so that the notes start sounding?” Bear in mind that such a least difference should feel subjectively like your not doing additional at all – and yet the sounds come out.
2 – Clicking on the keys.
Clicking is similar to tapping, except that the part of the finger that makes contact with the key is the ridge of the finger nail, and that there is an audible click-like sound, like a very brief pulse from a metronome. This clicking sound has about it something of the crystal clarity with which one wants to invest the entire sound when playing the passage in the normal way.
When using these two methods, it is very easy to keep control of the evenness of the finger strikes, an effect that then carries over into the sounded version of the passage. And with so little effort there is no limit to how fast we can pretend to play the notes for which they stand.