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 Post subject: How to practice "power-demanding" pieces?
PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 6:18 pm 
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During the last weeks I'm confronted with a problem which is totally new to me: I try to record mussorgsky's baba yaga, but I have only two tries per day, because I have no power for more tries...practicing is difficult too, but it works if I play most of the time hands seperated and only short passages. Has anyone special tips for such pieces?

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PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 8:32 pm 
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Location: Obamanation, unfortunately...
It's time for you to "weightlift" for the hands. If you have newspapers around your house, then take a sheet (unfolded) and hold it in one hand. Then as quickly as possible (using only the hand that you are holding the newspaper with), crumble it into a small ball. This is quite tiring, but you need to tire your muscles for them to grow stronger. (quasi-paradox in itself). Don't over-do it because too much is not beneficial for muscle growth.

I hope my nonsense made sense :wink:

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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 1:47 pm 
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Thanks for advice, juuf.......usually it's the job of the dog to destroy the newspapers :lol:

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PostPosted: Sat May 17, 2008 4:04 pm 
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Swimming helps me immensely to maintain full strength and flexibility necessary for that sort of playing. If you can't or don't like to swim, use a hand-cycle. I use one during cool weather for twenty minutes every other day.

As for hand-specific exercises, there's too many to list here. One of my favorites is (with one hand, for 20 minutes) working a softball sized chunk of 5lb density memory foam into the volume of a golf ball. It's completely non-impact and very easy on your skin. (Where to get the foam is the hard part, I ordered a $100 high-density memory-foam tempurpedic pillow from tempurpedic.com and just hacked it up.) Another great one is making bread from scratch; all that kneading seems to give the hands a full workout.

Hope some of this is of use!

Pete


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 18, 2008 1:28 am 
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I roll Chinese stress balls around in my hands every day when I'm in school, with nothing better to do. They don't give my hands as great a workout as the exercises mentioned above... but they still work a bit. And it's really easy to do, and simple enough to do for long periods of time. I can spend an entire 90 minute class, rolling the balls, alternating between hands every 10 minutes or so. I'm sure it must be doing SOMETHING for me... I hope... :shock:

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 8:00 pm 
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Location: The Netherlands
Power demanding pieces do not exist.

There are some pianist however who need power to play certain piano music. These pianist need a better technique.

In other words, you are approaching the piece of music from a wrong angle. So your question should be:

- How can i learn to play this piece without using unnecesary force?

Greetings,
-- Peter


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 1:21 am 
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pepasch wrote:
Power demanding pieces do not exist.

There are some pianist however who need power to play certain piano music. These pianist need a better technique.

In other words, you are approaching the piece of music from a wrong angle. So your question should be:

- How can i learn to play this piece without using unnecesary force?

Greetings,
-- Peter


I agree completely (but having some muscular strength is an overall help to the pianist, personally speaking.) I also agree with your sentiment that oftentimes, people abuse muscular prowess to crush a technical problem flat and declare, "to hell with art!"


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:52 am 
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I don't agree that powerdemanding pieces don't exist. Of course, relaxing and using gravity is an important point, probably the most important. But if you have no power in your palms (I think the necessary muscles are the "interossei dorsales") you'll never be able to keep a loose wrist and to use the gravity. I don't think that Cziffra sweats like a pig during performing virtuoso pieces because he has not enough technique to stay relaxed. But this seem to be and endless topic, thanks for replying. Btw, I think juufs tip already had positive consequences! Perhaps we have to define the term "better technique". But I think there is already a topic concerning this. IMO, the term "better technique" includes finger dexterity, relaxation and independence but also power of the interossei dorsales.

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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 11:56 am 
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Dear Caspar,

You state that a pianist needs power in his palms in order to obtain a loose wrist. The argument being that this is necesary in order to carry the weight of the hands while relaxing the wrist. This argument is invalid because of the following:
- there are only very small muscles in your palm. They don't amount to much power during play. And they will not amount after practise either simply because they are small. (The real finger muscles are in your arm.)
- fingers are allready strong by themselves. You can hang your weight on just a few of them. The force needed to press a key is only a very small portion of it (far less then 1 percent). A newborn baby already has more then enough muscle power to play the piano.
- a loose wrist means that there is no unnecesary muscle activity. Powerplay destroys wrist relaxation. So the muslce activity of the palm does nothing for the relaxation of your wrist.

All in all, the statement that one needs power in order to be able to play piano is ridiculous. I have tons of extra arguments to further support this.

Also: The trick with the newspaper activates the wrong type of coordination, namely "grasping". You don't grasp piano keys in that manner. The trick will therefore only have effect in the very short term and produce contraproductive effects in the long term.

Cziffra sweats because he probably has a bad condition. He didn't use to sweat when he was younger. Apart from that, the piano playing of cziffra is not a good example. He is one of the very few who managed to become virtuoso piano players while using pressure technique (german school style, high lift of the fingers). This type of piano playing is outdated since Breithaupt, it normaly leads to all sorts of illnesses and inflamed tendons.

Greetings from Peter


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 12:59 pm 
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pepasch wrote:
You state that a pianist needs power in his palms in order to obtain a loose wrist. The argument being that this is necesary in order to carry the weight of the hands while relaxing the wrist. This argument is invalid because of the following:
- there are only very small muscles in your palm. They don't amount to much power during play. And they will not amount after practise either simply because they are small. (The real finger muscles are in your arm.)
- fingers are allready strong by themselves. You can hang your weight on just a few of them. The force needed to press a key is only a very small portion of it (far less then 1 percent). A newborn baby already has more then enough muscle power to play the piano.
- a loose wrist means that there is no unnecesary muscle activity. Powerplay destroys wrist relaxation. So the muslce activity of the palm does nothing for the relaxation of your wrist.

But this site here
http://www.jazclass.aust.com/piano/default.htm provides an explanation how piano technique works, and IMO this explanation really makes sense, and if I didn't completely misunderstood this site, it tells us that a pianist has to strengthen his interossei...

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:43 pm 
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This is why I swim; it gets all the right muscles worked in just the right way, from the gut to fingertip. Water resistance is perfect for the pianist, IMO.

I think the primary muscles to strengthen are the lats, traps, abs and deltoids. The muscles of the arm are secondary; the tiny muscles of the hand must be exercised very gently, if at all; that's why I like to use chunks of memory foam in any "grasping" activities; it's extremely gentle yet effective. Heavy exercising of the hand is BAD, even injurious, IMO.
We must consider the piano and all it's idiosyncrasies, before engaging in any 'muscle building'.

I think Peter (pepasch) is right. The real strength comes from the larger muscles of the arm (and I would argue, the shoulders and the trunk are where any 'power' should be generated.)
The fingers are merely there to carry and coordinate the power from the larger muscles. It's all in the physics of it...too long to explain here.

(Not there's anything wrong with strong hands!)

Greetings from Pete. :lol:

BTW, I didn't do any special hand exercising for this one; I did swim for about an hour a day for three months: http://server3.pianosociety.com/protect ... ournet.mp3


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:59 pm 
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Dear Casper,

I know that theory. I don't agree with it. But consider that the theory is valid...

Strenghtening the interossei is only necesary for producing am effective horizontal movement (sideways) of the fingers or supporting a lift of the fingers. In that context, strength is a very relative concept. You will never experience it as power since in comparison with the other finger muscles, the interossei have only very little power, even when strenghtenth.

So within the context of the theory that you are revering to, strenghtening of the interossei muscles means "activating them". The result being that you can relax the Flexor Digitorium System since that system is then less neaded for sideway movements. In effect they can concentrate on pressing the keys down.

All in all, according to this theory, activating the interossei system has got nothing to do with building power and stamina.

Greetings from Peter


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:01 pm 
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Ok pete....I'll go out and swim :lol: Btw, I like this recording!

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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:04 pm 
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pepasch wrote:
All in all, according to this theory, activating the interossei system has got nothing to do with building power and stamina.

Thanks for this further explanation, you seem to be really an expert on piano technique!!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 9:39 pm 
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Perhaps the real question is, "is coordination a function of strength" or "is strength a function of coordination"?

I would argue the latter is correct, that strength is a function of coordination. The more coordinated we are at the keyboard, the stronger we are, not necessarily the other way around.

(Not that there's anything wrong with being strong! :lol:)

Casper89 wrote:
Ok pete....I'll go out and swim :lol: Btw, I like this recording!
Thanks. (Don't forget the sunblock.)

Pete


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