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#1138598 - 03/06/08 04:29 PM How does one develop 'touch'?  
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jasperkeys Offline
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This is something I would really like to get better at. Maybe I'm being too self critical but I really want my playing to sound smoother. Most of the times right now it seems like it's hit or miss on getting a consistent tone and key velocity across a slow melody line. Perhaps my problem is that I try to control the velocity mostly with my fingers as opposed to utilizing arm weight but I really don't know how to use arm weight.
I do some Hanons prior to practice (I now do up to exercise #12) and some scales but it seems difficult to achieve the same smoothness of volume pressing the keys as I hear in my head. Now sometimes on 'those days' almost everything sounds wonderful but I'd like to be able to do it consistently.
Does anybody have some sorely needed advice for this?


"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." Andy Bernard
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#1138599 - 03/07/08 11:30 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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I think this an interesting topic partly because of all the different physical properties...like hand size, arm strength, body relaxation...to mention a few and then throw in the emotional side and the possibilities are endless.

While the piano is a percussive instrument I think it takes great skill to play with velocity all the while not to irritate the ear.

I had a college professor who was 6'4"[from Cuba] and his fingers were so thick they could barely fit between the keys....but oh when he touched them it was like a slice of heaven.

So for me personally I like to see and hear the sound caressed from the piano rather that forced.

rada
www.pianopassions.com

#1138600 - 03/07/08 12:06 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
So for me personally I like to see and hear the sound caressed from the piano
What a beautiful image! Both the "caress" and the "from" are meaningful. What a difference between imposing the sound upon the the piano, or drawing it out of the piano.

#1138601 - 03/07/08 12:48 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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My old teacher used to say just that: Imagine you're drawing the sound UP from the piano.

I'm one of those people who doesn't think Hanon is useful.

However, I have found scales to be useful in gaining an evenness of tone. Assuming you're playing at least two octaves of a scale, try introducing artificial accents to your scales. That is: play an accent every four notes, making the rest of them quiet. Then try every three notes, and then maybe every 5 or 6.

every 4 notes accented:
C d e f G a b c D e f g A b c b A g f e D c b a G f e d ....
and the accents are on the same notes each time


if you accent every 3 notes, they fall on different notes each time... it's more difficult but more effective.

#1138602 - 03/07/08 01:05 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Thank you for that, Wavelength. smile

#1138603 - 03/07/08 02:22 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Yes. Thanks, wavelength. I'll will try this method but I might have to shut the metronome off (at least, initally) as this sounds like it could get tricky.


"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." Andy Bernard
#1138604 - 03/07/08 02:25 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Quote
So for me personally I like to see and hear the sound [b]caressed from the piano
What a beautiful image! Both the "caress" and the "from" are meaningful. What a difference between imposing the sound upon the the piano, or drawing it out of the piano. [/b]
Caress is the word CPE Bach uses to describe clavichord touch.


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#1138605 - 03/07/08 02:37 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Gyro Offline
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I believe that a weighted-key digital piano
would be the best thing for developing "touch."
Digital pianos are superior for developing
technique. It should be noted that silent
keyboards used to be popular with concert
pianists in the 1930's, and that Claudio Arrau
used one continuously until his death, which
was the secret to his great playing, playing
that was unique in the piano world. (In
a photo taken shortly before his death, Arrau
posed in his piano room at home, not with
a big grand in the background, but with
his ancient silent keyboard, his apparent pride
and joy.) A silent keyboard is similar to
a digital piano with the power turned off,
and this is the key. The volume control knob
on a digital piano allows you to adjust the
vol. anywhere from zero to much louder than
an acoustic piano, but it is the lower
volume levels that enable you to reproduce
something resembling a silent keyboard
with its superior capacity for technique development.

I grew up with classical lessons and acoustic
pianos, but it was only when I switched
completely to digital pianos in 1989 that
my playing and technique greatly improved.
I would have never been able to make that
same kind of improvement on an acoustic
piano due to its inherently inferior
capacity for technique development (this
is the reason why silent pianos were invented).

#1138606 - 03/08/08 11:27 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Thanks for that info on CPE Bach...never knew that....interesting....to me playing a digital piano is like using a dull knife....

rada
www.pianopassions.com

#1138607 - 03/08/08 11:42 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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I'm not convinced that digital pianos are superior for developing technique (and I'm being diplomatic here, can you tell?) - a digital piano might allow you to play more by virtue of it being portable (maybe) or able to be used at low volume / silently, but it isn't inherently better for developing feel or technique. Even relatively small variations in key pressure can be picked up as volume differences between keys, take away that sound "feedback" and what have you got to tell you that you're being inconsistent?

I don't have any problems with playing an acoustic piano whenever the mood takes me (no volume concerns here) and although I like my digital piano, I always return to the acoustic for proper practice when at home.


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#1138608 - 03/08/08 02:17 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Ordinarily, having both a digital (and a Promega
3 no less) and an acoustic would be the
ideal situation, but here the acoustic seems to
function as a kind of mental crutch, and this
is hindering the player. In this case, I'd
suggest getting rid of the acoustic, for the
good of the player.

#1138609 - 03/08/08 06:08 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Gyro:
I believe that a weighted-key digital piano
would be the best thing for developing "touch."
Digital pianos are superior for developing
technique.
One of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. The one thing you absolutely cannot develop on a digital is touch.

#1138610 - 03/08/08 07:16 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by jasperkeys:
Yes. Thanks, wavelength. I'll will try this method but I might have to shut the metronome off (at least, initally) as this sounds like it could get tricky.
I don't know if this is cheating, but I my metronome has a bell on one, so if accenting the first beat, normal is perfect for the accent(assuming 1/4 notes to start). Every third beat, then 3/4 time. Every other beat is 2/4 time (for beats on 2 and 4, I just adjust the count so 2 is the bell beat).

Works for me. Now, even when playing 1/16 notes, the bell just keeps me on 1 and I can accent any combo I wish....(within reason and abilities, of course).


"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro
#1138611 - 03/08/08 07:28 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by J. Mark:
Quote
Originally posted by Gyro:
[b] I believe that a weighted-key digital piano
would be the best thing for developing "touch."
Digital pianos are superior for developing
technique.
One of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. The one thing you absolutely cannot develop on a digital is touch. [/b]
At least from a beginners point of view, J.Mark, I feel I am developing a nice touch on my digital. It will absolutely not transfer to an acoustic (or even another digital even), but thats normal, I think.

I have thought for some time that the touch that an acoustic player develops is "heavy" on a digital, and a lot of the bad press comes from not being able to control the digital as well at first. I have read the adjustment is easier from acoustic to digital, but my gut says it's just as difficult, if not more so.

Of course, the opposite is just as true. I cannot do anything of value on an acoustic at first, and I tire quickly.

So, IMHO (as un-qualified as it is - corrections welcome), I think I would say "the one thing you cannot develop on a digital is the touch required on an acoustic, and vice-versa".


"There is nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself." Johann Sebastian Bach/Gyro
#1138612 - 03/08/08 07:31 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Here's my 2 cents: I make sure to play everything I can in several rhythms: scales, arpeggios, chromatic scales, and anything else that might fit. By different rhythms, I mean stressing every second beat, every third beat, etc. This has really forced my to improve my control. Playing triad arpeggios over multiple octaves while stressing every fourth note is especially challenging because you typically have to switch hand positions landing on the thumb. This tends to accent the thumb note every third beat. Playing it in 4 and making it even is a great exercise.

#1138613 - 03/08/08 08:03 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Somewhere here there is a thread which includes my late grandad's story about Moiseiwitsch playing a concert on a clapped out dance band upright. He (Moiseiwitsch, not my grandad!) was a world class player, and he could get the best from anything. Seems to me "touch" is about just that.


Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..
#1138614 - 03/09/08 01:35 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Gyro:
Ordinarily, having both a digital (and a Promega
3 no less) and an acoustic would be the
ideal situation, but here the acoustic seems to
function as a kind of mental crutch, and this
is hindering the player. In this case, I'd
suggest getting rid of the acoustic, for the
good of the player.
I'm well balanced enough to take your suggestion as a misguided one and leave it at that. :p


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#1138615 - 03/09/08 03:37 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by jasperkeys:
Yes. Thanks, wavelength. I'll will try this method but I might have to shut the metronome off (at least, initally) as this sounds like it could get tricky.
Yeah, it's probably good to start without the metronome... one thing at a time, ya know? smile

You're probably right about arm weight, too. I wish I could help you with that over the internet, but I have enough trouble helping people with that in person.

My own search for "touch" started when my jazz piano teacher said "You attack the piano like a bear! Sometimes, make love to the piano instead." He was a master in his idiom , but the specific advice he gave me on touch only got me partway there. He passed away, and I began to study with the classical teacher with whome HE had studied. She turned my world upside-down. In our first lesson, I didn't get past the first note of Chopin's Prelude in E minor before she stopped me and said "Ok, wait... stop... we're playing MUSIC now... " Kind of harsh sounding, I know, but it was illuminating to find that there was so much art within a single note, and decisions to be made about how to produce it.

She had alot of metaphors and visualisation stuff, and she was even more insane than my previous teacher. She had this schtick about "slow, high-finger" practice that seemed like a miracle to me (although now after being exposed to other ideas, I am not so sure about it... I certainly don't feel qualified to teach it to my students).

Sorry to go on and on about my teachers. I guess my point is that if you can find a teacher who is old, accomplished, slightly crazy, and in posession of arcane knowledge, do it! smile


As for the digital/acoustic thing, I love Jmark's response. ...Wait a minute, weren't you on the "polite" side of the polite/impolite debate? smile just teasing-- tell it like it is! I don't want to dismiss the idea of a silent keyboard without thinking about it, but it is kind of "out-there".

I played gigs on my digital the last 4 days in a row. Both weekend gigs were out of town, and we stayed in a hotel. I was sad to be away from my piano, but luckily there's a great piano store near Saturday's gig... With a room full of Steinways! I played a Steinway B for an hour or so before heading to the gig to play my crappy, road-worn Yamaha P80. unnnnnnnnh.... it felt like a little plastic toy. frown Or like one of those dreams where you try to run, but it's like you're in molasses, or underwater... and the harder you try, the dimmer your vision gets.

I'd rather play an out-of tune spinet with broken keys and chipped ivorys than my digital piano. Maybe I need a nicer digital.... the action on mine needs serious help.

#1138616 - 03/09/08 07:53 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by wavelength:
As for the digital/acoustic thing, I love Jmark's response. ...Wait a minute, weren't you on the "polite" side of the polite/impolite debate? smile just teasing-- tell it like it is!
Sorry, I get a little weary of the repeated nonsense ole gyro posts. He has his perspective, which is fine of course, but given how "out there" it is, it strikes me as wrong for him to post his views with such an authoritarian air.

BTW, wavelength, I love the stories about your teachers. I won't soon forget the quote about the Chopin Prelude. smile

#1138617 - 03/09/08 08:40 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by wavelength:
it was illuminating to find that there was so much art within a single note, and decisions to be made about how to produce it.
I'm at the same point in my playing.

One of my teachers suggested involving more muscles (wrists, arms and fingers) to shape the phrases physically ... you seem to see many accomplished pianists letting their hands flow with the music. I always thought this was a bit flakey, but now I see the point ... it is more reliable to express what is in your head this way, than to rely exclusively on your fingers.

Also, he suggested using more arm weight and wrist action, and as Wavelenght noted, to perform and concentrate on each note slowly - think Tai Chi.


Estonia 168 - slow down, relax, & listen
#1138618 - 03/09/08 09:08 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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My teacher has been talking a lot lately about "intent." That is, if you "intend" a particular phrase to go a certain way, or to convey a certain feeling or notion, it will. You have to put that "intent" into it as you play it. Hard to explain, but it is making sense to me in terms of getting the right "touch."

#1138619 - 03/09/08 11:16 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by J. Mark:
My teacher has been talking a lot lately about "intent."
Mark,
Your teacher is indeed wise. The pianist's "intent" is also responsible for being able to play with "tone". I maintain that intent originates in one's ear.

fingers


Playing piano at age 2, it was thought that I was some sort of idiot-savant. As it turns out, I'm just an idiot.
#1138620 - 03/10/08 04:17 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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The word I use for 'intent' is conception. And yes, it happens in the ears - the fingers take care of themselves.


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#1138621 - 03/10/08 03:30 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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J. Mark, why don't you shut the ____ up.

#1138622 - 03/10/08 04:12 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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jasperkeys,

1) Doing legato scales - one finger is coming up as another finger is going down - like a "see saw" in the playground / (one side is down on the ground, the other side is up in the air). You might start this as a thought with just fingers 2 -3 then 3 - 4 and then 4 - 5. Then making a longer line of the notes 2-3-4-5 until you hear no gaps between the playing and all ringers are striking with the same rate of speed - more like a "melting" as they land on the keys.

2) I leave pedals off with my students until they have learned to play expressively and accurately and with a steady beat.

Sustain pedals are used too much. The pianist should really learn to use mimimal pedaling in the areas of the piece it is needed.

The pedal responds to your demand from what your ears are telling you about the sound and music you are producing.

To me, pedaling is a last step to put into place, and then only selectively. It's a study unto itself.

Betty

#1138623 - 03/10/08 04:16 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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It would be great if this thread was continued without people getting personal. That way, I won't have to close it.

Thank you.

#1138624 - 03/10/08 04:36 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Sustain pedals are used too much.
Aw, Betty Patnude. You saw right through me. You're right, I confess, I do use the pedal more than what is good for me. How did you know?

Thanks so much for your advice. I really should strive to obtain that wonderful legato simply be connecting the tones without the pedal, at least initially. I think I just figure that if the notes are chordal anyway; why not? However, I'm probably too dependent on the pedal to achieve legato. Anyway, I will try to actually listen and check myself if I hear too much blurring. Thanks.


"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." Andy Bernard
#1138625 - 03/10/08 06:44 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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I wish those with extreme opinions on both sides would realize what works for them may not work for someone else.
2 sides to everything.
Blanket statements that digital is the only way or you will never learn on a digital are just
WRONG on both sides.
Those making personal attacks should take it to PM so the rest of us don't have to read their
Jabs at each other.
Grow up boys, please.

#1138626 - 03/10/08 08:14 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Gyro:
J. Mark, why don't you shut the ____ up.
Goodness. That's just not very nice.

I have not attacked anyone personally. My references were to the ideas set forth. If one cannot respond to ideas, then what are we doing here?

Whatever. And no, I will not shut the __ up.

#1138627 - 03/11/08 09:07 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?  
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Aw, jasperkeys!

Good project for you, don't you think?

When the right foot just wants to ride that pedal, you are going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice and place your right foot's toes UNDER the pedal!

Enter minimally with pedal.

Have you done any "search" on the forum here for "pedal" advice? I'm sure you'll find a lot of info. Search is at the top of every page to the right of Piano World Forums

I know you can do it! Good luck!

Betty

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