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#1450425 - 06/04/10 08:07 PM dumb questions about using arm weight  
Joined: Dec 2008
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Arghhh Offline
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Arghhh  Offline
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Reading the "Piano Sitting Posture" thread reminded me that I have some questions on using arm weight on chords.

My teacher last year taught me to drop onto the keys without resisting the fall of my hand. (Surprising to me, it took me a couple weeks to be able to do this.) Unfortunately this teacher left, so I couldn't ask him these dumb questions.

Dumb question #1:
How do you get different dynamics on, for example, chords? If I just let my arm drop onto the keys, the chord will always be the same volume, unless I put greater distance between my fingers and the keys. The other option would be to resist the fall of my arm to create softer dynamics, but then you wouldn't call that using arm weight, would you?

Dumb question #2:
What do you do with the weight of your arm once you have played the notes? If I just let my arm "hang", and relax all my arm and shoulder muscles, my arm will want to fall backwards because my elbow is slightly in front of my body. So then with all my large shoulder/arm muscles relaxed, my fingers on the depressed keys need to grip to prevent this from happening. This doesn't seem right to me.

Dumb question #3:
Going on from the previous question, with the weight of my arm holding down the keys, there is obviously more weight on the keys than is required to keep them down. Isn't that called keybedding?


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#1450432 - 06/04/10 08:22 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Arghhh]  
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jesseoffy Offline
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Ok, I think I can answer some of these:

Dumb answer #1: You shouldn't always drop the entire arm for a chord. For example, if you have to play a lot of repeating octaves quickly, it will mostly be the wrist moving up and down, and the arm moving left and right (relatively). Of course, large and grand moment will require the great drop of the arm on the keys.

Dumb answer #2: I'm not sure how to help, cause I'm stuck with tensing my arms up too much, but I think using some arm muscle to hold the arm there would help - don't go 100% limp.

Dumb answer #3: Who the heck has the time to make up these terms? smile Just press down however you feel is necessary - sometimes a lot of pressure will make more sound, but don't squish down the keys with all your might. If your hands are white from all the pressure, relax them some. laugh

It's preference for some, but if it works, then it works...


Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov
#1450435 - 06/04/10 08:25 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Arghhh]  
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NickN Offline
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Your teacher wanted you to FEEL fully what arm weight is....this doesnt mean that you should produce tone only using arm weight. You need to cultivate a natural balance of all muscles in your arms/hands in order to acheive the most comfortable and effective technique. It may at first feel as if you are only dropping the weight of your arm under gravity, but you need to keep your finger muscles tight enough in order to maintain your hand's structure, or else everything will collapse and you wont be able to play a single note. Similarly, the muscles of your upper arm and torso need to work in such a way that they support and balance your arms/hands and distribute the weight effectively.

So go for a feeling of arm weight, but know that this is only a teaching trick; there (probably) wont ever be a situation in your playing where you actually need to "drop" everything by relaxing all of your muscles.

This means that no, you generally should not let all of your dead weight hold a chord down after youve played it. And of course you need to "resist" the fall as you put it, in order to control dynamics and tone. but dont try to resist by feeling like you are "squeezing" or "pressing"; just find a natural, balanced way to resist gravity using all of your muslces in combination.

#1450439 - 06/04/10 08:30 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: NickN]  
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dolce sfogato Offline
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Try Saint-Saëns étude opus 52/2, pour l'indépendance des doigts, makes one think about wheight...


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#1450520 - 06/04/10 10:48 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Arghhh]  
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TheFool Offline
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
So then with all my large shoulder/arm muscles relaxed, my fingers on the depressed keys need to grip to prevent this from happening. This doesn't seem right to me.


I'm fairly sure this is the 'arch/bridge of strength' that cortot practitioners refer to, no? Or is that just my teacher?


"Nine? Too late."
#1450574 - 06/05/10 01:27 AM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: TheFool]  
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keyboardklutz Offline
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London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Wow, really good questions! Here are some answers:




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http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/

#1450642 - 06/05/10 06:47 AM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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So now we know which way is up and down. But what does that contribute to the questions?

Regarding two and three, I think it's false premise to feel that the fingers are not supposed to do anything between keys. Why should they not grip? You have two options- use the return force that keys provide as part of the means of balance for controlled legato. Or simply hold your arm in position over the keyboard, with no support from the keys (as we see in kbk's playing). However, you look at it, that is more 'held' than it need be and is not relaxed. So either you can use your fingers to support virtually your entire arm's weight. Or you can hold your arm in fixed position with slack fingers. Or you can find a balance between helping out with just some activity further back, to withold some of the weight in the arm, and by using the fingers to support the rest. There are many different ways of finding a balance between the two elements. I think 'keybedding' has much more to do with undue pressing from the arm than the fingers. The fingers have to support. Relaxed fingers mean a held arm.

#1450814 - 06/05/10 01:21 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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jesseoffy Offline
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Take Flight of the Bumblebee as a simple example. Basically all is fingers, if the arms was doing all the work you'd be pretty damn tired by the end of the few minutes of playing...


Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov
#1451105 - 06/05/10 11:05 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: jesseoffy]  
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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Sure. But does that mean it's time to withold the arm stiffly? When things call for fingers, use them. But why is it supposedly A is all fingers and B is all arm? The more I stopped pigeonholing, the more I progressed. I now use a lot of fingers for even octaves and rest a lot of weight on top of much lighter finger work. It's not merely on or off. There's a fine balance. The more I add what is tradtionally the 'wrong' aspect, the easier I find the long term blend of both. You shouldn't merely think A is weight and B is fingers. A lot spills over.

#1451115 - 06/05/10 11:22 PM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Arghhh Offline
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Thanks all for the replies - I think you've all confirmed that there is to be a balance. I suppose my follow on questions are impossible to do over the internet - how to find a good balance, and how to really know where to incorporate the tension (I don't want to get into a semantics debate here -when I say this I mean some tension/muscular effort is always necessary, but excessive tension is unnecessary). Since I believe I've gone too far in the direction of letting my arms go, that means I need to add more effort into holding them.

Kbk - I will try to watch your videos later some time - I am only running on a dial-up connection that does not allow me to view videos.


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#1451178 - 06/06/10 01:23 AM Re: dumb questions about using arm weight [Re: Arghhh]  
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keyboardklutz Offline
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You seem to have done your research. The ability to release unnecessary tension whilst undertaking any task is the key to life. Life needs space to breath. Weird, I know.


snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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