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How to play softly #1604719
01/24/11 04:42 PM
01/24/11 04:42 PM
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minesweeper99 Offline OP
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Does anyone have tips on how to play a passage (of sixteenth notes) softly and with a light touch?

What are the best ways of practicing to develop this skill generally (in other types of passages)?

Thanks!

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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1604730
01/24/11 04:58 PM
01/24/11 04:58 PM
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Victoria, BC
BruceD Offline
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For things like Alberti bass in Mozart - my nemesis, bless his heart! - my fingers remain on the keys and I don't let the keys up all the way. With scalar passages the technique is somewhat different, but a minimum of finger movement is what helps me the most. A slightly flatter finger technique will work better than curved fingers, I believe. The curved fingers will result in a more brilliant sound.

Regards,


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: How to play softly [Re: BruceD] #1604742
01/24/11 05:09 PM
01/24/11 05:09 PM
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liszt85 Offline
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Originally Posted by BruceD
A slightly flatter finger technique will work better than curved fingers, I believe. The curved fingers will result in a more brilliant sound.

Regards,


Bruce, do you know why that is? My teacher told me the same thing but I don't understand fully why that is.


Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1604805
01/24/11 07:25 PM
01/24/11 07:25 PM
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Seattle, WA
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MarkH Offline
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I would guess that with flatter fingers, a larger proportion of the force you are using is dispelled in the slight bending backwards of the finger joints and perhaps a little sliding on the keys. With a curved finger, the joints are more vertical and less of the same effort is going to be lost, so effectively your more brilliant sound is a slightly faster hammer speed.

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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1604878
01/24/11 08:57 PM
01/24/11 08:57 PM
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PaulaPiano34 Offline
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To play soft very quickly, you must work up to it with rhythms, etc... to play soft and in control and very evenly very slowly. Practice slow, pianissimo staccatos slowly and then slowly build up speed. The trick to staccato is a clean, even, crisp sound. If anything is uneven or sounding awkward, it just won't work... Also, when you stroke the keys as opposed to hitting it down directly, it is far easier to control the sound. Also, don't pick up your fingers too much with staccatos, just think of quickly releasing the keys. Horowitz's recording of Mozart sonatas is particularly helpful in providing a good example of fast staccatos. I'm sure people have posted vids of Horowitz playing Mozart on YouTube, too, so I'd check that out.

Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1604953
01/24/11 10:58 PM
01/24/11 10:58 PM
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survivordan Offline
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Also, in quick, piano scale passages it is important to keep most of the weight of the shoulder, arm, and hand "out of the equation" because less weight generally equals a slower hammer speed which equals a softer sound. I am not saying to keep ALL weight out, only to regulate it to the point where one can easily produce a soft sound.


Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor
Re: How to play softly [Re: survivordan] #1605095
01/25/11 06:22 AM
01/25/11 06:22 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 6,370
Vught, The Netherlands
Dave Horne Offline
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Originally Posted by survivordan
Also, in quick, piano scale passages it is important to keep most of the weight of the shoulder, arm, and hand "out of the equation" because less weight generally equals a slower hammer speed which equals a softer sound. I am not saying to keep ALL weight out, only to regulate it to the point where one can easily produce a soft sound.


I would have stated it differently but would have essentially come up with the same thinking. By playing with the least amount of effort you have more control over what you play ... and you need a great deal of control to play softly.


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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605100
01/25/11 06:38 AM
01/25/11 06:38 AM
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delirium Offline
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How to play softly? It's easy, just imagine your piano is a woman...

Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605194
01/25/11 10:58 AM
01/25/11 10:58 AM
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Canada
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Kuanpiano Offline
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Think that if you do the run with more weight in your arm as your fingers fly across the keyboard, it'll be louder. Now if you just try with your arm light, with the same finger motion... playing light becomes much easier.


Working on:
Chopin - Nocturne op. 48 no.1
Debussy - Images Book II

Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605200
01/25/11 11:08 AM
01/25/11 11:08 AM
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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If often helps to support some weight between keys though. If you hold back all the weight, when the reaction forces push up at you, it can destabilise everything. The variable nature of this style of movement often leads to silent notes and surprisingly loud notes. However, if you are well supported between keys the fingers can pull in a very predictable way. It's the seeming contradiction of supporting (not pressing) the weight on the keybeds- to stop the weight being notably involved in the next finger as it actually moves the key down. Fast non legato is so hard because the weight is never stabilised against the keyboard. I believe this is why loud practise often aids soft playing. Unlike vague tentative movements, practising loud is inclined to train support between keys- something that is integral to the ability to control the movement. Imagine trying to place a foot down smoothly and gently, while your balancing leg keeps buckling.

Re: How to play softly [Re: liszt85] #1605228
01/25/11 12:05 PM
01/25/11 12:05 PM
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Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by liszt85
Originally Posted by BruceD
A slightly flatter finger technique will work better than curved fingers, I believe. The curved fingers will result in a more brilliant sound.

Regards,


Bruce, do you know why that is? My teacher told me the same thing but I don't understand fully why that is.


I'm not sure I can agree with this. I've never heard of it before, but trying out something like a p Alberti bass with flatter fingers felt uncomfortable, and I was able to achieve the soft sound I wanted with curved fingers. Perhaps it just depends on the size and shape of a person's hand?


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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605236
01/25/11 12:11 PM
01/25/11 12:11 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
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Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Varcon Offline
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Like BruceD, I was told to use flatter fingers with the soft pad of the finger for soft but tones that would carry. For faster soft passages a high wrist and finger tips and one can get the clarity and evenness desired.

Ralph

Re: How to play softly [Re: Varcon] #1605344
01/25/11 02:33 PM
01/25/11 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Varcon
Like BruceD, I was told to use flatter fingers with the soft pad of the finger for soft but tones that would carry. For faster soft passages a high wrist and finger tips and one can get the clarity and evenness desired.

Ralph
Although I'm sure some find this useful, I find the reasoning suspect. By using the words soft pad and soft tone there is an attempt to make some logical connection between the two, but I'm not sure it's valid. It could help just psychologically.

Also, although I don't really watch the curvature of a pianist's fingers that much, I think there are some who play mostly flat fingered(Horowitz as the prime example) and others who play mostly with curved fingers irregardless of the type of passage. If Horowitz wasn't the best known example of flat fingered playing, I don't think this approach would be discussed as much.

There are also so many degrees between very flat and very curved thatI think it becomes hard to discuss things with any precision. If curving the fingers according to he type of passage helps someone achieve the tone they want, I don't see anything against the approach.

Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605362
01/25/11 03:04 PM
01/25/11 03:04 PM
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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There are three main issues here- the give in the finger, the leverage and the stability of the preceding finger.

Firstly, a flat finger is far less inclined to have any give in it. If everything acts inwards (or even if everything is collapsed aside from the knuckle) there is predictability. The finger doesn't give way easily- so what you try to put in tends not to get lost in transmission.

However, if you use the curved finger and act from the knuckle, any further inward action from the last two joints can destabilise. You may need to try to straighten them or you may need to try to hold them very solid. Whatever it is, there are more variables in the mix. So it's far harder to use a confident and consistent muscular action to achieve consistency. Even if the last two joints are stable, there is more room for error in the means of making that happen. Ease of consistency is a big issue, as if you tend to lose a lot of what you try to put in (sometimes but not always) obviously you're going to be fearful of notes that don't sound- probably making you put a little extra energy in to prevent that. Then you worry about a loud note and hold back and next thing you know there's no sound. It can go all over the place.

In terms of leverage, a small movement from the knuckle moves the key from top to bottom with curved fingers, compared to flat. Even assuming the curved finger could be rigid in the two end joints (rather than with variable, unpredictable give) that suggests that a lot more sensivity is required to avoid a fast key speed. The action is basically too direct.

Rationally, there are many reasons why flat fingers would seem to be easier to use. They are easier to use predictably. Although the absence of give makes more energy go into the key, the predictability makes it easier to move slowly without fear of a note that doesn't sound.

However, stability is always a factor. Imagine trying to stand on one leg and stroke a hamster with the other foot. If the one leg you are standing on starts buckling, your weight might fall on the hamster or you might pull your foot away as you wobble and lose contact with it. Anything could happen. Balance well on the other leg and you can stroke the hamster comfortably. If you are more stable with curved fingers, it may well be easier than flat ones. However, if you are stable and use flatter fingers, there is very good cause to believe that you have more margin for error.

Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605477
01/25/11 06:10 PM
01/25/11 06:10 PM
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survivordan Offline
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In response to Morodiene's post about the piano Alberti bass as related to finger curvature, I think that the shape of one's finger(s) depends on the style of the passage. For slow, lyrical music where one wants to bring out a piano melody, I believe a flat finger is best because it provides a larger surface area of the finger exposed to the key, allowing for greater control over the key-depressing motion. For light, fast, quick passages (Alberti bass), curved fingers may be better because they allow for a more rapid release of the key (think about it: with flat fingers one would essentially have to move the entire hand away from the key in order to remove the finger, because flat fingers have a more limited range of motion. However, curved fingers have a wider range of motion and can move out of the key faster).


Working On:

BACH: Invention No. 13 in a min.
GRIEG: Notturno Op. 54 No. 4
VILLA-LOBOS: O Polichinelo

Next Up:

BACH: Keyboard Concerto in f minor
Re: How to play softly [Re: survivordan] #1605493
01/25/11 06:39 PM
01/25/11 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by survivordan
... (think about it: with flat fingers one would essentially have to move the entire hand away from the key in order to remove the finger, because flat fingers have a more limited range of motion. However, curved fingers have a wider range of motion and can move out of the key faster).
I don't think "flat" means the fingers remain horizontal...it means the finger is reasonably straight. If one had to move the hand away from the key in order to remove the finger from a note, this would be impossibly awkward on even slow lyrical passages and those who play with mostly flat fingers, like Horowitz, would be constatnly moving their hands up and down.

More importantly, I think most pianists play most of the time with neither very flat or very curved (as in shaped like a "C")fingers. It's not either flat or curved because there are many degrees "in between".

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/25/11 06:44 PM.
Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605508
01/25/11 07:10 PM
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Nyiregyhazi Offline
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If you'd have to move the whole hand away when using flat fingers, they must be as stiff as heck. Flat fingers don't have to be tense. You just let contact with the key flatten them. I don't personally use extreme flat fingers much for anything but slow melodies or very loud chords. However, releasing the fingers without withdrawing the hand is certainly not one of the issues. I don't think this was intended to mean horizontal fingers- as a larger surface area was referred to. However, I do find the suggestion rather puzzling.

Re: How to play softly [Re: survivordan] #1605607
01/25/11 10:19 PM
01/25/11 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by survivordan
In response to Morodiene's post about the piano Alberti bass as related to finger curvature, I think that the shape of one's finger(s) depends on the style of the passage.


I agree with this. For all Alberti bass for example, a more curved hand is used except if there are large stretches. The notes themselves dictate the hand shape, not the velocity used.


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Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1605982
01/26/11 01:23 PM
01/26/11 01:23 PM
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For me it just took time to start to be able to play passages softly. Still working on changes in dynamics within a phrase, passage etc.

First we learn the notes, then we work on timing, then we work on phrasing, then we work on dynamics. At least that is how I have approached it over the years.

Of note, since you already know your scales this is a good place to start to control dynamics, again at least this has been my approach.

Keep in mind the brain can only handle so much data at one time so give it time.


"The true character of a man can be determined by witnessing what he does when no one is watching".

anon
Re: How to play softly [Re: minesweeper99] #1607366
01/28/11 11:32 AM
01/28/11 11:32 AM
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Try starting with your fingers on the notes, already touching the keys.


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