2017 was our 20th year online!

Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 3 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments.
Over 100,000 members from around the world.
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

Shop our online store for music lovers
SEARCH
Piano Forums & Piano World
(ad)
Best of Piano Buyer
 Best of Piano Buyer
(ad)
Faust Harrison Pianos
Faust Harrison 100+ Steinway pianos
(ad)
Wessell Nickel & Gross
PianoForAll
Who's Online Now
92 members (benQF, Adypiano, anotherscott, Boboulus, Brendan, 36251, ambrozy, 15 invisible), 858 guests, and 651 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
(ad)
Estonia Pianos
Estonia Pianos
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Hop To
Page 1 of 2 1 2
#1951326 08/30/12 03:42 AM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Hi all,

I hit my wall during my bachelor degree approaching works like Jeux d'Eau where I could not find a way to practice the piece close to tempo without building up tension in my RH wrist. I also found myself building tension like this from pieces such as Scriabin Etude op. 42 no. 5 (anything with constant tense activity in RH material)

I am wondering if anyone has found themselves in a similar situation and found a way to resolve this tension? I am wondering if something like the Alexander Technique might help me overcome this hurdle, beyond which I can't seem to access this repertoire.

Thanks!

Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 5,446
D
5000 Post Club Member
Offline
5000 Post Club Member
D
Joined: Jun 2005
Posts: 5,446
With the exception of a few measures, I think Scriabin 42-5 is more intense in the LH than the RH. But I think that, in and of itself may be enlightening. You have no problems in your LH, only your right?

In the Scriabin, my first guess would be that you are gripping, holding notes too long and/or isolating finger movements as separate from the hand and arm. I say this because there are passages like mm 9 where the melody line holds over some quick work underneath. Improper technique there could cause fatigue, which later in the piece could become pain.

Do you yet experience pain, or have you not progressed to that level yet? What symptoms of tension are you feeling? Just missed notes? Unevenness? Fatigue? Pain?


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Hi Derelux, thanks for your reply.

Yes I am experiencing some pain at the time of tension, but can usually just "shake it out". And yes, my LH appears to be totally fine in the Scriabin (I am left-handed if it makes a difference). The RH tension for the Scriabin begins a ways into the A prime section and in the big return to the main theme with all the oscillating patterns in the lower RH voice especially. In both cases I think the reason has to do with working "too hard" to control dynamics of each layer and falsely attributing a need to maintain some tension mentally in order to do this. I wonder if anyone practicing the Scriabin had any special exercises they made up to do under tempo to build up to this kind of dynamic layering: my standard is the Terence Judd recording which IMHO blows all others I've heard out of the water... now that I've heard it I won't settle for anything less in my own interpretation!

For the Ravel I think it's all the stuff in the wider hand spans that is causing it, such as the section with the RH playing C#/G#s across two octaves, and the buildup section to the big glissando.

As for the problem in general, I have a few theories in mind, including adjusting bench height (currently using a fixed bench at home and bet it's too high), a return to basic technical training to make up for years of less than regular practice after I finished my bachelor and went on to other things besides teaching, and also perhaps working through a set of less technically difficult pieces than these back up to them. Maybe all these things together would work best.

I guess my thread here was to check if anyone had a similar experience and found a path to success that worked for them.

Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,675
1000 Post Club Member
Offline
1000 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,675
I haven't worked on the Scriabin or the Ravel, but I have worked a lot a releasing tension.

There are many ways for tension to occur, as I am always rediscovering. If I have tension in my wrist at fast speeds it can either be
a) my fingers are not relaxing and are continuing to pull/curl in. Once the note has been played, nothing should be held. Just try curling/pulling your second or third fingers and feel what impact that has on your wrist.
b) I am not releasing my arm into the keys, and instead am holding it above them

If you can isolate where the problem is, then work on that one area. If I am playing something in the LH that I am having problems with, that I know I wouldn't have problems if my RH were playing, then I use the RH to "teach" the LH. This is done in mirror, so when the RH thumb plays, the LH thumb plays, and when the RH plays a black key, the LH plays a black key. Make sense? The idea is to have the same configuration in both hands (it sounds awful). This sometimes makes it easier for me to see where the less efficient or tension-producing movements are.

Also, a question - is it the top side or the underside of the wrist that is the issue?

Last edited by Arghhh; 09/02/12 09:35 PM.

Professional pianist and piano teacher.
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,194
K
2000 Post Club Member
Offline
2000 Post Club Member
K
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,194
I've worked on,and performed the Scriabin etude. The left hand is much easier than the right hand - the passage work gives the hand a chance to breathe and flow, whereas the right hand (in the last two pages) demands volume and fingerwork which takes place under a static wrist, contributing to tension.

I've had a lot of problems with tension in the Scriabin and I haven't really developed the technique to handle it. What helped me survive the last page (the return of the lyrical theme once the technical pattern starts to oscillate is doable, but hard) was adding spots for the music to breathe (slowing, or inserting a pause), and looking for spots where you can add some wrist action to dissipate tension (like moving the wrist down on a downbeat where you play a note with a thumb).

Not that helpful, but pretty much this etude just requires incredible hand strength...


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

Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,194
K
2000 Post Club Member
Offline
2000 Post Club Member
K
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 2,194
Ooops, misread your post - the A' section is tricky and needs a good fingering. I just did a lot of slow practice where I would work through different voicings - top + bass, middle + bass, top + middle. Let your hands move side-to-side. I have a copy of my fingerings, so send a pm. How much of the piece have you worked on?


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

Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 3,234
D
3000 Post Club Member
Offline
3000 Post Club Member
D
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 3,234
Having both pieces in the 'active' repertoire for more than 3 decades, I must say that I reckocnize the wrist- agonizing effect that these piece may have on working on them for the first time, same applies to Chopin op.10/1 or Schumann op.7 f.i. The best way is just play so slowly, with the correct fingerings of course, that you just feel really at ease and that may take a while! It could take a year, they should feel like basic Czerny, then and only then, after the basic Cz.feel, try to do something about speed/dynamics/etc, and keep in mind/body to be elastic, in muscles and in mind.


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
6000 Post Club Member
Online Content
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
I've been working on overcoming tension for about 3 years and am finally getting on top of it. The hard part is to develop an awareness of when you are becoming tense. In my experience, the only way to overcome it is to practice very, very slowly, gradually bringing up the tempo until you reach the point where the tension creeps in. Then slow down below that point and keep working.

Usually tension accompanies a spot that is giving you difficulty.


Best regards,

Deborah
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by Arghhh

If you can isolate where the problem is, then work on that one area. If I am playing something in the LH that I am having problems with, that I know I wouldn't have problems if my RH were playing, then I use the RH to "teach" the LH. This is done in mirror, so when the RH thumb plays, the LH thumb plays, and when the RH plays a black key, the LH plays a black key. Make sense? The idea is to have the same configuration in both hands (it sounds awful). This sometimes makes it easier for me to see where the less efficient or tension-producing movements are.

Also, a question - is it the top side or the underside of the wrist that is the issue?


That's a really clever trick! I'll try it, as I've never experienced this kind of tension in my LH aside from the Chopin Etude op. 10 no. 9. I think my LH has a lot to teach my RH if your theory and technique are correct and work!

Oh, and the tension is in the top side of the wrist, about 3-4 inches from the wrist joint. I guess maybe that technically places the problem in the lower forearm and not the wrist.

Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by Kuanpiano
Ooops, misread your post - the A' section is tricky and needs a good fingering. I just did a lot of slow practice where I would work through different voicings - top + bass, middle + bass, top + middle. Let your hands move side-to-side. I have a copy of my fingerings, so send a pm. How much of the piece have you worked on?


I've worked through the entire piece. I don't think I'd have a problem mastering it if I can just figure out a way to tackle these two sections of the piece. PM = Sent, thanks!

Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
Having both pieces in the 'active' repertoire for more than 3 decades, I must say that I reckocnize the wrist- agonizing effect that these piece may have on working on them for the first time, same applies to Chopin op.10/1 or Schumann op.7 f.i. The best way is just play so slowly, with the correct fingerings of course, that you just feel really at ease and that may take a while! It could take a year, they should feel like basic Czerny, then and only then, after the basic Cz.feel, try to do something about speed/dynamics/etc, and keep in mind/body to be elastic, in muscles and in mind.


Hi dolce,

You are probably right, I had a tendency in my undergrad and immediately after to rush my initial study of pieces so that I could get them polished over enough time to do the juries! Now i have to remember I have all the time I need to work on pieces properly, let them mature in the time they need. I will try your suggestion.

Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by gooddog
I've been working on overcoming tension for about 3 years and am finally getting on top of it. The hard part is to develop an awareness of when you are becoming tense. In my experience, the only way to overcome it is to practice very, very slowly, gradually bringing up the tempo until you reach the point where the tension creeps in. Then slow down below that point and keep working.

Usually tension accompanies a spot that is giving you difficulty.


Hi gooddog,

Sounds like we are in the same boat: for me it had become a chronic problem as I wasn't having much trouble in the first half of my undergrad, then hit a wall once the level of difficulty of the pieces I was trying reached a certain point. I really want to coach myself to have great stamina, a stamina that comes from taking every opportunity to relax possible. However I know that I had a very serious problem, from a workshop I did once during my undergrad.

A specialist from New York came to our school, and held a workshop I volunteered for. She placed EMG nodes at different places on our body, and showed the state of our muscle contraction as we played through a few bars of a piece. Then she showed us different places in the music where we could relax more, and showed everyone watching how the readouts from the EMG data lessened at these points when we consciously thought about relaxing more.

Then, lol, she gets to me. She places the nodes on me and immediately they start showing a readout over 50% tension. So she tells me to relax, I say "I am relaxed!" She can't believe it: she thinks I am trying to mess up her presentation and is somewhat discreetly mad at me! She is really trying to shake the tension out of me and can't do it. So we carry on with the presentation and don't really see much change in the data when I try to relax more. And I'm only playing the Menuet from Tombeau!

So since then I knew I had a chronic problem with tension, and have to do something about it. I had a lot of back problems from the tension too and could never find a solution.

But I think I am starting to get to the bottom of it now, and it has a lot to do with pushing oneself too much and not living a more balanced life with more time to relax. I think the bottom line is this lifestyle change that trickles down to one's approach to pieces that reflects the muscle memory that goes on to transfer from slower tempos where its not as noticeable to faster tempos when it definitely is.

I've actually been researching muscle memory a lot (I'm doing more music research now than practical music, but feeling a bit more fulfillment so it's worth it I think), and opening this problem I had for discussion has helped me to shed some more light on it.

Thanks for the great input from everyone so far.

Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
6000 Post Club Member
Online Content
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
kcoul058, I didn't gain an understanding of releasing tension until a teacher told me to make my hand/shoulder/arm completely limp while he held my wrist and played some notes with my limp hand. He was trying to get my brain to accept the idea that I can indeed play with no tension at all. It sounds simple but it really had an impact on me.

When I tried playing with no tension on my own, I found I was scared that the lack of tension would make my playing sound sloppy and that I would lose control. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and it took courage to let go. I was pleasantly surprised to find my playing actually sounded better. My point is that overcoming tension is really in your mind, not your body.

Now I'm at the point where I still have to pay attention to places where I tense up but I can switch off the tension at will. (It's amazing how much faster and sweeter you can play when you aren't tense!)

Don't forget to pay attention to your arms and shoulders as well as your hands and wrist.


Best regards,

Deborah
Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,730
C
2000 Post Club Member
Online Content
2000 Post Club Member
C
Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,730
+ infinity (and beyond)

Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by gooddog
kcoul058, I didn't gain an understanding of releasing tension until a teacher told me to make my hand/shoulder/arm completely limp while he held my wrist and played some notes with my limp hand. He was trying to get my brain to accept the idea that I can indeed play with no tension at all. It sounds simple but it really had an impact on me.

When I tried playing with no tension on my own, I found I was scared that the lack of tension would make my playing sound sloppy and that I would lose control. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and it took courage to let go. I was pleasantly surprised to find my playing actually sounded better. My point is that overcoming tension is really in your mind, not your body.

Now I'm at the point where I still have to pay attention to places where I tense up but I can switch off the tension at will. (It's amazing how much faster and sweeter you can play when you aren't tense!)

Don't forget to pay attention to your arms and shoulders as well as your hands and wrist.


Hey gooddog,

Yeah, my uni prof used to do that with me all the time, he'd grab my arm and shake it a lot and tell me I only needed slight tension in the hand joints themselves, while my wrist, elbow, and shoulder could all remain relaxed. Gaining neural control over only tensing in the necessary places and not the others was a huge step forward for me that unlocked a lot of repertoire like Vers la Flamme, Appassionata (3rd movement only at slower tempos, still not sure what Beethoven meant by non troppo Allegro on that one...) and the 4th Ballade. But I am still getting this problem with some other repertoire, no matter what I do.

I'll try what everyone suggested and report back on my progress.
Thanks!

Last edited by kcoul058; 09/08/12 01:44 AM.
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
500 Post Club Member
OP Offline
500 Post Club Member
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 993
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
+ infinity (and beyond)


Maybe I didn't see this post in context: what do you mean?

Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,730
C
2000 Post Club Member
Online Content
2000 Post Club Member
C
Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,730
+1 is short form for "I agree with the above poster". There's a thread below where I suggest it may all be about ligaments - I assume you read it.

Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
6000 Post Club Member
Online Content
6000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 6,219
Originally Posted by kcoul058
But I am still getting this problem with some other repertoire, no matter what I do. !
Have you tried slow practice? I mean, really sloooow. For example, I'm working on Chopin's 3rd Ballade. After I learn the notes, I practice at 92MM per eighth note. I don't speed up until the notes are solid and I can stay completely relaxed. As soon as I tense up, I back up and play it even slower, again and again. It takes great patience but as a wonderful teacher told me this summer at piano camp, "slow practice makes fast progress".


Best regards,

Deborah
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 5,176
5000 Post Club Member
Offline
5000 Post Club Member
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 5,176
Very helpful, Deborah--- thanks.

I feel very proud of you for your accomplishments, and I'm sure this advice you shared, for free, did not come free to you. Not just the money, either. One of those things that it's simple to tell, but not so easy to do moment by moment. Yet handling the tension can either save us, or break us.


Clef

Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 73
H
HNB Offline
Full Member
Offline
Full Member
H
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 73
I just began learning Jeux D'eau this week and immediately noticed my RH wrist cracking during those wide arpeggios! I instinctively roll my wrist to reach those top notes with my pinky, but I think better weight transfer/forearm rotation is what I need to work on, as well as more active fingers to avoid the wrist fatiguing.

Good info in this thread, thanks to all smile

Page 1 of 2 1 2

Moderated by  Brendan, Kreisler 

Link Copied to Clipboard
What's Hot!!
Pianos - Organs - & Keyboards, Oh My!
Selling Hammond D100 (think B3) Organ & Leslie HL722!
---------------------
Our Fall 2021 Free Newsletter is Out , see it here!
---------------------
My first professionally recorded piece
---------------------
Visit Maine, Meet Mr. Piano World
---------------------
Posting Pictures on the Forums
-------------------
Forums RULES & HELP
-------------------
ADVERTISE on Piano World
(ad)
Pianoteq
Steinway Spiro Layering
(ad)
PianoDisc

PianoDisc
(ad)
Piano Life Saver - Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad)
Mason & Hamlin Pianos
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Yundi Li arrested
by Sidokar - 10/26/21 05:36 AM
A thought experiment
by cygnusdei - 10/26/21 03:58 AM
Modern U where is the sample folder located?
by MooganDavid - 10/25/21 11:33 PM
Download Sheet Music
Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads
Forum Statistics
Forums42
Topics209,749
Posts3,142,129
Members103,118
Most Online15,252
Mar 21st, 2010
Please Support Our Advertisers

Faust Harrison 100+ Steinways

Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver

 Best of Piano Buyer

PianoTeq Bechstein
Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads



 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
| Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | MapleStreetMusicShop.com - Our store in Cornish Maine


© copyright 1997 - 2021 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission
Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5