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#2262563 - 04/16/14 11:16 AM Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc.
HauschkaEST Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/08/09
Posts: 7
Hey guys. I'm a long time follower here that just hasn't posted in years I've followed all of the great arm weight debates with Niklaus's/KeyboardKlutz's weight + Kitty's fingers etc....

Anyway, I've been struggling with my sound and feeling comfortable at the piano for years now. When I forget about technique and just anticipate, I can never seem to get a 3-dimensional, warm tone. Instead, I find that it sounds percussive regardless of my mental practice and the unity of body/instrument is just not there. Words can't explain how frustrating it's been.

I'm absolutely convinced that the gravity drop unlocks my playing. 95% of the time, I can't do it correctly, but when I can, wonderful things happen in those practice sessions.

If we were to trouble shoot the gravity/weight drop, what are some common mistakes? I often find that either I bang into the keys with a harsh sound, or simply don't have enough power - my biggest problem being a lack of grip/control of the keys (no idea how to fix). Are we supposed to have a "rigid" instantaneous contraction? Right as we hit the key or at the bottom? Very firm fingers or relaxed? Etc. And the biggest confusion IMO - how relaxed should the wrist be during this drop? Do only fingers tense at impact?

I think that having a thread simply to troubleshoot this technique can potentially be a great thing.
I want to have that "falling" feeling into the keys that seems to occur.

Any words are much appreciated and I figured that we can all give our input to these questions/answers.

Edited by bledredwine (04/16/14 11:38 AM)
“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”
― Sergei Rachmaninoff

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#2262597 - 04/16/14 01:01 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
phantomFive Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 3224
Loc: California
If you're having trouble creating a musical line, and it sounds percussive; it's probably because some notes are unintentionally louder (or softer) than the notes around it.

Try focusing on listening to your playing, and making sure that the notes are being played evenly. Play with your ears; focus on them, not your muscles.

See how that goes.
Poetry is rhythm

#2262610 - 04/16/14 02:00 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
TwoSnowflakes Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 1972
I struggle with this, too.

I don't have the answer, yet, but I can tell you that when I'm sounding percussive it's because I'm not really using the weight the way I think I am. That I'm just playing loudly and with excess tension, not with weight and only enough tension to control the movement.

I can't make it happen all the time, but I can get back to a better place by first sitting up straight and balanced, and starting from my fingertips, just using the minimum amount of muscle engagement necessary to hold everything up. Then I will walk up and down a slow scale, and note how that weight transfers from finger to finger until I am relaxed again. Then try the passage again, slowly, doing the same thing, concentrating on crawling along from finger to finger and watching the fingers that are not playing closely for evidence that things are starting to freeze up.

When I do this right, I get a huge boost in overall quality for the amount of time that I can concentrate on maintaining that. The problem is that almost everything serves to erode that, and I cling on as long as possible.

As time goes on, I find that the relaxed part is becoming more and more automatic.

I just have to be patient and make sure I spend time every day deliberately honing in on what I need to do so that relaxed, heavy play is the norm, not the exception. Then I am simply choosing to add muscle action where it's needed, not trying to take it away when it's not.

#2262639 - 04/16/14 03:06 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
Atrys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 990
Originally Posted By: bledredwine
I find that it sounds percussive

There is only one reason this occurs: the hammer strikes with too much velocity. Have you tried to simply play softer and lighter? The idea that one needs to fall all the way into the bed is unfounded; factually, you only need to play such that the hammer strikes, which occurs independently of depressing the key to the bed. Playing lighter might help you find the right sensation and sound.

Originally Posted By: bledredwine

I want to have that "falling" feeling into the keys that seems to occur.

Be sure to use as little as force and movement as needed; I think BruceD nicely put this as "economy of movement".

It sounds like your problems are stemming from locked wrists or something like this. Uploading a clip of your playing will help everyone offer some more accurate advice. There are a few members here that are particularly excellent at diagnosing and advising on these sorts of issues from footage (you may know this after being here for far longer than I smile ).

Edited by Atrys (04/16/14 03:08 PM)
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

#2262712 - 04/16/14 06:02 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
I sense two quasi-separate issues here, one of which is definitely technique-related. (The other is a toss-up, based on the knowledge of just one post.)

Regarding a "percussive tone": I have translated this to mean Each. Note. Sounds. Separately. and that there is no line, or swell/ebb to what you are playing. Instinctively, I want to say it is because the sound you are producing doesn't fit within the sound that has already been produced, so each note sounds slightly accented. If that is the case, the cause could either be technical or musical; based on the rest of your post, and because you can hear it in your own playing, I am leaning towards technical.

Your issues with technique seem much deeper, and appear to require a complex discussion-and-application of tension-relieving and body-alignment principles. Do you have a teacher working on any of this with you?

To specifically (and also vaguely) answer your question about weight-dropping, I would give you this metaphor: put a rock on the ground. Now, have the rock fall onto the ground. It can't, right? That's because, in order for gravity to work (or, for the physicists, to convert potential energy to kinetic), the rock has to start from a height. Same for the fingers.

Take that rock and hold it above the ground. Now, the rock can fall and hit the ground. But take notice: the longer you hold up the rock, the more fatigued you become. So, you try to lift the rock only when you have to drop it. This conserves your energy.

Take that rock, pick it up, walk five feet, and put it down. Now, the rock has moved to a different place. Notice your arm (particularly your shoulder) isn't too fatigued. Instead, pick up the rock and swing your arm sideways to throw it the five feet. Do that a few times, and your arm will feel pretty tired.

So, there are all kinds of ways to move to reduce tension, decrease muscle load, and improve performance (both speed and endurance). But to translate that all via post here is nearly impossible.
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.

#2262730 - 04/16/14 06:43 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
hreichgott Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 3093
Loc: western MA, USA
The finger shouldn't grip or contract (unless you specifically want to create a certain kind of percussive finger accent.)

The finger should maintain a curved shape, anywhere from a 90-degree curve to a nearly flat curve, depending on where the notes are. You want enough strength to maintain the shape and to keep the fingertip from sliding around on the key. It feels like doing a handstand on one finger. Yes, some muscle contraction is involved, but the feeling is like leaning, not like curling the finger.
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

Working on:
Beethoven, Diabelli Variations
Barber, Souvenirs
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Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms, arranging accompaniment for four hands

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music

#2262791 - 04/16/14 08:49 PM Re: Troubleshooting the Gravity Drop/Weight Transfer etc. [Re: HauschkaEST]
trigalg693 Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/08
Posts: 871
One of my teachers informed me that every time I played his piano it would go out of tune, and I had broken more strings than any other student. Turns out I hit the keys way too hard when I was trying to. I think this might be a common problem for people who practice on pianos with limited dynamic range; If you can't get a good pianissmo, then your ears adjust to the louder volume and you try to hammer out extra loud forte.

I've since started practicing on a digital since I'm in college but I think two things to try are maybe 1. limit dropping your hand onto the keys with strong impact 2. if I'm right about your practice piano, listen to a mellow piano, be it on recording or another instrument, and then the harshness will be very apparent and you'll try to play softer naturally.


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