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Can we strengthen the fingers?
#2318299 08/21/14 07:53 PM
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Hi, I find my 4th and 5th fingers weak, I am playing Chopin etude op 10 1 and my fingers Im having trouble with the arpeggios that use the 4th and 5th finger. What can I do to solve this?. How can we strengthen our fingers if the do not have muscles?


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318303 08/21/14 08:10 PM
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You can look up exercises for the interossei muscles of the hand, but this will only be helpful to you if you haven't the preliminary musculature (which you likely have if you're playing etudes).

Strengthening your interossei muscles will eliminate the feeling of "weakness" totally and completely without fail.


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318312 08/21/14 08:27 PM
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One can have trouble with playing a certain passage and call it "weakness" and mean something completely different from the next person using the same term.

Just to clarify, what do you mean by your 4th and 5th fingers being weak? Can they not keep a curve when you play then (the nail joint collapsing)? Do they get fatigued when playing this etude? Are they slower than the other fingers?


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318316 08/21/14 08:37 PM
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Well, Im having trouble with them because sometimes my 4th and 5th finger do not depress the key when i play the etude at high speeds. I have to mention that I mostly play with flat fingers

Last edited by rov; 08/21/14 08:37 PM.

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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318352 08/21/14 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by rov
Well, Im having trouble with them because sometimes my 4th and 5th finger do not depress the key when i play the etude at high speeds. I have to mention that I mostly play with flat fingers
This could be due to weakness, or it could be due to your technique. My guess is it is technique if it's only showing up in this etude.


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
Morodiene #2318354 08/21/14 10:14 PM
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I noticed that if I play with curved fingers rather than flat fingers I play faster and more accurately this etude. how can I correct my technique in this etude?. It is the only piece that shows this problem


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318373 08/21/14 11:31 PM
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You don't need strength, you need agility.

When I told my piano teacher I needed to strengthen my fingers more, he told me, "look how strong your hands are compared to that little girl. You don't need to strengthen your hands."


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318398 08/22/14 12:44 AM
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Not to hijack the thread, but what kind of exercises would you do so that the nail joint doesn't collapse? For some reason my left hand 2nd finger is the only finger that collapses (the kind of thing that happens when playing say op10/12) and it's really annoying I kind of want to get rid of this problem.

Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
phantomFive #2318401 08/22/14 12:47 AM
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It wouldn't hurt to have stronger fingers, my joints are so hypermobile that I would definitely say my fingers are "weak". Then again I am not sure if there's really anything that can be done about that... Only learn to use the muscles in the hand and arm in the most economical way to compensate...which seems to be a really slow process...

Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
Lingyis #2318407 08/22/14 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Lingyis
Not to hijack the thread, but what kind of exercises would you do so that the nail joint doesn't collapse? For some reason my left hand 2nd finger is the only finger that collapses (the kind of thing that happens when playing say op10/12) and it's really annoying I kind of want to get rid of this problem.

Scales, slowly, listening for an even sound and watching the finger joints one by one.

Making a circle with thumb and finger 2, pressing the tips together while keeping the other fingers limp, then extending the tips away from the palm so it is more like a bird beak shape, maintaining pressure and not allowing the joint to collapse.


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
hreichgott #2318422 08/22/14 02:11 AM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by Lingyis
Not to hijack the thread, but what kind of exercises would you do so that the nail joint doesn't collapse? For some reason my left hand 2nd finger is the only finger that collapses (the kind of thing that happens when playing say op10/12) and it's really annoying I kind of want to get rid of this problem.

Scales, slowly, listening for an even sound and watching the finger joints one by one.

Making a circle with thumb and finger 2, pressing the tips together while keeping the other fingers limp, then extending the tips away from the palm so it is more like a bird beak shape, maintaining pressure and not allowing the joint to collapse.


nice, thanks!

Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
hreichgott #2318432 08/22/14 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Scales, slowly, listening for an even sound and watching the finger joints one by one.


Instead of scales, I've tried using just one note, but playing it five times, once with each finger. The goal is to develop evenness. Using one note makes the comparison easier, and eliminates issues of regulation of different actions.



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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
phantomFive #2318449 08/22/14 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
You don't need strength, you need agility.

When I told my piano teacher I needed to strengthen my fingers more, he told me, "look how strong your hands are compared to that little girl. You don't need to strengthen your hands."


I don't think this is a fair statement. Standard repertoire commonly forces the pianist to use their fingers in uncomfortable ranges of motion and the act of moving the fingers themselves consumes energy (just play imaginary piano quickly in the air, and you'll feel the muscles burn after some time), probably more than actually depressing the keys does in some cases.

I train my 4th and 5th fingers specifically because if the muscles are stronger, I can keep all the joints bent which allows for better control than a collapsed joint. Using the ligament to hold your finger up like many pianists do is fine and it works, but the rubbery feeling as the finger bends makes me feel uncomfortable.

Sure there are little tiny kids playing hard pieces, but they also practice the piano a lot, and their muscles have a lot of endurance and strength built up! I would bet that most adults have weaker 4th/5th fingers than young teenagers who play the piano well, and maybe even overall grip strength too. I certainly have a stronger grip than my friends who lift (I don't).

Last edited by trigalg693; 08/22/14 05:04 AM.
Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318469 08/22/14 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by rov
Hi, I find my 4th and 5th fingers weak, I am playing Chopin etude op 10 1 and my fingers Im having trouble with the arpeggios that use the 4th and 5th finger. What can I do to solve this?. How can we strengthen our fingers if the do not have muscles?


I've found the Dohnanyi exercises to be particularly useful for this sort of issue.

Also, I approach the "weak finger" problem not as being about weakness, but as being about training. It's not that the fingers are weak, it's that they aren't trained to respond the way you want them to.

Said differently, it is that the brain and nervous system haven't developed and refined the neural pathways that you need to get those fingers to be functioning as well as they can function. The only way I know to build that kind of "infrastructure" of the nervous system is through careful practice that is focused on those fingers, particularly through exercises that use them. And the more mindful you are about it, the better and quicker the results, I think.


Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318512 08/22/14 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by rov
I noticed that if I play with curved fingers rather than flat fingers I play faster and more accurately this etude. how can I correct my technique in this etude?. It is the only piece that shows this problem


Generally, you want to play with flatter (but not completely flat) fingers on the black keys and more curved on white. If you are playing arpeggios or large chords, you will tend to have flatter fingers as well vs. playing scale passages with a more curved/small hand shape.

In this etude, it is all arpeggios, but you are in C major, so it's mostly on white keys. That means that while your hand will be flatter, you will need to play on the pads of the finger rather than with the entire nail joint.

A common problem is people will play finger 5 completely on its side, pressing all of the nail joint and even some of the 2nd joint to the key. This causes unevenness and problems will tempo. Practice each arpeggio (i.e., m. 1-2) in this etude slowly, paying close attention to playing with a bit of a curve to the fingers. I would leave out the accents and staccato to start with and just play it all legato so you can focus on evenness in sound and feel.

There are some other pitfalls that an etude like this can present, but this should at least get you going in the right direction.


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
rov #2318537 08/22/14 09:59 AM
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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
trigalg693 #2318583 08/22/14 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693
Originally Posted by phantomFive
You don't need strength, you need agility.

When I told my piano teacher I needed to strengthen my fingers more, he told me, "look how strong your hands are compared to that little girl. You don't need to strengthen your hands."


I don't think this is a fair statement. Standard repertoire commonly forces the pianist to use their fingers in uncomfortable ranges of motion and the act of moving the fingers themselves consumes energy (just play imaginary piano quickly in the air, and you'll feel the muscles burn after some time), probably more than actually depressing the keys does in some cases.

I train my 4th and 5th fingers specifically because if the muscles are stronger, I can keep all the joints bent which allows for better control than a collapsed joint. Using the ligament to hold your finger up like many pianists do is fine and it works, but the rubbery feeling as the finger bends makes me feel uncomfortable.

Sure there are little tiny kids playing hard pieces, but they also practice the piano a lot, and their muscles have a lot of endurance and strength built up! I would bet that most adults have weaker 4th/5th fingers than young teenagers who play the piano well, and maybe even overall grip strength too. I certainly have a stronger grip than my friends who lift (I don't).

I'm not sure if you actually care, but if you do, think about what you are saying here.

Here are some quotes:
"use their fingers in uncomfortable ranges of motion"
"I can keep all the joints bent which allows for better control"

So what you want to do is increase your range of motion, and bend the joints for better control. These are things that would be considered flexibility, not strength.


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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
Hakki #2318610 08/22/14 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Hakki





This is interesting. It seems that the sliding part of the exercise could be done without a piano, just on a desktop. If it's strictly a muscle exercise, that might give us a way to make good use of our time when we're on hold or waiting for the computer to do something.



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Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
phantomFive #2318613 08/22/14 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive

So what you want to do is increase your range of motion, and bend the joints for better control. These are things that would be considered flexibility, not strength.


I suppose flexibility ultimately has to do with flexibility of muscles, but it takes strong opposing pairs of muscles to achieve the ability to repeatedly flex without tiring, and maintaining the finger in a strong position. To move the fingers independently is against the natural design of our hands and its interconnected tendons, and takes additional muscle power over just clenching all the fingers together over something.

Like I said, just from playing piano alone my fingers and overall hand grip are way stronger than some of my friends who diligently lift weights at the gym, whereas the rest of my body (which is not trained) is pathetically weak. So muscles are definitely being trained.

Last edited by trigalg693; 08/22/14 01:47 PM.
Re: Can we strengthen the fingers?
trigalg693 #2318614 08/22/14 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by trigalg693

So muscles are definitely being trained.

Wrong; the changes made to the interossei muscles and the antagonistic forearm group are very finite and the maximum bound is achieved very quickly.

What you're experiencing is finer control over these muscles.

The "muscles" aren't being trained, the brain is.


"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
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