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Technique for holding down chords
#2354831 11/26/14 12:07 AM
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Why am I having trouble holding chords down without tension?

My teacher can see the strain in my forearm when holding a chord for say 4 counts. But we were not able to resolve this issue.

Any tips or experiences with this?

Last edited by DeadPoets; 11/26/14 12:24 AM.
Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354857 11/26/14 01:01 AM
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Are you just playing the chord, or you trying to do something deliberate to take away the tension? Sometimes in the act of trying to be relaxed, you can actually introduce tension

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354862 11/26/14 01:16 AM
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What have you tried so far? Have you tried taking the "weight" off your fingers?


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.
Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354874 11/26/14 02:30 AM
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I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354876 11/26/14 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?


A mere 50 grams of weight or so is necessary to keep a key held down. Make sure you are not continuing to use downward force in holding the chord. Let the weight of the relaxed fingers hold down the keys. Don't use your muscles by continuing to press downward.

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354877 11/26/14 02:49 AM
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To feel the structure of your bones, yet feel you relaxed you need to use the intrinsic muscles to support your hand on one hand and the shoulder/back at the other, like two ends of chain.

Imagine an upward force supporting your hand from below, rather than any sort of bearing down or "holding". It should flex and make your knuckles more visible, while straightening out your fingers.


Re: Technique for holding down chords
Piano Doug #2354881 11/26/14 03:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano Doug
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?


A mere 50 grams of weight or so is necessary to keep a key held down. Make sure you are not continuing to use downward force in holding the chord. Let the weight of the relaxed fingers hold down the keys. Don't use your muscles by continuing to press downward.


I understand it conceptually - but still can't apply it at the piano.

Re: Technique for holding down chords
anamnesis #2354882 11/26/14 03:02 AM
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Originally Posted by anamnesis
To feel the structure of your bones, yet feel you relaxed you need to use the intrinsic muscles to support your hand on one hand and the shoulder/back at the other, like two ends of chain.

Imagine an upward force supporting your hand from below, rather than any sort of bearing down or "holding". It should flex and make your knuckles more visible, while straightening out your fingers.



Any visual of this? Or any way to practice it?

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354892 11/26/14 03:35 AM
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Try playing the chord, and then very slowly reducing your downward pressure until you find the point at which the keys start to rise. Then use just slightly more pressure than that to hold the chord.



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Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354924 11/26/14 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by anamnesis
To feel the structure of your bones, yet feel you relaxed you need to use the intrinsic muscles to support your hand on one hand and the shoulder/back at the other, like two ends of chain.

Imagine an upward force supporting your hand from below, rather than any sort of bearing down or "holding". It should flex and make your knuckles more visible, while straightening out your fingers.



Any visual of this? Or any way to practice it?


Well the shoulder/back thing is more about your sensitivity, proprioception, and mind-muscle connection. It's something you have to develop over time, and something you have to work on actively at all times. It's the sensitivity needed for accuracy on large leaps, but it should be employed at all times, especially as applied toward the phrase-progression in the music.

The intrinsic muscle thing can be emulated by using your other hand, to support your playing hand by pressing below the playing hand. Experiment until you can feel how despite pressing up with the other hand from below, your fingers are playing down toward the keyboard. Right now, don't try to make any effort at all with the other hand, just let the supporting hand create the arch structure by supporting it from below and active pressing up.


Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2354928 11/26/14 08:03 AM
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You could just try some dead-weight drops -- hold your hand outstretched over the keyboard, then relax all the muscles at once, letting your hand drop down onto the keys (doesn't matter what keys you hit.) That gets people used to making sound at the piano without tension, and you get a very loud sound too.

Once that is doable then you can try gradually decreasing the height from which you drop, and gradually increasing the support of the fingers, till you can start from a fingertip touching the key and then dropping the hand and arm to play the note.

The "good/necessary tension" is in the muscles on the bottom of the hand, and it is just barely enough tension to maintain curvature in the finger and to keep the fingers from splaying out above the hand. If you make a circle with your thumb and one of your fingers, you'll feel those muscles activate. Tension in the muscles on top of the hand and top of forearm is completely unnecessary for playing piano and it often interferes.

Last edited by hreichgott; 11/26/14 08:06 AM.

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Re: Technique for holding down chords
anamnesis #2355130 11/26/14 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by anamnesis
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by anamnesis
To feel the structure of your bones, yet feel you relaxed you need to use the intrinsic muscles to support your hand on one hand and the shoulder/back at the other, like two ends of chain.

Imagine an upward force supporting your hand from below, rather than any sort of bearing down or "holding". It should flex and make your knuckles more visible, while straightening out your fingers.



Any visual of this? Or any way to practice it?


Well the shoulder/back thing is more about your sensitivity, proprioception, and mind-muscle connection. It's something you have to develop over time, and something you have to work on actively at all times. It's the sensitivity needed for accuracy on large leaps, but it should be employed at all times, especially as applied toward the phrase-progression in the music.

The intrinsic muscle thing can be emulated by using your other hand, to support your playing hand by pressing below the playing hand. Experiment until you can feel how despite pressing up with the other hand from below, your fingers are playing down toward the keyboard. Right now, don't try to make any effort at all with the other hand, just let the supporting hand create the arch structure by supporting it from below and active pressing up.



Oh I see... so lay the hand flat on the keys and use the other to rise it up into a good structure on the keys?

I do see what you're saying.

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2355154 11/26/14 05:38 PM
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What Heather said. Excellent advice.

I would advise another thing though:

Work very patiently with your teacher. Sometimes we get caught up in our piano practice with playing the right notes, etc etc, and all of that stuff increases tension. It happens to all of us. I have worked professionally as a concert pianist and I know what it takes to have a perfect technique (it's something very simple, actually, as Heather tells us, it's actually a very easy and simple concept, and it applies to beginners and concert artists alike), but when I get worried about playing the right notes, or what people will think, etc, rather than focusing on the actual music and the motions necessary to make that music, I get terrible tension.

If you can do the movement away from the piano, I would bet you can do the movement at the piano, and my advice to you would be to get your arms into the right place over the keyboard to play the right notes, but don't think about any sense of fear of playing the wrong notes. Does that make sense? Allow yourself to screw up, and then from getting the sensation of playing right, you'll eventually bring your playing into focus and play the right notes.

I'm making sense to me, but I have a tendency to ramble.... sorry!

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2355157 11/26/14 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by anamnesis
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by anamnesis
To feel the structure of your bones, yet feel you relaxed you need to use the intrinsic muscles to support your hand on one hand and the shoulder/back at the other, like two ends of chain.

Imagine an upward force supporting your hand from below, rather than any sort of bearing down or "holding". It should flex and make your knuckles more visible, while straightening out your fingers.



Any visual of this? Or any way to practice it?


Well the shoulder/back thing is more about your sensitivity, proprioception, and mind-muscle connection. It's something you have to develop over time, and something you have to work on actively at all times. It's the sensitivity needed for accuracy on large leaps, but it should be employed at all times, especially as applied toward the phrase-progression in the music.

The intrinsic muscle thing can be emulated by using your other hand, to support your playing hand by pressing below the playing hand. Experiment until you can feel how despite pressing up with the other hand from below, your fingers are playing down toward the keyboard. Right now, don't try to make any effort at all with the other hand, just let the supporting hand create the arch structure by supporting it from below and active pressing up.



Oh I see... so lay the hand flat on the keys and use the other to rise it up into a good structure on the keys?

I do see what you're saying.


Yes. Obviously, your playing hand will have to learn how to do it by itself, but for now you just want to learn the sensation where you are simultaneously allowing to fingers to go down while feeling up with structure in the hand. It's almost a paradox. This is also the key to free playing at faster speeds and larger leaps because you are hand is also prepped to release and take advantage of the momentum from making contact with the keyboard (Especially if you learn how to connect it with sensitivity/fine control at the level of the shoulder/upper arm).



Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2355272 11/26/14 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Got it. My initial guess (which may be wrong, but it's common and helps root out some things) is that you either continually "grip" and/or continually "push down" into the notes. Do you feel this at all?

If you don't feel it, try this: press the chord down. Slowly let all muscle tension go (fingers first, forearm second, wrist third) until you are no pressing down the keys (they release on their own). Let me know when the key releases...


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.
Re: Technique for holding down chords
Joseph Fleetwood #2355280 11/27/14 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by joe80
What Heather said. Excellent advice.

I would advise another thing though:

Work very patiently with your teacher. Sometimes we get caught up in our piano practice with playing the right notes, etc etc, and all of that stuff increases tension. It happens to all of us. I have worked professionally as a concert pianist and I know what it takes to have a perfect technique (it's something very simple, actually, as Heather tells us, it's actually a very easy and simple concept, and it applies to beginners and concert artists alike), but when I get worried about playing the right notes, or what people will think, etc, rather than focusing on the actual music and the motions necessary to make that music, I get terrible tension.

If you can do the movement away from the piano, I would bet you can do the movement at the piano, and my advice to you would be to get your arms into the right place over the keyboard to play the right notes, but don't think about any sense of fear of playing the wrong notes. Does that make sense? Allow yourself to screw up, and then from getting the sensation of playing right, you'll eventually bring your playing into focus and play the right notes.

I'm making sense to me, but I have a tendency to ramble.... sorry!


This does make sense to me and funny enough I told my teacher that exact same thing... that the more I focus on sheet reading and getting the notes right... the more I tense up. And the tension goes mostly unnoticed as the majority of my focus is on hitting the right notes.

I have a fear of missing a note (probably because I know how easy it is to ingrain the wrong notes into that particular piece - muscle memory, etc)

I need to find some songs to use for the sake of technique and worry nothing about getting notes exact.

Re: Technique for holding down chords
Derulux #2355281 11/27/14 12:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Got it. My initial guess (which may be wrong, but it's common and helps root out some things) is that you either continually "grip" and/or continually "push down" into the notes. Do you feel this at all?

If you don't feel it, try this: press the chord down. Slowly let all muscle tension go (fingers first, forearm second, wrist third) until you are no pressing down the keys (they release on their own). Let me know when the key releases...


I feel the push down, yes. When I try to relax everything while maintaining good hand structure... my wrist begins to collapse.

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2355287 11/27/14 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by Derulux
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Got it. My initial guess (which may be wrong, but it's common and helps root out some things) is that you either continually "grip" and/or continually "push down" into the notes. Do you feel this at all?

If you don't feel it, try this: press the chord down. Slowly let all muscle tension go (fingers first, forearm second, wrist third) until you are no pressing down the keys (they release on their own). Let me know when the key releases...


I feel the push down, yes. When I try to relax everything while maintaining good hand structure... my wrist begins to collapse.


I think it just takes practice and more practice for some of us...For me it's probably so difficult because of my hypermobility and small span. It's very difficult to maintain the hand and finger structure without using extensive force from the forearm muscles, especially with bigger chords where streching is inevitable. To do all that with as little tension as possible without something giving away is really difficult. But it is possible to learn to reduce the tension to minimum and it gets easier with time if I just remember to take notice regularly...but it has really taken a lot of time and practice and sometimes I lose it again...

Re: Technique for holding down chords
DeadPoets #2355300 11/27/14 01:37 AM
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Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by Derulux
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Got it. My initial guess (which may be wrong, but it's common and helps root out some things) is that you either continually "grip" and/or continually "push down" into the notes. Do you feel this at all?

If you don't feel it, try this: press the chord down. Slowly let all muscle tension go (fingers first, forearm second, wrist third) until you are no pressing down the keys (they release on their own). Let me know when the key releases...


I feel the push down, yes. When I try to relax everything while maintaining good hand structure... my wrist begins to collapse.

Right away, or do you go through several stages of "collapse" first? (Can you isolate each feeling and 'cause' different types of collapses?)


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.
Re: Technique for holding down chords
Derulux #2355375 11/27/14 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Derulux
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
Originally Posted by Derulux
Originally Posted by DeadPoets
I'm playing a Dm7 chord and she's trying to get me to feel the "necessary/good" tension in the structure of my finger bones and nowhere else (in my case it's clearly still in my forearms as I hold the notes and thus causing excess strain and injury).


What does taking the weight off the fingers mean?

Got it. My initial guess (which may be wrong, but it's common and helps root out some things) is that you either continually "grip" and/or continually "push down" into the notes. Do you feel this at all?

If you don't feel it, try this: press the chord down. Slowly let all muscle tension go (fingers first, forearm second, wrist third) until you are no pressing down the keys (they release on their own). Let me know when the key releases...


I feel the push down, yes. When I try to relax everything while maintaining good hand structure... my wrist begins to collapse.

Right away, or do you go through several stages of "collapse" first? (Can you isolate each feeling and 'cause' different types of collapses?)


I guess several stages because I relax my hand and arm too.

Last edited by DeadPoets; 11/27/14 08:37 AM.
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