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"Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? #2595758 12/18/16 06:53 AM
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metaresolve Offline OP
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Hi,

I found this forum when I picked piano back up on Thanksgiving. When I first introduced myself and said I was going to spend like a month just doing Hanon and scales, people suggested I start a new repertoire right away instead of waiting.

It got me thinking, what do others do? I learned them in "fingerbuilders" books when I was growing up (lessons from age 6-21). My teacher had some really cool ideas about working with them: transpose, work on crescendos and diminuendos over the course of the measures. I kind of ignored it though and I regret that. I might have advanced farther and learned to control the expression better.

In college, my teacher started me on Hanon which I used for warmup when I practiced. I don't know how much I "appreciated" them then, but I love Hanon and scales now! I can just kind of relax and loosen up my fingers. I'm working up the first two pages of Hanon up to speed, repeating 4 times as suggested, just to see if I can do it.

Then I work on some scales, which are just as fun. I run them in circles of fifths and when I get to the flats/majors I work on the fingering. And of course, I always do the scales and chords for the pieces I'm working on. Had to do that for guild growing up, I like the structure.

How do you warm up? Do you find fingerbuilders useful? I know another teacher in college used Czerny but I always did un-lyrical.

Looking forward to hearing response.

meta


meta
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- Chopin: Waltz, Op 70 No 1 in G-flat major
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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2595799 12/18/16 11:10 AM
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I am currently getting quite the warm up trying to sight read/learn Liszts Paganini etude 1 tremolando.
thew opening scales(runs?) are great, and provided you do them a few times and do not go right up to speed your hands should be warm enough for the tremolos which then do a fantastic job arming up your left hand and then both hands.
That along with the first page of Liszt's 1st transcendental etude (the really short two page one, heck you can probably learn it all quickly and use it as a warm up) serves as a nice finger warm up that sounds better than Hannon.


I just remember my teacher telling me to watch out with Hannon, especially near the end of the book, as you can do more than just warm up, you can actually hurt your hands.(she used to play the book beginning to end every day for a warm up, and it did more damage than good)

I am not sure if this advice is remotely useful, it seems you are significantly better at piano then I am so chances are this might not be enough.


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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2595899 12/18/16 04:48 PM
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For me 'warming up' exercises do not work. If my fingers are cold, they will stay cold for hours, even when playing.... My teacher says I should do slow, forte playing in such cases. I think that doing some physical exercises that get your whole body working instead of just your fingers, works better.


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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: XenondiFluoride] #2595904 12/18/16 04:59 PM
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metaresolve Offline OP
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Hmm, I'll have to do some research into that Hanon damage. When I'm playing sometimes, I read the exhortations all over the book and I kind of love them.


meta
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Yamaha Clavinova CLP-930
~~~
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- J.S. Bach: Invention #8 in F major
- Chopin: Waltz, Op 70 No 1 in G-flat major
Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2595936 12/18/16 06:35 PM
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I've never played Hanon - or any other technical exercises of that ilk.

My warm-up consists of music with lots of scales & arpeggios - usually starting with Mozart's K545 (I) which I've long been able to play from memory. I might repeat it at a faster tempo if I feel like it. Then more 'Mozart' - of my own concoction (a cadenza for K467 that I composed), and for which I can easily improvise additional runs in both hands if I wish.

After that, it's usually straight on to pieces - often starting with a 'run-through' of familiar ones with lots of scales or arpeggios/broken chords and runs, like Chopin's Op.64/1 and Op.25/1 and Op.10/12 and Fantaisie-Impromptu, Schubert's D899/4 etc (again, all of which I play from memory), before I start on the pieces I'm currently practicing or learning.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2595991 12/18/16 09:29 PM
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I am probably a bit different. Ten minutes morning and night on my Virgil Practice Clavier maintains my technique sufficiently for anything I am likely to play at the instrument. I do no physical exercises as such at the piano itself, but just create music. I have always been able to sit down and play cold though; the first minute or two usually resolves any sluggishness.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2595993 12/18/16 09:32 PM
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I posted this a couple of years ago on the topic of warming up and stretching the hands. Please bear with the references to other people on that thread (who are not here now):

*********************************

The central reason athletes warm up is to increase blood flow to the body parts doing the exercise, and excite greater activation of the neuromuscular motor units responsible for muscular contractions. This increases brutes force generated by the muscles, increases joint stability, and enhances elasticity in the soft tissues. It also increases blood pressure and heart rate in order to meet the increased demands of exercise when it occurs. Several hormonal/chemical changes take place in the blood fluids that support this change. Also consider that athletic performance often pushes the working limbs to the extremes of their mechanical, metabolic, and cardiovascular capacity. So every physical and metabolic aspect must be at its peak before doing so, or bad things will happen.

It doesn't work that way with the upper extremity when you play the piano. Blood flow is already adequate to the arms and hands unless they've gotten noticeably cold. The cure for that is not exercise. It's reheating the hands up to operating temperature, which usually can't be done with exercise. It is not necessary to prepare the limbs for an increase in the output of brute force, because you're not going to generate any. If you are, you are headed for an injury and you need to completely redo your technique. The resting blood pressure and heart rate, wherever they're at, are already adequate to meet the demands of practice or performance. You are not going to need greater elasticity in the soft tissues because you are not going to stress them. If you are, then you need to redo the technique so you don't. Also, the resting blood chemistry is perfectly adequate to support this action.

The one thing the hand and forearm do need help with is the normal state of inhibition the motor units are in while at rest. This is not adequate to perform complex movement patterns in speed as are called for by most advanced repertoire. In order to get the motor units in the muscles into a heightened state of arousal, you must play some kind of texture that will do so. After a few repetitions, the neuromotor construct/complex will then be able to respond more efficiently to the demands of virtuoso literature.

So in this one regard, "warming up" is a good idea. Neuromotor inhibition/arousal is the reason that, very often the first time through, people won't play well a difficult passage they've learned, but will get it on the second or third attempt. Which is why Louis' routine works for him. By the second or third repetition, his brain and muscles are in a heightened state of neurological arousal that permits him greater facility because the neuromotor complex is working more efficiently. On the other hand, increasing blood flow/blood pressure/heart rate is not necessary to achieve this.

In short, there is no evidence that warming up and stretching to play the piano will do anything to help it, except in the neuromuscular complex.

In fact, stretching the fingers and hands before practice is a really bad idea. You can hurt yourself doing it The structures in those limbs are extremely delicate and simply cannot withstand much brute force; they don't stretch, they just tear. Ever seen a torn lumbrical, or a torn palmar fascia? It's not pretty, and the surgical repair cannot restore function completely. Not to mention that it doesn't provide any lasting benefit in the same way stretching your hamstrings will.

Lastly, you should not have any pain, fatigue or discomfort from playing the piano. If you do, it's technical in nature, and you should retrain the technique so you don't have any of that. Ultimately, that will get you into serious trouble in the long run. And when Reaper says his teachers never pointed anything out to him about his technique that might be detrimental, I would say that your teachers probably don't know anything about the issue. It's very rare to find a teacher who does adequately.

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596083 12/19/16 09:34 AM
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^ Hi Greg, I think you're right -- I do "warm up" with scales, chords, arpeggios and an etude, but I feel it is more for the sake of reminding myself about coordination and aim and evenness at the piano for the day.
I also dance, where I do need a warm-up in order to do certain things with the large muscles of the legs and back, and the muscles feel much more pliable when they have been moving for 15 minutes or so. But that has always felt totally different from anything I do with my hands.
Do you have any information on this issue beyond just your say-so, or mine? I'm asking on behalf of a student as well.


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: laguna_greg] #2596095 12/19/16 10:19 AM
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Greg: +1. Well stated. thumb

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596109 12/19/16 11:02 AM
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I was wondering how people get to this state of fluidity and heightened awareness - re. laguna-greg's post (which I give a thumbs-up to!) - before a performance, because this is when it would be really desirable to achieve this, but it is very difficult, especially when you're doing a group recital and having to sit in the audience while waiting your turn, and then having to play challenging pieces, without having the one or two run-throughs immediately beforehand.

Also, while I very much agree with laguna-greg that it is a mental state - like addressing the piece as an outsider at the start, and then passing further and further into the music so you lose the sense of separation between yourself and the music - I feel much more able to play when I am fitter, have more stamina and my arms are strong.

I know people disagree, but sometimes playing the piano does feel like a sport. I have show jumped, and often when a piece gallops and dances over the piano, and you're having to leap and turn after brief landings (attacking on recoveries) - and it works! - it is about as absolutely thrilling as riding a happy animal with precision, strength and velocity.

Last edited by pianopi; 12/19/16 11:06 AM. Reason: grammar

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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: hreichgott] #2596183 12/19/16 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott

Do you have any information on this issue beyond just your say-so, or mine? I'm asking on behalf of a student as well.


Hi Heather,

What would you like to see? The literature supporting this perspective is very large, but I might be able to come up with some bib references that will help.

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596220 12/19/16 04:12 PM
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A quick search finds many papers on neural inhibition/arousal, some relevent to pianists.

OT, but apropos of finger dexterity and technical issues in teaching read the the following excerpt from this link:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2100211/

"In some individuals, certain muscles or tendons may be absent entirely, or their form or attachments may differ from the norm. For example, the flexor digitorum superficialis tendon to the little finger is missing in about 5% of hands (Miller et al. 2003). The intrinsic muscles of the hand make a major contribution to finger dexterity and the independence of finger movement, so it is particularly significant that variation is frequently observed in the attachments of the lumbricals (Fig. 1). These muscles allow the two terminal (interphalangeal) joints of the fingers to be straightened while the knuckle (metacarpo-phalangeal) joint is flexed. As many as 50% of hands do not show the ‘standard’ pattern (Mehta & Gardner, 1961; Perkins & Hast, 1993). In up to one-third of hands, the tendon of the third lumbrical divides to insert into both the ring and the middle fingers (Fig. 1A), whereas in a small number of cases there is no lumbrical insertion on the little finger at all. Therefore, regardless of the degree of training, not all musicians are capable of the same finger movements. Some practical examples of the problems this produces for pianists and how they be overcome are discussed by Beauchamp (2003b,c)."

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596276 12/19/16 06:46 PM
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Tell me if I'm right or wrong about this:

Warming up seems to me to be a process of precisely re-calibrating proprioception and adapting to the way the particular piano converts key movement to sound. When I sit down cold at a piano I haven't played in a few months, it takes me 2 - 4 songs to get comfortable with it again.



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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: JohnSprung] #2596302 12/19/16 08:04 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Tell me if I'm right or wrong about this:

Warming up seems to me to be a process of precisely re-calibrating proprioception and adapting to the way the particular piano converts key movement to sound. When I sit down cold at a piano I haven't played in a few months, it takes me 2 - 4 songs to get comfortable with it again.



That sense of 'Hi, I remember you', when sitting down at a piano again after some months, is like greeting an old friend. 'Warts and all', they still need compassion and tender care. Proprioception is key to dredging up the memories.

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: prout] #2596309 12/19/16 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by prout
Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Tell me if I'm right or wrong about this:

Warming up seems to me to be a process of precisely re-calibrating proprioception and adapting to the way the particular piano converts key movement to sound. When I sit down cold at a piano I haven't played in a few months, it takes me 2 - 4 songs to get comfortable with it again.



That sense of 'Hi, I remember you', when sitting down at a piano again after some months, is like greeting an old friend. 'Warts and all', they still need compassion and tender care. Proprioception is key to dredging up the memories.


I'd go with that. The motor units "waking up " to a state of arousal in most ways is a much more mundane, less sophisticated and visceral experience subjectively, but that is not a bad way to think of it.

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596390 12/20/16 02:47 AM
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Ah, yes "Warts and all" -- those are the pianos I play. ;-)



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Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: metaresolve] #2596401 12/20/16 04:18 AM
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Don't forget the mental warm-up!

Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: laguna_greg] #2596432 12/20/16 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Originally Posted by hreichgott

Do you have any information on this issue beyond just your say-so, or mine? I'm asking on behalf of a student as well.


Hi Heather,

What would you like to see? The literature supporting this perspective is very large, but I might be able to come up with some bib references that will help.
Whatever you've got smile


Heather W. Reichgott, piano

Working on:
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Beethoven/Liszt - Symphony no. 7
Tommy (whole show)

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: JohnSprung] #2596442 12/20/16 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung

Ah, yes "Warts and all" -- those are the pianos I play. ;-)



Sad how institutional pianos, even those on concert stages, vary so greatly in quality and in maintenance.

Can you imagine a violinist or a oboist arriving to play concerts and having to use the bow & violin or reed & oboe provided by the venue?


Re: "Fingerbuilders" and how do you warm up? [Re: hreichgott] #2596548 12/20/16 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott


Whatever you've got smile



Ooh, that's a loaded thing to ask.

Heather, it will help if I know who the "audience" for the material is. The subject is enormous, stretching across several scientific disciplines. The works on the topic, the ones that will actually describe the phenomena, range from the highly technical to research only graduate students in the sciences could understand.

So if I know who is asking the question, I can better tailor the response to something useful.

I will offer one thing you may have heard of:

https://www.amazon.com/Physiologica...rds=The+Physiological+Mechanics+of+Piano

Ortman touches on this situation as part of his research. The book is long out of print, but most research libraries have copies if you haven't already looked it over. If they prefaced reading that book with a good introductory one on human physiology, and another on neurology, the average reader could put it into context.

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