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Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? #2812478
02/08/19 07:03 PM
02/08/19 07:03 PM
Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 262
Columbus, ohio, USA
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caters Offline OP
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So I have learned the techniques as I needed them, like forearm rotation for fast octave tremolos in the Pathetique sonata. But there is 1 movement I have always had difficulty learning. This is the Presto Agitato movement of the Moonlight sonata. In fact I have shied away from it because of the super fast Alberti bass.

I am a super advanced pianist(like ARCT level piano) and I find fast Alberti bass to be difficult, way more difficult than fast octaves or arpeggios. When I learn a Mozart sonata there is almost always a movement in which the left hand is almost all Alberti bass. I often dread that movement because this means a lot of feeling the burn before I get sufficiently good at it.

I am thinking of learning Beethoven's Presto Agitato because I have learned the rest of the Moonlight Sonata as well as the entire Pathetique Sonata and some fast Chopin pieces but the Alberti bass is stopping me in my tracks. There is Alberti bass across 10th intervals as well as in the right hand.

But it is really the speed of the Alberti bass that is stopping me. Almost non-stop Alberti bass in an Andante of a Mozart sonata is one thing and after a while, I can do it. Almost non-stop Alberti bass at Allegro or faster though and I really feel the burn after just 1 minute of Alberti bass and I have to stop before I get injured.

And it is like I am doing everything right(forearm rotation, wrist rotation, very little motion actually in the fingers) and I still feel the burn from fast Alberti bass. How can I stop this from happening so that I can play Beethoven's Presto Agitato at full tempo instead of having to slow down to Andante just to not injure myself with the Alberti bass?

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Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2812528
02/08/19 10:34 PM
02/08/19 10:34 PM
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Posts: 363
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If you're doing forearm rotation correctly, you should be vividly aware of how it is "ballistic".

Don't control the arm "mid-flight". If it's ballistic, you're practicing it as a projectile so you should only be manipulating the "initial conditions" to send it off. Improving something ballistically is to practice setup, aiming, and timing with the chance of "missing" rather than forcing accuracy that won't work at speed. It's a bit like angry birds or a see-saw canon.

Understanding piano playing is basically ballistic should completely change how you understand how it all works because it literally changes the game, and requires different motor learning strategies to "win" the game then what is typically encouraged by standard approaches.

-------------

I originally wrote this in a slightly different context, but it also applies here:

Find a trashcan and crumple up a paper ball to play paper basketball.

Strategy 1: Get up from your seat and carry it over to place in.
Strategy 2: Actually shoot it in.

The perception of slow fingers outside of pathology usually comes from coordinations that effectively do the equivalent of Strategy 1 when you should have been training Strategy 2.

Strategy 2 involves inaccuracy that takes time, training, and focus to overcome and doing Strategy 1 is never, ever going to train what has to be done.

When people are first shown how Strategy 2 works at piano, they usually don't even believe it's possible, which is why it can take time to develop because it's full effect can't happen until you get get rid of any trace of Strategy 1. (Even people who making significant headway overcoming strategy 1 will continue to have eureka moments where they realize that they are still using Strategy 1. It usually ends up being stripped off in layers.)

-----

In order to see the full possibilities of what you can do with rotation with the thumb, is that you need to practice over-rotating on the thumbnail. It will make more sense when you try this out for bigger leaps (try aiming using the full range of the keyboard). It makes it easier to feel an "elastic/spring sensation" that there should always be a lit bit of at all times. However, most people don't notice it initially when it's too small, so they need to practice the bigger sensation before learning to use it at smaller scales.

A similar thing may need to occur on rotation toward the other side. You need the capability of accessing the freedom of rotating in such a way that the palm side goes up.

It's impossible to play at speed until your body first open ups to all the necessary possibilities (degrees of freedom):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrees_of_freedom_problem

The main problem with speed is that people's preconceptions already limit those possibilities before they are actually ready to restrict them to the most useful ones. It doesn't matter how many different road trip plans you make to go from Maine to California, when you don't even consider air-travel.

Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: anamnesis] #2812535
02/08/19 11:16 PM
02/08/19 11:16 PM
Joined: Feb 2014
Posts: 262
Columbus, ohio, USA
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caters Offline OP
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So, you're saying that my strategy for Alberti bass in a Mozart andante, just won't work for super fast speeds such as in Beethoven's Presto Agitato, no matter how far I get with my Mozart strategy?

Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2812543
02/09/19 12:31 AM
02/09/19 12:31 AM
Joined: Jan 2015
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I agree with a anamnesis - it sounds like you’re ‘muscling’ through rather than creating and using momentum (arm weight) to play the jumps - thus the fatigue. It will limit you in pieces like the 3rd movement of Moonlight, La Campanella, Handel’s Passacaille.

A small tip - Pay attention to where you’re muscling through and then reverse engineer the movement with relaxation and arm weight to get the same or better result. It can be a nuanced process where many times the tensed muscles are on the opposite side of the problem.

For myself I’ve found it’s usually the larger muscles that unconsciously take over and mess up the finer movements. One reset point for me is to relax my upper/mid back and shoulder muscles so that my elbows are relaxed and swinging freely like pendulums - this frees up the forearms to freely go up/down and rotate.

For hand rotation - one point of returning tension is the big fat thumb muscle. Consciously working to relax that so it’s dropping naturally with weight rather than muscle can significantly free and speed up your movements (thank you La Campanella!)


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And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2812943
02/10/19 12:59 AM
02/10/19 12:59 AM
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 581
Connecticut/Cincinnati
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If you listen to just one thing in all your time here on pianoworld, please make it this.

Sit at the piano, let your arms drop down to your sides. Focus on releasing all of the tension in your body, focusing particularly on your shoulders. When we tense up at the piano our shoulders tend to raise up. If this happens, you are done - even if it's a small amount. Get so relaxed that you feel gravity actually pulling your arms down and you can feel it the weight of them in your shoulder socket.

Then start the passages that build tension for you SLOWLY with a metronome. Play them slow enough where you can maintain 100% of the completely relaxed feeling indefinitely. Over a period of several days, SLOWLY increase the metronome speed while making absolutely sure you are not adding in tension.

I wish someone had explained to me years ago that I was not really relaxed, even though I thought I was. Or more accurately, I wish I had not been too stubborn to listen when someone finally did. To me, what was a 8 out of 10 in relaxation five years ago was actually really a 2 out of 10 now that I understand how much hidden tension I had.

I believe tension building without being intelligently released (sometimes you need some, but that is a more advanced discussion) is the #1 enemy of good technique. By forgetting all the technical crap and terms (wrist rotation, arm, weight, etc) and just simply focusing on the sound I was making and amount of tension I have, my technique has jumped lightyears in a very short amount of time.

Last edited by computerpro3; 02/10/19 01:01 AM.
Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: computerpro3] #2812965
02/10/19 02:33 AM
02/10/19 02:33 AM
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 4,584
Finland
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outo Offline
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Joined: Aug 2012
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Originally Posted by computerpro3
If you listen to just one thing in all your time here on pianoworld, please make it this.

Sit at the piano, let your arms drop down to your sides. Focus on releasing all of the tension in your body, focusing particularly on your shoulders. When we tense up at the piano our shoulders tend to raise up. If this happens, you are done - even if it's a small amount. Get so relaxed that you feel gravity actually pulling your arms down and you can feel it the weight of them in your shoulder socket.

Then start the passages that build tension for you SLOWLY with a metronome. Play them slow enough where you can maintain 100% of the completely relaxed feeling indefinitely. Over a period of several days, SLOWLY increase the metronome speed while making absolutely sure you are not adding in tension.

I wish someone had explained to me years ago that I was not really relaxed, even though I thought I was. Or more accurately, I wish I had not been too stubborn to listen when someone finally did. To me, what was a 8 out of 10 in relaxation five years ago was actually really a 2 out of 10 now that I understand how much hidden tension I had.

I believe tension building without being intelligently released (sometimes you need some, but that is a more advanced discussion) is the #1 enemy of good technique. By forgetting all the technical crap and terms (wrist rotation, arm, weight, etc) and just simply focusing on the sound I was making and amount of tension I have, my technique has jumped lightyears in a very short amount of time.


I largely agree with you about wrong kind of tension being the number one enemy of healthy playing. However from my own experience I can say that one can be tense to a level that it can not be consciously released just by will. Tension that has become part of your everyday life during many years need to be dealt with away from the piano as well (physiotherapy and exercise to correct muscle imbalance) and one needs to work with the whole body. It's possible to work well with a computer for years sitting in a very unhealthy way but when one starts to play the piano posture suddenly becomes a huge issue.

Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: outo] #2812975
02/10/19 03:29 AM
02/10/19 03:29 AM
Joined: Jan 2011
Posts: 363
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anamnesis Offline
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by computerpro3
If you listen to just one thing in all your time here on pianoworld, please make it this.

Sit at the piano, let your arms drop down to your sides. Focus on releasing all of the tension in your body, focusing particularly on your shoulders. When we tense up at the piano our shoulders tend to raise up. If this happens, you are done - even if it's a small amount. Get so relaxed that you feel gravity actually pulling your arms down and you can feel it the weight of them in your shoulder socket.

Then start the passages that build tension for you SLOWLY with a metronome. Play them slow enough where you can maintain 100% of the completely relaxed feeling indefinitely. Over a period of several days, SLOWLY increase the metronome speed while making absolutely sure you are not adding in tension.

I wish someone had explained to me years ago that I was not really relaxed, even though I thought I was. Or more accurately, I wish I had not been too stubborn to listen when someone finally did. To me, what was a 8 out of 10 in relaxation five years ago was actually really a 2 out of 10 now that I understand how much hidden tension I had.

I believe tension building without being intelligently released (sometimes you need some, but that is a more advanced discussion) is the #1 enemy of good technique. By forgetting all the technical crap and terms (wrist rotation, arm, weight, etc) and just simply focusing on the sound I was making and amount of tension I have, my technique has jumped lightyears in a very short amount of time.


I largely agree with you about wrong kind of tension being the number one enemy of healthy playing. However from my own experience I can say that one can be tense to a level that it can not be consciously released just by will. Tension that has become part of your everyday life during many years need to be dealt with away from the piano as well (physiotherapy and exercise to correct muscle imbalance) and one needs to work with the whole body. It's possible to work well with a computer for years sitting in a very unhealthy way but when one starts to play the piano posture suddenly becomes a huge issue.


It actually goes beyond "dealing" with it away from the piano. How you even experience life has to change. A common feature of people with excessive tension is that they don't like or at least never learned to deal with instability. They prefer being "tucked" between surfaces or supports, being in horizontal positions, and various other means that decrease stress from instability. Rather than pulling their arms to their bodies, they move their bodies in between their arms for security so that can sense their arms.

That tension they developed and have become desensitized too is an overactive compensatory stabilization mechanism. It's not easy to "fix" because their bodies have to learn entirely new strategies to move and deal with instability, which they reflexively sense as more of a threat (autonomically speaking) then tension.

A performance task like the piano that requires a very precise control over the balance of stability and instability is not the ideal task to be fixing this.

The seated position, even without the piano task, itself may be too challenging of a position to address these issues initially. You won't be able to inhibit overactive muscles in positions or dynamic tasks that are too stressful to the regulation of the postural system.

Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: anamnesis] #2812977
02/10/19 03:44 AM
02/10/19 03:44 AM
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 4,584
Finland
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outo Offline
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Joined: Aug 2012
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Finland
Originally Posted by anamnesis
Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by computerpro3
If you listen to just one thing in all your time here on pianoworld, please make it this.

Sit at the piano, let your arms drop down to your sides. Focus on releasing all of the tension in your body, focusing particularly on your shoulders. When we tense up at the piano our shoulders tend to raise up. If this happens, you are done - even if it's a small amount. Get so relaxed that you feel gravity actually pulling your arms down and you can feel it the weight of them in your shoulder socket.

Then start the passages that build tension for you SLOWLY with a metronome. Play them slow enough where you can maintain 100% of the completely relaxed feeling indefinitely. Over a period of several days, SLOWLY increase the metronome speed while making absolutely sure you are not adding in tension.

I wish someone had explained to me years ago that I was not really relaxed, even though I thought I was. Or more accurately, I wish I had not been too stubborn to listen when someone finally did. To me, what was a 8 out of 10 in relaxation five years ago was actually really a 2 out of 10 now that I understand how much hidden tension I had.

I believe tension building without being intelligently released (sometimes you need some, but that is a more advanced discussion) is the #1 enemy of good technique. By forgetting all the technical crap and terms (wrist rotation, arm, weight, etc) and just simply focusing on the sound I was making and amount of tension I have, my technique has jumped lightyears in a very short amount of time.


I largely agree with you about wrong kind of tension being the number one enemy of healthy playing. However from my own experience I can say that one can be tense to a level that it can not be consciously released just by will. Tension that has become part of your everyday life during many years need to be dealt with away from the piano as well (physiotherapy and exercise to correct muscle imbalance) and one needs to work with the whole body. It's possible to work well with a computer for years sitting in a very unhealthy way but when one starts to play the piano posture suddenly becomes a huge issue.


It actually goes beyond "dealing" with it away from the piano. How you even experience life has to change. A common feature of people with excessive tension is that they don't like or at least never learned to deal with instability. They prefer being "tucked" between surfaces or supports, being in horizontal positions, and various other means that decrease stress from instability. Rather than pulling their arms to their bodies, they move their bodies in between their arms for security so that can sense their arms.

That tension they developed and have become desensitized too is an overactive compensatory stabilization mechanism. It's not easy to "fix" because their bodies have to learn entirely new strategies to move and deal with instability, which they reflexively sense as more of a threat (autonomically speaking) then tension.

A performance task like the piano that requires a very precise control over the balance of stability and instability is not the ideal task to be fixing this.

The seated position, even without the piano task, itself may be too challenging of a position to address these issues initially. You won't be able to inhibit overactive muscles in positions or dynamic tasks that are too stressful to the regulation of the postural system.


You explained that very well. Now the big issue is often where to get help for such a project. The medical professionals do not see you as being ill just because you struggle with your piano playing...so often nothing is done until one is generally in a really bad shape and cannot handle one's day job anymore or gets some serious disease due to never exercising, Which is a bit too late.

I must thank my very demanding piano teacher for some really big changes in my life habits. I am still in the process, but at the moment I feel better and I am more physically able (in my 50s) than ever before, even when very young. If I didn't struggle so much with playing I would never have bothered...

Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2813597
02/11/19 02:58 PM
02/11/19 02:58 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 17,041
Boynton Beach, FL
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by caters
So I have learned the techniques as I needed them, like forearm rotation for fast octave tremolos in the Pathetique sonata. But there is 1 movement I have always had difficulty learning. This is the Presto Agitato movement of the Moonlight sonata. In fact I have shied away from it because of the super fast Alberti bass.

I am a super advanced pianist(like ARCT level piano) and I find fast Alberti bass to be difficult, way more difficult than fast octaves or arpeggios. When I learn a Mozart sonata there is almost always a movement in which the left hand is almost all Alberti bass. I often dread that movement because this means a lot of feeling the burn before I get sufficiently good at it.

I am thinking of learning Beethoven's Presto Agitato because I have learned the rest of the Moonlight Sonata as well as the entire Pathetique Sonata and some fast Chopin pieces but the Alberti bass is stopping me in my tracks. There is Alberti bass across 10th intervals as well as in the right hand.

But it is really the speed of the Alberti bass that is stopping me. Almost non-stop Alberti bass in an Andante of a Mozart sonata is one thing and after a while, I can do it. Almost non-stop Alberti bass at Allegro or faster though and I really feel the burn after just 1 minute of Alberti bass and I have to stop before I get injured.

And it is like I am doing everything right(forearm rotation, wrist rotation, very little motion actually in the fingers) and I still feel the burn from fast Alberti bass. How can I stop this from happening so that I can play Beethoven's Presto Agitato at full tempo instead of having to slow down to Andante just to not injure myself with the Alberti bass?

It's very hard to say what's wrong without being able to see you play it. It could be that you need to practice in the rotation better, it could be a mental tension (where you know you're bad at this, and so you tense up physically), could be your pinkie, could be your thumb, could be your wrist height...there's really a lot of variables here.

One thing that may help (but depends on what your issues is) is to think of making a "small" hand with the Alberti, rather than retaining a stretched position to cover all of the notes.


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Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2813835
02/11/19 10:57 PM
02/11/19 10:57 PM
Joined: Sep 2015
Posts: 2,328
Dublin
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One possibility is that you are reaching with your thumb. Try moving your thumb into position only using your arm. You can exaggerate the arm movement so that your thumb won't want to reach.

It's important that you have good lateral and back and forth movement to make every note comfortable.

Last edited by johnstaf; 02/11/19 10:58 PM.
Re: Feel the burn with Alberti bass, how to stop it? [Re: caters] #2820115
02/25/19 11:11 PM
02/25/19 11:11 PM
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 820
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Oddly enough Alberti bass is often very difficult for many pianists. It could be a left hand issue—there could be tension hiding. I played for years before I realized my left hand was dead. It’s finally among the living but I couldn’t play Alberti bass without burning in my elbow. Make sure your left hand is completely independent of the right hand and don’t just “accompany”...you need to shape the alberti. Also, open your pits and drop your shoulders—-there should be space in your armpit as you play.

Last edited by itsfreakingmeout; 02/25/19 11:18 PM.

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