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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840008 04/16/19 09:28 PM
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Marianne,
I don’t have a solution, but I have the same problem. Misery loves company, so maybe this’ll help grin

I had tried some arm weight exercises myself, following a YouTube tutorial. My pinky used to collapse too, albeit from the topmost joint. I then stopped trying this with my pinky altogether, and just focussed on the stronger fingers. I still can’t do any arm weight sort of thing with my pinky. Other than, maybe, transferring the balance to it. But generally speaking, the pinky doesn’t collapse anymore. During the first couple months of starting with piano, it’d collapse all the time, with or without arm weight.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840047 04/17/19 04:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
I am trying to develop my arm weight technique. But my understanding of arm weight is shaky. If a relax all the weight of my arm onto that finger, then yes it is quite heavy, must be at last 1 1/2 kgs. So to understand arm weight correctly, you must have to engage some muscles in the back/shoulder somewhere to ease off on the weight. Not just let 1.5kgs rest on the fingers. Is that a correct understanding?

Yes. The amount of released arm weight changes all the time. More weight is released in order to play a note louder or to play a chord, less weight is needed to play piano or to play fast.


This to me makes sense and is what I was thinking. But watching demonstrations about just letting the dead arm weight fall the the piano and let all the weight of the arm rest through your fingers doesn't really explain that. If I back off a bit with the arm weight when using that pinky that joint doesn't collapse.

It often seems to me that video is not enough, it can be deceptive. I think searching for and following textual explanation is more reliable.

Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
The word pinky - "The word "pinky" is derived from the Dutch word pink, meaning "little finger". Us Aussies like to use slang words. Particularly if they end in an "ie" sound. Take the tinny out do some fishing. Throw a snag on the barbie. Through back a couple of coldies wink

Cool! Us Russies like to use slang words, too. laugh

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2840052 04/17/19 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
But watching demonstrations about just letting the dead arm weight fall the the piano and let all the weight of the arm rest through your fingers doesn't really explain that. If I back off a bit with the arm weight when using that pinky that joint doesn't collapse.

Just wanted to mention that I have exactly the same problem except with my LH, and coincidentally, it emerged only a few days before your post through a pair of pieces which were had continuous chords in the LH for the entire piece, without a break for the pinky (OK - you "pinky" haters can stop reading now! wink laugh ).

Something the OP has conflated is both the PIP joint collapsing and pinky pain. Well, it's definitely possible one leads to the other, but in my case, I had collapsing pinky PIP joints since the beginning and even posted about this on PW last November, but the initial problem was odd.

Too sustained an amount of pressure on a collapsed pinky led not to pain, but a locking joint that I could only bend again with manual help of the other hand - I could not bend the finger by myself after the PIP joint would lock straight.

Only in the last week with a new series of LH pinky intensive (read - continuous LH pinky use with dynamics mf or higher) pieces, did this behavior do a final transformation to pinky pain and even joint swelling - a most unwelcome development! I had to stop playing pieces all together on Friday, and could only do the simplest piano exercises (sight reading) for a few days until the pain was relieved and the swelling went down with some icing of that joint.

Since my piano lesson on Monday, I've been prescribed a course of very methodical and slow exercises for the LH pinky, and that is all my teacher and I are working on, the goal being that I start to internalize a curving pinky which can even support the arm weight applied to the pinky - something it can't do now. Also, the exercises are trying to train me to only put pressure on the keys when they are initially depressed, and then that pressure is released immediately as the keys are held.

Like you, the pinky collapses whenever arm weight is applied through it, unless I maintain an unnatural tension in my entire hand (I can use arm weight on a non-collapsed pinky if I have "claw hand!")

EDIT: BTW, for those who don't have this problem and can't quite picture what a collapsed PIP joint looks like for the LH pinky, the following photo is not of me, but it might as well be mine, as I have exactly this problem. The other joints of my pinky curve naturally and yet that PIP joint is collapsed and even hyperextends under continuous pressure:

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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840060 04/17/19 05:37 AM
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I can collapse/bend both pinkies at will. Can you guys with collapsing fingers do this too? I used to think this was pretty cool, till I started playing this instrument eek


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840062 04/17/19 05:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech-key
I can collapse/bend both pinkies at will. Can you guys with collapsing fingers do this too? I used to think this was pretty cool, till I started playing this instrument eek

Yes, to some extent. This is almost the very definition of "hypermobile" joints as outo mentions above. From everything I've read, and now personal experience since November and especially this last week, I know it is not good for piano.

EDIT: I used to do a lot of rock climbing, and I should add that this locking out of the pinky joint has never happened to me before I took up piano. My theory is that in rock climbing, putting continuous pressure/weight on straightened fingers is a very unusual thing. One is much more likely to put pressure/weight on curved fingers (grasping something). It's interesting the piano has brought something out about my anatomy that other intensive past activities have not.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840066 04/17/19 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech-key
I can collapse/bend both pinkies at will. Can you guys with collapsing fingers do this too? I used to think this was pretty cool, till I started playing this instrument eek


No I can't collapse the joint at will. Only when applying pressure.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tyrone Slothrop #2840069 04/17/19 06:25 AM
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Yes I read your post previously searching for a solution. Pretty much the same as I experienced, except because I have small hands I was stretching the finger out to reach a key, then holding on for dear life with that knuckle and flat PIP joint. (Maybe that is what created the problem in the first place). That was causing the pain. Since I have followed a suggestion on here (sorry can't remember who it was, but truly grateful) of moving the arm and keeping it in line with the pinky I haven't had pain, but still the collapsing joint. Of course now that creates a problem of reaching octave stretches with small hands. But, I will deal with that when I get to it.

Last edited by Marianne Hislop; 04/17/19 06:30 AM.
Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840070 04/17/19 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech-key
I can collapse/bend both pinkies at will. Can you guys with collapsing fingers do this too? I used to think this was pretty cool, till I started playing this instrument eek

I can only do that on my 4s, not pinkies. The middle joint will lock easily into a straight postion with pressure though. My most hybermobile joints are the knuckle and nail joints. The latter is a bit of a problem problem with playing the piano, the former not so much, because with small hands it allows more strech.

My cure for pinky issues has been to try to land heavily only on a well aligned or curved finger, but there's still a limit on what pressure it will hold. However, I do not feel it bothers me that much...maybe because I don't like banging anyway, my ears will bleed...and there are usually some creative fingering choices wink

I still feel the idea of arm weight can cause more harm than good for someone trying to figure things out on their own.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840076 04/17/19 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech-key
Marianne,
I don’t have a solution, but I have the same problem. Misery loves company, so maybe this’ll help grin

I had tried some arm weight exercises myself, following a YouTube tutorial. My pinky used to collapse too, albeit from the topmost joint. I then stopped trying this with my pinky altogether, and just focussed on the stronger fingers. I still can’t do any arm weight sort of thing with my pinky. Other than, maybe, transferring the balance to it. But generally speaking, the pinky doesn’t collapse anymore. During the first couple months of starting with piano, it’d collapse all the time, with or without arm weight.


Thank you. It is annoying isn't it, these little problems. But, I will get to the bottom of it. Then I can move onto the next problem . They say learning piano is a never ending journey. grin And yes. I think sometimes focussing too much on it makes it worse. That is why kids don't seem to have a problem with this kind of stuff. And they have small hands. They don't get to analytical, they just go with what feels comfortable. My daughter certainly never spend hours googling a technique.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840078 04/17/19 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
Thank you. It is annoying isn't it, these little problems. But, I will get to the bottom of it. Then I can move onto the next problem . They say learning piano is a never ending journey. grin And yes. I think sometimes focussing too much on it makes it worse. That is why kids don't seem to have a problem with this kind of stuff. And they have small hands. They don't get to analytical, they just go with what feels comfortable. My daughter certainly never spend hours googling a technique.

Yes, well, as an adult, I did worry about it a bit when the pinky was locking out. But then I stopped thinking about it until on Friday, it was "messed up" all day and Saturday it hurt and the joint was swollen. So there's that.

I hope that when a child hits such a point, they too would seek some assistance!


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840088 04/17/19 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by outo
Originally Posted by Tech-key
I can collapse/bend both pinkies at will. Can you guys with collapsing fingers do this too? I used to think this was pretty cool, till I started playing this instrument eek

I can only do that on my 4s, not pinkies. The middle joint will lock easily into a straight postion with pressure though. My most hybermobile joints are the knuckle and nail joints. The latter is a bit of a problem problem with playing the piano, the former not so much, because with small hands it allows more strech.

My cure for pinky issues has been to try to land heavily only on a well aligned or curved finger, but there's still a limit on what pressure it will hold. However, I do not feel it bothers me that much...maybe because I don't like banging anyway, my ears will bleed...and there are usually some creative fingering choices wink

I still feel the idea of arm weight can cause more harm than good for someone trying to figure things out on their own.

So cool that you can bend your 4ths!! I’ve never known anyone who can do that, except in pictures. Bad for piano maybe, but still cool wink

Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
Originally Posted by Tech-key
Marianne,
I don’t have a solution, but I have the same problem. Misery loves company, so maybe this’ll help grin

I had tried some arm weight exercises myself, following a YouTube tutorial. My pinky used to collapse too, albeit from the topmost joint. I then stopped trying this with my pinky altogether, and just focussed on the stronger fingers. I still can’t do any arm weight sort of thing with my pinky. Other than, maybe, transferring the balance to it. But generally speaking, the pinky doesn’t collapse anymore. During the first couple months of starting with piano, it’d collapse all the time, with or without arm weight.

Thank you. It is annoying isn't it, these little problems. But, I will get to the bottom of it. Then I can move onto the next problem . They say learning piano is a never ending journey. grin And yes. I think sometimes focussing too much on it makes it worse. That is why kids don't seem to have a problem with this kind of stuff. And they have small hands. They don't get to analytical, they just go with what feels comfortable. My daughter certainly never spend hours googling a technique.

Yup, it gets so very annoying sometimes! One thing after the other! My latest has been blocked octaves. cry Some time back, I had started getting horrible pains in my back, neck, wrist, fingers.. pretty much everywhere, due to all the banging. Since the time I started focussing on comfort, as you mentioned, I’ve been ok (fingers crossed).

I had to start with relaxation and posture, though. And some little technique things like forearm rotation, and grouping notes. Even arm weight, though I’m still not sure, if I’m doing it right. There was this thread that Tyrone had started about tension, which had helped a lot. Sorry, for linking even more technique videos, lol. I haven’t watched all of these myself. But the general idea had helped.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840169 04/17/19 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Tech-key

So cool that you can bend your 4ths!! I’ve never known anyone who can do that, except in pictures. Bad for piano maybe, but still cool wink


Alas, no. Hyperextended joints are dangerous, not cool.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Tech-key #2840176 04/17/19 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
[quote=Tech-key]
Yup, it gets so very annoying sometimes! One thing after the other! My latest has been blocked octaves. cry Some time back, I had started getting horrible pains in my back, neck, wrist, fingers.. pretty much everywhere, due to all the banging. Since the time I started focussing on comfort, as you mentioned, I’ve been ok (fingers crossed).

I had to start with relaxation and posture, though. And some little technique things like forearm rotation, and grouping notes. Even arm weight, though I’m still not sure, if I’m doing it right. There was this thread that Tyrone had started about tension, which had helped a lot. Sorry, for linking even more technique videos, lol. I haven’t watched all of these myself. But the general idea had helped.


Oh tension! eek A pianists biggest enemy. I never knew how tense of a person I was until I started learning piano. My piano journey now also includes yoga, trying to mediate - haven't quite go the hang of that one, all sorts of vitamins and herbal remedies. I usually do a workout before I practice as I find it helps. I can recognise it now, in my legs, back, neck. I noticed sometimes I even clench my teeth and hold my breath. I had a remedial massage today for my arm and wrist, trying to solve that wrist problem, the therapist said my arms and shoulders were tight and full of knots. So yeah, I am always trying to be aware of tension, but it is sneaky. Thanks for the links. Can never watch too many tutorials on releasing tension.

Last edited by Marianne Hislop; 04/17/19 11:20 AM.
Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
JohnSprung #2840178 04/17/19 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnSprung
Originally Posted by Tech-key

So cool that you can bend your 4ths!! I’ve never known anyone who can do that, except in pictures. Bad for piano maybe, but still cool wink


Alas, no. Hyperextended joints are dangerous, not cool.



You do realise that I was just having fun, right smile


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840213 04/17/19 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
I am trying to develop my arm weight technique. But my understanding of arm weight is shaky. If a relax all the weight of my arm onto that finger, then yes it is quite heavy, must be at last 1 1/2 kgs. So to understand arm weight correctly, you must have to engage some muscles in the back/shoulder somewhere to ease off on the weight. Not just let 1.5kgs rest on the fingers. Is that a correct understanding?

No, you just don't consciously use arm or back & shoulder muscles. It's minimal muscle use in these areas that's important.

Your wrists have to be flexile when playing. If they are fixed/stiff, then all sorts of problems develop.

Do you have a teacher?


Yes I do have a teacher, but we don't go into depth too much about this. And honestly I seem to have sore hands lately, starting to make me feel old. It started from an injury resulting from me trying to play pieces above my level with stretchy 4 note chords. (I have small hands, an octave is a stretch, especially with 4 notes). Anyway, my thumb gave way. But that was before Christmas and it doesn't appear to be getting better even after visits and exercises from my physiotherapist. So I am thinking it must be my technique that is still exaggerating it. I have been following an online Russian whole arm weight approach as a supplement to my lessons. The fifth finger (pinky grin) right hand, is only a problem when I release the entire weight of the arm onto it. That middle joint goes flat. I have been adjusting the alignment of my wrist to follow the hand, so it no longer hurts at that 1st (DIP) joint like it did, and I do concentrate on having a relaxed wrist and using the weight of the arm etc. I have been experimenting a backing off the weight a bit when I use the pinky and that seems to be a solution. I don't know if it is the correct solution. Seems to be solve one problem and another crops up.

You should really bring this up with your teacher. They may not talk about it if they don't know it's a problem. You may be doing more damage than good with the online stuff unless it's an actual teacher who can observe your playing and interact with you to arrive at a solution.

If they are unable to help with technical problems then ask if there's a teacher they can recommend you go to. You can work with both as long as they are both aware and can communicate about repertoire and plan.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Marianne Hislop #2840745 04/19/19 09:29 PM
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Marianne, I was trained by a Russian teacher. In using an arm weight transfer technique it is necessary to impact the keys with the largest part of your finger pads.

Mechanically this means playing with flat fingers. When your finger is pressing the key an imaginary line drawn across the top of your fingernail is close to horizontal. Contrast this to the photo posted earlier where that line is close to vertical. Vertical is a no-no. I wish I could show you this in person because even a video can easily mislead and mess you up.

You were correct earlier when you said this method engages your shoulder and upper back muscles. It does require conscious awareness of what's going on up there.

This is a big topic. I urge you to read "What every pianist needs to know about the body" by Thomas Mark. It's about leveraging your whole body to play the piano versus just using your fingers.


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Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Morodiene #2840757 04/19/19 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Originally Posted by Marianne Hislop
I am trying to develop my arm weight technique. But my understanding of arm weight is shaky. If a relax all the weight of my arm onto that finger, then yes it is quite heavy, must be at last 1 1/2 kgs. So to understand arm weight correctly, you must have to engage some muscles in the back/shoulder somewhere to ease off on the weight. Not just let 1.5kgs rest on the fingers. Is that a correct understanding?

No, you just don't consciously use arm or back & shoulder muscles. It's minimal muscle use in these areas that's important.

Your wrists have to be flexile when playing. If they are fixed/stiff, then all sorts of problems develop.

Do you have a teacher?


Yes I do have a teacher, but we don't go into depth too much about this. And honestly I seem to have sore hands lately, starting to make me feel old. It started from an injury resulting from me trying to play pieces above my level with stretchy 4 note chords. (I have small hands, an octave is a stretch, especially with 4 notes). Anyway, my thumb gave way. But that was before Christmas and it doesn't appear to be getting better even after visits and exercises from my physiotherapist. So I am thinking it must be my technique that is still exaggerating it. I have been following an online Russian whole arm weight approach as a supplement to my lessons. The fifth finger (pinky grin) right hand, is only a problem when I release the entire weight of the arm onto it. That middle joint goes flat. I have been adjusting the alignment of my wrist to follow the hand, so it no longer hurts at that 1st (DIP) joint like it did, and I do concentrate on having a relaxed wrist and using the weight of the arm etc. I have been experimenting a backing off the weight a bit when I use the pinky and that seems to be a solution. I don't know if it is the correct solution. Seems to be solve one problem and another crops up.

You should really bring this up with your teacher. They may not talk about it if they don't know it's a problem. You may be doing more damage than good with the online stuff unless it's an actual teacher who can observe your playing and interact with you to arrive at a solution.

If they are unable to help with technical problems then ask if there's a teacher they can recommend you go to. You can work with both as long as they are both aware and can communicate about repertoire and plan.


Thank you Morodiene. I have bought it up before with my teacher, mostly she advises to find work arounds, finger alternatives or redistribution, learn to omit notes from big chords or just chose pieces that don't cause a problem, and practice for shorter durations. 2 hours/day may be too much. She mentioned as we age we need to be more mindful of our joints etc (I'm 45). And she may be right. However I also think it would be quite hard for someone who has played all their life to completely understand some of the tension or other technique problems that seem to arise more so in adult beginners. We can be a tense mob, over work to make up for loss time, get frustrated because we can't play how we hear in our more mature minds. There is no double tension present at my lessons just from being anxious while playing for my teacher, definitely a case for me (I know, it is silly, but from talking in other beginner groups, very common, so I am not alone in this). How can they tell if this is ongoing at home or just a type of "performance" anxiety? What we do at the 45 minute weekly lesson is a lot of times not quite how we practice at home. I would really love to explore different methods to find one that works for me. If I could find a teacher who specialises in something like to Taubman approach just to spend a few lessons with would be great. Even a piano camp of some sort.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Fidel #2840759 04/19/19 11:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Fidel
Marianne, I was trained by a Russian teacher. In using an arm weight transfer technique it is necessary to impact the keys with the largest part of your finger pads.

Mechanically this means playing with flat fingers. When your finger is pressing the key an imaginary line drawn across the top of your fingernail is close to horizontal. Contrast this to the photo posted earlier where that line is close to vertical. Vertical is a no-no. I wish I could show you this in person because even a video can easily mislead and mess you up.

You were correct earlier when you said this method engages your shoulder and upper back muscles. It does require conscious awareness of what's going on up there.

This is a big topic. I urge you to read "What every pianist needs to know about the body" by Thomas Mark. It's about leveraging your whole body to play the piano versus just using your fingers.


Thanks Fidel. I have the book What Every Pianist Needs to know about the Body. I will have to read it a couple of times. I am also following the Piano Career Academy online that follows the Russian method as a supplement for my lessons, and it seems even within the Russian method there are variations and different approaches. In her online course she does not mention flat fingers. On the contrary, curved fingers??? Pretty much more in line with Alan Frasers teaching that someone here was kind enough to recommend. Concentrating on that natural supportive arch. I suppose it boils down to experimenting and finding one that works for each individual. The more I read the more I seem to go in circles. Solve one problem and another surfaces, solve that problem by altering technique and it brings back the previous one LOL.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Fidel #2840778 04/20/19 01:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Fidel
Marianne, I was trained by a Russian teacher. In using an arm weight transfer technique it is necessary to impact the keys with the largest part of your finger pads.

Mechanically this means playing with flat fingers. When your finger is pressing the key an imaginary line drawn across the top of your fingernail is close to horizontal.

Every day I learn something new here about Russian teachers! Using arm weight DOES NOT require playing with horizontal fingers. You can watch best Russian pianists playing to quickly find out this fact.

Re: Collapsing PIP Joint Pinky
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2840782 04/20/19 01:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Every day I learn something new here about Russian teachers! Using arm weight DOES NOT require playing with horizontal fingers. You can watch best Russian pianists playing to quickly find out this fact.

I agree with that, even if one of the best Russian pianists of all time played with very flat fingers...


Not a best practice, of course, and I wonder why his teachers at the Kiev Conservatory didn't tell him to "grasp the apple" laugh


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