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Aren't flat fingers the secret?
#2840952 04/20/19 02:46 PM
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Horowitz, Glenn, Art Tatum, and apparently Chopin and Liszt all used flat fingers. Like the greatest greats. So why is it not taught?

Liszt always said that the fingers should hover above the keys––implying flat attack.

Chopin also said to never strike the keys but caress them––implying flat horizontal, close to key motion.

The others can be seen playing in videos with really flat fingers throughout their playing.

So why is it not taught?

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2840955 04/20/19 02:54 PM
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Horowitz had massive hands.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7K4R9h9tTU

If you look at how his hands actually are, while it appears they are "flat" in many cases, he is still striking the keys with the tips and pads of his fingers and his wrist is higher than his fingers. I have rather small hands (barely able to hit a 10th in the LH, and a 9th in the RH). Someone with hands like mine will look less flat than Horowitz's hands do even if we are striking the key in the same area and manner.

If I kept my hands in a similar position as Horowitz, I would strike numerous wrong notes during big chords as my fingers are not long enough to reach over each middle note without hitting them. I have to keep a higher wrist position and "curl" my fingers more to make sure I hit the right notes. Horowitz's fingers are at least two or three inches longer than mine, so he does not have that problem and can remain more "flat."

The real secret is to develop a technique that suits your particular physique. What works for one person will not work for all.

Last edited by computerpro3; 04/20/19 02:58 PM.
Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2840958 04/20/19 03:02 PM
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I don't think "hover above the keys" or "caress but not strike" imply flat fingers at all. I don't think Tatum's fingers are particularly flat in this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Cs_zb4q14

Horowitz played with much flatter fingers than most but is more of an outlier. There are other great pianists who play with very or somewhat flatter fingers than average and there are great pianists who play with much more rounded fingers. I also think the often mentioned idea that flat fingers can create a more singing tone because one is playing more with the fleshy part of the finger is not true although it may help some.

I think most excellent pianists either unconsciously or consciously adjust the amount of curve in their fingers depending on the passage.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/20/19 03:07 PM.
Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
computerpro3 #2840962 04/20/19 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by computerpro3
The real secret is to develop a technique that suits your particular physique. What works for one person will not work for all.
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think most excellent pianists either unconsciously or consciously adjust the amount of curve in their fingers depending on the passage.

Well said. Sometimes flat fingers are a physical necessity for reaching notes with a small hand. Sometimes I use flat fingers when I want to bring out a melody with my pinky and keep the other fingers quiet.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2840969 04/20/19 03:29 PM
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I teach caressing but I wouldn't say from flat fingers. Also, Chopin's fingers would have constantly hit the fall-board as keys in his day were shorter.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2840973 04/20/19 03:38 PM
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Nope, the real secret is hard word and lots of practice.
-chris


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Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
chopin_r_us #2840978 04/20/19 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Also, Chopin's fingers would have constantly hit the fall-board as keys in his day were shorter.
I don't think flat fingers means one has to move fingers nearer the fallboard.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2840987 04/20/19 04:12 PM
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Perhaps it just goes to show that some people can be great pianists despite having poor technique?


Chris

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Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2841031 04/20/19 06:24 PM
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I often think that piano, compared to certain other instruments, allows more of a leeway for variations in technique.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2841068 04/20/19 11:22 PM
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Didn't Glenn Gould "hook" the keys? He sat very low and almost pulled the keys down.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
pianoloverus #2841109 04/21/19 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Also, Chopin's fingers would have constantly hit the fall-board as keys in his day were shorter.
I don't think flat fingers means one has to move fingers nearer the fallboard.
Fine if you're not going to use your thumb.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2841163 04/21/19 10:16 AM
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Here is an attempt to describe 'flat fingers technique' literary, if you asked for it: link
But really I don't think that Horowitz did something extraordinary technique-wise. In essence he relied on arm weight and palmar muscles just like the others. I think he took advantage of his very long fingers and incredibly flexible last (DIP) joints on his fingers, that allowed him to play very softly using larger area of the fingertips. He wisely combined his unusual hands with rather bright grand with extraordinarily light action and - voilà - he got world's widest dynamics (may be on par with Rachmaninoff).

And generally I don't understand all this obsession about Horowitz' technique (I don't touch his musicality here). I think Richter had a way better technique than Horowitz, the technique that allowed him to do on the piano just everything he could imagine.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
computerpro3 #2841166 04/21/19 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by computerpro3
Horowitz had massive hands.



Not true. By his own testimony, Horowitz could only take a tenth ("but not comfortably"). I shook hands with him in 1986. While exceptionally strong (i.e., the handshake was almost painful for me), his hand was not especially large nor his fingers long.


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Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
chopin_r_us #2841184 04/21/19 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Also, Chopin's fingers would have constantly hit the fall-board as keys in his day were shorter.
I don't think flat fingers means one has to move fingers nearer the fallboard.
Fine if you're not going to use your thumb.
You are right that I forgot that the thumb being so much shorter would move the other fingers toward the fallboard in most passages.

OTOH I just positioned my hand with the thumb on a white key and with the other fingers totally flat on my Mason BB and there was still around 2" between the tip of my third finger and the fallboard. IOW the visible part of the keys would have had to be MUCH shorter on Chopin's piano than on my BB to cause the problem you suggested. The visible length of the white keys on my piano is 5 and 7/8".

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2841197 04/21/19 01:29 PM
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Surely the simple answer is NO. Hands vary enormously and so do techniques. My fingers have always been naturally curled so for me it makes no sense anyway.


Roland LX7

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Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
computerpro3 #2841231 04/21/19 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by computerpro3
The real secret is to develop a technique that suits your particular physique. What works for one person will not work for all.


+1

There is no "one-size-fits-all" piano technique. I believe it's generally acknowledged that playing with as little tension as possible is a good thing (and that by itself is not an easy task for some of us), but everyone's stature and hand size is different. The goal of all technique is to get the instrument to produce the sound you want. That probably means something different for Billy Joel or Elton John than for Martha Argerich or Evgeny Kissin.


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Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
pianoloverus #2841239 04/21/19 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by chopin_r_us
Also, Chopin's fingers would have constantly hit the fall-board as keys in his day were shorter.
I don't think flat fingers means one has to move fingers nearer the fallboard.
Fine if you're not going to use your thumb.
You are right that I forgot that the thumb being so much shorter would move the other fingers toward the fallboard in most passages.

OTOH I just positioned my hand with the thumb on a white key and with the other fingers totally flat on my Mason BB and there was still around 2" between the tip of my third finger and the fallboard. IOW the visible part of the keys would have had to be MUCH shorter on Chopin's piano than on my BB to cause the problem you suggested. The visible length of the white keys on my piano is 5 and 7/8".


Unfortunately the thumb also must visit the black keys often... that can cause a collision with the fallboard...

I play with flat fingers a lot due to necessity but also because it allows more relaxed playing, lessens the pressure on my wrists and I feel in more control of the tone.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
Hank Drake #2841259 04/21/19 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Hank Drake
Originally Posted by computerpro3
Horowitz had massive hands.



Not true. By his own testimony, Horowitz could only take a tenth ("but not comfortably"). I shook hands with him in 1986. While exceptionally strong (i.e., the handshake was almost painful for me), his hand was not especially large nor his fingers long.


Horowitz hits an 11th here at 2:19: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pEMqtcspz8

His hands are significantly, significantly larger than mine and I can barely hit a 10th.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
OscoBosco #2841268 04/21/19 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by outo
Unfortunately the thumb also must visit the black keys often... that can cause a collision with the fallboard...
With the thumb on a black key some pianists(even those who play with flat fingers at other times)will be forced to curve their fingers to some degree to avoid the fallboard whether it's a modern grand or Chopin's grand with shorter keys.

I have a more or less average hand size for a male with a reach of comfortable tenth. On my Mason BB with my thumb on a black key I can just avoid the fallboard with the rest of my fingers flat and on black keys. Those with larger hands would have to curve their fingers to some degree.

Re: Aren't flat fingers the secret?
AaronSF #2841271 04/21/19 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by AaronSF
Originally Posted by computerpro3
The real secret is to develop a technique that suits your particular physique. What works for one person will not work for all.
+1 There is no "one-size-fits-all" piano technique.
But, at least for classical pianists, I think there are many technical approaches/principles that most or a significant majority of good pianists use with minor personal variations. That's one reason most excellent pianist's hands look similar when playing. IOW I think there are many basic technical ideas that do work for most pianists.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 04/21/19 07:45 PM.
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