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How not to press with my 4th finger
#2871219 07/21/19 03:41 PM
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Hi everyone, a complete beginner here. I've been practicing for about 3 weeks now and I'm doing C chord in Alfred.
For some reason I'm unable to only use my fingers 3 and 5 without number 4 pressing the key as well! Strange thing is I can separate my fingers on my left hand but not on the right one! I tried to make the same movement without the keyboard, but my 4th finger keeps moving together with the other two and even with using all my focus and looking at the fingers preventing number 4 from moving is almost impossible. I've managed to play the c chord a couple of times but in 90% of cases it's ruined.
Is there some exercise or a trick to help me? I'm right handed so it's surprising to see that I can easily play the chord with my left hand but not right. It's very frustrating.

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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871230 07/21/19 04:14 PM
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If you have never played the piano before, it will take some time for your brain to figure out what it is that you want your fingers to do. The neural pathways have to be built and that takes awhile. If you've only been at it for 3 weeks, I would not worry about it and give it time. If you want to work on anything, relaxation is always good.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871233 07/21/19 04:19 PM
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The 4th finger is very weak compared to the other fingers, and it barely can lift up when curved. However, you may be easier to lift it while it's somewhat straighter than the other fingers. This is OK to do that, just don't stick it completely straight out because that is too tense. Just enough so it doesn't go down with the other fingers. smile

Last edited by Morodiene; 07/21/19 04:20 PM.

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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871251 07/21/19 05:18 PM
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Place your hand on a table palm down and learn how to lift your 4th finger without moving the others. It will take time to train your 4th finger.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2871287 07/21/19 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Place your hand on a table palm down and learn how to lift your 4th finger without moving the others. It will take time to train your 4th finger.


I've done that; it helps, IMHO.

But I'd describe it differently:

. . Put your hand on the table in "playing position" -- fingers arched slightly, side of the thumb and all fingertips on the table.

. . Lift and put down the thumb.

. . Lift and put down 2.

. . and so on, in sequence, and back:

. . . . . 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

There's a side-condition for this exercise, and it requires self-awareness:

. . . (a) Don't tense-up the whole hand; muscles not lifting a finger, should be relaxed. Be conscious of excess tension and rigidity.

. . (b) Don't press harder on the table, when you lift any individual finger. See (a) above.

You'll be training muscle combinations that never got used before. It will take time. Brain-to-muscle pathways need to be established.


When you can reliably lift finger 4, and keep the other fingers on the table without stress, you should be able to play a C major chord cleanly.

Another exercise, maybe a bit harder:

. . . on the table, alternate between a 1-3-5 chord, and a 2-4 chord.

When you can do it on the table, try it on the keyboard -- CEG to DF and back again.

On flute, they call these finger exercises "mechanismes", in French. I don't know if there's a matching word in English.

Five minutes per day -- IMHO -- is more than enough.














Last edited by Charles Cohen; 07/21/19 07:33 PM.

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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2871292 07/21/19 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Place your hand on a table palm down and learn how to lift your 4th finger without moving the others. It will take time to train your 4th finger.

Is it a matter of lifting the 4th finger away from the others? Or is it a matter of allowing the 4th finger to relax while the other three fingers (thumb being a finger here) play? The attempt to "lift away" non-playing fingers in a chord or otherwise can create tension and problems; it's a thing I had to undo, in fact.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871352 07/22/19 02:02 AM
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Thank you for your advice everyone! Today I woke up and I can lower fingers 3 and 5 better than yesterday without lowering number 4. So there's been some improvement overnight which is cool. However there's still A LOT of tension in my hand while doing it. But I hope it will improve over time as I keep exercising every day.

Last edited by Veve87; 07/22/19 02:07 AM.
Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871397 07/22/19 06:53 AM
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Very frustrating! I have it worse with my dominant hand (right) also...practice seems to be a solution, along with repeated stretch backs of the two offenders (3 and 4, right hand) when away from the piano. I believe the issue is related to a shared tendon in the hand for those fingers...takes time to subdue the reluctance to behave as required.
Thought it was just me! I've presumed the tendons in the dominant hand must be thicker, so harder to tame.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
keystring #2871409 07/22/19 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Place your hand on a table palm down and learn how to lift your 4th finger without moving the others. It will take time to train your 4th finger.

Is it a matter of lifting the 4th finger away from the others? Or is it a matter of allowing the 4th finger to relax while the other three fingers (thumb being a finger here) play? The attempt to "lift away" non-playing fingers in a chord or otherwise can create tension and problems; it's a thing I had to undo, in fact.

Every hand is different. As you probably know woman have shorter 4th fingers compared to 2nd, and lighter fingers in general. If your hand allows you to play С triad comfortably by just keeping the 4th finger relaxed, it's very good for you. But I can't, I have long 4th finger, just 4 mm shorter than the 3rd and when I play С chord I need to keep it lifted a little bit in order not to play F with it. It happens automatically after years, I don't have to think about it, but I can indeed notice a bit of tension in 4th finger when I play such chords. From the provided description I'm sure that the OP needs to lift 4th finger, too, like in fact most of us.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2871414 07/22/19 09:09 AM
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What you say about everyone being different is certainly true. I am a woman whose 4th fingers are just a bit longer than my index fingers but I don't recall having to consciously move them out of the way. But sure, hand size, weight, tendons and so forth are going to make a difference.

But most new players have a difficult time playing the piano simply because they have never done it before, especially people who are older. My husband took piano lessons for the first time at age 63 and he had a heck of a time getting his fingers to move properly. He took class piano for a semester and even at the end of a 16 week class, practicing 2 hours a day, his fingers were still quite awkward. Which is why I think being patient is the most important thing.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2871426 07/22/19 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Place your hand on a table palm down and learn how to lift your 4th finger without moving the others. It will take time to train your 4th finger.


It might also be useful to try the opposite. Keep a relaxed hand and lift the other fingers one at a time, keeping 4 completely relaxed with the finger pad on the table.

For super extra fun you can do this one (from Edna Mae Burnam), keep 1 and 2 down the whole time. Play 4 then slur to 3 and 5, accenting the 3 and 5.


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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2872230 07/24/19 11:40 AM
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As a former guitar teacher, this issue always pops up. I always taught them to silently speake to their fingers very slow. Be a finger just sticking in the air. Slow formation and focus.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Hotstrings #2872473 07/25/19 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Hotstrings
... to silently speake to their fingers very slow. Be a finger just sticking in the air.

Execuse me, what does it mean? I can't seem to understand.

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2872657 07/25/19 02:41 PM
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3, 4 & 5 share ligaments. They're connected on each side to the 4th finger. When you move 3 or 5, 4 will move too (at first). The shared connections are why it's so hard to move 4 independent of 3 & 5.

Practice helps...lots and lots of practice. As 3 & 5 get stronger, the easier it gets to move 4 freely. The natural motion for 4 is down. 4 moves downward as fast as every other finger. But it won't move up easily so don't force it. Stay calm.

Keep practicing without tension. Tension is the enemy here. Your palm, hand & fingers have to be very relaxed for the muscles to develop correctly. Every beginner has 4th finger issues. Accept it, understand it and keep at it.


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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
Veve87 #2873007 07/26/19 04:00 PM
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Every pianist has trouble isolating the 4th finger. This is just the way the anatomy works. And, it may not be the same in both hands. My 4th finger on my right hand is much harder to isolate than the one on my left hand.

The trick here is to stop trying to isolate the 4th finger.

Don't worry if the chord is "ruined" for now. Worry only about playing the chord in a comfortable manner, even if you hit extra notes. Playing a chord perfectly takes a long time to learn. It's a really complicated task, actually. It may not seem that way, because you're thinking "What's so hard about this? I just press down the fingers that are supposed to play, and lift the fingers that aren't supposed to play." However, this is an over-simplification, and you are far from the first pianist to get frustrated when this seemingly obvious strategy doesn't work.

This is the kind of thing you need to let your body learn. No one can explain it to you. Again, for now, just focus on playing comfortably. Pick one note of the chord that you're going to try to get "right", and let the other fingers fall wherever they happen to land.

Originally Posted by Veve87

Thank you for your advice everyone! Today I woke up and I can lower fingers 3 and 5 better than yesterday without lowering number 4. So there's been some improvement overnight which is cool. However there's still A LOT of tension in my hand while doing it. But I hope it will improve over time as I keep exercising every day.


I understand why you view this as improvement. However, I have to say that this is not the type of exercise I would ever do, because I don't see how it relates to piano playing. When I play, I generally try to allow 3, 4, and 5 to move as a unit, without trying to make them independent. I lift them together, and drop them together.

Keep in mind that your real question here is "how do I play 3 and 5 without 4 also playing?", and NOT "how do I lift the 4th finger by itself?"

Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
MichaelJK #2873012 07/26/19 05:08 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Every pianist has trouble isolating the 4th finger. This is just the way the anatomy works. And, it may not be the same in both hands. My 4th finger on my right hand is much harder to isolate than the one on my left hand.

The trick here is to stop trying to isolate the 4th finger.

Don't worry if the chord is "ruined" for now. Worry only about playing the chord in a comfortable manner, even if you hit extra notes. Playing a chord perfectly takes a long time to learn. It's a really complicated task, actually. It may not seem that way, because you're thinking "What's so hard about this? I just press down the fingers that are supposed to play, and lift the fingers that aren't supposed to play." However, this is an over-simplification, and you are far from the first pianist to get frustrated when this seemingly obvious strategy doesn't work.

This is the kind of thing you need to let your body learn. No one can explain it to you. Again, for now, just focus on playing comfortably. Pick one note of the chord that you're going to try to get "right", and let the other fingers fall wherever they happen to land.

Originally Posted by Veve87

Thank you for your advice everyone! Today I woke up and I can lower fingers 3 and 5 better than yesterday without lowering number 4. So there's been some improvement overnight which is cool. However there's still A LOT of tension in my hand while doing it. But I hope it will improve over time as I keep exercising every day.


I understand why you view this as improvement. However, I have to say that this is not the type of exercise I would ever do, because I don't see how it relates to piano playing. When I play, I generally try to allow 3, 4, and 5 to move as a unit, without trying to make them independent. I lift them together, and drop them together.

Keep in mind that your real question here is "how do I play 3 and 5 without 4 also playing?", and NOT "how do I lift the 4th finger by itself?"



Also, I think people try to do chords too soon in their studies. I think a lot of time spent on using one finger at a time and strengthening the connections from brain to each finger, and finger independence makes playing chords a lot easier.


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Re: How not to press with my 4th finger
MichaelJK #2873021 07/26/19 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJK
Every pianist has trouble isolating the 4th finger. This is just the way the anatomy works. And, it may not be the same in both hands. My 4th finger on my right hand is much harder to isolate than the one on my left hand.

The trick here is to stop trying to isolate the 4th finger.


Yes! That is what I was trying to say before.

Quote
Keep in mind that your real question here is "how do I play 3 and 5 without 4 also playing?", and NOT "how do I lift the 4th finger by itself?"


Also a big yes.


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