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Lean forward for technical exercises? #2936417 01/20/20 06:51 PM
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JB_PW Offline OP
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I rarely question my teacher because I think she's pretty great, but she just gave me some advice that seems odd.

I'm working on some technical exercises...triplets and sixteenths. I'm struggling to increase speed, as always. She suggested that I lean forward while playing them, almost halfway to the keyboard. This requires that my elbows go out and my fingers are more arched than normal. She compared this to how we lean forward when watching something particularly interesting or intense in a movie/show...like maybe it's a signal to the brain that there's 'intensity ahead.' She thinks I can probably play faster than I think I can, and maybe this will help.

I've tried it a couple of times, but it just feels terribly awkward and wrong...especially when my left hand is right in front of my body.

Is this common advice? I'm not giving up yet, but so far it's just making me uncomfortable and slowing me down.

JB


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936424 01/20/20 07:06 PM
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Your teacher's reasoning makes little sense to me. What do you mean by halfway to the keyboard? That you back should be at a 45 degree angle? Tell her how you feel about it at your next lesson? There is no rush that you have to immediately start practicing it this way.

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936427 01/20/20 07:11 PM
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Maybe not as extreme as 45 degrees, but it felt close. My lessons are every 2 weeks so I won't see her for a bit. I probably won't spend a ton of time in this position until we discuss it more, but I might be a little more open to trying if I knew this was a common technique. smile


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936431 01/20/20 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
[..] my teacher[...] suggested that I lean forward while playing them, almost halfway to the keyboard. This requires that my elbows go out and my fingers are more arched than normal. She compared this to how we lean forward when watching something particularly interesting or intense in a movie/show...like maybe it's a signal to the brain that there's 'intensity ahead.' [...]


Of course we weren't there to hear the complete explanation - if there was one - but I would think you'd near more of a soundly-based pedagogical reason (other than "intensity ahead") for justifying what seems to be an awkward position and what might even inhibit freedom of movement.

Regards,


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936433 01/20/20 07:19 PM
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Did you perhaps try it during your lesson so your teacher could observe your new position and clear up any misunderstanding?


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: dogperson] #2936440 01/20/20 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Did you perhaps try it during your lesson so your teacher could observe your new position and clear up any misunderstanding?


Yep... "ugh this feels weird." Response: "Yes, it's going to." LOL.

Again...I just wanted to get an idea of whether or not this was "a thing." Perhaps I'll attempt it sparingly until my next lesson.


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936447 01/20/20 07:47 PM
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Maybe she observes you are too "laid back"?

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: wszxbcl] #2936459 01/20/20 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
Maybe she observes you are too "laid back"?


...said no one ever, about me. smile


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936483 01/20/20 08:37 PM
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I'm glad I'm old enough with enough experience in life to know B.S when I hear it.

Let me state unequivocally (and I don't care what anyone else with whatever pedigree they may have) there only way to "speed up" ( for those who find some meaning in speed) is by relaxing and repeating. This had nothing to do with the brain or Neuroscience. It is simply the way the mind (what is called body memory) learns. Some may attain required speed and others may simply not. For those who do not (and this includes teachers) then learn to be satisfied - which is actually a more beneficial skill too learn than speed.

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: Richrf] #2936490 01/20/20 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Richrf
I'm glad I'm old enough with enough experience in life to know B.S when I hear it.

Let me state unequivocally (and I don't care what anyone else with whatever pedigree they may have) there only way to "speed up" ( for those who find some meaning in speed) is by relaxing and repeating. This had nothing to do with the brain or Neuroscience. It is simply the way the mind (what is called body memory) learns. Some may attain required speed and others may simply not. For those who do not (and this includes teachers) then learn to be satisfied - which is actually a more beneficial skill too learn than speed.


I am very goal-oriented. Probably too much so for my mental health. When I'm working on scales or exercises that are primarily for building speed, I feel like I'm "failing" if I'm not able to consistently go faster. I found wszxbcl's comment particularly amusing, because I am not laid back about anything in my life...certainly not piano.

I appreciate your comment Rich. I do need to relax more when I'm playing and stop fretting about these arbitrary goals I'm setting for myself.


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936492 01/20/20 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
Originally Posted by Richrf
I'm glad I'm old enough with enough experience in life to know B.S when I hear it.

Let me state unequivocally (and I don't care what anyone else with whatever pedigree they may have) there only way to "speed up" ( for those who find some meaning in speed) is by relaxing and repeating. This had nothing to do with the brain or Neuroscience. It is simply the way the mind (what is called body memory) learns. Some may attain required speed and others may simply not. For those who do not (and this includes teachers) then learn to be satisfied - which is actually a more beneficial skill too learn than speed.


I am very goal-oriented. Probably too much so for my mental health. When I'm working on scales or exercises that are primarily for building speed, I feel like I'm "failing" if I'm not able to consistently go faster. I found wszxbcl's comment particularly amusing, because I am not laid back about anything in my life...certainly not piano.

I appreciate your comment Rich. I do need to relax more when I'm playing and stop fretting about these arbitrary goals I'm setting for myself.


thumb Go for it! ( In a relaxed way of course). smile

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936509 01/20/20 10:07 PM
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Interesting. I have seen pianists do this (and maybe I do also) for bigger repertoire where I need more power - I position the bench further back and lean in.

I have taught things that at first are very awkward, and my goal was the get the student somewhat used to doing this task even though it doesn't help anything at first. Once they've accomplished that, then we move onto the phase where we integrate that movement with something that will really help. I say give her a chance, do as she says as long as there is no pain or soreness from it. If so, hold off until the next time to try and clarify what she wants.


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936554 01/21/20 03:19 AM
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I saw it, too. Once a pianist leaned forward so that his eyes were probably just 10-15 cm from the keys, he gazed at his right hand playing a descending scale and followed his hand at that distance for several octaves. He looked very tense.

Observing the movements of your fingers so closely may really help focus, but it's considered a technique flaw and it can quickly become a bad habit. I suggest you stay away from it. All the speed can be achieved without leaning and without tension.

There are special exercises for speed increase. Have you tried any? One of the most efficient is playing in short speed bursts, stopping and relaxing at every nth key.

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936581 01/21/20 05:44 AM
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My teacher says that by leaning too far forward, you cut off your peripheral vision, something you don’t want to do if you want to easily move up and down the keyboard and have to execute large jumps. Technical exercises that are repeating patterns going up or down without jumps would be ok for leaning over, I guess, but I won’t want to get into the habit of playing technical exercises differently than I play pieces.

Leaning over is one short step away from swaying back and forth like a pendulum, something else I try to avoid. One of my teacher’s advanced students slammed her head into the fallboard.

Last edited by LarryK; 01/21/20 05:47 AM.

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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936586 01/21/20 06:14 AM
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My teacher also asks that I lean in a little more. She thinks I sit too far back. She doesn’t want me to sit anywhere near a 45’, though, just a little closer, with more intensity. I think this is for power, though, and sound quality rather than speed.

Relaxation does help...tension is the enemy. I struggle with this also.

I also think that the acquisition of speed takes a long, long time. If you think you can play a 4 octave scale at 70 bpm (16th notes), and increase by 4 bpm every week, it’s not going to happen. I’d bet that it takes a year to increase to 80, so that to get from 70 to 100 is a 3 year deal. That’s just a wild guess. Does anyone with more experience have a thought on this?


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2936588 01/21/20 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I saw it, too. Once a pianist leaned forward so that his eyes were probably just 10-15 cm from the keys, he gazed at his right hand playing a descending scale and followed his hand at that distance for several octaves. He looked very tense.

Observing the movements of your fingers so closely may really help focus, but it's considered a technique flaw and it can quickly become a bad habit. I suggest you stay away from it. All the speed can be achieved without leaning and without tension.

There are special exercises for speed increase. Have you tried any? One of the most efficient is playing in short speed bursts, stopping and relaxing at every nth key.

I’m sure I can google or YouTube this, but it would be helpful if someone can elaborate on specific tips to help increase speed more....quickly!


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: cmb13] #2936609 01/21/20 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by cmb13
My teacher also asks that I lean in a little more. She thinks I sit too far back. She doesn’t want me to sit anywhere near a 45’, though, just a little closer, with more intensity. I think this is for power, though, and sound quality rather than speed.

Relaxation does help...tension is the enemy. I struggle with this also.

I also think that the acquisition of speed takes a long, long time. If you think you can play a 4 octave scale at 70 bpm (16th notes), and increase by 4 bpm every week, it’s not going to happen. I’d bet that it takes a year to increase to 80, so that to get from 70 to 100 is a 3 year deal. That’s just a wild guess. Does anyone with more experience have a thought on this?


Some musicians lean in a bit others are moving in an out all the time. Some are relatively static. Everyone is different. I am just wondering if this thread will start some sort of fad where all students return to their teachers next week leaning 45 degrees (for most a really uncomfortable position) into their piano. I hope it doesn't become a long term trend.

Ditto, for increasing speed. Everyone learns at a different pace. It is a matter of repetitive, relaxed practice. This is how the mind/body creates habits (learns) as the mind permeates the physical body. That is how I learned to walk, to run, to speak, the alphabet, and the multiplication table. That is how one learns to play the piano. If one is relaxed at a 45 degree angle with their face in the keys, so be it. If one is not relaxed, it will be counterproductive.

Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936618 01/21/20 08:41 AM
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I saw this guy live once - he was leaning in so much I thought he was going to fall into his soup! I couldn't find a video to do it justice, but the cover image here tells the story. My, he could play though!


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936623 01/21/20 08:54 AM
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Sending you a PM now.


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Re: Lean forward for technical exercises? [Re: JB_PW] #2936645 01/21/20 10:17 AM
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Thanks all for the replies! I am aware that leaning forward, with elbows a bit further out, is somewhat common for more power (another of my issues...I've probably never played a single passage at a true forte).

The exercises in question are mainly arpeggios, so no big jumps. But as Bruce pointed out, this position does inhibit my movement. I did not attempt to actually play like this in my lesson, we just went over the position she was recommending...so at that time I was not aware of how it was going to feel while playing the entire exercise(s). I don't like it!

I also agree with Larry's statement...seems like a bad idea to play technical exercises with different posture than I would play pieces. My posture was a real issue when I first started playing again. It took months to correct it. I'd rather not introduce new bad habits there! But I definitely need to go over this whole thing again at my lesson. Perhaps I misunderstood something.

Regarding speed...for scales I'm targeting 16th notes at 84 BPM right now (HS @104). I'm only working on major scales for the moment, and most are around 72-76. My teacher suggested a goal of 120, eventually. That feels completely impossible, but I'm going to try not to stress about it. I have read about the short bursts of speed...I believe I watched videos by both Graham Fitch and Josh Wright on that topic. I do routinely practice that way.


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