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How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
#2973123 04/29/20 09:03 PM
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Hey Everybody,

I'm doing my first Live Stream on YouTube tonight at 8pmPST (Just two hours from posting this). The topic is "How to Create Strong, Independent Fingers." SPOILER: It has nothing to do with muscle strength. I'll discuss using Philipp's Exercises for the Independence of Fingers and how to build clear neural connections between our brains and our fingers.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvoKB_peKUYkUkV0ulrQXtw/live

[video:youtube]https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvoKB_peKUYkUkV0ulrQXtw/live[/video]

Last edited by Neotonicizer; 04/29/20 09:04 PM.
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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973124 04/29/20 09:10 PM
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If you're unable to tune in live or you're catching this topic late, I'll post the video here after the stream has ended.

Cheers,

Jesse

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973183 04/30/20 12:29 AM
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Here is a link to the video now up on my YouTube channel.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973224 04/30/20 06:28 AM
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thumbs up for a really good video. A couple of things I really liked:

you didn't gloss over the fact its not easy and its going to take a long, long time
explanation to pay attention to muscles not be used, and looking out for tension was really good
+1 for dumping on Hanon extolling the need for mindful practice😁


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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973296 04/30/20 11:54 AM
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Excellent video! One could spend months (or more) gradually working through these things.

Initially I was worried when I saw the title of "strong fingers" but you actually circumvent the fallacy and seem to use the term in order to draw in those who start with that idea, to bring them beyond it. The more I got into it, the more I liked it, especially where I stopped near the end (it was past bedtime) where you have a check of tightness in key areas of the body.

Where you have the other fingers down, and play a single finger, you talk of keeping the others relaxed. I think this is super-important and can be missed in this venue where you can't see what students do with it. When I restarted piano, and had not found a teacher, I fell into the common trap of "keeping" the other fingers "still" - locking them into place, thus locking up the hand.

Well, in fact, that is something I want to ask about. Later I worked briefly with a teacher who started with videos, and I remarked "When your 4 plays, 5 also goes along for the ride. Is that what fingers do - go along for the ride?" The answer was "yes". I then saw that pianists let other fingers go along for the ride: that this is part of the overall motion of the hand, wrist, forearm. This helped free up a lot of tension. .......... But there seems to be a dichotomy. At this point I am moving from having cured the "locked up hammer fingers" through arm and hand movement, and find myself with rather flopsy fingers that have (over)learned to relax. Is there a golden middle between these opposing ideas? Is there a bit of the one with the other?

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
keystring #2973523 04/30/20 11:56 PM
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Originally Posted by keystring
Excellent video! One could spend months (or more) gradually working through these things.[quote]

Thanks. Yes, many months indeed.

[quote=keystring]Initially I was worried when I saw the title of "strong fingers" but you actually circumvent the fallacy and seem to use the term in order to draw in those who start with that idea, to bring them beyond it. [quote]

Yes, it was a lure. I'm betting many beginning pianists search the internet looking how to strengthen their fingers. Not very many beginners are searching for finger independence. Just trying to meet them on their terms.

[quote=keystring]Where you have the other fingers down, and play a single finger, you talk of keeping the others relaxed. I think this is super-important and can be missed in this venue where you can't see what students do with it. When I restarted piano, and had not found a teacher, I fell into the common trap of "keeping" the other fingers "still" - locking them into place, thus locking up the hand.[quote]

Actually, it can still be quite difficult to tell if another student is holding tension. I know what to look for—jaw clenching is a big one and obvious— but sometimes students are tensing their feet or something harder to tell. Ultimately, this awareness should be a self journey. Pointing it out is one thing. Discovering it on your own is another, and will continue to pay off for pianists. Aside from tension though, discovering and getting rid of recruiting larger muscle groups that assist in finger movements is the most important thing here for independence.

[quote=keystring]Well, in fact, that is something I want to ask about. Later I worked briefly with a teacher who started with videos, and I remarked "When your 4 plays, 5 also goes along for the ride. Is that what fingers do - go along for the ride?" The answer was "yes". I then saw that pianists let other fingers go along for the ride: that this is part of the overall motion of the hand, wrist, forearm. This helped free up a lot of tension. .......... But there seems to be a dichotomy. At this point I am moving from having cured the "locked up hammer fingers" through arm and hand movement, and find myself with rather flopsy fingers that have (over)learned to relax. Is there a golden middle between these opposing ideas? Is there a bit of the one with the other?

Well, I think I understand. I mention this briefly in the video. This is not the way to play piano! Weird, right? The point is to develop finger independence through practicing isolating movements and building neural connections. By doing these exercises, we have built a more nuanced neural connection with our fingers, which ultimately leads to more finger control and a wider range or tone.

Playing the piano is a whole body experience. So shutting out everything else in these exercises is really just a way to better understand what we do and how to control the movements.

But the part of your question regarding tension, floppy vs mechanical, is a common problem—it's more nuanced than that. Telling someone they need to be free of tension can cause messiness in the student without the ability to have developed a wider range of control. Tension and release is important in the basic stroke of the arm for instance—if there were no tension at the point of impact, your hand would collapse and fall off the keys.

I like to think of these neural networks like an on/off switch in most beginning pianists. The movement is either lift or press, or, raise and drop. These independence exercises work at making these neural networks far more complex than just an on/off switch. If the beginner is an on/off switch, the advanced pianist with independence is working with a MacBook Pro.

EDIT: Not sure why it formatted wrong but some of my answers are embedded in the quote above...

Last edited by Neotonicizer; 04/30/20 11:58 PM.
Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
keystring #2973714 05/01/20 01:47 PM
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Keystring - there's actually no contradiction between the whole body approach and the independence of the fingers.
The way I see it:
- A lot of the movement is coming from the fingers and they should be very active, but the forearm must be aligned behind them to support them with weight and balance.
- the movement of the fingers is two-staged - bringing down the key is quite energetic, while keeping it down is orders of magnitude less. It may help to think of these as two separate operations, one transitioning into the other. In the second stage, the fingers are a lot looser and flexible (allowing the hand to remain free to play new notes while these fingers hold their notes).
This can make one's playing look 'flopsy' (because the second phase covers the largest percentage of the time - a certain finger is moving a key only a fraction of the time), when in fact there IS effort which is very focused and short.
Of course, if you play staccato, then there's only the first stage.

I think what Jesse was talking about (great video btw) is making the instructions from the brain to the fingers 'cleaner'.
For example, say you want to play a fourth with 2 and 5 (RH). Most players will send the following command from the brain to the fingers:
"Bring fingers 2 and 5 down. Bring fingers 1, 3, 4 up so that they don't accidentally sound a note".

This can cause a locked hand (dual muscular pulls) and elongated effort (because you keep 1,3,4 up even after the notes were played).

A cleaner command can be "Bring fingers 2 and 5 down."
And this can be done by first giving a general command "bring all fingers down, don't let any up sneak in. All down.". Then focus your brain more and more on fingers 2 and 5, until the rest of the fingers don't get any signal from the brain and just do nothing but rest on their keys.

Of course this gets harder with 4 and 5. 4 can barely lift without lifting 5 and it's OK. Most of the 'flying pinky' phenomenon is actually a hovering 4th. 5th finger is the magnifying glass of finger 4th in this case. Let 4th come down and watch the pinky come down as well.

All this takes years to develop. I'm still working on it, and it's constantly getting better. I helps to work on it in small increments and very slowly and mindfully. Hope it helps.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
earlofmar #2973717 05/01/20 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by earlofmar
+1 for dumping on Hanon extolling the need for mindful practice😁

*dying* 😁😁😁


Lisa

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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973731 05/01/20 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Neotonicizer
Yes, it was a lure. I'm betting many beginning pianists search the internet looking how to strengthen their fingers. Not very many beginners are searching for finger independence. Just trying to meet them on their terms.
Your quotes / responses went wonky, as you noticed. wink

I figured as much. It can be a mistake to use that tack here, because the ABFers inform each other and so are a rather informed bunch. If we see a title about "strong, independent fingers" we're likely to go, "Well, there's another ignoramus who's about to injure some luckless student - skip that one!" Fortunately you introduced yourself before, we had a chance to see your playing, so you didn't seem to be "one of those".

Quote
Actually, it can still be quite difficult to tell if another student is holding tension. I know what to look for—jaw clenching is a big one and obvious— but sometimes students are tensing their feet or something harder to tell. Ultimately, this awareness should be a self journey. Pointing it out is one thing. Discovering it on your own is another, and will continue to pay off for pianists. Aside from tension though, discovering and getting rid of recruiting larger muscle groups that assist in finger movements is the most important thing here for independence.
The tensed feet, is something you won't see in a video someone sends you, though possibly something in posture might give it away. The larger muscle group thing comes up in the latter part of your video, and this may be helpful.

What about other things? For example, seating. Supposing I'm seated badly, or balanced badly, or don't know how to reach to the far left or right with both hands without almost toppling over? I will definitely tense, but the solution is to solve the balance thing, rather than trying not to tense.

Quote
But the part of your question regarding tension, floppy vs mechanical, is a common problem—it's more nuanced than that. Telling someone they need to be free of tension can cause messiness in the student without the ability to have developed a wider range of control. Tension and release is important in the basic stroke of the arm for instance—if there were no tension at the point of impact, your hand would collapse and fall off the keys.

It was a between-stage cure that had to be implemented. I had first learned on my own, as a child, where I was simply given a piano and my grandmother's old book of sonatinas, and expected to teach myself. The Clementi / Kuhlau et alia sonatinas are mostly white-key, center part of the piano, hands mostly in 5 finger closeness. I ended up playing with a curled hand, perpetually curled hammer fingers, motionless arms and body. I learned later that my grandmother had been forced to keep a coin on her hand - I could have had a coin on my hand. The repertoire itself trained me into this. So to undo that, we went into a "arm and body moves things" and then tried to bring the fingers back into it.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Ido #2973749 05/01/20 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Ido
Keystring - there's actually no contradiction between the whole body approach and the independence of the fingers. - A lot of the movement is coming from the fingers and they should be very active, but the forearm must be aligned behind them to support them with weight and balance.
The relationship between the work of the fingers and the forearm is not constant for the same pianist, and varies from pianist to pianist in similar situations. To find these relationships is the performer’s task for life, requiring many independent searches, even with a teacher.


Quote
The way I see it:

- the movement of the fingers is two-staged - bringing down the key is quite energetic, while keeping it down is orders of magnitude less. It may help to think of these as two separate operations, one transitioning into the other. In the second stage, the fingers are a lot looser and flexible (allowing the hand to remain free to play new notes while these fingers hold their notes).
In this second stage, unlike the first one, one must always take into account that not only the fingers press the keys to the bottom, but also the keys press the tips of the fingers up; which helps relieve excessive pressure.

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Originally Posted by keystring
If we see a title about "strong, independent fingers" we're likely to go, "Well, there's another ignoramus who's about to injure some luckless student - skip that one!"

To avoid confusion, the expression “Strong fingers” must be removed at all , only “Stable fingers”!

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Nahum #2973759 05/01/20 03:54 PM
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Nahum, Absolutely right. Ultimately it's the quest of the pianist to discover this and it is their quest for life!

And again, to defend my use of "strong", I've heard beginning pianists use this term so frequently that I've chosen their language in my title. If a beginning pianist doesn't know what it takes to have stable, independent, (insert your more preferred knowledgeable word here), then how are they supposed to know what to look for? So in thinking over my title, I knew that I wanted to both address the myth of finger strength while simultaneously using keywords that beginning pianists look for. So while this forum is thankfully well informed, the rest of the internet isn't necessarily, and my video is meant to be found through other traffic sources as well.

Thanks for listening.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Nahum #2973765 05/01/20 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Nahum
[...]
Originally Posted by keystring
If we see a title about "strong, independent fingers" we're likely to go, "Well, there's another ignoramus who's about to injure some luckless student - skip that one!"

To avoid confusion, the expression “Strong fingers” must be removed at all , only “Stable fingers”!

And if I were to see an instructional video with reference to "stable fingers," I would be quite skeptical since I've never heard the term applied to any kind of pianistic technique, and I might have the same reaction as keystring's reaction to "strong fingers." What does the expression "stable fingers" mean?

Regards,


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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
BruceD #2973896 05/01/20 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Nahum
[...]
Originally Posted by keystring
If we see a title about "strong, independent fingers" we're likely to go, "Well, there's another ignoramus who's about to injure some luckless student - skip that one!"

To avoid confusion, the expression “Strong fingers” must be removed at all , only “Stable fingers”!

And if I were to see an instructional video with reference to "stable fingers," I would be quite skeptical since I've never heard the term applied to any kind of pianistic technique, and I might have the same reaction as keystring's reaction to "strong fingers." What does the expression "stable fingers" mean?

Regards,
Just to make sure: The OP deliberately used "strong fingers" in his title because too many beginners mistakenly think that's what it's about. So he lured them with that title, in order to bring them into the right way of seeing it - the ones who needed to have their minds changed would be brought into the fold. My statement about "ignoramus" was a friendly wink toward the OP for what he's doing.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973900 05/02/20 12:21 AM
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I started to watch the video and before I finished I went ahead and ordered the exercise book. Then continued watching and decided to try playing the chord and found it very hard, not impossible, to reach all the notes. I normally play an octave on the edge because of my small hands. Now I’m wondering if I’ll be physically able to play these exercises. Any suggestions?


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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
PatG #2973902 05/02/20 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by PatG
I started to watch the video and before I finished I went ahead and ordered the exercise book. Then continued watching and decided to try playing the chord and found it very hard, not impossible, to reach all the notes. I normally play an octave on the edge because of my small hands. Now I’m wondering if I’ll be physically able to play these exercises. Any suggestions?

I’d keep trying to learn the chords. Start with just octaves, then add just the 2nd finger to that (so 1,2,5 fingers) then add a fourth finger, etc. This will likely take months. Don’t push it and be patient.

As you do that, I’d consider actually doing the exercises in the first series, but adapting (transposing) them to a smaller 5-finger position. You could do major or minor positions, but I’d suggest whole-tone instead, as it’s a little more spacious. Again, be patient. You can get months of mindful practice on the 1st exercise of the 1st series alone. No need to move to the next, unless it’s no longer challenging and you’ve rid your movements of these recruited, assisting muscle groups. If you end up learning the full set of fully diminished 7ths, then move to doing those instead.

Hope that helps.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973905 05/02/20 01:05 AM
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Thank you for your suggestions. Not sure I get the smaller 5-finger position, major or minor positions with whole tones instead. If I were to do a major starting on C what would the notes be? And minor? Then I think I could figure the rest out. I’m a senior in my 3rd year of lessons so I’m a little slow smile


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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
BruceD #2973911 05/02/20 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
And if I were to see an instructional video with reference to "stable fingers," I would be quite skeptical since I've never heard the term applied to any kind of pianistic technique, and I might have the same reaction as keystring's reaction to "strong fingers."
I was brought up at a Russian pianistic school; you apparently aren't.

Quote
What does the expression "stable fingers" mean?

Press the key with a pencil. A pencil is the personification of stability on the keyboard: it does not break, does not bend, its tip does not fidget on a key, and is completely relieved of any internal tensions .The pencil is not strong, it is stable.
When you standing near the piano , completely release hand, and in this state you lower the index finger on the key, then it “breaks” in all phalanges. It is impossible to play the piano. When you strain your finger, and therefore your whole hand, the finger does not bend, however, this is completely wrong! There is a third way, much more subtle: as a result of proper training, there is such control over the balance between the flexor and extensor muscles of the finger that when pressed, the finger does not break, and at the same time it is released. The strong musculature of the arm and fingers does not help here at all: it is interesting to see how such developed fingers break in adult students, as in beginner children.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Neotonicizer #2973924 05/02/20 03:25 AM
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The video is almost half an hour long! I just have no time to watch it. Neotonicizer, you may need to consider making a shorter version or breaking the video into parts. Someone told me that nowadays 7 minutes is considered the longest duration acceptable for an instructional video.

Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2973931 05/02/20 04:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
. Someone told me that nowadays 7 minutes is considered the longest duration acceptable for an instructional video.

Just tell Someone they are plainly wrong


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Re: How To Create Strong, Independent Fingers
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2973956 05/02/20 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
The video is almost half an hour long! I just have no time to watch it. Neotonicizer, you may need to consider making a shorter version or breaking the video into parts. Someone told me that nowadays 7 minutes is considered the longest duration acceptable for an instructional video.

Please no!!!
Don't we have enough soundbite culture?
Even my classes of 5-6 year olds could manage a good half-hour concentrating on a topic of interest to them.

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