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4th Finger Enigma Resolved!
Schumann's 4th Finger Enigma Resolved!
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#469816 - 01/19/09 10:38 AM Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Is this for anatomical reasons or in terms of the normaln "workout" it gets playing music or...?

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#469817 - 01/19/09 10:41 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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thats' what i m trying to find out and hope to find solutions to it man!!!

#469818 - 01/19/09 10:42 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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and also the extensor and flexor of 4th finger are wrapped around the 3rd, thay why it can never be totally independent of 3rd finger.

someone correct me if i m wrong.

#469819 - 01/19/09 10:55 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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It is just how the hand is made. The 4th finger will never be independent of the 3rd and 5th fingers. Just look at Schumann to see the dangers of trying to make it work like all the other fingers! This is why it is important to choose your fingering wisely in pieces so that it accounts for this being so weak.


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#469820 - 01/19/09 10:58 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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The question is not why but what to do about it.


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#469821 - 01/19/09 11:12 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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I think one can improve the strength/independence of the fourth finger but not make it equal to the others. I think some of Chopin's and Schnabel's fingerings are chosen because it is a given that some fingers are stronger than others even in pianists with the best technique.

So far some people have given reasons why the fourth finger cannot be independent of some other fingers. Is that the same thing as saying it's not as strong?

#469822 - 01/19/09 11:14 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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It's weighed down by the extra attachments - rather like a dog on a chain.


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#469823 - 01/19/09 11:17 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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The Hanon exercises (in the first section of the book)are good at exercising all 5 fingers and have stood the test of time. Be sure to lift your fingers high as it says in the instructions.

#469824 - 01/19/09 11:18 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
The question is not why but what to do about it.
Chopin Op.10 #2 springs to mind immediately (at least for the RH).

#469825 - 01/19/09 11:20 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Chris G:
Be sure to lift your fingers high as it says in the instructions.
Oh shite!?


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#469826 - 01/19/09 12:12 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Chris G: how does one lift the 4th finger high? The only way is to lift the 5th finger with it, which is undesirable. You must understand the physiology of the hand and work within its limits, not try to make up your own.


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#469827 - 01/19/09 06:05 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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well you can stretch the 4th finger straight out and play the note. and have a good tone.

#469828 - 01/19/09 09:07 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Look up hand on wikipedia. You'll see a picture of the tendons on the back of the hands somewhere. It'll become apparent that the 2nd and 5th fingers are not really restricted, but 3rd pulls 2nd up together with it when it comes up (your hand can overcomes this by letting the tendons move closer). Fourth is special because when 4th comes up, it pulls on the tendons of the 3rd and 5th fingers, which is a problem because the 4th tendon can't split into 2 or anything frown

I just pull on my 4th finger all the time, and it gets somewhat stronger laugh I also like to grab stuff with it instead of index finger.

#469829 - 01/19/09 09:24 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Very interesting. Is there some clear reason why the hand is built this way or is it just the way it worked out?

#469830 - 01/19/09 10:43 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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As stated by others here, the fourth finger is weaker than the others for anatomical reasons BUT it must be made to be as independent and powerful as possible and I would recommend one's goal be to make it AS independent and powerful as any of your other fingers - in other words work as though it is possible.

With slow, gradual practice one can develop the ability to lift the fourth independently. I have been finding out recently, as part of my "challenge everything you've been taught and everything you've been taught to fear" exploration of technique, that lifting the finger reasonably high (I keep it curved) is a fantastic way to develop its power and independence. You will be told that this will only lead to injury, but I suspect that is an overreaction to a whole lot of pianists going overboard in their practicing, whether in quantity or quality. Just use common sense moderation in how high you lift your fingers and how much you practice, and learn to relax muscles that don't need to be engaged. KK - I am aware of your admonition, based on Ortman, that when striking the key from any height the finger is slowed at contact, but I have never understood why that matters - I would think that that slowing would be quite miniscule and more than made up for by the additional momentum of the finger before contact, not to mention their increased power developed by practicing in this manner, but I don't wish to get in an argument over it - comment as you wish and I'll leave you with the last word. At any rate, one practices lifting the fingers to develop their independence and power. One can PLAY from the surface or from a distance above the keys, it all depends on the sound one wishes to achieve.

#469831 - 01/19/09 11:15 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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My teacher recently told me to work Hanon #45 to help fingers #4 and #5

#469832 - 01/20/09 02:02 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
Very interesting. Is there some clear reason why the hand is built this way or is it just the way it worked out?
Strength of grip, think of the evolutionary purpose of the hand...what use did independant fingers have thousands of years ago?


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#469833 - 01/20/09 02:46 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by JerryS88:
KK - I am aware of your admonition, based on Ortman, that when striking the key from any height the finger is slowed at contact, but I have never understood why that matters - I would think that that slowing would be quite miniscule and more than made up for by the additional momentum of the finger before contact, not to mention their increased power developed by practicing in this manner, but I don't wish to get in an argument over it - comment as you wish and I'll leave you with the last word. At any rate, one practices lifting the fingers to develop their independence and power. One can PLAY from the surface or from a distance above the keys, it all depends on the sound one wishes to achieve.
Ortmann (and Schultz's) point is that you lose control not power. The concentration you've put into the 'tone' is all lost once the key travels faster than your finger. All that's left is about millimeter where you are back in control of the key before the escapement.

On the raising the fingers high - if you are experienced, and I include learned, you can do what you want. I've been working on playing Bach with a hand that looks (and feels) like a fist. I got close to giving myself tennis elbow and I have tension all down both sides but I know exactly what I'm doing and though close, will not damage myself. It's the freedom of someone who has been active in the technique field for over 10 years. I would never alllow my students to 'experiment' like this unless I felt sure they can play with zero tension first. As I've said before - you can always add tension, you can't take it away. By the way, playing with extreme flexion really builds muscles, as does extreme extension (black note etude).

All that said, even I wouldn't crash a finger into the key, that's asking for trouble. Damage could happen on any single strike as it did to Paderewski. Our fingers evolved to grasp which presupposes contact first.


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#469834 - 01/20/09 01:57 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Regarding lifting the fourth finger high everyone's hand is different and if you find this uncomfortable or painful you shouldn't do it without seeking sound medical advice. I may be lucky in that my 4th finger does not seem particularly weak compared to the rest of my fingers and has pretty good independent motion. I still feel that Hanon is helpful for giving a good workout to all 5 fingers but as with any exercise you should not overdo it if you feel any kind of discomfort.

#469835 - 01/20/09 04:00 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Chris G: how does one lift the 4th finger high? The only way is to lift the 5th finger with it, which is undesirable.
Why do you think that is undesirable. If the fifth finger is not playing at the time (holding a high note as happens often in polyphony) why go to the effort of keeping it down? To bring up one of our hobby horses, the Taubman technique teaches that the fifth should be lifted with the fourth in those situations. (This is a specific application of a more general approach.)

ocd


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#469836 - 01/20/09 04:12 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by ocd:
Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
[b] Chris G: how does one lift the 4th finger high? The only way is to lift the 5th finger with it, which is undesirable.
Why do you think that is undesirable. If the fifth finger is not playing at the time (holding a high note as happens often in polyphony) why go to the effort of keeping it down? To bring up one of our hobby horses, the Taubman technique teaches that the fifth should be lifted with the fourth in those situations. (This is a specific application of a more general approach.)

ocd [/b]
Put a stress on "in those situations." Why make a rule for the exception? I've seen people play with a very high 5th finger most of the time. It adds tension where there doesn't need to be, and I'm not going to endorse it on a forum when there is no supervision over what is actually being done or understand by what was said here.


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#469837 - 01/20/09 04:20 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Quote
Originally posted by ocd:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
[b] Chris G: how does one lift the 4th finger high? The only way is to lift the 5th finger with it, which is undesirable.
Why do you think that is undesirable. If the fifth finger is not playing at the time (holding a high note as happens often in polyphony) why go to the effort of keeping it down? To bring up one of our hobby horses, the Taubman technique teaches that the fifth should be lifted with the fourth in those situations. (This is a specific application of a more general approach.)

ocd [/b]
Put a stress on "in those situations." Why make a rule for the exception? I've seen people play with a very high 5th finger most of the time. It adds tension where there doesn't need to be, and I'm not going to endorse it on a forum when there is no supervision over what is actually being done or understand by what was said here. [/b]
If you watch virtually any youtube videos of Kissin, Horowitz, Pogorelich(I just chose them because they have many good close videos of the hands)I think you'll see they raise the fifth finger when they raise the forth finger.

#469838 - 01/20/09 05:29 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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You'll probably see videos of people sticking their heads in ovens as well.


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#469839 - 01/20/09 05:45 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Put a stress on "in those situations." Why make a rule for the exception? I've seen people play with a very high 5th finger most of the time. It adds tension where there doesn't need to be, ...
I am not saying to keep the fifth finger high continuously. Instead, move both fingers together: fifth raises and falls with four, five does not play, of course. It is less stressing than isolating fourth.

ocd


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#469840 - 01/20/09 07:24 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by ocd:
Quote
Originally posted by Morodiene:
[b] Put a stress on "in those situations." Why make a rule for the exception? I've seen people play with a very high 5th finger most of the time. It adds tension where there doesn't need to be, ...
I am not saying to keep the fifth finger high continuously. Instead, move both fingers together: fifth raises and falls with five, five does not play, of course. It is less stressing than isolating fourth.

ocd [/b]
I think ocd meant "falls with four". It's virtually automatic except where the music requires holding a note with the fifth while the fourth plays a note.

#469841 - 01/20/09 10:32 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
I think one can improve the strength/independence of the fourth finger but not make it equal to the others.
Doing holding exercises (carefully) can help. Even if you can't lift the fourth as high as the others without moving 3 or 5, you can still work on lifting it enough to get it functioning with as much independence as possible.

Didn't Horowitz once say he thought the most important in piano playing was developing the fourth finger? Of course, he might have said that to trick his competition into crippling their hands by over-stressing that finger. smile

#469842 - 01/20/09 10:34 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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laugh I agree with him, though. Focused work on my fourth finger has done more for my technique than anything except double thirds. cool


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#469843 - 01/21/09 02:45 AM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest?  
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Nearly every time I have a problem, on closer inspection, it's the fourth finger. Hearing it as the problem usually puts it right.


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#1159096 - 03/07/09 04:37 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest? [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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This thread has been dormant for a while but I noticed that in the latest edition of Pianist Magazine (#46) there is a whole article discussing the fourth finger and its importance.

#1159107 - 03/07/09 05:04 PM Re: Why is the fourth finger the weakest? [Re: Chris G]  
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Education – Fingering
What's the best way to improve your fingering skills? Just bring your fourth finger forwards, says John York, who shows you how it's done.

Hmm, maybe I'll look out for a copy.


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