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Posted By: Hotstrings Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 04:23 AM
I am a beginner (2 1/2 yrs ) and study privately. From the get go my teacher always told me to treat the keys as a hot stove and lift my fingers right back up.
Also my fingers have a curve to them nearly always except for certain chord configurations and then my hand may be flatter. I just watched some you tube videos and I saw someone playing w their hands and palms flat almost straight out. And some w curled hand and fingertips up and down like little pistons.
Are both ways acceptable? Thanks for any advice.
Posted By: spanishbuddha Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 07:46 AM
Originally Posted by Hotstrings
I am a beginner (2 1/2 yrs ) and study privately. From the get go my teacher always told me to treat the keys as a hot stove and lift my fingers right back up.
Also my fingers have a curve to them nearly always except for certain chord configurations and then my hand may be flatter. I just watched some you tube videos and I saw someone playing w their hands and palms flat almost straight out. And some w curled hand and fingertips up and down like little pistons.
Are both ways acceptable? Thanks for any advice.

I’m not a teacher but am not sure now I would play legato using the hot stove technique. I would worry less about hand shape than hand wrist position in relation to the keyboard and avoiding tension. I think you need a (new) teacher.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 09:44 AM
The hot stove - and what a horrible image - would only be useful, maybe, for staccato. I also have great doubts about how competent your teacher is.
Posted By: dogperson Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 10:04 AM
Hot strings

None of us are there to see your hand position and to hear your teacher’s instructions. Shouldn't the first thing you do is to ask your teacher ‘ how do I play legato if I treat the keys as a hot stove? Can you kindly demonstrate for me? Would you ever recommend using flatter fingers?’

Your question should be an opportunity for discussion with your teacher. I don’t understand how we, as internet students who can’t see and hear what is happening, can immediately judge your teacher’s instructions, correctness and competency. . Please question, listen and think.
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 10:37 AM
Originally Posted by Hotstrings
From the get go my teacher always told me to treat the keys as a hot stove and lift my fingers right back up.

This is something I never heard of. It seems strange and questionable.

Originally Posted by Hotstrings
Also my fingers have a curve to them nearly always except for certain chord configurations and then my hand may be flatter. I just watched some you tube videos and I saw someone playing w their hands and palms flat almost straight out. And some w curled hand and fingertips up and down like little pistons.
Are both ways acceptable?

No, this time I'll put it straight: playing with flat fingers is wrong.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 11:30 AM
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
No, this time I'll put it straight: playing with flat fingers is wrong.

Generally, of course you are right. But sometimes also very good pianists play with flat fingers. For instance, Horowitz, 7 seconds into this video. smile


Posted By: KevinM Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 11:52 AM
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
No, this time I'll put it straight: playing with flat fingers is wrong.

Generally, of course you are right. But sometimes also very good pianists play with flat fingers. For instance, Horowitz, 7 seconds into this video. smile

....


Every video of Horowitz playing makes me cringe. I am in no way in a position to comment but his giant splayed hands are nearly always flat and this obviously works extremely well for him, but it just seems wrong.

Perhaps it highlights that diversity is good. Different styles and techniques are possible.
Posted By: Animisha Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 12:30 PM
Originally Posted by KevinM
Perhaps it highlights that diversity is good. Different styles and techniques are possible.

I think that once you are a Master Pianist, you can do anything. It's us students who need to learn to play by the rules. wink
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 01:17 PM
1. How could one hold a note for several beats(without pedal) if one lifts one's fingers quickly off the keys as suggested by the OP? This makes no sense.

2. A fair number of great pianists play with flat fingers. They use different degrees and frequencies of flatness with Horowitz being one of the more extreme. All pianists play with flat fingers when they play chords requiring large stretches since this automatically flattens the hand.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 01:42 PM
Flat finger playing is fine, depending on what's going on in the music. Large chords and/or lots of black keys require it.

To the OP: As was said before, it's very hard to judge based on what you've said. We'd have to see and hear your playing to know what's going on. Can you post a video?

Also, as a teacher I think there are times that I tell a student to do something and it sounds extreme because they are in an extreme opposite of where they should be, and they are not the kind of student to go too far with instructions. That's a lot of caveats, but it is possible that this is the case with you. However, I can only imagine using the instructions of "hot stove" when applied to a certain type of staccato, but not as a standard way of playing.

If you post a video, can you please tell us if you are doing what your teacher is asking correctly? Or are they still trying to get you to do it but you're confused as to what they want and not able to execute it? That will help to at least know if what you demonstrate is an accurate representation of what the teacher wants.
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 02:57 PM
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
No, this time I'll put it straight: playing with flat fingers is wrong.

Generally, of course you are right. But sometimes also very good pianists play with flat fingers. For instance, Horowitz, 7 seconds into this video. smile
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT6H-ERo-rk

I don't think Horowitz played with flat fingers. He used to hold his non-playing fingers straightened out, and this fact, coupled with his very long fingers and extraordinarily elastic last (DIP) finger joints creates wrong impression of playing with flat fingers, but it's not the case really. If you watch closely the playing fingers in the octaves that you refer to on the video, you will see that his middle (PIP) finger joints do bend downward when he touches the keys.

Besides, talking about Horowitz we shouldn't forget that technically he had serious restrictions, e.g. he could play comfortably only on his bright grand with extremely light action, he had to sit uncomfortably low, and even in these conditions his technique was very unstable, many of his concerts were a complete failure technically. This led him to an extreme stage fright and a long break in the middle of his career. So if someone wants to find a pianist to learn technique from, I think Horowitz is not at all a good candidate.
Posted By: pianoloverus Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 07:24 PM
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
No, this time I'll put it straight: playing with flat fingers is wrong.

Generally, of course you are right. But sometimes also very good pianists play with flat fingers. For instance, Horowitz, 7 seconds into this video. smile
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT6H-ERo-rk

I don't think Horowitz played with flat fingers. He used to hold his non-playing fingers straightened out, and this fact, coupled with his very long fingers and extraordinarily elastic last (DIP) finger joints creates wrong impression of playing with flat fingers, but it's not the case really. If you watch closely the playing fingers in the octaves that you refer to on the video, you will see that his middle (PIP) finger joints do bend downward when he touches the keys.

Besides, talking about Horowitz we shouldn't forget that technically he had serious restrictions, e.g. he could play comfortably only on his bright grand with extremely light action, he had to sit uncomfortably low, and even in these conditions his technique was very unstable, many of his concerts were a complete failure technically. This led him to an extreme stage fright and a long break in the middle of his career. So if someone wants to find a pianist to learn technique from, I think Horowitz is not at all a good candidate.
I don't think many of Horowitz's concerts were a "complete failure technically" except possibly when he was heavily medicated. They certainly were not a failure in his prime and much of his reputation was built on his phenomenal technique. Preferring a piano that's bright and has a light action doesn't mean one's technique is faulty.

I also can't agree with your claim that Horowitz didn't play with flat fingers. He has been mentioned for decades by countless people as the prime example of a flat fingered pianist. You seem to say that his non-playing fingers were flat while his playing fingers were curved but when one curves one finger the adjacent ones curve automatically. It's true that sometimes he doesn't play with flat fingers, but I think he plays with flat fingers far more than most pianists.

None of the above is meant to imply that I think Horowitz is a good person to copy when learning technique.
Posted By: keystring Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 08:07 PM
Originally Posted by Hotstrings
I am a beginner (2 1/2 yrs ) and study privately. From the get go my teacher always told me to treat the keys as a hot stove and lift my fingers right back up.
Also my fingers have a curve to them nearly always except for certain chord configurations and then my hand may be flatter. I just watched some you tube videos and I saw someone playing w their hands and palms flat almost straight out. And some w curled hand and fingertips up and down like little pistons.
Are both ways acceptable? Thanks for any advice.

Imagine that one day you encounter a space creature that lived on a low gravity planet as a liquid water drop, and had suddenly been zapped into a human body. And you have to explain to him how walking works. You'd come up with some crude suggestions, and hope that he would figure out that walking is "all of this, but none of it, but all of it", and pray he wouldn't restrict himself to your ideas or take you literally. Your friend, who is also human and gifted with a body and two legs, may have different ideas on how to help Mr. Droplet. Yet it is the same act of walking that you both can do.

That is sort of what this is about. Playing piano is constantly changing depending on what you're doing, but it has some underlying principles that make it work well - like walking. Some teachers give one set of principles, others let it evolve under discovery and guidance, others have a different set of principles. As students - esp. adult students - we tend to be very meticulous and literal when taught specific things. When taught "specifically" there may be a stage where you discover it's broader. You find "contradictions". They aren't really contradictions. They are the start of a broader picture.

About "curved fingers". With your RH cover from C to F, fingers 1 and 5, seeking comfort. You will find that your fingers and hand are round. Now spread to the widest span you have - maybe an octave, maybe more, maybe less. Your hand will be almost flat, the fingers will be almost straight. The shape of the hand and fingers are determined on what span you are playing, and other things. Same, if you're mostly in black keys, which are at a higher height than the white keys, and start further in. ....... Now: Often methodologies for beginners will also start with repertoire that is limited. You may get music that is 90% on white keys (in C, F, G major & relative minor) - and that always span 5 notes or less, never an octave, never an 9th or 10th. So the limited shape you're taught fits the limited material you're given. It is like a child being taught primary colours: blue, red, yellow - and being kept in a house where the only colours he ever sees are blue, red, and yellow. How perplexed that child will be when he sees green grass.

This is incomplete, but maybe it gives some new perspective. (Does this make sense to anyone?)
Posted By: AndrewJCW Re: Proper hand technique - 11/12/19 08:43 PM
Yes I like your approach keystring, and I think it is generally the way things are going in modern teaching of difficult technical subjects across the board, be it gymnastics, dancing, tennis, singing or piano or surgery. Physiology is different, child hood experience is different - context matters a lot to any student but especially the adult beginner. There is no perfect one size fits all technique. But there are guidelines and frameworks - principals and approaches that are helpful and can lead you down the right path to what works for you. The days of sitting someone down and having them rotely practising for 6 hours the 'correct' technique and hitting them with a cane if they fail are going away.

I think John Mortensen has a good description of this approach to learning technique, and also his specific preferred methodology (the four pillars) in this youtube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6gRfn5XrW8
Posted By: Hotstrings Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 02:43 AM
Thank you for all the comments.,
The comments about getting a new teacher were way off base . Kind of rude for this forum. If you knew who my teacher is that would not be a suggestion at all.
I was just curious as I’ve seen it both ways.
Believe me I don’t need another teacher . Very happy. Thank you.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 03:37 AM
If is best to ask technical questions with your teacher. I have never found any discussion here where people argee about the technique. i believe there to be variations and my interst now is minimal but If you do post you do get a mishmash of opinions and often not from experienced players. I personally would not ask here and would save such questions for a teacher.

I also have been told about hot keys any coming off the keys quickly so that to me actually sounded quite normal. I was told to do it for faster staccatos where you get a sharp powerful sound. The question for your teacher is why he advises something.
Posted By: Moo :) Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 03:42 AM
I also don’t necessarily advise YouTube videos for technique. I may sound like a dinosaur but a young dinosaur 🦕 but many of us learnt technique from teacher before YouTube and I have never learnt anything from this about playing. I think have one teacher teaching one way is a lot better but I may be too dinosaurous advice for you 🦖 . Good luck.
Posted By: chopin_r_us Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 09:41 AM
You play with relaxed hands. For an older person this can take some years to develop.
Posted By: ghosthand Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 12:00 PM
There is no general method for piano playing that should be used by everyone and all the time. If you study experienced pianists you see that they use a wide range of different techniques depending on what they are playing (even within the same piece). If you could follow them in their preparations you would see that many of them work through every single movement of a piece, every single keystroke, in order to get them right. These movements involve your whole body, not just your fingers, mind you.
Second, we don't all have the same hand size and this, together with other physical, personal characteristics, will affect your technique. (Although there are many things that could be considered "normal" as well, of course ...) A good teacher must help you finding your own way, just as a ballet teacher must help the students finding their own individual posture - but still within the rules. The main goal is that it should feel comfortable and natural for you to play, not a painful struggle.
Third, pianos are different. What works good on one piano, might be hard on another. Not to mention if you also shift between keyboards, old fortepianos, modern grands, etcetera. So much of piano education is about learning and applying different techniques, not just trying to decrypt yet another complicated note cipher. That is a special issue for pianists and organists - we cannot learn to play on just ONE instrument and then bring it with us all the time. We must be very adaptive, and personally I think this is difficult. You know this situation that your assignment sounds SO GOOD when you practice at home, and when you come to lesson you trash it totally? Yeah, I thought so.

So when you are a beginner, of course your teacher must start somewhere. You cannot learn it all at once. For example, there are many finger exercises, like Hanon. Many students read the instructions from Hanon, then they think all they have to do is learning to play through it all, in all keys - learning note sequences, that is. With this one and only one method. Of course this is a major waste of time, when you can learn the same sequences in more creative contexts - in music, that is. But still finger exercises is a necessary tool if you use them for developing different kinds of techniques and don't want to bother too much about "note decryption" at the same time.
Posted By: Morodiene Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 01:49 PM
Originally Posted by Hotstrings
Thank you for all the comments.,
The comments about getting a new teacher were way off base . Kind of rude for this forum. If you knew who my teacher is that would not be a suggestion at all.
I was just curious as I’ve seen it both ways.
Believe me I don’t need another teacher . Very happy. Thank you.

Seen what both ways? I don't think any of us have a good idea of what you're talking about with your technique. At least the description is not very clear to most of us. And I agree, it's easy to throw the teacher under the bus when you aren't present at the lessons and seeing their interaction with the student. That's why I'm assuming that we don't fully understand what you mean in your description of the technique, and why we can't comment if it's good and helpful or not.
Posted By: LadyAcadia Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 02:27 PM
Hi,
Playing larger chords & octaves is a challenge for me with my small hands.

During practice or performance, I release the chord & relax my hand by closing it quickly to a fist and then opening it back up to continue to the next chord. If I don't relax, I feel a lot of fatigue in my hand that later translates to my wrist before the piece is finished.

These days, I only play for family & friends. As long as I can find a spot in the music to relax my hand and continue with the proper tempo, then my audience can still enjoy the music. It might be distracting if they can see my hand do that, so I try to not make it obvious.

On a practice day, I give myself a break from the piano if I experience any ache caused by swelling or bad posture. I can always return to the piano later that day. I think it's for that reason that I enjoy longer practice sessions in the afternoon or late evening after my muscles & joints have properly worked out the kinks during a normal day of activity.

Hope this helps and take care!
Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev Re: Proper hand technique - 11/13/19 05:08 PM
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Quote
I don't think Horowitz played with flat fingers. He used to hold his non-playing fingers straightened out, and this fact, coupled with his very long fingers and extraordinarily elastic last (DIP) finger joints creates wrong impression of playing with flat fingers, but it's not the case really. If you watch closely the playing fingers in the octaves that you refer to on the video, you will see that his middle (PIP) finger joints do bend downward when he touches the keys.

Besides, talking about Horowitz we shouldn't forget that technically he had serious restrictions, e.g. he could play comfortably only on his bright grand with extremely light action, he had to sit uncomfortably low, and even in these conditions his technique was very unstable, many of his concerts were a complete failure technically. This led him to an extreme stage fright and a long break in the middle of his career. So if someone wants to find a pianist to learn technique from, I think Horowitz is not at all a good candidate.

I don't think many of Horowitz's concerts were a "complete failure technically" except possibly when he was heavily medicated.

Obviously I had no chance to visit his concerts, I was only 6 when he played in Moscow last time, so I can only tell you what I read. I read that he had concerts which were a technical failure and it led him to an extreme stage fright and the break, and it was long before Japan.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
They certainly were not a failure in his prime and much of his reputation was built on his phenomenal technique.

I didn't say that he hadn't brilliant technique. I said his technique was unstable, that is, he had technique fluctuations from concert to concert that were much bigger than what is considered normal for elite pianist, and these fluctuations did not let him play well consistently.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Preferring a piano that's bright and has a light action doesn't mean one's technique is faulty.

I think there is a difference between preferring a piano and refusing to play on all other (well prepared, elite brand) pianos except his own. I consider it a technical drawback.
Hoisting a piano out of a window of a New York apartment by crane and transporting it to Moscow seems a little bit over the top, isn't it?

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I also can't agree with your claim that Horowitz didn't play with flat fingers. He has been mentioned for decades by countless people as the prime example of a flat fingered pianist.

I'm sorry to be contradicting countless people, but I say what I really think. I think Horowitz had fundamentally pretty normal technique, he relied on arm weight as well as others. Most of the time he played with curved fingers. In many, many passages he crooked his fingers even more than others in average. He used to flatten his fingers only in some cases when it is appropriate, like playing cantabile, and when other pianists do it, too. He didn't play his famous octaves (or anything else unusual) with flat fingers. It's only his low posture, the anatomy of his hands and his habit to straighten non-playing fingers that created wrong impression. He was not a 'flat fingered pianist'.

And certainly he didn't play with flat fingers in a manner that we often see on YouTube (i.e. with a collapsed hand) and what people here might think when they hear 'flat fingers'. That's why I am a little bit worried every time when Horowitz is mentioned in that context.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
You seem to say that his non-playing fingers were flat while his playing fingers were curved but when one curves one finger the adjacent ones curve automatically.

They curve automatically unless you deliberately resist it, and this is exactly what I think is happening. The uplift of his last (DIP) finger joints that we can often see on his recordings shows that he simultaneously uses his finger extensor muscles in the forearm with finger flexors that flex middle (PIP) joint. So he simultaneously flexes PIP joint and extends DIP joint, and this I think is a hallmark of his technique.

If you're interested, look at 0:08 of Animisha's video. You can clearly see at slow motion that his 5th finger is bent when playing the key while his 3rd and 4th fingers are straightened. Then look carefully at downward passage at slow motion. You can see that he bends his PIP joints while his last phalanges are still lifted. That I think is the secret. He deliberately tries to uplift his fingertip when he bends PIP joint to make a fingertip contact the key with larger surface. But unfortunately it is completely impossible if you don't have his unique DIP joints anatomy, it just can't be copied.
Posted By: keystring Re: Proper hand technique - 11/14/19 02:48 PM
Originally Posted by Hotstrings
Thank you for all the comments.,
The comments about getting a new teacher were way off base . Kind of rude for this forum. If you knew who my teacher is that would not be a suggestion at all.
I was just curious as I’ve seen it both ways.
Believe me I don’t need another teacher . Very happy. Thank you.

It would good to know your thoughts of any of the ideas given by those trying to help or answer, or just whether any were useful.
This reminds me of the Legs&Tattoos thread, where the more useless and emotionally charged stuff gets the attention.

About seeing it "both ways" - I tried to answer precisely that. Did anything there make sense?
Posted By: Hotstrings Re: Proper hand technique - 11/14/19 04:06 PM
This post has certainly evolved into a very informative discussion. Was it helpful to my original question .?Yes in the sense that hand techniques and figure placements can vary and no exactly one way.
I only was asking cause I saw a player w flat palms and fingers ALL the time. Lots of other issues brought in by others which I’m sure helped more advanced players.
I did not ask opinions on another teacher, I don’t know how to post a photo yet let alone a video.
I am loving piano. Thanks again.
Posted By: keystring Re: Proper hand technique - 11/14/19 07:02 PM
Thank you, Hotstrings, for your response. Glad you're loving piano. Music is a fantastic journey.
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