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I've been learning piano for a little over a year now, so I am still very much an early beginner. However, as I am self taught, I am sure I am developing plenty of bad habits. One that I am sure of, is relating to hand/finger posture and the playing of keys.

When playing at any moderate speed, my right hand pinky (5) has the tendency to raise up out off of the keys and hang in the air, as if I am trying to look posh while drinking tea. This is particularly the case when using finger 3 and 4 heavily. This doesn't seem to be an issue on my left hand.

From searching around it seems that is caused by me playing with the joints of the knuckle rather than the forearm. So I have diagnosed the problem - but I don't really know how to solve it!

Has anyone else had this issue, or similar problems? How do you resolve issues relating to form and posture without direct guidance from a one on one instructor?

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I haven't had this issue, but generally you need to look into relaxing your hands while you are playing. Finger 4 is the least independent one, and sometimes there are involuntary movements of finger 5 when you play that finger, but you should really learn to use finger 3 without the little finger. For instance, can you put your hands on a table, rounded as if you have a little orange under, and just move finger 3 up and down while keeping your other fingers fully relaxed?


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a couple of experienced teachers online have addressed this “flying pinkie” issue:

Josh Wright:


Cedarville Music (music professor):

Last edited by mtb; 10/11/21 02:54 PM.

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Originally Posted by xoxFerretxox
From searching around it seems that is caused by me playing with the joints of the knuckle rather than the forearm. So I have diagnosed the problem - but I don't really know how to solve it!

A very common issue which has nothing to do with what you believe is the cause. It is strickly a question of finger independance. The video above address some of the question.

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I've recently heard of an unusual way of how to defeat flying fifth finger faster. It's an advice from an authoritative pedagogue, so I think it's trustworthy. She recommended to get some material where 4th and 5th fingers play a lot (I guess Hanon will be ok to begin with) and every time the 4th finger needs to play a key play it with both 4th and 5th fingers together. So for a simple C D E F G pattern the fingering would be 1 2 3 45 5.

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For a contrarian view, here's a page from Josef Hofmann's book.

Full PDF available from imslp: http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/4/49/IMSLP11770-Piano_Playing_-_Josef_Hofmann.pdf
(When you consider that Rachmaninoff is said to have considered Hofmann the greatest pianist in the world at the time...and dedicated his Third Concerto to him... it's at least interesting.)

In the second video posted above, I found interesting the man's condescension toward the "dragging fingers towards you" impetus.
While what he was showing was grossly exaggerated, the hands' grasping muscles are some of the strongest and at my low level of mediocrity I find value and control in that sensation in many passages. It's like feeling that the muscles in the palm are working also, not just the muscles on top of the hand.

And for staccato, many people teach actual "flicking"; viz: https://melaniespanswick.com/2017/08/19/approaches-to-staccato-playing/ and https://interlude.hk/technique-without-tears/


Cheers!

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Interesting picture Jane. But I think the point is to show that the flying finger is incorrect not that the curled 5th finger is correct. There are many concert pianists who curl their 5th finger like that so I don't think it's really that detrimental compared to flying 5th finger.

Originally Posted by JaneF
In the second video posted above, I found interesting the man's condescension toward the "dragging fingers towards you" impetus.
While what he was showing was grossly exaggerated, the hands' grasping muscles are some of the strongest and at my low level of mediocrity I find value and control in that sensation in many passages. It's like feeling that the muscles in the palm are working also, not just the muscles on top of the hand.
Yes, I also disagree with Mortensen on this point. The aim of the "pull fingers towards you" idea is to get a sensation of grasping the keys at the last moment to achieve a brighter sound, as if the tips of your fingers were little whips.

In general, I think his appraoch to piano technique ignores a very important aspect. One does not play by flopping the hand sideways like he shows and supposedly only using gravity. The fingers take a very active role in playing piano. But I think the active finger approach is not very popular on these forums.

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Originally Posted by JaneF
In the second video posted above, I found interesting the man's condescension toward the "dragging fingers towards you" impetus.
While what he was showing was grossly exaggerated, the hands' grasping muscles are some of the strongest and at my low level of mediocrity I find value and control in that sensation in many passages. It's like feeling that the muscles in the palm are working also, not just the muscles on top of the hand.
You are absolutely right. Russian traditional piano school relies heavily on grasping motion and it is also true for many piano schools of Europe. I consider it critically important to learn this kind of motion. Some technical elements are extremely difficult or impossible to play well at speed without grasping motion. I haven't seen this video before, unfortunately it shows a big gap in Mortensen's understanding of piano technique.

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I have never seen a "gap" in Mortensen's understanding. And when I hear him play, it sounds fine and correct to me. Recently a member has posted his teacher's teaching videos, and those videos were posted a lot more on another site and engendered some controvery. In those videos one does hear weak spots in playing, because of problem in the technique.

The fact is that it's a continuum. The fingers flow from the arms, and the arms flow from the fingers. Any one-sided teaching will create a mess. Thus there was a period of the "hold an apple" school, and even the idea of motionless arms - a contraption fitted to the piano was built and used by teachers during one period. My grandmother's books were passed on to me: I ended up playing similar to how she was taught to play because the repertoire itself created those habits - only later did I learn what she had been taught to do: a pencil placed on the back of her hand which must not fall off. (Her teaching was in Bayreuth, Germany,the place of Wagner, in the early 1900's).

Because people were taught the motionless arms, all-fingers kind of playing, the opposite was taught to counter it. And if you have the one, and counter it with the other, you get balance. There was arm weight, relaxation - this trend was happening in violin as well - and people in either place reported damage to their ability to play which they had to rectify. Wet noodles do not create good sound. Neither do rigid pre-shaped boards. The body works together in synergy. Those who were taught "relaxation" plus "arm weight" with a floppy arm - some of them had to get their fingers back in action, and shoot some energy back into their bodies. Those who were taugh the opposite, had to get some of the elements back in that the former were getting.

I have seen videos where a teacher says do not move the wrist or whatever; he demonstrates and does as he says. He plays "music" afterward when he has finished teaching, and he's doing the thing he said not to do - because it's a continuum. I've also read about a teacher saying "relax the fingers, let everything come from your arm motion", and when the student looks, the teacher is obviously using the fingers .... too .... emphasis on the too.

This is not an either-or thing.

btw, I do not like the word "grasp". There is tension and rigidity in that word - you should find a different one. When we grasp something, we hold on to it tightly and don't let go. Playing is continual fluid motion.

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I have had, I am still having the same problem, a common one I understand.

I got back to playing 3 years ago and I have been proficient enough to get to play some Bach WTC well enough, all by myself. Very recently I decided that I wanted a more formal, deeper education and I went to a proper piano school.

First thing they told me, I was playing with the so called "curled finger" technique, an old, outdated technique that I was taught when I was much younger, more years ago than I care to remember.

Apparently with that kind of technique, given the hand physiology it's impossible not to develop the floating finger. That might not be a problem per se but denotes a tension in the hand that leads to fatigue, tiring, faster that it should be desirable.

The modern technique, the natural hand posture which I can't describe more precisely, avoids that. As a matter of fact it seems to work although it's of course very very difficult to change habits acquired in so many years.

So I share the same problem and it seems like I am on my way of fixing that. Honestly I don't think I could get there without some guidance.

Enjoy !

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The "correct position" vs. "incorrect position" drawing gave me instant PTSD. Fact: We are not still statues placed into positions when we play. We are in constant motion. Fact: We have different bodies. And different kinds of music need different kinds of motions and adjustments. One of the biggest problems esp. among us adults students is the tendency to place ourselves in fixed positions, to align ourselves like square furniture in a square room traveling along a railway track, possibly a two-dimensional one. The body works together. That is as simple and as complicated as it sounds.

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Originally Posted by keystring
btw, I do not like the word "grasp". There is tension and rigidity in that word - you should find a different one. When we grasp something, we hold on to it tightly and don't let go. Playing is continual fluid motion.
Let me tell you an interesting thing about terminology. In Russian music terminology, both written and spoken, it's rarely said or written, to "play a note" or to "play a chord". Commonly another verb is used for that, the verb which primary meaning is "to take", and secondary meaning is "to get". So on a piano lesson in Russia you'd usually hear, "take note A" or "take chord G".

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Originally Posted by xoxFerretxox
I've been learning piano for a little over a year now, so I am still very much an early beginner. However, as I am self taught, I am sure I am developing plenty of bad habits. One that I am sure of, is relating to hand/finger posture and the playing of keys.

When playing at any moderate speed, my right hand pinky (5) has the tendency to raise up out off of the keys and hang in the air, as if I am trying to look posh while drinking tea. This is particularly the case when using finger 3 and 4 heavily. This doesn't seem to be an issue on my left hand.

From searching around it seems that is caused by me playing with the joints of the knuckle rather than the forearm. So I have diagnosed the problem - but I don't really know how to solve it!

Has anyone else had this issue, or similar problems? How do you resolve issues relating to form and posture without direct guidance from a one on one instructor?

Lessons are absolutely out of the question?


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Originally Posted by xoxFerretxox
From searching around it seems that is caused by me playing with the joints of the knuckle rather than the forearm. So I have diagnosed the problem - but I don't really know how to solve it!

I used to have the problem in the right hand. What reduced it greatly for me was to learn not to straighten and "point" my fingers as I played the note, particularly 4. The idea is to keep the fingers 2, 3, and 4 in their natural slightly curved position and play from the main knuckles which form a kind of strong arch/pivot point. If you are thinking about all the lower finger joints being slightly curved but strong it helps keeping 5 the same until it needs to play.

And 5 has to start off curved and straighten out as it plays in a sort of forward direction with the arm moving it inwards. I think I was kind of doing the complete opposite at one point. Visualising that correctly helped a lot to stop it flying.

This may not be your problem of course, but you could try watching what your pinky does if you try and straighten / point 4 as you play compared with keeping 4 curved and pivoting at the main knuckle. Might give some insight.

For me it was nothing to do with arm weight - it was all about getting the lower knuckles curved but unyielding and playing from the main knuckle. You can add or subtract arm weight but it doesn't change the basic finger movement.

I got all this info from the Taubman approach Virtuosity in a Box series. My teacher was absolutely no help.


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Self taught for 2 years. Terrible technique. Been working with a teacher for a few months. Maybe just today something has clicked for me. It's a struggle. About all my fingers except the one playing wants to be straight.

Don't brush it aside. Get it figured out. I tried finding videos to help but never found the correct ones. Maybe the ones posted here will help me. I'm glad to have a teacher to work with me on this.

Good luck.


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I just watched a video of Bruce Liu who won the first prize at the 18th Chopin Competition in Warsaw and he also has the little pinky up in the air when he plays the third and fourth fingers.



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This issue used to really bother me, and I've gradually phased it out. It's important to be aware of what causes it, to notice when it happens. For me it was most noticeable when, on a mostly white key scale, the fourth finger was on a raised black note, as well as situations where there were sizable stretches between fingers 4-5, sometimes on big arpeggios where there were stretches between 3-4-5 and differences in key height (notably for 4 again). The finger lifts because of tension, so once you figure out what is causing you tension you can work on eliminating tension.

For me I was playing erratically, so while I played most passage work with fingers alone, for things like arpeggios I would lock my hands into the necessary position and stiffen my fingers, mostly playing with arm weight, both of which caused the issue. The main fix is to slow things down and minimize tension. For me this meant slowly practicing things like scales and arpeggios with some arm weight and trying not to lock my wrist. Slowly, with disconnected notes, focusing on a flowing motion and the desired tone quality, aiming for suppleness but not limpness, your arm and your fingers working together rather than against each other. I basically spent a year rebuilding my basic technique, drastically reducing the difficulty of the repertoire I was practicing.

Do a lot of practice with the things that cause you tension. For example, G major scales caused a flying pinky because of tension with the raised fourth finger. I'd slowly play on the second hand position of the scale (rh), the DEF (234) at a tempo where the issue wasn't apparent. Then build up in tempo until it happened again. Then I would play the EFG insultingly slowly, lifting my hand up and totally relaxing it after every note. Over time the disconnection between the notes without tension becomes less and less, and you become so attuned to your fingers that you can notice when they're tense and when they relax. You move from comically large gaps between sounding notes to witness your fingers relaxing, to detached playing where you can feel your fingers relax in the spot that has always given you tension. Eventually with a lot of patience you can get back to legato playing.

It's something I still do when I get to difficult passagework--slowing it down and focusing on relaxing between each note. Eventually you can shift your focus where you relax after successive notes, groups of notes, or hand positions, and you'll likely develop a keen sense of when your fingers are tensing up.

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Arm weight and wrist movement are the most common issues for beginners. It's best learned with a teacher. You can also look at these tutorial videos on choreorgraphy.
Hanon exercises are terrific for practicing these skills. You need to examine the motion very carefully and try slowly with yourself.





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Great tutorials but I'm surprise she practises on a digital piano. thumb



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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I've recently heard of an unusual way of how to defeat flying fifth finger faster. It's an advice from an authoritative pedagogue, so I think it's trustworthy. She recommended to get some material where 4th and 5th fingers play a lot (I guess Hanon will be ok to begin with) and every time the 4th finger needs to play a key play it with both 4th and 5th fingers together. So for a simple C D E F G pattern the fingering would be 1 2 3 45 5.
Yesterday I saw it in action. It works like a charm.

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