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#496600 01/19/08 10:25 AM
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I was wondering how many of you see flat-finger playing as beneficial or even necessary for virtuosic playing. I've been incorporating this style in my playing, and I find that I can now play certain passages more easily, it "feels" far more confortable thus allowing me to be more relaxed and minimize the risk of injury. I used to get injured a lot, and in retrospect, I think it had a lot to do with playing with curled fingers.
Incidentally, have you people noticed how flat Horowitz used to play?!? Even a casual observer can see this. Personally I've never seen anyone play that flat. I read somewhere Liszt was also an advocate of flat-finger playing.


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#496601 01/19/08 10:42 AM
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Everyone notices that about Horowitz - but have you also noticed how HUGE his hands were - he might as well have had two big octopi at the end of his arms - I dont know if you can take him as a universal standard for this sort of thing - he was an exception in every way


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#496602 01/19/08 12:36 PM
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For me it depends on the particular passage. When seriously studying one teacher would mark certain passages with high wrist, some with low wrist, some with flat fingers and others with playing on the tips. It depended on the kind of effect one chose to make. She might mark a scale-like passage with low wrist at the start of it and high wrist at the end of it. Anyway, I do utilize flat fingers for certain things. As there are different opinions on almost everything, you're very likely to find contradictory thoughts on this subject. If it works for you, then do it! smile

#496603 01/19/08 01:34 PM
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Here's me playing op 25 no 1 with as flat as fingers get: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhiMuQMK1u8
It's on a very cheap web cam but I think you can make it out. On the other hand with Bach and Mozart I'm quite curved. The ideal is to be flexible and allow your body to dictate. In that way you're more likely to get closer to the composer's intention. It's said Chopin at times played with very flat fingers. Kleczynski was shown by one of Chopin's pupils how to play it this way.

It also suits the Black Note. If nothing else I think it's good to give the flexors a stretch.

#496604 01/19/08 02:12 PM
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I find playing right on the fingertip with curved fingers works the best for fast scale-type passages, while playing more with the pad instead of the tip and flatter fingers works better for slower and/or more lyrical passages.

#496605 01/19/08 02:13 PM
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Flatter fingers work better for black keys whereas round fingers works better for playing in the white keys region especially close to the boarder.

Also flatter fingers work best whenever you have to play two or more notes harmonically over a large span. Octaves for example work better with flatter fingers.

I say round as the opposite of flatter because "curled" fingers should almost never be used. It's a dangerous counteranatomical position of the fingers which stress the tendons and the nerves.
By "curled" I mean that the third phalax of each fingers is bent inwards as claws of a tigers.
Since opposite muscles are used to keeps the fingertips curled and to move the fingers you end with a dual muscular pull or cocontraction which harms your playing but also your body.

Let your arm hang by your side and notice the natural arch of the hand as well as the flat plane alignment from elbow to knuckles on the top of the arm. Notice the natural rounded but not curled position of your fingers. This is the position which better suits piano playing and the one to which go back as often as possible if you happen to divert from it. Though even when you maintain such natural position, if you open your span or play in the black keys range your fingers will naturally get flatter.

#496606 01/19/08 02:15 PM
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Wise words from Switzerland.

Don't be afraid to play with the first joint only (it feels like playing with the underside of the knuckles).

#496607 01/19/08 02:23 PM
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Daniel - Rather late in my time on the other instrument I learned something about the first two joints of the fingers, i.e. at the fingernail, which are weak and underdeveloped and so we compensate with other parts of the hand. I've just started to do a few things in octaves and it seems that is the key on piano too - just a little bit of it will do it. Does that ring any kind of bell? I will be working with a good teacher in person so I'm not relying on the Internet for such things. I have just restarted the piano again. When I was a self-taught teen I probably did do the curled thing. It gives an illusion of strength but it is just tension.

#496608 01/19/08 02:26 PM
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Danny, could you define third phalanx? Is that the one by the hand?
Keyboardklutz, which end is the first joint?

#496609 01/19/08 02:43 PM
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Originally posted by keystring:
Danny, could you define third phalanx? Is that the one by the hand?
Keyboardklutz, which end is the first joint?
The third phalanx is the distal (nail one). The first is the proximal (connected to the knuckle).

#496610 01/19/08 02:59 PM
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By "curled" I mean that the third phalax of each fingers is bent inwards as claws of a tigers.
So Danny, the one at the fingertip?
kbk, thanks for your explanation. I want to make certain of what each person means - I don't know if those designations are universal.

#496611 01/19/08 03:02 PM
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Originally posted by keystring:
[QB] Daniel - Rather late in my time on the other instrument I learned something about the first two joints of the fingers, i.e. at the fingernail, which are weak and underdeveloped and so we compensate with other parts of the hand. I've just started to do a few things in octaves and it seems that is the key on piano too - just a little bit of it will do it. Does that ring any kind of bell?
Well the first two joints are "weaker" being peripheral and being in last stage trajectory of the tendons but they're not underdeveloped in that they're what they are and they can't be strengthened. Those two joints and phalanxes are devoid of muscles. The last ones attach at the metacarpo-phalangeal joint but are very tiny and there isn't much to strengthen anyway.

So if we recognize the last part of the fingers as being controlled by the arms (through long tendons that connect the fingers at the arm) we can realize that they're not "weak" they just have an indirect power in that they don't control themselves. Therefore the accomodation is actually the involvement of larger muscles and tendons in the playing by focusing a lot more on the arms than the fingers. The fingers are the appendix of the playing apparatus. To say that we play with our fingers is like saying that we run with our feet. But actually feet alone can't put enough energy into motion to start movement, only the larger quadriceps can.

#496612 01/19/08 03:04 PM
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Originally posted by keystring:
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By "curled" I mean that the third phalax of each fingers is bent inwards as claws of a tigers.
So Danny, the one at the fingertip?
kbk, thanks for your explanation. I want to make certain of what each person means - I don't know if those designations are universal.
Yes the one with your nails.
Don't worry, you're right in asking to make sure there are no misunderstanding. This is what I do usually (writing or asking a lot to avoid misunderstanding) but then they accuse me of being longwinded.

#496613 01/19/08 03:12 PM
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
Well the first two joints are "weaker" being peripheral and being in last stage trajectory of the tendons but they're not underdeveloped in that they're what they are and they can't be strengthened. Those two joints and phalanxes are devoid of muscles. The last ones attach at the metacarpo-phalangeal joint but are very tiny and there isn't much to strengthen anyway.
You mean the last two.

The interoseous and the lumbricals (the ones you refer to as 'very tiny') must have some strength or you wouldn't be able to play only using the proximal phalanx.

#496614 01/19/08 03:24 PM
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So if we recognize the last part of the fingers as being controlled by the arms (through long tendons that connect the fingers at the arm) we can realize that they're not "weak" they just have an indirect power in that they don't control themselves
I think I'm on track then, because the arms come into it too. But I'll check in person with a teacher. What is experienced one way may have a meaning someplace else.

#496615 01/19/08 03:28 PM
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Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
[b]Well the first two joints are "weaker" being peripheral and being in last stage trajectory of the tendons but they're not underdeveloped in that they're what they are and they can't be strengthened. Those two joints and phalanxes are devoid of muscles. The last ones attach at the metacarpo-phalangeal joint but are very tiny and there isn't much to strengthen anyway.
You mean the last two.

The interoseous and the lumbricals (the ones you refer to as 'very tiny') must have some strength or you wouldn't be able to play only using the proximal phalanx. [/b]
Yeah I said first two because keystring was counting them from nail to wrist. Yeah I know the lumbricals and interosseus have their function but each of us has enough strength in these muscles i.e. they're not very trainable. But the motions people refer to when they thing of (playing piano with the fingers) are those mostly controlled by the forearm flexors and extensors (except for the most of thumb motions)

#496616 01/19/08 03:32 PM
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Keystring, what is confusing is that the feeling of moving the last two finger joints is in those joints (proprioception) but the actual muscle that does the work is in your forearm. It is an essential trick the brain does. I think that's what you mean by 'an indirect power that they don't control'.

Danny, they're perfectly trainable. I use them all the time.

#496617 01/19/08 03:35 PM
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And in turn those connections should not be blocked anywhere so that one can move them if they are meant to be able to move, regardless of how it's done physically. Thank you both kbk and Daniel.

#496618 01/19/08 03:43 PM
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Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Keystring, what is confusing is that the feeling of moving the last two finger joints is in those joints (proprioception) but the actual muscle that does the work is in your forearm. It is an essential trick the brain does. I think that's what you mean by 'an indirect power that they don't control'.

Danny, they're perfectly trainable. I use them all the time.
Well when we say that a muscle is trained we can only mean that a sort of hypertrophy has occurred from either an elongation or increase in myofibrils, which as far as I know doesn't occur in the interosseus muscles (not to a relevant extent at least) because of their position and fiber structure. Even the motions at the pianos can't cause enough exhortation or damage to result in a relevant hypertrophy of these tiny muscles.

Generally I still believe that piano playing is about training the neuromuscular coordination of mind and muscles tension and release, but that it has little to do with strengthening the muscles of either the hand or arms. Small, skinny and even underweight (weaker than their peers) children can play the piano with power and volume and all the control they need. Even a pianist fasting for 15 days and hence losing most of his muscular tone would still be able to play the piano with the same control and power as before the fast.

If we could download the neuromuscular and musical programming from a strong talented pianist and upload it on the non-pianist mind of a very weak and skinny person this person would suddenly be a talented pianist with the same skills and power of the first.

#496619 01/19/08 03:49 PM
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Have you not seen trumpet players only using these joints? It's no problem for them - in fact those that do, would never do otherwise.

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