Monday, January 16, 2012

The piano student and his stretched hands

Unlike working with a violin or flute that plays the melody, with a keyboard one can singularly make music, which essentially means playing the melody in chordal background.  To play the piano or any keyboard, one practices with a pair of more or less straight wrists and curved but stretched hands.  A pair of well-conditioned hands is essential for healthy good practice.  For avid players, an alertness to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is needed. For the beginning student, an alertness to play with his full arms (or even body!) will be a piece of good advice.  But how to do it? What is the first essential step?

Recently I came across a good technical piano text by Wayne Hawkins of the jazz faculty at the University of Kansas, called "Piano Aerobics".

In his book, Wayne mentioned the following true story of his, I quote its entirety here:

"Back when I was still in my twenties, I had the good fortune to meet professional baseball pitcher Tom Seaver when I playing in a jazz club. I had an interest in pitching for baseball and he had an interest in jazz piano. I inquired about the technique in throwing a slider. He replied, "Well, show me how to play [the piano] like that and I'll show you." I responded, "Pretend you have a baseball in each hand. Turn your hands over and you will have good hand position [for playing the piano]....."

Wayne continued, "Here are some things to keep in mind regarding this technique:
  • Turn both palms up.
  • Put a baseball (or softball for larger hands) in each hand.
  • Take care to not grip the baseball.
  • Treat it more like an egg.
  • Turn palms down and let baseballs drop.
  • Place your hands over the piano keys."
The above technique is quintessentially a pair of stretched hands in zhan zhaung (standing meditation).  "Miraculously" we are all related - and we don't necessarily have to turn to a spiritual subject to appreciate this important insight.   Zen?

Piano Aerobics

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