Question: My technique goes just so far and then I get stuck. What can you offer in the way of determining fingerings, being able to move about the keyboard freely and easily with precision, release of excess tension, the invisible and visible motions and parts to playing the piano, ways to break a piece apart and put it back together for learning purposes, and a description of how it kinesthetically feels to play the piano at an advanced level?
I love to play the piano, do a lot of accompanying, but I keep questioning what I’m doing and I feel as though I’m stuck and can’t move forward with my skills. Can you offer some thoughts and suggestions? Thank you so much.
– Carolyn Topliff (New York, USA)
Albert’s reply: This is all advanced material that requires specific one-on-one training to reexamine both your technique and your learning methodology. I could write a whole book on these subjects and it would never be enough, since description can never replace actual experience. I think greater depth of training that would likely include a new technical approach to the keyboard would help you the most.
You’re very observant to ascertain that there are both invisible (i.e., imperceptible) and visible aspects to an advanced playing technique. Motions in expert piano playing are more often than not so subtle that they would entirely escape even the most careful observer untrained in the player’s particular methodology. One thing is for sure: At the highest level of mastery, all movements, even the subtlest, are intentional; they are consciously chosen, performed and controlled. Movements not only serve technique and expression, they also assist the learning process itself and hence retention. Much of building a secure mechanism is counterintuitive, in fact, and an expert piano technique can therefore never be gained by observing expert pianists – it is strictly a matter of careful training.
Tension and its release must above all controlled. All tension in advanced piano playing has a specific purpose, which may be intended to serve the sound, note accuracy, precision of timing and dynamics, and memory. The best word to describe how it feels to play the piano at an advanced level is control: control over tension and relaxation, control of sound, control of timing, control of fingers independently of one another, the ability to control each part of the mechanism – shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, fingers and thumbs – independently of the others, and the knowledge that every physical movement is controlled by the mind and ear.
Control only comes from proper practice methodology, and it is cumulative and pervasive; that is why training your ear and increasing your knowledge of music theory, particularly applied theory – the ability to realize your knowledge of harmony at the keyboard – bring with them concomitant increases in learning speed, memory retention and performing security.
This is the kind of material we can work on effectively in the course of online piano lessons. I could write volumes of tips (there are many on this website), but this is an issue that I believe can only be solved with highly specific, advanced, individual training.
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