In playing piano songs, the wrists lateral movements and adjustments are the factors that determine their outcome, they guide the hands that control the fingers responsible for the music making
A boisterous song such as Rondo Alla Turca with its constant momentum pushes the flow of music forward full of energy. In return, it demands of the pianist bringing it to life to do so with strong fingers and flexible wrists. Since the previous article already suggested how to build strength in the fingers let us delve into how to play with flexible wrists.
The ubiquitous ‘staccatos’ in the song mirrors the fact the wrists are going play a dominant role in executing this song to perfection.
The wrists should be positioned at the same level as the arms and parallel to the ground. They move in two ways – up down and side to side. It seems like a trivial matter but realizing this allows us to understand what the wrists can do and what they cannot do. We can then make the best use of their possibilities or explore alternatives when confronted by their limitations.
To get the bright edge to my staccatos, especially the chords, I use the wrists to manipulate the hands so that the fingers’ motions in generating the staccatos are focused yet loose. It is the blending of the wrists’ up down motion with the finger tips that created the desired effect - not the fingers alone by themselves. It is also the wrists that help to connect the staccato notes into a graceful phrase by applying its side to side movements.
Aptly referred to as lateral adjustment, it means to adjust the arms and the wrists in order keep them in one line when making the side to side movements. Opposed to fixing the hands in one place, making use of the lateral movement, adjusting it accordingly removes tension from your piano playing - resulting in a free and elastic rendition of any song.
Take the phrase shown in Image 1 below for example. Although only 3 bars, which is nothing to cry about, but look at how the semiquaver notes are compacted into them. An unbroken musical line of 20 beats with no rests for temporary relief. Amplified by the ever present chords the strain put upon the fingers seemed overwhelming. Faced with such a challenge my salvations were the wrists.
The wrists' job is to move between the positions on the keys of the piano. I do not mean keys located in the higher or lower octaves. What I mean is the location on a key, such as the upper location between black keys, middle and the near edge before falling off the keyboard.
The wrists guide the hands to land the fingers firmly at these locations and more significantly they get the arms to be involved with the work. Bouncing off one chord, transitioning to next one and another are big movements that the arms carry out, piloted by the up down and side to side movements of the wrists. The combination opens a 3-dimensional, 180 degrees space for fingers to travel through, without which they would only be limited to a piston-like movement that causes strain.
As you take your place on the piano bench, before a note is played see to it the wrists and the arms are positioned in one line and parallel to the ground. The wrists lateral movements and adjustments are the factors that determine the smooth connection of notes that bind a musical phrase. Guiding the hands that control the fingers in music making, the wrists are not the source of the power. The arms are. Practice distributing the power from the arms through the wrists to light up the piano songs you play.