Improving piano technique is matter of improving coordination in the motions of parts of the body involved in playing it such as fingers, hands, wrists and arms
Experiencing daily life which included going to school, graduating college, keeping a job and learning the piano, it occurred to me that the challenges that accompany it are overcame by focusing on one’s self.
Take learning the piano for example, before I was able to play even a bar I had to make time once a week to attend lessons after work, gather enough physical strength to drive myself from work to the music school and stay mentally sharp to absorb what was being taught at the end of what was an already long and exhausting day.
The point I am trying to make is to be able to play a piano song well, sight-reading the notes of the written score, landing the fingers accurately on the keys, timing the tempo with precision and conjuring the appropriate tone are not the first things I had to focus on. They are external elements. What I needed to work on first were the internal elements.
Which brings me to the challenge of executing a musical phrase on the piano effectively.
Naturally my inclination was to focus on the notes on the written score, but the solution is found at the source.
The muscles that move that hands and fingers for them to press the keys correctly.
I thought the muscles in the fingers play the most vital role, but it came to my attention stronger muscles in the arms coordinated with the fingers result in a smooth playing style.
Therefore I have modified my practise routine to develop the habits of coordinating them so that it becomes possible to reproduce the artistic image the composer intended through my own interpretation.
Let’s take a basic example of a musical phrase commonly found in many compositions; the scale of A minor. Any piano student would confess practising scales would wear down the fourth and fifth fingers. The natural inclination would be to practise muscle building exercises to strengthen the fingers. I have recommended some exercises to build strength in the fingers in earlier articles.
As I matured as a piano student I have learned to make the task of executing scales by not merely relying on the motions of the fingers but coordinating the application of other muscles supporting them, such as muscles in the forearms that make rotary movement of the wrists and hands possible. As a result, extending the endurance of the fingers – delaying the onset of fatigue. Emphasis on working on self (internal) not the scales (external).
Often I allowed the composition to dictate how I practised it. Like the example given with the scale of A minor, attempting to subdue it using the might of the fingers through repeated muscle building exercises. Similar tendency are often seen when practising arpeggios, chromatic scales, chords and wide leaps.
Instead of falling victim to the composition by letting it affect how I practised, by focusing on myself i.e learning how to coordinate the muscles in various parts my body that directly or indirectly impact how the music making process was unfolding I am witnessing more favorable results from every practise session.
Improve performance in learning to play the piano by focusing on self, specifically by working to develop the habit coordinating the various muscles located at different parts of the body to produce the desired results. Instead of succumbing to the mistake of relying on the strength of the fingers alone. For example coordinating the muscles in the forearms to trigger rotary motion in the wrists and hands thus guiding the fingers towards the keys to press them. The alternative is to let the fingers lift themselves then drop on the keys which prolonged would strain them, diminish tonal quality and even result in injury.