Piano Technique – The secrets to acquiring technique quickly

Acquiring Piano Technique: #1- Find the best fingering options for fast play

Actually it involves more than just the fingers. You will need to find the most optimum positions for your hands and arms that reinforce the fingers for fast piano playing.

Unsuitable fingering selections or hand positions will hamper the smoothness of the piano playing because they will cause stress.

To find the positions best suited for your fingers, hands and arms to play fast; play at maximum speed - the speed at which you start to stiffen and feel worn out. Slow down a few notches until the stress is no longer felt.

As you are doing this, adjust the positions of your hands and arms to accommodate the fingering selections you have chosen.

Settle on the most comfortable position you can muster playing at the fastest speed you are able to. This is how you develop the technique to play at high speed on the piano.

Acquiring Piano Technique: #2- Practise hands separately

Playing with both hands is harder because of the simple fact that it takes extra effort in coordinating two hands at the same time. Thus, the process of mastering a song, unknotting a troublesome passage or getting the tonal dynamics right usually takes longer if practised with both hands.

We need to isolate the problem with coordination for now and put it aside for while. We do so by practising hands separately. Piano technique is acquired one hand at a time.

Use the right hand to practise scales and arpeggios. Add accents in the downstroke of your fingers and lift each finger up after it has landed on the keys. This is to secure evenness of touch and gain finger strength.

Needless to say, once the right hand is profficient enough the left hand should go through the same exercise. All piano exercises designed for acquiring technique should be practised hands separately at first, be it works by Hanon, Czerny or the etudes by Chopin.

Acquiring Piano Technique: #3- Aim for even and steady play

‘Relax’ is such a small word. It is rather an unglamorus word to be associated with the seriousness and sophistication of playing the piano. Despite the importance of relaxation in playing the piano I have always found it hard to tell a person that they have to relax. When I do, I usually get a puzzled look in return.

Two days from now, I am due to begin learning ‘Le Coucou’. It is gargantuan piece by Louis-Claude Daquin. Unlike the moderately paced romantic songs that I am used to learning, this one is a riotous playful romp of melodic arrangements.

To be able to play ‘Le Coucou’ requires strength in the fourth and fifth fingers - the Achilles Heel of many piano students. It also has trills that have to be played with the fourth and third fingers, a task that appears to be a Mission Impossible at the moment. Scaling the Burj Khalifa in the middle of a sandstorm seems more doable.

To prepare for the song, my thoughtful teacher has given me “Hanon-The Virtuoso Pianist In 60 Exercises” to practise. Exercises No.5 to No.7 were designed specifically to strengthen the two fingers. They worked wonders to improve my piano technique.

When practising these exercises from Hanon, aim to play evenly and steadily. Evenness means the timing are equally spaced and the tone equally strong and balanced.

This is achievable by relaxing and concentrating on hitting the keys firmly and precisely. Resist the temptation to play full speed in the beginning. Start slow and gradually bring the passage up to speed.

Evenness and steadiness in play helps us to stay true to the rhythm of the composition, it also trains the piano students to maintain control over the music they are playing. Although a piece with a 6/8 time signature may have been composed for play at blistering pace, one can not play it fast instantly. Bring it up to speed incrementally.

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