During the last few weeks I have received sooooooo many interesting piano questions from you guys – here on PianoCareer.com, via email or Facebook. Even if the problems you’re facing in your daily practice are different, most of them have the same cause: tension (playing with immobile arms and wrists, playing ‘only from your fingers’ etc.).
On ‘Ask Me a Piano Question’ I often describe the basics of a correct playing habit – those secret techniques used in the Russian piano school for achieving an amazing expressiveness and a brilliant technique.
By the way, on the upcoming Piano Community Forum (launching on the 15th of February 2012) there will be a special board dedicated to this subject. I will post detailed video tutorials on relaxation, how to play by using the entire weight of our relaxed arms, how to channel the weight coming from our back into the keyboard and so on.
Today, we’ll focus on a very important element of this ‘piano foundation’ – wrist flexibility. By understanding and mastering this easy technique, you’ll have access to areas of piano playing that seemed totally unreachable until now.
Have you ever heard the term ‘breathing with your wrist’? Let’s take a deeper ‘dive’ and see what it really means.
As I often mention, a comfortable and efficient playing habit is based on the ‘whole arm action’ principle. It means playing by using the entire weight of our relaxed arms. Our goal is to channel this weight into the keyboard (this way unlocking our technical and expressive ‘super-powers’ :)). Since only our fingers are actually touching the keyboard, we need to make sure that this arm weight reaches the fingers.
Here’s where the wrist comes to our rescue!
The wrist is the key element which connects our arms with our hands.
If our wrists are immobile and tensed, it will be impossible to channel the arm weight into the fingertips and into the keyboard. This weight will simply remain trapped at the wrist and the fingers will move ‘separately’, without receiving the ‘back-up’ of the rest of our arm. As a result, our sound will be either too brutal, either superficial – but it will never be deep and beautiful. Moreover, this ‘separate’ movement of our ‘suspended’ fingers creates huge amounts of tension – which usually results in painful hand injuries.
If our wrists are relaxed and flexible, on the other hand, the weight of our arms will naturally flow into the keyboard – this way offering us comfort, stability and an expressive sound. A relaxed wrist means no tension, no injuries and no pain.
Have you noticed how a deep breath can relax your mind and you body when you’re tensed? The same happens with your arms, your fingers and your sound when you relax your wrist.
Each time you relax your wrist, you ‘take a deep breath’ which ‘oxygenates’ your arms and the quality of your performance.
So don’t be afraid to keep your wrist flexible! Don’t be afraid to take ‘deep breaths’ (by raising your arms and relaxing your wrists) as often as the music allows (especially before a new phrase, on rests and when playing non legato or staccato).
Even when you play legato, make sure that your wrist remains relaxed and flexible. This way, your legato will be unbelievably smooth and expressive. Why? Because instead of simply raising one finger after pressing the next one (which creates a superficial, static and mechanical legato), you’ll be transferring the weight of your arm from one finger into the other – which results in a flowing, almost ‘vocal’ cantability.
Therefore, by anticipating the flow of the melody with the movements of your flexible wrist, you can gradually master a special technique which is called ‘intoning on the piano’ (I mention this principle in my report “A New Perspective on Piano Phrasing” and I also plan to record a video tutorial in the near future).
Moreover, a flexible wrist is the key to a powerful yet beautiful forte. If you hit the keyboard with force, the resulting sound will be powerful, but it will also be brutal and percussion-like. On the other hand, if you relax your wrist when your fingers make contact with the keys, if you press the keyboard and soften the landing of your arms with the flexibility of your wrist – then the resulting sound will be not only powerful, but also vibrant, deep, expressive and unbelievably long-lasting.
No matter what you play, you should have the feeling that your entire arm is ‘pivoting’ on your fingertips – which is physically impossible if you keep the wrist tensed and immobile.
A still wrist does not allow you (and the music you’re playing) to breathe freely.
Keep your arms relaxed and your wrists flexible all the time – this is one of the most important elements of a comfortable, enjoyable and productive piano practice.
Brand New Piano Coaching Program and Forum
On the 15th of February 2012 I will launch a Piano Coaching Program like you’ve never seen before (will include online paid piano lessons and a private membership forum). By the way, my email newsletter subscribers will have access to a really unique 50% off discount coupon during the first 5 days after launch. So keep your eyes on your inbox ;).
I’m working on this project for almost a month (overcoming many fascinating forum-designing challenges LOL) and by the 15th of February it will be ready to rock!!! (Hmmm, as a classical pianist should I say ‘Ready to Baroque’? or ‘Ready to Impression-ism’? :)).
More info coming soon.