The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack

the secrets of a correct piano key attackCreating a beautiful piano sound is not complicated.

Playing with a relaxed, deep and flowing sound is not the privilege of professional pianists and advanced piano students. This skill is available to everyone – even complete piano beginners.

You simply need to learn the basic secrets of a correct key attack – they will change forever your perspective on piano playing!

A correct touché can be mastered from the very first piano lesson, being that stable foundation on which we can build everything – a beautiful sound, a brilliant technique and a convincing power of expression.

In the following video tutorial I explain and demonstrate, step by step, the basics of a correct key attack.

Enjoy and don’t forget to change the settings from 360p to 720p to watch the video in HD!

The way we press a piano key determines the quality of our sound.

The force, speed and character of our key attack are always reflected by the piano.

The modern piano is a complex and sensitive instrument that responds very well to the slightest changes in our gestures. If your movements are tensed, brutal, harsh – the sound will mimic them! If, on the other hand, your movements are fluid, relaxed, flowing, then the resulting sound will have the same qualities.

A correct key attack begins with the way you perceive the piano.

If you treat the piano as a percussion instrument – it will sound like one! If you think that the keyboard is a rigid surface – it will mirror your attitude, producing a rigid, short and ugly sound!

Don’t hit the piano key – press it instead as if diving gradually into an elastic surface.

Have you ever seen how cats knead? 🙂 The soft, relaxed, flexible and deep ‘touché’ of their paws can be easily compared to the gestures we need to use when playing the piano!

Imagine that you’re playing on a flexible surface, on a delicate instrument that can ‘capture and reflect’ the tiniest fluctuations in the quality of your touché.

Instead of producing a series of brutal, static, isolated ‘hits’, we can easily learn how to create an expressive, multifunctional sound.  By mastering this type of sound and having it in our ‘pianistic arsenal’, we can become ‘almighty’ pianists! 😉

A relaxed, profound, vibrant, gradual and at the same time soft key attack has countless benefits!

It allows us to:

  1. produce a quality piano sound;
  2. create the illusion that the sound does not fade away immediately after being ‘born’;
  3. make an unbelievably smooth legato;
  4. shape uninterrupted melodic lines and flowing phrases;
  5. achieve an amazing cantability and expressiveness;
  6. express a wide range of dynamics, starting from the gentlest ppp and reaching the most dramatic fff.
  7. ‘play’ with countless characters and shades of the sound;
  8. ‘imitate’ the color and timbre of any instrument;
  9. achieve the power of expression of an entire symphony orchestra;
  10. have maximum benefits with minimum effort.

These are only a few of the many benefits of a relaxed, flowing piano touché. From the start, I allowed myself to write only 10 examples – otherwise I would’ve reached 100 or even more! 🙂

Now you understand why it’s so important to show every student, from the very first lesson, the basics of a correct and relaxed key attack. This technique is extremely simple and amazingly powerful!

This type of piano touché allows every pianist – beginner, intermediate and professional – to create a beautiful, deep and expressive sound that goes beyond the ‘hammer and string’ mechanism of the instrument.

Metaphorically speaking, it allows us to fly without wings – only by using the power of our mind and the functionality of our body in a smart way!

By mastering the simple technique I’m demonstrating in the video, you’ll be able to SING at the piano and make it sound like the violin, the human voice, the organ or even the orchestra.

The only limits are in your imagination!

I’ll reveal more expressive possibilities of the relaxed, gradual piano touché in my future articles and videos. In the meantime – share your thoughts! Comments are welcome and much appreciated! 😉

Stay tuned! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and .

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34 Responses to “The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack”

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  1. Rodney James says:

    Thank you for another great post, Ms Vartic! Watching your arm movements are a thing of beauty. It reminds me of a book I read a few years back. It’s Artistic Piano Playing by Ludwig Deppe. He makes mention of the fact that to produce a beautiful sound, you must have a beautiful motion. He advocates nice rounded motions. A beautiful performance is of course pleasing to the ears, but they also are a treat for the eyes!
    Again, thanks for the informative posts. Most definitely waiting and wanting more. You really have a gift for explanation! Also you have a beautiful voice also!!
    Sincerely,
    Rodney

    • Ilinca says:

      Thank you for your comment, Rodney! 🙂

      I didn’t have the chance to read Ludwig Deppe’s book, but he sounds just like my teacher ;). She always emphasized the fact that our gestures should reflect the character of the music we’re playing – and that our entire performance should be well-balanced: mind, gestures and sound should be ‘in tune’ and extremely harmonious.

      I’m really glad you liked my tutorial!

      Have a wonderful week and an inspired practice!
      Ilinca

      • Rodney James says:

        The book was actually written by Elisabeth Caland. Artistic Piano Playing as Taught by Ludwig Deppe was published in 1903. Once you get past the writing style there is a treasure trove of information! Deppe was born in 1828 and died in 1890. It’s so fascinating to read about the way they approached piano technique. Amazingly, not a whole lot is different! Terminology may be a little different, but the core principles are the same. Deppe did have one glaring difference. Although he advocated using the shoulders and back, he felt that they were more easily engaged by a low seat. Elbows slightly below the keys! Even so, I am still captivated by accounts of pianist and teachers of the early development of technique.

        • Ilinca says:

          Rodney, thanks for sharing with us all this interesting information about Ludwig Deppe! 🙂

          It’s true, not much has changed in the art of piano playing since Chopin and Liszt revolutionized the key principles of the key attack – emphasizing the importance of playing with our entire arms, and not only from our fingers (as the old harpsichordists used to).

          Then, almost all great pianists and teachers followed this system – because it was (and still is) the most ergonomic, productive, creative and simply enjoyable one, allowing us to fully access all the expressive possibilities of the modern piano.

          It’s interesting that Deppe was a ‘promoter’ of the ‘low seat’ idea. Even today, I’ve seen many pianists (especially tall men) use this type of posture, with the elbows slightly below the key level. Personally, I think that it is extremely uncomfortable, not allowing us to feel free at the instrument and have all the leverage we need. On the other hand, many things are individual, so each one is free, after studying and understanding the correct posture, to choose what suits him/her best! 🙂

          You’re right – it’s fascinating to observe how piano technique evolved throughout history – it helps us to see many things from a different, eye-opening perspective!

          Ilinca

  2. Alexandra says:

    Great explanations on this video (too!)
    The points that hit home most for me are: 1) learning to play with soft key attack , using arm weight, as the foundation of beautiful technique, 2) hearing the sound you want to produce first in your head (This point makes complete sense! You have mentioned this in a reply recently…but I think you are , in fact, the first to point this out! I have begun doing this and it makes a significant difference in the output. Up until now, I have been expecting my poor little fingers to magically create the sound, as if they are separate, unrelated ‘tools’ 🙂 if that makes sense?) and 3) the sound you want to produce at the piano should come from the back , shoulders, and channeled thru the finger tips. Very great advice.
    As always, thank you for your tips and profound encouragement.
    Best wishes.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Alexandra!

      Thank you for your comment! 😉

      Yes, when we hear first the desired sound in our mind, we open the doors for unlimited possibilities.

      It’s just like in life: when we visualize our goals, the entire universe ‘conspires’ to facilitate our journey towards that goal. If, on the other hand, we fumble in the dark without a certain purpose, if we live randomly… you get the idea! 🙂

      Our fingers themselves cannot make us conquer new expressive peaks. Without giving them a ‘lift’ with our mind, we’ll be stuck forever on the ground, dreaming about a beautiful sound, but not knowing how to achieve it.

      Just like Neuhaus said: “Music lives within us, in our brain, in our consciousness; its ‘domicile’ can be accurately established: it is our hearing.

      All pianists, at a certain moment during their first studying years, are expecting their fingers to create the sound all by themselves, as if they were ‘separate tools’. So, yes – it does make perfect sense! 😉 Now that you FELT the difference, it means that you reached a new level of musical awareness! And I’m really happy that I could help you understand and feel this difference!

      Have an amazing week and lots of inspiration!
      Ilinca

  3. Pauline says:

    Hi Ilinca

    Appreciative thanks for a wonderful video. I have learnt a lot from your demonstration and I am now adapting my technique according to your relaxed, effective method of a soft key attack, using the weight of the arm and hearing the desired sound beforehand. My piano sound wasn’t bad in the pieces; but I never really considered making the sound from my imagination and body first while playing scales and arpeggios. I started off like that in my Grade 1 and lost only 1 mark in the exam; but as I progressed, I began to lose it, as I focused instead on the desire to play faster. I think I have been playing rather too heavy and stilted which slowed me down. ‘More haste, less speed’ comes to mind! As a result I was making mistakes whenever I felt tense, or under pressure.

    So now I am privileged (and other readers too) to have been shown a new level of creative awareness by you, I am going to adopt your elegant style in to whatever I play. I love the way in which you make a beautiful deep sound, which I am also going to try to emulate from my own imagination using my whole body in the process.

    Grateful thanks and talk soon,

    Pauline

    • Ilinca says:

      Thank you so much for such a great comment, Pauline! 🙂

      A quality sound is the foundation of an expressive, meaningful playing – and I am really glad that I could help you have a better understanding of this subject!

      All the best,
      Ilinca

  4. garry says:

    Hi Ilinca,
    Your key attack video really shocked me into re-evaluating everything that I was doing on the piano. I’m 56, but essentially a beginner, but I am highly motivated to learn.

    From what I can gather, you move your arms in an expressive manner as well to keep your arms and wrists relaxed, avoid playing just with the fingers, use the bones in your hands whenever possible to balance the weight of your arms on the keys, and I see an element of arm rotation and weight shifting in all the movements as well. It’s hard to see everything, but this video is sooooo very important, I hope that you do more videos with excruciating detail on just the idea that you presented in this video, especially to help people who have already developed other non-useful habits.

    I love your very positive attitude and joy that you project regarding everything piano, and everything else in life.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Garry!

      Thank you for your wonderful comment! 🙂

      I’m so happy to hear that my tutorial made you change your perspective on piano playing! In fact, this is my main purpose – sharing the professional secrets of the Russian piano school and helping pianists from all over the world to see piano playing with new eyes, to reach a new level of expressiveness and technical control – and make their practice as relaxed, healthy and enjoyable as possible!

      By the way, what you see here is only the top of the iceberg (don’t forget to go to Archives for having access to all the free tutorials available on PianoCareer.com)!

      I currently dedicate all my time to my new Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com. There I post new video tutorials every week and I give detailed, personalized answers to all the questions of my online students.

      Click here to learn more about this project!

      But I continue to post video tutorials here as well (even if I don’t have time for publishing more than 1 free tutorial per month). Now I’m designing another video – focused on one of the most important secrets of the Russian piano school: the technique called ‘piano intonation’ (it helps us to create a smooth legato and a flawless phrasing). It will be live in a week or two!

      Enjoy your practice and don’t forget to take it one step at a time – changing your playing habit takes time and patience, but it’s totally worth it!!!
      Ilinca

  5. April says:

    Hi Ilinca!

    The right key attack on the piano is both a science and an art isn’t it? From your video I understood it is important to have the right technique and posture, but also be emotionally involved, sort of develop an intimate relationship with this beautiful instrument.

    I’ve got a question, and I thought this article was more relevant to my question, although not directly. Because of the nature of learning to play classical music on piano, which is what I learnt ever since I started playing the piano, my music teachers always discouraged me from playing instruments like the electronic keyboard. Because a keyboard has a completely different touch, tonality, sound among other things to a piano isn’t it?

    I’ve always disliked playing the electronic keyboard, but once I was asked to play one in a studio for recording a pop song (a song I had never played before; and they tell me only a hour or two before they have to record it). I had been out of touch with the piano at the time, let alone a keyboard! I found myself completely and utterly incompetent to play the keyboard. I couldn’t even keep tempo properly. So I noticed that the people in the recording studio were not happy, and that made me even more nervous.

    I just want to know, is it normal to find it difficult to play a keyboard when you’re used to playing the piano? I was frustrated with myself, and a lot of people (at least in my country) don’t understand that these two are completely different instruments.

    I’d love to hear what you think about it? 😀

    April.

  6. April says:

    Well not completely different instruments, but somehow it didn’t feel right for me… So is that ok when you’ve been out of touch for so long. I mean, I could play chords and things, but I didn’t feel fluent with a keyboard the way I felt when I’m playing a piano…

    April.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi April!

      Sorry for the delayed reply – my online students at PianoCareerAcademy.com keep me extremely busy – plus the holiday season is always hectic for musicians! It becomes very difficult to find a free moment for answering questions here on PianoCareer.com! 🙁

      Yes, of course, there are many differences between a keyboard and an acoustic piano. However, they are not completely different instruments – and with a little practice, you can learn how to play the keyboard very well! I have lots of experience with both instruments, so I can share with you the basics :).

      The acoustic piano is – certainly – the best! A good piano can react to the slightest modifications in our touch, creating an extremely wide range of sound colors. Plus, the real string vibrations could never be entirely imitated by the digital sound of the keyboard – no matter how professional it is.

      The second major difference between a real piano and a keyboard is the key mechanism (weighted or non-weighted, touch sensitive or not) – and here we reach another very important aspect of this question: the type of keyboard.

      There are so many types of keyboards out there! From the non-weighted electronic-sounding old synthesizers to the modern weighted touch-sensitive digital pianos – they all sound and feel differently!

      From your description, I think that during the recording you had to play on a non-weighted keyboard – and this is why it felt so strange!

      ‘Non-weighted’ means that instead of being heavy (like the piano keys), the keyboard keys are light and easy to press – and they also do not react to the modifications in our touch.

      Your muscles memory was used to the feel of a real piano – and when you played on a keyboard, everything felt different! This is why it was hard for you to play properly – you simply needed a couple of rehearsals to adapt to the new feel of the keys, that’s all!

      I worked in the Symphony Radio Orchestra of my country for 6 years – and during this entire time I played on real pianos AND keyboards (both weighted and non-weighted). Once I got used to them – everything got really easy! 😉

      In the end, everything is a matter of practice and experience. We can do easily what we’re trained to do – and what feels familiar. A keyboard can become familiar as well – and then you’ll notice that it’s not an entirely different instrument – it’s just a little different.

      One more important thing:

      If you learn how to play the piano first, switching to a keyboard will be very easy – all you need is a few practice sessions for adapting to the feel/weight of the keys and the quality of the sound. However, those people who start by learning how to play on a keyboard find it very difficult to adapt to the heavier keys of a real piano!

      So I recommend always practicing on a real piano – for offering your arms/fingers a proper whole-arm training. Then, if you need to play on a keyboard – a few practice sessions will do the trick! 😉

      Cheers,
      Ilinca

      • John Sprung says:

        This is a favorite subject for me. I have both a real piano and a very cheap used Craig’s List keyboard, just to get practice time on both extremes.

        The keyboard has what I call a “doorbell button” action. Like ringing someone’s doorbell, it doesn’t matter how you touch it, the sound is always exactly the same. The extremely light touch of the digital keyboard may have some value. If I get sloppy and put any pressure on keys that shouldn’t be played, the mistake is clearly revealed. You just have to imagine the dynamics, and get used to not hearing them. The huge advantage of the digital is that I can play with headphones at any hour and drill on fragments without driving my wife crazy.

        Of course once I can get fingers to the right places at the right times, I go to the real piano. That’s where I spend most of my practice time. (It’s a 1929 Knabe concert grand. You can get old nine foot pianos dirt cheap here if you look around, because not many people want to give that much floor space to a piano.)

        Ilinca, do you have any recommendations for touch sensitive weighted keyboards? I want to get one with all 88 keys (my old one has 61), so I can learn to play stride. I have a MuseScore arrangement of James P. Johnson’s
        “Charleston” that looks really challenging — at least to me. 😉

        Many thanks again —

        — J.S.

        • Ilinca says:

          Hi John!

          Thank you for sharing your experience with your digital piano! 😉

          I’m afraid that I cannot recommend a touch sensitive keyboard without making some research first. Technology is always advancing, and new models appear all the time! Here in Moldova (my country) we have only some older models of keyboards – and the best I could find about two years ago (for our orchestra) was a Casio Privia (it was simply the best one available in our stores). But I’m sure that you can find much better models abroad!

          Being a classical pianist, I focus on acoustic pianos – and for this reason I do not make a lot of research in the field of digital instruments :D.

          You can make your own research on Google and YouTube – you’ll find lots of reviews that will help you to choose the instrument that suits you best! 😉

          Good luck,
          Ilinca

  7. April says:

    Thanks so much Ilinca! 🙂 I completely understand because I can imagine how hectic the holidays along with the New Year would have been.

    Also now I understand that it was completely natural for it to feel strange, thank you so much for your insight. It is all the more valuable coming from you, with so many varied experiences that you’ve had working with these different instruments. Practice makes everything alright doesn’t it 🙂 And nothing beats a good old piano! I guess this is why teachers (especially in classical music) always discourage their pupils from practicing on electronic keyboards.

    So I’ve just started my Grade 8 ABRSM this year, and after a Business Degree, getting in touch with the piano feels like heaven!! 😀 Thanks for all your support Ilinca, you definitely inspired me to go for it!

    April.

  8. Will says:

    Will you marry me? You are so pretty! And awesome video! Thank you so much it was very helpful!

    Warmest Regards,

    Will

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Will!

      Thanks – I’m happy that you enjoyed my video! 😉

      Sorry, I have to say ‘No’ to your marriage proposal – I’m already spoken for! LOL

      Have an awesome day,
      Ilinca

  9. MrG says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful words and teaching style. For years I have been struggling with inconsistency in my playing, one day performing complicated pieces with ease and the next day struggling to play anything accurately. I have followed your advice and it has changed my whole perspective. I’m self-taught, and this is just what I have been waiting to hear. You’re an inspiration and I can’t thank you enough.

    • Ilinca says:

      You’re very welcome! 😉

      Thank you so much for your appreciation – I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying my tutorials and that they helped you to see positive changes in your playing and practice habits! 😉 Keep the spirit!!!

      Cheers,
      Ilinca

  10. Lance James says:

    When working with what you show in this video I notice that my 5th finger (pinky) raises as my forth finger presses downward. I can concentrate very hard to stop this from happening with slow movement.

    Is this something that should be avoided and rehearsed to prevent?

    Best Regards,
    Lance
    USA

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Lance!

      You can find a detailed video tutorial that will help you to solve this problem (which is usually a symptom of finger-only, tensed playing) in the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com! 😉

      Have a wonderful weekend and a Happy New Year 2014!!!
      Ilinca

  11. Stefy says:

    Hi Ilinca,
    Thank you for all you valuable suggestions I think I’m an intermediate beginner and
    realize how important is the key attack by starting to play Chopin. Anyway in my mind I can’t imagine how this way of playing can be applied to piece like the K 545 Mozart Sonata and above all to that kind of technical exercises for the finger independence in which one finger hold down a note, while the other fingers continue to play notes above and below it.
    I would appreciate very much any your suggestion.
    Thank you again Ilinca
    Stefy

  12. Natalia says:

    Hi Stefy,

    This is Natalia, Ilinca’s assitant.

    Please check your email – I just sent a reply to your question! 🙂

    Best Regards,

    Natalia

  13. Ali says:

    Very useful tips! Your words come from your heart… Thank you so much for explaining fundamentals in a very simple way. Good bless you Ilinca!

    • Ilinca says:

      You’re very welcome, Ali! 😀

      Thank you so much for your appreciation – and lots of good luck with your practice! 😉
      Ilinca

  14. Hannah says:

    Hi. I’ve just watched your video and I think your tips are very awesome and helpful especially for beginners. I would just like to ask a question, I enrolled to a piano lesson and I go there every Thursday, the thing is that the piano I use there to play is hard to press, not actually that hard but it’s different from the keys of my piano at home. Mine is composed of soft touch keys and whenever I practice at home, I’m doing an excellent job but when I’m already playing the piano at the music school, it’s a little horrible cuz whenever I press the keys, it’s as if they don’t make a sound. Or if they make a sound, it would sound chopped. 🙁 Any tips for my situation? Thanks in advance.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Hannah,

      This is Natalia, Ilinca Vartic’s assistant at PianoCareerAcademy.com.

      Thank you so much for your appreciation! 🙂

      The ability to adjust to pianos with different types of action (softer, harder etc.) is a needed skill for all pianists (since we cannot take our own instrument with us, like violinists or flutists do). Here the key element is experience – the more different instruments you will play on, the easier it will become to adjust to their unique feel.

      In the meantime, when you go to your lesson, simply remember that your teacher’s piano keys are harder to press – and before playing the first note, focus on this particular aspect, and imagine what type of touch you will use for creating the needed sound (how much weight you will apply, how much finger articulation you will use etc.). Also, when you practice at home, you need to remember that during your lesson you will need to play with more weight/pressure – and you have to train these sensations on your own piano (this will result in a louder sound – but make sure that the sound is never brutal or harsh).

      If you play correctly, by using whole-arm action and weighted playing, with relaxed arms and flexible wrists, you should be able to adjust to new pianos without major discomforts (no matter how hard the keys are), and also without tension and pain (which are the result of the old-fashioned finger-only approach; trying to depress heavy keys with your fingers alone is obviously very hard, requiring a lot of tension-causing effort – while depressing them with the entire weight coming from your back feels natural and easy).

      You can find out more by watching Ilinca’s free video tutorials (such as The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack and The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture) – and also the hundreds of detailed tutorials available in the Members Area of our Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com (where you can also find a detailed article focused on adjusting to new pianos).

      You can learn more about PianoCareerAcademy.com and its functionality by reading our super-detailed FAQs (http://www.pianocareeracademy.com/faqs/).

      If you have other questions about the functionality of PianoCareerAcademy.com (that are not covered in the FAQs), don’t hesitate to ask!

      I hope that my answer was helpful – and we’re looking forward to welcoming you to our community! 😉


      Sincerely,
      Natalia
      Customer Support
      PianoCareerAcademy.com

  15. Brian King says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    I really enjoyed studying your lesson on piano intonation using the Russian School of tone production. My question is in the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody number 2,
    there is a two-hand trill and I was wondering if you could explain to me how to increase the speed to a rapid repetition rather like that of a woodpecker or a
    jackhammer. Is there a tutorial you have on this technique that I could purchase as well and if so how do I go about purchasing it from you?
    Thank you in advance for all of your beautiful tutorials I have so far watched.
    All the best, Brian King

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Brian!

      This is Natalia, Ilinca Vartic’s assistant at PianoCareerAcademy.com.

      You can find several detailed tutorials dedicated to trill practice in the Members Area of our Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com – along with many hundreds of other exclusive video and written tutorials (including step-by-step courses and interactive projects).

      You can learn more about PianoCareerAcademy.com and its functionality by reading our super-detailed FAQs (http://www.pianocareeracademy.com/faqs/).

      Please pay special attention to the following questions from the FAQs:
      No. 1-3: discover what PianoCareerAcademy is, how it works, what is included (and what is not included) in the membership; in FAQ No. 1 you will also find the link to the Complete List of Tutorials currently available for our members.
      No. 4-6: learn more about our membership options (monthly and yearly) – and how they work.
      No. 19: a detailed description of the Scale & Arpeggio Course.
      No. 33: a step-by-step registration guide.

      Also, please feel free to take a look at any other FAQ that might interest you, before registration.

      If you have other questions about the functionality of PianoCareerAcademy.com (that are not covered in the FAQs), don’t hesitate to ask!

      I hope that my answer was helpful – and we’re looking forward to welcoming you to our community! 😉


      Sincerely,
      Natalia
      Customer Support
      PianoCareerAcademy.com

  16. MrMrsTaz says:

    I don’t know how to ask this question, apparently, in a search engine and get that for which I’m looking.

    Here goes:

    Where is the sweet spot on the key for the finger to strike? Is it the same for every key? Close to the black key? Closer to the front toward the pianist? Does it change if speed is increased? Is it different if I am playing scales and arpeggios?

    Keep up the great work Natalia!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hello,

      This is Ilinca (Natalia is my assistant) :).

      This is actually a very complex question – but I will try to answer it shortly ;).

      Piano playing is a very flexible art, and we should never play in a certain rigid position (therefore, we don’t have rigid rules such as ‘always place the finger in the middle of the key’). If we want to have a free, effortless and brilliant technique, our movements should always be fluid, always moving – and always subordinated to the exact layout of the passage or fragment. This applies to all elements of piano technique – starting with the bigger movements of our arms/wrists, and reaching the position of the fingers on the keys (which exact spot they should strike). In simpler words, there is no such thing as ‘the best spot to strike’ – because this spot depends on several factors:
      1. What exact finger is playing (and the length of this finger). For example, if we talk about white keys, the thumb and 5th finger will always play closer to the edge than the 3rd finger (which is longer). Our fingers have different lengths – and their distribution on the keys will always be 3-dimentional, even if we play on white keys only.
      2. The exact ‘topography’ of the passage/chord/interval we play: if, for example, we play a C-Eb-G chord, then the 1st and 5th fingers will naturally ‘fall’ somewhere in the middle of the white keys – while the 3rd finger’s position on the black key will actually depend on the length of this finger (which varies from person to person). If, on the other hand, we play a F#-A-C# structure (as a chord, or one note at a time) with the 1st, 3rd and 5th fingers (sometimes we don’t have the option of using another, more comfortable fingering) – then the 3rd finger on the white key will be positioned pretty deeply (very close to the lid).
      3. The direction of movement. If you play an ascending passage, your hand will usually be oriented slightly to the right (and this orientation will naturally influence the exact position of each finger).

      There are several other little factors that influence the exact position of each finger on the keys – but they usually depend on the exact situation we have in a certain piece or scale.

      No, it doesn’t matter if you play pieces or scales: scales are just exercises that help us to assimilate a wide variety of patterns and fingering formulas – so why would we play them with different movements? Every movement we polish while playing scales will be applied to pieces! So regardless of what you play, you need to choose the most comfortable, ergonomic and natural position for your fingers :).

      This was obviously a very short answer – and you can find more information on this topic (in the form of very detailed video tutorials) in the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com (you can learn more about this program by taking a look at our FAQs).

      Cheers,
      Ilinca

  17. Taylor Bishop says:

    I appreciate that you mentioned to imagine you are playing on a flexible surface. Honestly, I don’t think people realize that how you play and treat a piano during a performance can affect the sound quality. It may be worth the time to practice and record yourself playing a certain piece, and to see if you are treating the piano correctly.

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