Why Technique?

Every Tuesday (or thereabouts) we will post some tips on how to get more out of your technical practice. But the big question parents often ask us is “why technique"?” and the answer is simple and it’s also not simple.

Technique is the foundation for being able to do things on any instrument. It trains our fingers - in fact it’s very much like going to the gym when you are preparing for a marathon. While you can run and run and run - you need to do other things to help you get ready to complete the marathon! Technique is very much like that. Our pieces often have elements that are lifted right from the technical exercises that we practice to warm up. But we can’t just jump into a practice “cold”; we need to warm our fingers up so they can learn their task well. Technique is that warm up.

Technique also helps us analyze our music. As I said, music tends to have technical elements right in the piece. Learning those elements can help us recognize them in our music and then utilize the exercise to better play and understand the music. It’s all linked.

Learning technique can also teach us how to solve a specific problem. If I am having difficulty with a bass accompaniment I can often find that same technical exercise and practice it without the melody - this makes it easier on me when I put them hands together. It also makes for a more musical performance.

So technique is important- it’s good to warm up, it can help us understand our music and can help us solve problems when we are learning our pieces.

Some Technical Exercises to Try Now!

Technical exercises can be fun.  Seriously!  Technical exercises are important for strong fingers and also for warming up your fingers for doing your pieces.  They can help you hear what they key sounds like (for instance if you are doing a piece in d minor practising a d minor scale can help you to play the piece properly without veering into D major!) and can help you remember what accidentals you have to play.  Here are some technical exercises to help even beginners!

1) Play a pentascale (a 5 finger scale) and press down using only your finger.  Don't use your arm or your hand to create the sound - only your finger.  Each finger has it's own note and has its own job of making a sound.  Do this with one hand at a time and go slowly!

2) Play that same pentascale with both hands at the same time.  Play with your fingers rather than your hand or your arm.  Make sure you go slowly!

3) Using the same scale play skips (so your right hand would play 1 then 3 then 5 and then 3 and then 1).  Make sure to play everything slowly and legato!  Do this hands separately and then hands together.

4. Try playing that same scale hands together staccato.  Do it slowly and use your fingers not your hand or your arm to create the sound.

5. Try playing that same scale hands together super legato - don't stop the sound between notes. Go super slow and use your fingers only - don't move your arm or your hand!!

6.  Do all 5 exercises with a new key!

 

Hand position?  What do you mean?

Students come to lessons with varying abilities and hand strength (duh Emily!) but when they play, students NEED to have a good strong hand to do cool things on the piano.  But when you hear the words, Strong Hand Position,  do your eyes roll back?  What does it even MEAN?

 

My favourite tool is the Hutchinson checklist in exercise 1 of his book of activities.

Sit at the piano and put your hands on the piano.  Check your arms - are they bent with a V?  If so you are too close and you need to move your bum back.  You should have a reclining L - almost an I but not quite.

Then curl your hand like you are cupping a ball or something very fragile and put your hand on the piano.

Are your fingers flat? Shift them so you are playing on the finger tips!

Check your wrist!  Is it low?  Lift it up (you should be able to not see your finger nails!) and pitch it out toward the outer part of the piano.

Check your baby finger!!  Is it collapsing under your hand?  Make sure to lift it up and rest your finger tip on the key!

What about your shoulders?  Are they tense and almost touching your ears?  Relax them!

Try playing like this and see what results you get!