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Alan Fraser photo

 

 

CRAFT OF PIANO METHOD - HOW DOES IT WORK?

 

 

Craft of Piano Method focuses not on the body per se but on the structural relationships that underlie the body’s movement, and how those physical structures relate to musical structures. Much has been said about the muscles involved in various finger and arm movements; very little has been said about the bones those muscles are acting upon – the skeletal structure. Thus some old words take on new meanings:

 

Relaxation

To a skeleton standing on its own, relaxation means crumpling and collapsing! Too often attempts to eliminate tension lead to just this disempowering form of relaxation. Relaxation is not an action per se. The skeleton was designed to move, and Craft of Piano Method focuses in on the parts of the skeleton that directly move the piano key, asking how they can act most efficiently and effectively.




Photo by Sonya Ardan

 

Arm Weight

 

Much has been made of the arm’s weight and its involvement in moving a key, but in reality the arm is tremendously cumbersome, many times bigger than a piano key and not at all suited to moving it. The fingers are ideally suited to moving the keys – they are the same size and fit nicely into groups of notes on the keyboard. Thinking too much of the arm’s weight impinges on the free action of the fingers, robbing them of their sense of autonomous movement.


Lifting the fingers

 

Lifting the fingers is frowned upon by many schools of piano technique, and yet it is one of the most natural finger movements. A finger that moves well can move in any direction, and often lifting a finger (using its extensor muscles) will serve to prime its flexors, the muscles that are about to move it into the key, giving a more vigorous, precise, effective movement than a movement starting from the key surface could. Lifting the fingers only becomes detrimental when they are isolated from the arm – as when the arm stiffens making it unable to breathe in synchronicity with the finger and the phrase.

 

Circular wrist movements

 

All movements in effective piano playing relate to the musical context. Thus the circular wrist movements cultivated by some schools become counter-productive if they don’t map onto a phrase similarly shaped. Why should you do one thing when the music is doing something else?

 

Body involvement

 

Craft of Piano Method joins the body to the piano in a way that's precise, skeletally aligned, creating a whole body involvement very different from the expressive swaying which so often irritates rather than impresses. In a functional skeleton all the discreet parts remain moveable at all times. The supple and subtle involvement of the larger sections of the body offers support to the fine and powerful actions of the fingers.  This support is balanced yet not overly firm, derived from a synchronous moveability that in the end joins the player’s emotions as well as the physical body to the music being played.