“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”
Plato

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Arch in the Palm of the Hand: Tennis, Anyone?


     I often hear comments from teachers and pianists about the need for a pronounced "arch" in the palm of the hand. Apparently, many people sincerely believe that an arch is a necessary part of good technique and some of these arch-ists are very accomplished players. They insist on the need for it.
     The "arch" does not exist anatomically. If you look in an anatomy book at the drawings of the constituent parts of the hand, looking for the specific structure of the palmar "arch," you will not find it. There are no bones, muscles, tendons, fascia or other membranes that make this up. According to the medical people, such a structure does not exist, nor is it necessary for the proper functioning of the hand or fingers.
Let me repeat: an arch in the palm of the hand is not necessary for the proper functioning of the hand or fingers. Why then does this old wives' tale about the golden arch persist?
     Those of you who have followed my posts know that what one sees at the keyboard sometimes can be open to interpretation. The "golden" arch, not to be confused with the gateway arch in St. Louis, is what occurs when the hand is in its unforced and naturally curved position. That's what makes it golden. When someone decides they have to make the hand into a curve, sometimes referred to as a tennis ball, then it becomes an arch made of lead. Sometimes we fall victim to misunderstanding when viewing the image of a beautifully and naturally curved hand at the keyboard and think, ah ha, that pianist must be making his hand into a curve, as if gripping a tennis ball. Gripping, forcing the hand into a curved position, requires muscles to actively pull the fingers in toward the wrist, an unnecessary and potentially tiring gesture.
     The concept of the arch may have arisen in order to correct various collapses that sometimes occur in the all-important fulcra, the knuckle joints. Gripping a tennis ball, however, does not fix these collapses. And repairing collapse is a different topic.
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