“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.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Forearm Rotation: Just a Tool

     My student had experience of forearm rotation before coming to me and understands it quite well. He is an advanced pianist with considerable facility, though he is not happy with the way passages feel as he careens laterally up and down the keyboard.
     As I watched him play, I could detect what seemed to me to be extra movement, though it was very slight. When we discussed this, he explained that in speed he reduced the rotation to the smallest movement possible. Here lies the difficulty.
     There is often misunderstanding about this very easy, natural and essential gesture, a gesture that underlies all of our playing. When teaching rotation, the first concept I explain is that it is an underlying tool; it is not how we move—it is not what we think of—in speed. Its purpose is to teach the finger/hand/arm alliance what it feels like to complete each note in succession as if walking—transferring weight from finger to finger. The result is the sensation of being at rest at the bottom of each key. Notice I didn't say relaxed—some effort is required in order to stand on a particular note, just as it takes some effort to stand upright on our feet, though we can do both without feeling tension.
     Forget the rotation. Yes, in speed we no longer attempt to
exaggerate the rotation, particularly when moving stepwise as in a scale passage. We use a more general way to support fingers with the forearm. This is called shaping. We rely on the playing apparatus to remember the sensation of transferring weight, of walking note to note. (Look for demos in the tabs above.)

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