“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.”

Monday, April 19, 2021

Forearm Weight at the Piano: What?

      A student writes:"I wonder if you might be willing to explain exactly what arm weight is. Or maybe the better question would be to ask what arm weight is not. I remember someone saying that using arm weight does NOT involve pushing into the keyboard. Someone else says that it is a deadweight drop.  Surely we can't be expected to play in some limp manner."

     No, we cannot play the piano in a "limp manner." We rely on various fulcra to support the fingers: knuckles, wrist, elbow. If one of these collapses, the whole system tends to break down, or at least falter. The playing apparatus consists of a connection from the finger tip that is playing to the elbow. The wrist, which remains flexible, makes a relatively flat bridge between hand and forearm.     

     And yes, it's correct that we do not "push" into the keyboard.  Once the key has been depressed, only God can change it, so there is no point whatsoever to continue applying weight into the key after reaching the point of sound. 

     The idea of a "deadweight drop" is problematic as a playing concept because at the point of sound the arm cannot continue moving downward, collapsing, which is what happens when thinking "deadweight." It is ludicrous to think that continued up and down arm movements can produce quick and efficient playing. The
deadweight concept is however quite useful in teaching the playing apparatus what it feels like to let go of weight, as in for example, learning what it feels like to make a leap.

At Ease
     Tobias Matthay writes about the visible and invisible in piano technique. Arm weight is one of the latter and one of the most important concepts to understand. To put it as briefly and simply as I can, it is the amount of weight it takes to produce the desired sound on one note and be able to stand on the note as if "at ease" there, not pressing and not lifting. In other words, we drop into the key to the point of sound and stop there. It's like sitting in a chair. One is at ease, supported, yet not relaxed in the real sense of the word. If we really relax, we fall out of the chair or

off the piano bench. So, the process of learning the sensation of arm weight at the piano is learning how much is required—no more, no less. It is a process of training the playing apparatus what it feels like to complete a note and be at rest on the key. 

     Once the arm weight is established in a single key, that weight is transferred from note to note by means of forearm rotation, which is an underlying tool and not the end result. Forearm rotation is not, repeat, not how we propel our hands laterally up and down the keys in speed. 

     This is an important study and not one I can describe in print without perhaps creating more confusion. For a video demonstration, click on the iDemo tab above and select Forearm Rotation.

Friday, April 16, 2021

 Dear Readers,

The "Follow by Email" function will no longer be available after July, 2021. If you would like to receive future posts automatically, please click on the Follow button in the column on the right to subscribe. You will surely want to read about "How Old is Too Old" to study piano and "Why Do They Write It That Way?" And other pressing issues that come up during cyber lessons.