was Albert Einstein who said: the problems CANNOT be solved on the same
level they turned up to which. That is why discussing any problem related
to the piano playing, and studying it we cannot omit as many aspects of the
matter, so many others guys are habitually doing...! We must examine the
subject from its intellectual, emotional, psychological and corporal side, too.
Our Friend from South Africa
had asked about some things that are very close to the problem maintained
above. Her questions look as follows:
"I need an
answer to a problem which forced me to give up music when I was still
a teenager at the College. As I got older (17, 18 yrs old) I lost a
self-consciousness, which grew into complete inability to play in public.
1. I experienced an
inability to read the music while playing. It was as if my head and my
hands had lost their connection.
2. I would become
unable to press the keys with my fingers a kind of nervous paralysis. To
depress the keys of the right hand I would have had to use the
left hand to help!
It was an
impossible situation. I ended up choosing the easiest pieces for
performance at exams and was penalized for doing so, but I did this as my
brain and my nerves somehow combined to render me unable to actually play.
Is this a mental/physical condition and what is it called? Are there others
who have suffered the same?
interesting I found on the Internet, it is a Masters degree dissertation by Jσnas
"Playing the Piano: playing with fire? A study of the occupational
hazards of piano playing". Apparently there are performing arts
clinics being set up now to deal with this and other various problems
experienced by musicians and pianists in particular."
Approaching the problem I thoroughly read the text
written by Mr. Jσnas Sen and found herein all the things I was deeply
convinced they could be found in here. Unfortunately, I did not find hereby
the most important detail RELATED to the matter, and yet I was nearly sure,
even before I started studying the text, that the Author would NOT like to
write about THIS aspect of the whole problem, exactly. Although this
sorrowful conviction was based on my long-term experience, I was surprised
once again. How it could be possible to refer such a complicated,
many-sided problem as playing piano is in its entirety without
taking into account the absolutely most important aspect of the matter?
Well, at this point I feel, I should very seriously
declare my absolutely welcoming attitude towards Mr. Sen's article! It was
just the pure chance that Mrs. M. had found this text on the Internet and suggested
me reading it. Though, because it has now happened so that this text raised
to be the point our discussion could be started from, I actually have no
other way apart of referring my thoughts after reading it.
At the beginning let us immediately quote Prof.
lives within us, in our brain, in our consciousness; its
"domicile" can be accurately established: it is our
According to this message, which in my opinion
represents the indisputably actual worth, in any professionally oriented
discussion about CORPORAL aspects of playing the piano, we cannot OMIT such
a noteworthy point as is the HEARING. Such an error could be compared with
tries to understand painting as a process, but focusing the attention on
all the possible elements of the matter EXCEPT seeing; would it be
The main idea in Mr. Sen's text, unfortunately, is
NOT a new one, and however Mr. Sen quotes very many authoritative
specialists from many various disciplines he does not propose any NEW
solution. It happens because of the fact that his and THEIR thinking about
the art of playing and teaching the piano, have apparently been formed on
very similar old beliefs typical to all the traditionally mechanical
concepts, characteristic to early periods of the scientifically (...?)
oriented theory of the piano.
Let you have a look at the following sentence! It
was Albert Einstein who said:
- the problems CANNOT be solved on the same level they
have been occurred into.
That is why discussing any problem related to the
piano playing and studying it from its intellectual, emotional,
psychological and corporal side, we cannot omit the HEARING, which
FACTUALLY is the decisive factor, working herein as a general regulator
INSIDE the pianists' mind & body entirety. This factor
INTEGRATES the whole action and gives the pianist up-to-dated information
about what is going on in the most important sector of the matter: in the
sound, and via information related to its quality, informing as well about
what might happen inside of the pianist's acting hands. I hope, I even do
not must bring to light the fact, that the success in playing including
instrumental easiness and exactness, psychical comfort, artistic freedom
and courage, etc, etc. would never been achieved if the pianist would NOT
be able to adequately INTEGRATE all the structurally essential elements of
his/her MIND & BODY wholeness. Among them all, the ANTICIPATIVE INTERNAL
HEARING should be seen as an element of the definitely most important
Answering the question related to Mrs. M.'s troubles
in playing, "Is this a
mental/physical condition and what is it called" I would like to
say as the following:
I am not a
physician, so you should not expect from me the scientifically adequate
diagnose; still I am sure that my advice could offer you very positive
help. So, I think it would be much enough if I, as an interim measure, name
your problem as the "disintegrated game syndrome."
Mr. Sen wrote, "There are many controversies in
the field. A lot of debate has been going on as to whether these various
problems and injuries are caused by a wrong way of playing, or whether they
are simply caused by overuse of the body."
Let us look at the problem logically! Once such
heavy consequences as various hand injuries appear, here MUST act some
SERIOUS factors that cause them and it is absolutely senseless to discuss
the DEFINITIONS only! Precisely said, it changes nothing if we do agree
that "a wrong way of playing causes particular injury", or
if we do agree that the "corporal damage has been caused by overuse
of the body." In fact, the first of these opinions means nearly
the same as the second one; or better the first CAUSES the second; that
is all but THIS is NOT a solution yet...
Mr. Sen is profoundly right in his article when
states: "Excessive uncoordinated muscular activity in the technique
will interfere with good execution."
Sincerely said, in my opinion, Mr. Sen did NOT write
even one untruthful sentence in his article! The problem stands herein only
because Mr. Sen, as very many other respective writers, actually would NOT
like to identify the role of HEARING and its controlling function as the
REAL ONE for and in the entire process of professional piano
schooling. However, not only this element should be used to PROTECT the
pianist from his own tendencies to overload the piano playing.
Greatly talented musicians, who possess finer
musical temperament and a WILL to express themselves UP TO THE LAST END,
who are still not used to control their energy output in playing carefully
enough, might experience even very severe PHYSICAL consequences. The cases
of Gary Graffman, Leon Fleischer, Alexander Scriabin and partially Paderewski (who still had never been forced to discontinue his
piano career), probably might represent this kind of a problem. I do NOT
like to say that these great masters WERE unable to precisely listen to
their playing and examine it ARTISTICALLY in very effective way! Not at
all! They actually were the great Artists. But, if I may present my humble
interpretation of the problem, apart from particular genetically determined
proneness toward specific physical harms, hereby perhaps acted such small,
still negatively efficient factors, as the not ENOUGH strong evaluation of
"HOW my fingers and hands factually use MY natural physical resources?
Do I, maybe, OVERLOAD myself too much? Is the sound I produce, maybe
simply said too loud? Do I really need to use as much muscular POWER as I
Mrs. Sarah Silvermyn
through pain can be extremely dangerous or even curtail a career, as in the
case of pianist Leon Fleischer. "There was something macho about
practicing through the pain barrier," he noted. "Even when my
hand was exhausted, I kept going. Although I thought I was building up
muscle, I was, in fact, unraveling it."
As the truly interesting postscript to this quotation I would
like to suggest you having a look at this file that contains some opinions related to the piano
technical training and given by Vladimir Horowitz; you would be profoundly
Well: persistent, nearly AUTOMATICAL examination of
the dynamic volume zone of the sound (produced by physical energy and the
weight of the fingers in adequate level of depths of the keyboard) will
generate likely "meaningless WINS" within nearly timeless moments
of "activation" of the each key. Millions of such bonuses yet beyond doubts are able to PROTECT the
pianist against any possible physical injury; let you take into
consideration that in some for instance Chopin's Etudes the pianist
must take about 600 or more sounds per minute...!
As I imagine, only the greatest piano giants
are liberated from the obligation of fully conscious
examination of HOW the correlation between emotions, artistic IMAGES
proposed by fantasy and the sounding IMPLEMENTATION of them realized by
fingers and hands actually WORKS. It could happen due to:
- extreme sensibility of their hearing that instinctively
activates appropriate INHIBITORS that make impossible to CROSS the borders
of A MUSICAL BEAUTY. Piano giants never must DELIBERATE on HOW to realize
this or that problem: musical thought is for them nearly equal with the
practical fulfillment of it.
- they possess ability to the persistent acting under
TOTALLY CONSCIOUS control over all of elements, structures, factors and
devices that might decide the always extremely high quality of their
playing EVEN in case they SEEM to act being guided purely by emotions.
As the very interesting postscript to this segment I would
like to suggest you having a look at the Web-Side that contains some bits
of information related to the piano mastery of Mr. Josef Hofmann...
In any case, if in the playing might exist any
shadow of physical overload, it obviously should become HEARABLE as the
ARTISTICALLY inappropriate dynamic power of the sound, which should become
detected and corrected in a while. The greatest piano giants POSSESS from
Nature such "operational device" built in their brains that makes
it impossible for them to realize anything that could work AGAINST the
nature of musicality; that is the basis of the musical talent, as I see the
As we could see, reading notice above related to Prof.
Fleischer, he did not
like to become granted by such bonuses, he actually liked to WIN the battle
against the keyboard, still apparently he would NOT be informed that such a
battle is of "no-win" nature...
The Chopins advice, seeing the problem from THIS perspective, is the one
of outstandingly great worth!
Let us come back to the Albert Einsteins opinion
for a while, "The problems CANNOT be solved on the same level they
have occurred into." Very well! Once the PHYSICAL injuries are caused
by physically incorrect action, and quoting once again Mr. Sens article,
if we agree that "Making music is an act, which is as physical as it
is mental" we should consequently agree that the CORPOREAL PROBLEMS
of the pianists could be solved on the higher, that is mental, level of the
matter only. This mental level in my opinion MUST include just HEARING
in its very special, PROFESSIONALLY correct meaning.
Mr. Sen wrote as follows, "The brain is
responsible, and the brain is a machine of staggering complexity almost
beyond comprehension. It transmits a multitude of neurological signals to
the rest of the body and, with the right coordination, the movements of the
hands and the arms interact with the musical instrument and we hear the
wonderful sounds of a prelude, a fugue or a sonata."
Mr. Sen is absolutely right apart of this truly
small, yet very important element that has NOT become visible to him
either, as it has been imperceptible to very many specialists before him,
too: the hearing. Yes, the HEARING doubtlessly ACTS as the integral element
of our brain and, doubtlessly again, it should become understood as the
most important SUBJECT of any discussion touching the piano, piano playing
and teaching as a whole.
All such INDISPUTABLY well-working systems as yoga,
Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, many professional medicine
treatments etc, etc. are absolutely INDISPENSABLE and they offer truly
great help. But such systems work very well UP TO THE MOMENT the formerly
injured pianist STARTS to play again. And this must happen because all of
the above maintained systems, unfortunately, do touch the effects only,
staying afar from the reason (lack of professionalism in HEARING) that
factually caused the pianists' injuries; that is the major misfortune in
Yes, all these systems, even if they are NOT purely
BODILY oriented, do not factually are INTERESTED in the elements and
factors that represent the CONSTITUTIONALLY most essential nature to any
musical activity including teaching and playing the piano. Furthermore,
many even such famous systems, as "Taubman
Technique", are in
my opinion, essentially, going the "unfinished" way round, too.
The title "Choreography of the Hands" explains the problem well
enough, I suppose. I would like to suggest you this link as well! You could find herein many good texts,
still NO ONE of these articles will focus your attention on the hearing,
HOWEVER just the hearing should be seen as the real "domicile"
for the pianists, who would not like to experience any physical troubles
while playing, ever.
Any adequate piano technical correction
CANNOT omit the hearing and nobody would achieve the real success in the
piano focusing his/her attention on the manual, corporal or mechanical side
of the matter only. Even if somebody, going such way along, might reach a
total RELAXATION this fact unfortunately cannot definitely solve his/her
technical problems of playing the piano, because the relaxation should be
seen as the HABITUALLY normal start point here, but not as the result one
could achieve AFTER hours of practicing. Tough, such relaxation is of
course very warmly welcomed! Unfortunately, it is factually still NOT
ACHIEVABLE without fundamental improving of the pianists hearing habits
that should be schooled and trained by the tutors having in a view the very
PARTICULAR conditions caused by unique circumstances of as uncommon milieu,
as is the piano keyboard.
Coming to the end I would like
in very short terms to write an answer on the primary question asked by
our Mrs. M.:
As you wrote, you actually
suffer from "inability to press piano keys". But look: playing
the piano we should NOT actually PRESS on the keys at all...!
you check up the articles linked to this file and try to put all
the wisdom they are speaking about into your piano practice. The next
problem you have maintained is "an inability to read the music while playing. It was as
if my head and my hands had lost their connection."
This problem could
probably be solved very easily in the case your hearing would start to work
properly as the element that factually could CONNECT your hands and your
head again. Focusing your attention PRIMARILY on the physical troubles
of playing, you cannot be able to adequately process the data reading from
the score because between your brains and your hands instead HEARING,
unfortunately stands a pain. This misery could be eliminated apart from
medicine treatment by activation of the hearing, which would give you the
adequate amount of another data: related to the sound, which is the real
basis of our musical "domicile" and could be recognized only via
I would like to enlighten some of the peripheral aspects of
the actually discussed matter in my next texts.
With my Very Best Wishes Stefan K.
critical review concerning the Feldenkrais Method and its connections
with playing & teaching the piano. This way - thank you!