Technique Series: 5. Three fundamental points
Whilst it should never be a means to an end, the pursuit of developing further technical facility at the keyboard is of paramount importance. The point of course is not to just drill away at something until the sound from the piano resembles something that the player is aiming for, but to consolidate a firm grounding of sound keyboard technique, to allow for musical freedom.
Three issues we look at here – firstly, relaxation. A somewhat overused term nowadays, however it is not easy, particularly for someone new to the piano to acquire this sense of finding the balance, where there is a state of relaxation, and yet enough tension to carry out the intended actions. This can take months, if not years of practice and training, and also, for the young ones, permission to guide them through the use of touch (mainly on their arms).
Secondly, the finger tips – unlike many musical instruments where they are carried like a violin or a flute, or cradled like a cello, the only contact point with this huge instrument, the piano, is the finger tips. So how we approach the keys become extremely important. Books have been written, about how to approach the training, but I demonstrate one simple way which has always worked for me, to liken the shape of a good, ‘curved’ finger to that of the shape of a tunnel, and highlight the importance of the strength that shape gives. As we work through the musical periods, we find that flatter fingers also become necessary, particularly when trying to produce a singing tone, where we want to maximise the contact point of the finger exposed to the key. This flexibility of course requires good relaxation and control across all areas, from the back, shoulders, elbows, arms, wrist and knuckles.
Lastly, when teaching these elements, we must remember to demonstrate why, this is all important. A sparkling Jeu Perle from a passage of Mozart can go a long way to open a student’s mind and ear, and constant demonstration of highlighting different textures and touch appropriate to the various styles and periods can keep the student motivated to better their own technique. It isn’t an overnight thing, but one well worth pursuing, for that musical freedom at the piano!
Masayuki Tayama, Director of The Piano Teachers' Course UK
Since his London debut in 2002, Masayuki Tayama has maintained a highly active schedule as both an international pianist and piano pedagogue. His teaching incorporates the method taught by Sumiko Mikimoto on muscle relaxation and training for pianists, guiding students to become aware of their bodies whilst playing and avoid unnecessary tension and resultant pain or discomfort.