Technique Series: 6. Independence of hands, 'pushing off' and 'hugging'
Do your forearms ever stiffen up when playing? Or do you sometimes feel you can’t produce the quality of tone that you would like?
A common cause of both is insufficiently thorough independence of hands:
The body is built symmetrically, and feels most comfortable when both hands are playing the same thing: either staccato, or legato.
Tension easily creeps in when one is playing staccato and the other legato because each hand is drawn to emulate the other, so then neither hand plays a beautifully rounded staccato or a deep and smooth legato.
So what we need to is to exaggerate and enjoy the differences at a deeper physical level.
Step 1. Staccato: using intention, but no tension, “pushing off”.
Step 2. Legato: “Hugging” - even massaging the piano.
Step 3. Both at once, one movement at a time, thinking of a see-saw in action where the heavier brother causes the lighter sister to fly off her seat!
Step 4. A piece with consistently detached LH chords and consistently legato RH melody e.g. Mazurka by Maria Szymanowska
Step 5. A piece with detached RH chords and a LH legato melody e.g. the arrangement of O Waly Waly by Hywel Davies
Step 6. A piece with a variety of RH articulation over detached LH chords e.g. Ecossaise in G by Beethoven
Step 7. A piece which requires a variety of articulation in both hands. - The method remains the same, taking care over one movement at a time in “see-saw” fashion, deciding the precise length of every note and deeply experiencing the physical feel of each hand in relation to the other.
Lucinda Mackworth-Young, International Director of The Piano Teachers' Course UK
Lucinda is an inspirational international lecturer, workshop leader, author, pianist and teacher. Over the past four decades she has pioneered Practical Psychology for Musicians, Dance for Musicians and a system for learning to Play by Ear and Improvise in Simple Steps.