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Maintaining hand muscle tone


Aidan

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I posed this question on Darren's thread about his search for a replacement for his AP but it understandably got buried, so I thought it was worth a thread of its own...

 

The question was basically this: How important is the weight of a daily practice instrument's action in maintaining good muscle tone and agility in the hands?

 

I've been giving the matter some thought in the past few days when switching between my CP5 and my RD700GX, which at the moment are both set up in the studio while I prep them for different forthcoming jobs.

 

I love the smooth-as-butter action of the Yamaha, and the ability to control the sound from a whisper to a roar, but I do worry that it doesn't make me work hard enough. I notice the difference when I come back to the Roland, especially executing rapid jazz runs. The RD has a deeper key travel too, which makes a difference.

 

So should we all be seeking the heaviest actions possible and effectively using them as a "gym" for any other instrument we may be called on to play? Or is the connection and expressiveness available on any given instrument more important than pure weight?

 

I know that some people feel that to play on a non-acoustic piano for any amount of time will be to the detriment of your technique but some of us just don't have the luxury of a real piano.

 

And in any case, such "real" pianos, as we all know, vary hugely in feel and weight. I did a choir rehearsal this morning on a Bluthner upright that had a lighter action than even my CP5, then followed that up with a spin on a Schimmel upright that felt like playing molasses.

 

My own instinct is that, in the final analysis, the amount of time spent practicing regularly is probably more influential on maintaining hand agility and muscular tone than the weight of the practice instrument's action but I'd be keen to hear other people's takes on this.

Studio: Yamaha P515 | Yamaha Tyros 5 | Yamaha HX1 | Moog Sub 37

Road: Yamaha YC88 | Nord Electro 5D

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Moderation.

 

Not too light, not too stiff.

 

Regular practice but don't damage yourself overdoing it.

 

Was it Schumann who wrecked his hands attaching weights to his fingers?

Moe

---

"I keep wanting to like it's sound, but every demo seems to demonstrate that it has the earth-shaking punch and peerless sonics of the Roland Gaia. " - Tusker

http://www.hotrodmotm.com

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You need to practice, at least some of the time, on an action that is at least as heavy as the heaviest action you're likely to face in the outside world. I prefer regularly going back and forth between differently-weighted pianos when practicing.

 

Sooner or later someone always points out that Horowitz played on a Steinway with an uncommonly light action. Horowitz, however, had the luxury of having his own personal Steinway D transported to wherever he'd be playing. Unlike Horowitz, most of the rest of us must deal with the piano we find on-site.

 

Larry.

 

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I read that Glenn Gould used pianos with very light action, too - of course, he could probably afford to have his personal piano transported, too!
He had his personal piano stool taken to all his gigs...

 

I wonder who packed his stool ... :whistle:

SK2 /w Mini Vent / XK3 Pro System /w 142 Leslie, Roland D70, Korg SP250 B3 1959 (retired) , Porta B (retired), XB2 (retired)

 

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As I am getting a bit older, very close to 60, I find I need to play about every day, songs I enjoy, songs that are very difficult, some classical stuff, different types of runs etc. I have three degrees of action on my Fantom the biggest problem is that the so called heaviest action is really just the sound turned down a bit and so on down. When I first started playing back in the early 70's I could go for weeks with out playing with no problems. I personally would rather find a heavy action piano in a store and play it for a time just to know that my hands can and will still play the way I want them too.
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For me, too much time spent on DPs = big trouble on acoustic.

 

Not to :deadhorse: but I've mentioned this a few times here. Two and a half years ago when the RD700GX hit the stores, I was one of the first ones in line to grab one . I spent all week from Sunday to Friday practicing and playing only that, trying to get used to it and see if I generally dug the sound. On Friday evening I was doing my bi-monthly trio gig at the Biltmore Hotel downtown with a trio backing up a singer. The piano was your typical beat to s..t hotel piano, a Kawai. At the end of the first set my hands were very sore, aching and throbbing pain. Very unusual as I never have those kind of problems. The action on the Kawai is terrible but I'd been doing this gig for over a year twice a month with never a problem. We took about 20 minutes and played set two. Near the end of that 45 minute set I could feel my hands starting to loosen up. After the next break and midway through the third set, the soreness was totally gone. Was it the Roland ? Can't say for sure but I don't think I've ever gone that long JUST playing a DP and not acoustic.

 

Also I've been putting more time in lately on the CP5 and Nord Piano, recording the Jazz samples and just generally futzing around on both trying to figure out which one works best for what. I wasn't playing the D that week I put up the examples and when I went to run through some of the Chopin Etudes, it was again an eye opener into the universe separating the acoustic and digital. Not only from an action standpoint but from the instrument-sound-nuance overall musical connection and control. Technical issues like octaves, double thirds and sixths that I take for granted when I'm up on my chops can suddenly become a problem--not so smooth execution, the overall legato and fluidity to my playing becomes not so fluid and effortless. :( I notice it right away.

 

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

2005 NY Steinway D

Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

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I read that Glenn Gould used pianos with very light action, too - of course, he could probably afford to have his personal piano transported, too!
He had his personal piano stool taken to all his gigs...

 

I wonder who packed his stool ... :whistle:

 

I'm so glad you said that, so I don't have to.

 

My response to the OP is simple: Hanon exercises, on a "piano-action" keyboard or on a real piano. It's worked for me, and I've played for 43 years now. Still a neophyte in some circles.

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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Yes, too may gigs on a DP spells death for my piano chops.

Got a rude shock recently when I had to play some Kawais with a heavy action. Not fun.

 

I'm in the middle of preparing for a gig on an acoustic piano, so I'm doing as many miles on my Yamaha Grand as possible. Scales, Modes, CHord voicings, 2-5-1's etc.

 

I find this works for me. I wish being musician was such a high maintenance occupation sometimes - though practicing is generally fun.

 

I wonder why some manufacturers make their low-to-mid range gradns so heavy to play? Most of the good pianos I've played aren't that heavy and they're a joy to play.

www.dazzjazz.com

PhD in Jazz Organ Improvisation.

BMus (Hons) Jazz Piano.

1961 A100.Leslie 45 & 122. MAG P-2 Organ. Kawai K300J. Yamaha CP4. Moog Matriarch. KIWI-8P.

 

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I wonder why some manufacturers make their low-to-mid range gradns so heavy to play? Most of the good pianos I've played aren't that heavy and they're a joy to play.

 

Not only the grands, either. I have a concert soon at a church with a choir I train in the adjacent church hall, so I thought I'd better check out what instrument they had in the church itself. The upright in the hall is an ancient Bluthner - needs work but the signature beautifully balanced Bluthner action is still there.

 

The upright in the church is a relatively new Schimmel - I've played a few of their top range grands in shops and as I opened it up I thought I was in for a treat. It was like playing molasses - heavy keys with a really sluggish return. A real "school piano".

 

It could be, of course, that Schimmel source these bottom-end pieces of junk from elsewhere and rebadge them.

Studio: Yamaha P515 | Yamaha Tyros 5 | Yamaha HX1 | Moog Sub 37

Road: Yamaha YC88 | Nord Electro 5D

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I hear you Aidan.

It's an issue that has me stumped - don't these people who make pianos think about this stuff? There's a guy here in Sydney who makes piano actions and they're amazing - Ron Overs.

www.dazzjazz.com

PhD in Jazz Organ Improvisation.

BMus (Hons) Jazz Piano.

1961 A100.Leslie 45 & 122. MAG P-2 Organ. Kawai K300J. Yamaha CP4. Moog Matriarch. KIWI-8P.

 

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I find the major difference between practicing on an AP and a DP to be area control and articulation rather than pure finger strength. As others have mentioned, many APs have much lighter action than most DPs. I think one should practice on many different actions, preferably acoustic if you have any available, and make the time to warm up on any acoustic you find yourself on at a gig.
Instrumentation is meaningless - a song either stands on its own merit, or it requires bells and whistles to cover its lack of adequacy, much less quality. - kanker
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