Harpsichord – Fast Playing and Slow Playing ARE the Same (Musicians)(Psychology)(Pain)(Strain)(Injuries)(Posture)(Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on April 8, 2014

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Harpsichord Technique, is published on this website in a PDF format. It is very detailed and practical, and it will give you the physical tools you need to take the limits off of your ability to create the accurate harpsichord technique you want without sacrificing your body.
This ebook is also for sale on all AMAZON websites in a KINDLE format.
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. (MOVEMENT THERAPY)

THE BASIS OF PLAYING THE HARPSICHORD FASTER AND FASTER IS NOT MOVING THE FINGERS FASTER AND FASTER. AS LONG AS YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO MOVE YOUR FINGERS FASTER TO PLAY FASTER, AND DO SO OR ATTEMPT TO DO SO, PLAYING VERY FAST WILL BE STRESSFUL. Let me explain.

I have to go back to my experience as a guitarist when I was studying at the Royal College of Music in London with Carlos Bonell. Carlos Bonell is a very fine classical guitar teacher and concert artist.

One of the things Carlos did to revamp my guitar technique was to teach me to strike the strings, pluck the strings, as quickly as my reflexes would allow me, no matter the tempo. What does this mean?

IT MEANS THAT EVERY SINGLE NOTE THAT I PLAY ON THE GUITAR, I PLAY AS QUICKLY AS MY FINGER CAN REFLEXIVELY MOVE, NO EXCEPTIONS, TO CREATE A PURE CLEAN SOUND.

What does reflexively mean? It means that each finger, without exception, twitches through the string as quickly as humanly possible.

On the guitar I practiced for hours and hours and hours striking through the string and instantly returning the finger to playing position. This of course is where the harpsichord is very different than the guitar. Once the guitarist has plucked/struck through the string, the string continues to sound on its own, so the guitarist can return the finger to being ready to play again instantly.

So, I learned on the guitar to always move my right hand fingers reflexively and for the non-playing fingers to be at ease, which is the same on the harpsichord.

Let me talk about the left hand fingers that press the strings into the fingerboard on the guitar. I also learned to move them reflexively into and off of the strings. In many ways what the guitarist’s left hand does is more like what the harpsichordist does, because the finger must hold the string down if it is going to sound, which is very similar to what the harpsichordist does.

The major difference between what the guitarist does with the left hand fingers and what the harpsichordist does with all of the pianist’s fingers is THE GUITARIST REQUIRES SOME STRENGTH TO KEEP THE STRING SOUNDING, WHEREAS THE HARPSICHORDIST NEVER EVER NEEDS TO PRESS THE KEY DOWN TO KEEP IT DOWN, SO THAT THE NOTE CONTINUES TO SOUND. IT ONLY TAKES TWO OUNCES OR LESS OF WEIGHT TO KEEP A HARPSICHORD KEY DOWN!

THE BASIS OF EFFORTLESS VERY FAST HARPSICHORD PLAYING IS FINGERS THAT ALWAYS MOVE REFLEXIVELY, AND THE FINGER THAT IS TO PLAY NEXT ALREADY BE MOVING REFLEXIVELY BEHIND THE FINGER ALREADY PLAYING, WHICH CREATES A WAVE MOTION OF NON-STOP REFLEXIVELY TWITCHING FINGERS.

Given this, the harpsichordist can begin to realize that fast playing is NOT THAT DIFFERENT from slow playing, which means slow practice is not that different from playing the same passage at tempo! What do I mean?

If you play a very very fast passage in a piece of harpsichord music very very slowly moving the fingers reflexively, twitching into the keys and also twitching out of the keys, then aside from the time between the notes being greater, the slow playing is no different than the fast tempo.

As I said, as you play the passage faster and faster, fingers cannot wait for the preceding finger to get to the next note in time, given you cannot move a finger any faster than you can move a finger, no matter how much you may try to move the finger faster.

What is the implication of all of this?

THE REASON MANY HARPSICHORDISTS CONSIDER FAST PLAYING TO BE MUCH HARDER THAN SLOW PLAYING IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE A GIGANTIC MISCONCEPTION THAT FAST PLAYING IS VERY VERY DIFFERENT THAN SLOW PLAYING. ONCE THE HARPSICHORD PLAYER REALIZES THIS ISN’T TRUE, IT OPENS THE DOOR FOR THE HARPSICHORDIST TO LET GO OF HIS OR HER FEAR OF PLAYING FAST PASSAGES AND FAST COMPOSITIONS.

Since many pianists label fast passages to be difficult, then they approach the learning of these passages with fear and a determination to get them clean and at tempo AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, which for most harpsichordists results in much greater tension in the hands and arms, than when playing the same passage slowly.

This does not have to be!

IF YOU REALIZE AS A HARPSICHORDIST THAT FAST PLAYING CAN BE DONE EFFORTLESSLY BY REFLEXIVELY MOVING FINGERS NOT WAITING THEIR TURN, THEN YOU WILL DISCOVER THAT THERE IS NO PROBLEM TAKING YOUR TIME TO MASTER A FAST PASSAGE AT A SLOW TEMPO.

YOU THEN HAVE THE SELF-LOVING LUXURY OF TAKING YOUR TIME WITH SLOW PRACTICE, BEFORE YOU MASTER THE PASSAGE OR PIECE AT AN AMAZINGLY FAST TEMPO WITH EASE IN YOUR WHOLE BODY AND MIND.

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