Piano – Slow Playing in a Lesson (Musicians)(Psychology)(Pain)(Strain)(Injuries)(Posture)(Alexander Technique)(Albuquerque)

by ethankind on April 6, 2014

This ebook, An Alexander Technique Approach to Piano 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 piano 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)

I was working with a pianist, Mary, recently, and we were talking about piano technique and about playing a piece very slowly to work out technique, fingering, posture, and interpretation.

One of things that has been difficult for Mary is giving herself permission to slow the piece down enough to work out all of the above elements. As I’ve worked with Mary, it has been very difficult to allow herself to play slowly enough for this to happen.

I attributed this way of learning pieces to Mary’s piano training, and I was right. Most, if not all of her piano teachers, expected and demanded that she play the piece at tempo as quickly as possible.

I knew this, but in this particular Alexander Technique piano lesson we were having, she said something to me that I had never considered. Here it is in a nutshell.

“IT WASN’T THAT I WAS TOLD I SHOULDN’T PRACTICE SLOWLY ENOUGH TO WORK OUT THE TECHNIQUE, FINGERING, AND POSTURE OF THE PIECE. THIS WAS EXPECTED, BUT WHAT WAS EXPECTED BY THE PIANO TEACHER WHEN I CAME TO MY LESSON, WAS THAT I ALWAYS PLAY THE PIECE AT TEMPO.

This really struck me as a very high pressure expectation. Why? Because it meant that every time she went to her piano lesson, the piece had to be played at tempo, even if it meant that it caused her to tense horribly and try to hold it together to make it through the whole piece.

At that point I understood why it was nearly impossible for her to play very slowly for me, even when I gently requested it. She had been conditioned so powerfully over her student piano years to always play at tempo for her piano teachers.

I’m NOT a piano teacher. I’m an Alexander Technique teacher, who was a concert guitarist, who clearly is communicating to Mary that I only want her to take care of herself. I want her to play the piano as slowly as is necessary, so that she can learn the piece or a new technique at a tempo that doesn’t cause her to sacrifice her mind and body.

When I work with Mary at the piano, I want her to gradually pick up the tempo, and the rate of speeding up is totally subservient to her not stressing her mind and body. I work with the faith in her that she will exceed tempo. This has been hard for Mary to accept. The reason this is hard for Mary to accept, is because none of her piano teachers let her play slowly in her lessons, so she unconsciously came to be believe that slow playing does not lead to playing at tempo.

This is an extraordinarily cruel belief, because it has taught Mary that she could not arrive at tempo without sacrificing her body. Here is what is implied in this way of learning music: Even if you’re making a mess of the piece and your technique, if you’ll just keep plowing ahead at tempo, eventually you’ll gain control over your mind and body.

THIS JUST AIN’T SO! If it were so, why do you think so many pianists get into physical trouble and either quit, have surgery, or go to an Alexander Technique teacher?

This not that uncommon in all of the other instruments out there. If this has been your experience in learning to play, sing, or conduct, then it is NEVER too late let yourself perform or conduct slowly enough to acquire a loving technique that works.

Now you know why you couldn’t slow down enough to learn what needed learning on your instrument or in conducting, and that it is not a flaw in your character that you couldn’t slow down. You now can choose to make your technique and approach to your instrument and conducting right and kind.

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