THE PIANO WHILE DRIVING YOUR CAR
insane, but it's really not.
First of all,
the piano is mostly a mental exercise, but at higher levels, it
requires physical conditioning similar to that of the
never get to the level that requires such athletics, but in fact
beginners would do better and have more fun if they paid even
minimal attention to the physical demands of the piano keyboard.
Most beginner fingers are incredibly weak.
The type of
conditioning your fingers need is purely mechanical, mindless
and repetitive movement of the fingers in certain patterns that
help develop the muscles correctly.
pianist Liszt suggested practicing finger exercises or passages while
reading a book, and many did so. I use a television mounted on a
practice piano. I
watch a sitcom of 22 minutes average length, and that is a
"set" to me. The results are astounding, and appear slowly
Thus I use
television to endure the repetition of finger exercises, and it
is frankly the only use I can find for television these days.
But what about
when you are not at the piano?
There are many
activities that take only a small portion of our brain, leaving
the rest of your brain available to operate your fingers.
Most of us
spend some time in the car or train each day, and we are
captives of the capsule.
But put on a CD
of some bouncy music, and you have a piano finger aerobic class
waiting to happen.
First of all,
it is the last two fingers that need the exercise. The thumb,
index and middle finger are very strong and need no further
development until the fourth and fifth finger (ring and pinky)
are strengthened to an equal degree.
needed is as follows, where the index finger is used as an
Move your index
finger from a straight position until it touches your palm, and
then back to a straight position. You are trying to flex the
finger as much as possible, without straining at all. If you
cannot touch your palm easily, then stop short of your palm at
whatever distance is comfortable.
sequence with one hand, in time to the music on your CD (I like
Motown classics): pinky, pinky, ring, ring, pinky, pinky, ring,
ring. Not fast, but slow and steady. Pick a song that has a slow
steady beat, like Marvin Gaye's Keep On Dancin'.
I like to
include third finger (middle) as well, because the last three
fingers tend to operate as a group in piano literature anyway.
Try flexing all three fingers at once some times.
So, now play:
Pinky, pinky, ring, ring, middle, middle, ring, ring. Keep
repeating or vary as you wish. The point is to keep your weaker
fingers flexing toward the palm as much as possible over time.
adds up to eight or four beats will work.
When you tire a
finger, retire the hand and work the other hand until it tires
and then switch back.
Never push or
over exert the muscles, for tendonitis is easy to get and will
effectively end your piano career for a while.
You can also
use the thumb and index as part of the sequence if only to
relieve the weaker fingers a break.
fingers as well: pinky, pinky, middle, middle, ring, ring,
This idea is
partly based on a discussion between Vladimir Horowitz and one
of his students, where Horowitz told the young pianist to devise
custom exercises for his own hands, and apply them relentlessly.
Since the piano
requires brute strength in addition to brains and heart, here is
a good way to get as brute as you like. It's time wasted
I know people
who have adopted this idea and practice on commuter trains,
busses and carpools.
surprised what 45 minutes a day, twice a day, will do for the
strength of your piano fingers.
The results are
spectacular and use time otherwise wasted.