February 4, 2020

About the Author: Sonja Joubert

Sonja Joubert is a master pianist classically trained by the late master Mr Josias Van Der Merwe and the late Adolph Hallis. She is also an excellent piano teacher with over 40 years of teaching experience specialising in both jazz and classical piano.

Before we get to the why always remember to take care of your body:

In the first place we are working with muscles in the hand, especially the fingers and then also the wrist, lower arm, upper arm and shoulders.

Even the whole body are coming in to play when one sits to perform in front of a piano.

As with any other sport, muscles needs to be cared for and developed.

Many a serious piano or instrument player had to find this out much later with a lot of pain and frustration, because of no or little training on how to practise or rather how to not over practice and overstretch muscles.

This is specifically important for pianists or instrumentalists who are so serious about practise that they practice hours without end – being utterly disciplined but having no breaks and eventually actually nearly destroyed their career as a performer, but thankfully with a lot of care had it restored again.

This is quite another subject though, which we can discuss later namely the care of your muscles, hands and relaxation techniques.

The point we are making is that we are actually working with muscles like any other athlete or gymnast who has to practice daily in order to do well in their performance.

Most of these seem to have an ease of doing things, like as though it's effortless.

The truth of the matter is that they spent hours and hours of time and dedication to develop all the muscles needed for the one watching it all looks so easy.

I'm sure you have seen a great instrument player and thought or told them “you make it look so easy” – and yes so it may look and yes may even be easy now for the person playing, but let me assure you that was not always the case!

Practicing technical exercise develops technique and makes your playing more fun!

Having a good technique gives one the ability to play and enjoy and also to let others enjoy listening.

Your playing will sound good and favourable to the ear.

Have you ever listened to someone and thought – “oh no, it sounds horrible”?

Well I suppose we all have, and we were probably also all at that point at a time!

So don't give up, the point is, the better your technique and ability on the keys, the more others and you yourself will be able to enjoy the music and its interpretation, without having to think how, e.g. uneven or slow or haphazard it sounds.

A good technique and good sound go together with making beautiful music.

At the end this is our purpose to be able to make beautiful music that is enjoyable to us and others.

That brings us to the point that we need to practise and work on our technique and muscles daily to develop them and keep them fluent and flexible.

Being able to play well and with ease enhances one's playing 100 percent.

Without proper technique, one will always sound like a beginner or untrained. Good technique is crucial for good sound and good performance.

What is technique?

I think we can define it as having the ability to play well and skillfully and beautifully on the pianoforte.

Playing well on chords, fast running finger passages, melodic phrasing and melody creating, polyphonic playing etc. The ability to execute a music piece for piano with skill and great ease.

How do we develop technique so that we can reach this goal of playing with ease, skill and be able to interpret and create beautiful sound?

By practise, being diligent with daily practise.

Having this vision and the desire to play well and sound well will push one forward to develop and practise technique.

Key points to keep in mind to help you become the pianist you’ve always wanted to be:

  • Practise with a set routine
  • Have a daily practie “workout”
  • Be diligent and tenacious to see results!
  • Be patient, Rome wasn’t build in a day… your playing needs time!
  • Believe in yourself and use visualisation to “see” the great pianist that YOU deserve to be!

So what do we practise in order to develop technique?

There are many many books on exercises and studies and scales for piano that one can study.

Your piano teacher will be able to guide you here.

The question is where to start?

Of course, it depends if you are a beginner or an advanced student.

For the advanced student technique practise will not be new, but for the beginner, this technique practise will help you develop much faster and enjoy your playing much sooner.

There are books for beginners with very basic exercises with which one can start your daily practice.

Just a short run-through of a few exercises will do wonders.

Scales does wonders too.

Most musicians have their own little favourite routine to loosen up muscles and fingers, then a passage that runs through all the scales (for the more advanced) and some arpeggios for stretches.

Your teacher will probably be giving you some good technical exercises to practise.

Some technical exercise can be boring and a bit over the top, but you will be able to find good ones that are fun and repetitive and enjoyable.

There are also the “exercises” that your own piano pieces which you play offer.

Many times one can take a specific bar or two that are difficult and make it into a technical exercise to practise daily so that this little part becomes easy and part of you and no more a problem in the specific performance piece.

Most technical exercises have a set pattern and could be practised in different keys.

These exercises can be practised with putting an accent on a specific count, like as on the 1st beat of each bar eg in a 4/4 counting.

So there will be an accent on each 1st beat.

Accent can be changed for the next time to maybe having an accent on beat 2 etc.

It means that different fingers will get hard work by playing with extra stress or pressure.

So all the fingers get exercise.

If you do technical exercises, it concentrates on a specific aspect that needs practise like the thumb moving under the hand in scales or practising the movement of 3rds or chords or jumps etc.

What is a great plus about technical exercises is, that it gives one a feeling of achievement on a small scale, as each technical exercise is usually short and repetitive and after a while, one easily see and feel the improvement of practising these.

It becomes a pleasure and a great sense of achievement when the exercise starts to flow easily. Fast fingers moving with ease and precision – is a pleasure and gives one great satisfaction.

So keep on!

There are also exercises to help train the muscles in the arm and hand to respond quickly as in a split second as is needed in playing fast-moving passages with having to jump from bass note to chord, or chord to chord.

One can also develop your own technical exercises – to practise daily.

Technical exercises are usually the first thing to start with if you are doing your planned piano practice.

It helps ease up your muscles before doing your pieces. I have a short standard technical exercise that I do wherever I go to perform, be it at a concert, at a friends place of at a house.

I love the feeling of being able to just sit and play through this run – moving from the bottom to the top of the piano with fingers running easily because I know this exercise very well by now.

It helps one to prepare hands and fingers and makes you feel comfortable with playing.

Here is the basic movement which I use throughout all the keys starting from whichever key you like.

A basic exercise that is wonderful for warm-ups is the following: C – E – D – F – E – G – F – D (perfect to take chromatically up the keys!)

Then I love the basic arpeggios on a chord progression like as on Bach’s Chaconne, doing it over 4 octaves.

I normally do RH and LH and then both together again.

All these passages can be practised with accents or rhythms and also with staccato (loose, detached notes)- thus not legato.

These are the one or two technical exercises I do as a norm.

Of course, there are many many more you can do.

If you are enrolled for piano lessons, your teacher will be able to guide you.

There is also ample available on the internet.

To sum up:

If you really want to sound good and enjoy playing the piano – get technical and practise exercises in a daily, disciplined diligent, schedule with good concentration, making sure you give attention to play things the right way to generate that good technique you need.

So get on with it and work!

Do you need a remarkable change in your playing?

Start planning to do technical exercises from today onwards on a regular basis.

You will radically increase your pianistic abilities and enjoy your playing SO MUCH more!

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