Out of the mouths of grown-up babes: new insights into piano technique

Managing an awkward chord configuration in an easy Bartok piece

Marko was having his weekly lesson, on Bartok as usual, and he was working on a left hand pattern that went from a chord A-E played with the 5th and 2nd fingers to a chord D-F# played with the 3rd finger and thumb. He told me that he noticed that he had to deviate unlarly to get his thumb onto the black key and I was giving him my whole shtick: “Yes, the people who forbid ulnar deviation place an unnecessary and counterproductive restriction on the hand. If you place your hand on the first chord and line up your 5th finger with your ulna (the outside forearm bone), then you just have to twist awkwardly to get your thumb onto the black note – now your thumb lines up with your radius (the inner forearm bone) and your 5th is turned to the outside. It would be much easier just to play the first chord with your hand already turned to the outside, and then just slide straight in towards the fallboard to play the second chord.”

I was quite gratified to see once again how the anti-ulnar deviation camp had been put to shame.

Using sensation to fine tune an idea put into practice

“No, no, that’s not what I meant,”  says Marko. “What feels good for me is when I consciously prevent ulnar deviation. I start with my 5th finger lined up with my ulna, and then as I’m sliding, I find I do indeed do a little bit of ‘turnout’ to get my thumb onto its key. But this way I am less ulnarly deviated than the other way, and the whole thing feels more comfortable and easier. Somehow combining that slight turn to the outside with the slide forward works best.”

Marko had come up with a more evolved and more practical solution and you know why? Because he let sensation teach him instead of following dogma! He was the one to put me to shame!

A nice lesson – for me!


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