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Re: Pure Finger

At 23:18 26/03/97 -0500, you wrote:
>Hello --
>I was wondering if anyone knows anything about the paticulars of Gould's
>piano technique -- other than the well-know unorthodoxies, I haven't heard 
>anything more than snippets about his "pure finger technique", the theory 
>behind it, how he learned and practiced it, other pianists who play with 
>similar techniques, and such.  (I guess this is a question directed 
>towards the piano players out there.)

        The basic piano technique that is taught involves the whole body,
but especially the arm, wrist and fingers.  In a "normal" technique, the
hand is held in an arch shape with the wrist being either level or slightly
higher than the bridge of the hand (depending on who your teacher is, the
size of the hand etc).  The basic "stroke" involved movement from the
shoulder, through the lower arm (ie below the elbow) to the fingers with a
supple wrist (gee, maybe _I_ should write a book about technique!).

        Now Glenn's technique, at least in his mature life, and I mean not
necessarily when he started, but when we have recordings of his playing, is
somewhat different.  The most obvious difference, is that he using more
finger than arm. His wrist is usually lower than the arch of the hand, which
means that the power of the playing comes much more from the fingers.  This,
with enough practise, allows more control of the fingers with a
corresponding loss of strength from the upper arm.  Glenn emphasised this
playing position with his stool/chair, which is set lower than I think most
piano stools, and is a very good reason for him to have used this chair all
of the time, as he couldn't be sure of getting a stool at the correct
height.  This finger independence allowed Gould to have a precise and clear
touch, although his legato phrasing isn't so good - but that is exactly what
his playing style and repetoire needed/wanted (and it is a bit of a
chicken/egg situation - was it the technique that drove the repetoire, or
vice versa).

        This finger technique is a variation of a standard harpsichord
technique, although I have not heard anyone with such precision and clarity.
This raises another point - it is not the technique that made Glenn good,
but Glenn himself.  There is no way that anybody could use his piano
techniques and be as good as him, without having the inborn talent.  Also, I
am sure that a lot of his health problems in later life, especially the
shoulder pains, were a cause of his unusual positioning.  It is not for
nothing that there is a "standard" playing position, as it allows as much of
the body as possible to take the stain of performing.

        As a final point, it is interesting to note that a number of jazz
players (Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bill Evans) also have used a lower
wrist position than normal, although all three don't use it exclusively.
Bruce Petherick                          |
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