One of our students asked us to watch a video and “explain it to him”. Here is our response to his request.
We watched the video you referred us to where he talks about hand and arm motion and his “Whole-Body Approach” to piano playing. Not to be rude, but this whole approach is nonsense. Howard would say, “No, that’s bullshit”. He is completely wrong about this. His hands move WAAAAY too much. You should have a relaxed arm, shoulder, wrist etc, but then your hand should be as quiet as possible. The less movement you make, the more control you have and the less effort you will have on your body. Of course, if your hands and arms are relaxed, they won’t be completely still, they will move easily and naturally as necessary to play the music. But, the good players don’t purposely make specific arm and hand motions except for show business purposes (visual flourishes).
When you are playing really easy stuff, like he demonstrates in the beginning, it’s possible to do any sorts of motions. As the pieces become more challenging and have more notes, you don’t have time for all that motion.
I went to a week long workshop one time and the main teacher was teaching everyone to lift their wrist up high and then drop it and use arm weight and gravity. We spent the week practicing that way. But then he did a concert for us and he didn’t do ANY of that stuff. He played with a very quiet hand, very little movement at all. Even he didn’t follow his own rules.
When I began watching the intro to this video and watched what Doctor Keys was doing with his hand it just looked ridiculous to me.
Here are a few videos to check out of famous pianists playing. Watch their hands.
Emanuel Ax https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtYS2q4VI9o
Vladimir Horowitz (probably the best pianist ever) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad22A-mm8xM start at 7:00 minutes on the video.
Elton John https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObV-6BiMtT8
There is an extended solo starting at about 4:15 that he improvises.
Billy Joel and Elton John duet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcYSSYnf_l8 close up of Billy’s hands at 3:30 or so
Here is a video of Howard jamming blues with one of his old students. Watch Howard’s hands especially https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NawU8tkfp8Y
Here is Howard and me playing a two-piano piece I wrote called Rondo Andalusia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPoxbdbnZ6M
Til next time,