Hello everyone. I would like to share my views on technical practice as well as inform you of things that will hopefully help you better your technique.
I've had an immense amount of time on my hands lately and decided to really go down to the very basics of piano technique, as I believe anything can be mastered if the proper foundation is built. The simple concept that I came across astonished me due to the drastic results in such a simple form and small period of time.
I've observed the many arguments over isolated technical practice vs. "more musical" approaches such as etudes and Bach inventions. I noticed that a majority of you seem to recommend the latter, but I actually find the former to be more effective.
It does NOT lessen a pianist's musicality, a matter of fact, I found that it widened my range of sensitivity as paradoxical as it may sound.
If done in the right manor, scales can greatly enhance one's skill. When scales come to mind, most tend to think of relentlessly running up and down the keyboard as fast as possible. That does absolutely nothing but perhaps impress a spectator. The faster you play, the more of your subconscious mind you're using. The slower you play, the more you have to actually think of the next move. Regardless of the speed though, plain old scales do little for you.
So how do you perform scales effectively? Simple. Emphasize a certain beat- preferably the 3rd, since it distributes the load among more fingers in less octaves.
(of course the LH would be done simultaneously an octave down)
The first passage demonstrates the distribution of fingers using the triplets method. Repeating this a few times until mastered definitely helped my technique, but eventually the improvement stopped. I suppose this has to do with the way the mind works.
I like to compare it to throwing a football at a target. Let's say you have three tries. The first, you end up throwing too short. The second is too far. By the third try, your brain has received enough data to make a more accurate attempt. You didn't keep throwing it too short, you added more strength.
Well this is the difference between normal scales and emphasized scales. Normal scales use purely muscle memory and the mind doesn't have to work at it much once it remembers the combination of movements. The emphasized beats reinforce the way the mind thinks. It's no longer about 'Which finger am I using?," but rather "What beat am I on?" That concept alone has tremendously aided my attention to dynamics.
So as I was saying, the first passage became easy after regular practice, so based on the fact that the task at hand must always be reinforced in order to show improvement, I created a new challenge, which was the second passage. I noticed that after playing the second, it changed the way my mind perceived the first. I found myself repeating notes when I should have played the next. Although it caused temporary errors in my technique, this was a great discovery because the mind has two different rhythmic viewpoints, and the conflict between them is what makes any similar task much easier. They seem to build off of each other in a way.
Giving your mind different versions of the same thing is what causes great results. I use the triplets method for two octaves on every scale (although I believe it's supposed to be three, but ether way should do justice to even finger distribution).
After only three days of using this concept, I found the beginning of my 'Un Sospiro,' nearly comparable to Hamelin's. (Youtube)
So I strongly disagree with the myth about isolated technical practice making one less musical. I believe it's simply preparing you for what's to come. There's nothing wrong with etudes, but the distribution of difficulty tends to lean more towards the RH rather than both. Bach is alright too, but it lacks the emphasis of beats, which is the most important ingredient for derivation, thus progress.
Now it begins to make sense why Liszt was known for so many combination of fingerings of scales.