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on regaining stretch and flexibility

Discussion in 'Technique' started by toybox, Mar 28, 2009.

  1. toybox

    toybox New Member

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    I am losing hand and finger stretch capacity and some flexibility as I grow older. **sigh**
    :( I am now 62 but have continued to work on piano repertoire as though I was still 25. This has become particularly obvious when I practice Brahms (the Paganini Variations in particular) and Rachmaninoff. I am not waving the white flag yet. My question is: what can I do to reverse this, or at least delay further loss of piano technique? (I want to remain true to a composer's written directions).
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am not 62 but I'm not 32, either. Only somewhere in between is all I am brave enough to tell.

    What you say about losing stretch as you get older is very interesting. For me, my stretch is actually getting wider. Since I am only a 120 pound, 5' 2" woman, my hands are not very big and although I am comfortable reaching octaves, reaching 9ths used to be pretty uncomfortable. However, I've been playing through a lot of repertoire for about the past 10 years, and it's almost as if my hands have grown. I've noticed it mostly in my left hand, but one of the pieces I'm currently working on ends with the right hand playing a chord that stretches from D-flat to E-flat with two notes in between. I couldn't reach it when I first started the piece, but now I can.

    So....not sure if the loss of flexibility/stretch just hasn't hit me yet, but I think that the more I play, the more flexible I get. At least that's what is happening so far.

    Maybe you have some arthritis? Do you warm up with finger exercises like scales and arpeggios before you tackle some music? (I'm supposed to do that, but admit that I don't.) (Probably one of the reasons I have tendonitis.)

    That's all I can think of right now.
     
  3. toybox

    toybox New Member

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    Thanks for your response pianolady!
    Yes, I faithfully do major and minor scales in 8va, 10ths and 6ths, and major, minor, V7, and dim7th arpeggios. I do have some arthritis, but I do not consider that it is serious. The webbing between my fingers has become tighter so that big chords that include 9ths and 10ths on the outside are really difficult. Apparently Brahms had hands that were quite suitable for things he wrote on the piano. I have not lost velocity, and double note passages are not a problem, except for instances like var. 1-2 in Book 1 of the Paganini Variations, and the Rachmaninoff B-flat prelude (middle section). I do not seem to have these problems in the Chopin f mi Ballade, even in the coda. So ok, maybe I should not perform the big stretchy pieces (I don't like to cheat by rolling chords if the composer does not indicate this). Perhaps there is yoga-type thing to do with hands that I never heard of? or someone might know of technical exercises that increase stretch?
     
  4. mixah

    mixah New Member

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    My teacher is about 55 now, and he's coming into some problems as well. He told me he soaks his hands in warm water every day and occassionally seeks orthopedic therapy for them (every few months) and he gets them massaged.

    He said there are things that have to do with your diet as well. Don't go with too much red meats and stay low in cholesterol and sodium.
     
  5. toybox

    toybox New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions. I didn't think about the warm water and that makes perfect sense. I have not been mindful about diet (weight is not an issue) but have heard a lot lately about too much red meat in diet. At this point I'll try just about anything, including yoga. I do think this is an age-related issue (arthritis) because I never had a stretch problem before. Now the Schumann Toccata seems beyond me :cry: **sigh**
     

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