Advanced Piano Coaching Online

How to easily obtain “the bridge”

Preliminary informations: Neuhaus’ bridge and crane

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1. This chapter focuses on the exercise 2 of the video above - “The pianist’s spine cannot be stiff”. This basic exercise is performed with expressly exaggerated movements, to facilitate the learning process. At the end of the video, you can see minimal movementsas, normally used to play (barely perceptible in practice).

2. The exercise above consists of four notes chords (the fingering 1245 for the both hands) which facilitate the fingers’ rest at the bottom of the keys. ie. a solid contact between the hands and the keyboard. Before playing each following chord, the initial position must be resumed (photo 1 below).


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Caption: active movements passive movement

Photo 1 - preparation: the back completely rounded, the head lowered.
Photo n°2 - action:
you have to push back energetically from the keyboard while unfolding your arms from the elbows (cf. the video below).

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3. The straightening of the back must be passive, ie. achieved with the pushing off movements of the arms, and stimulated by the backward movement of the head. You should not straighten your back before or after the chord. This whole complex movement must be synchronized in such a way that the trunk’s entire weight leans on the bottom of the keyboard for a very short while.

4. Some pianists even rise above the piano stool to increase the pressing on the keys. Watch Maurizio Pollini performing one of the most difficult Etudes of Liszt - n° 10 of the 12 Transcendental etudes (photo below) How does he do it? Observe his left leg here!


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Phone: open the animation.

5. This exercise is truly magic! It forces the movements activating the whole body of the player, putting in gear his weight with the piano’s mechanism. I have observed in practice that after having played a few chords in this way, each student starts obtaining a better sonority.

6. Why? No one will say that a car’s wheels are the source of its movement although an outside observer only sees the wheels’ mobility, the motor being invisible. Yet, many people would be inclined to think that the vocal cords are the singer’s voice’s source whereas his real “motor” consists of his lungs, the diaphragm and a strong lean on the legs (sore after a concert!) - simply put, the whole body. Likewise, when one watches the pianist, one only sees his fingers striking the keys. A great majority not only of the players, but - alas - also of the piano teachers focus excessively on the fingers’ work while forgetting the motor and the whole mechanism transmitting this motor’s energy toward the piano keys. As for the singer, the pianist’s motor, ie. his energy source, is his whole body: from his feet firmly resting on the floor (try playing while slightly lifting the feet!) to the top of the head. The head which does not only function at the level of the brain but also in a much more prosaic manner - as this whole mechanism’s counterweight.

7. The motor mechanism of an experienced pianist is optimized and synchronized so as to liberate the greatest power and the fingers’ efficiency with the slightest effort and the smallest possible movements. However, to achieve such a mastery, one has to begin by performing these same correct movements by exaggerating them, ostensibly and amply. It is only as and when the assimilation of the good reflexes progresses that one can start diminishing, very progressively, these movements while increasing the tempo of the pieces played.


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