9

When playing a chord, be it with the right hand or the left, I'm really having trouble hitting all keys together reliably. I will often have a little audible delay between the individual notes. I practice regularly, but I have yet to find a specific method beyond repetition. Is there an exercise for this or something like a better mental way to approach it?

I'm taking piano lessons and my teacher will correct me on my hand and finger posture and point out the delay, but could not provide me with help beyond "concentrate and practice".

I have larger than average hands (I think) and short fingernails. I have most problems when I have to play the chords legato with the next chord as e.g. in this exercise (Czerny): enter image description here

I uploaded a video of me playing the right hand of that (left hand is filming 😊). I hope I got enough angles. That is on a keyboard with weighted keys. I also have a mechanical upright piano.

3
  • One of the reasons it happens to me is because I went from cut short nails to long ones, so I can't press the keys the same way as when they were cut.
    – Clockwork
    Jan 5 at 11:26
  • As with everything, it takes muscle development, so if you're relatively new, just pay attention and in time it will get better (providing you're following Tim's advice about playing using the wrist.) Jan 5 at 15:53
  • If it's a particularly wide chord and your hands cannot make the spread, it's normal to arpeggiate the chord. Some famous composers like Liszt and Rachmaninoff had unusually large hands, and most people would have difficulty playing some of their chords all at once. If you're younger or you have small hands, you might have difficulty even with smaller spreads. You'll have to learn to work with what you've got. (I've seen some incredibly talented pianists with tiny hands, so it's not impossible, you just have to adjust your style for that sort of thing.) Jan 5 at 21:41
14

Only a guess, as there's not a lot to go on.

It could be that you're trying to play with your fingers, as opposed to your hand. Yes, that sounds daft, but beginners sometimes think that a chord is like an extension of single notes together. Which it obviously is, but it won't be played as such.

Away from the piano, move your fingers from the knuckle joint. They can be made to move together, or separately. Now move the hand from the wrist. If you keep the fingers that will make the chord slightly lower, back at the piano, they will press the keys first. So, what's suggested is forming the chord with the fingers, but articulating from the wrist, rather than from the knuckles.

To practise this, first press the appropriate keys down, then lift the whole hand, then, keeping the fingers in position, move the whole hand up and down from the wrist. It will be easier to try with only two notes initially, before getting too clever.

Sorry if this sounds complex - it's much easier to do person to person at the piano, than it is to try to explain in words.

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  • @Tim Is there any more information I could provide? Your answer doesn't sound too complex BTW. Jan 5 at 13:57
  • Only a video to show what you do now.
    – Tim
    Jan 5 at 14:01
  • @JannPoppinga Search for piano hand technique and piano hand posture on youtube. Technique text answers have very limited practical scope. Jan 6 at 4:37
  • @Tim I made a video! youtu.be/XX1oBpVWG3M Jan 7 at 21:04
  • 1
    @JannPoppinga - o.k. When you said chords, I assumed three or more notes. Some say a chord can have two notes (I don't). My answer won't work for that. It's a fingers movement, and you're doing o.k., by keeping your knuckes steady, and articulating from them. Now it's a matter of continuing to practise, probably with more conviction than you show there! Put a lot more force into it.
    – Tim
    Jan 8 at 9:31
4

One possible exercise is to practice playing the triads corresponding to a scale as you would a scale. So for A major, instead of playing A – B – C# – D – E – F# – G# – A, you can play the chords:
A - Bm - C#m - D - E - F#m - G#dim

For minor scales you might want to invent a few variations of the exercise to cater for the flexibility in minor keys.

3

I'm afraid your teacher is right. This is a problem common to all keyboard instruments and others as well (harp, guitar). It simply requires lots of practice and careful listening.

1

Your example piece is not absolute beginner material. It's hard for me to believe you really can't play basic chords like those and strike all the notes simultaneously. If you were asked to play a C major chord in isolation (not as chord within a performance piece) are you really unable to strike all the notes simultanteously?

Unless your teacher is being super, super sensitive to the point of absurdity, I suspect you may in effect be playing an arpeggio during performance, like this...

enter image description here

...when the score doesn't actual have an arpeggio sign...

enter image description here

You may be doing this naturally. It does sound nice, more florid. But your teacher may be objecting, because it isn't in the score.

Also, I think rolling chords in this way can be a sort or performance strategy to work around accuracy issues. If you can't quite hit the whole chord with confidence and accuracy, you can get to the bass note first then role the rest of the chord. That buys you a bit of time to make the chord change. But the down side is it works around the accuracy issue ...and adds an embellishment not in the score.

I method I used to improve in this area was to play basic two chord changes repeated at octaves, like this...

enter image description here

You can use various chord changes like...

enter image description here

...and just move through the circle of fifths or transpose up/down chromatically.

Don't go faster than you can manage. Just do two octaves if that's easier. Visualize the keys you will be hitting in the new octave. Try actually looking at them before you put your hands on them. When you really visualize the target only then make the actual move. Do it quickly and confidently.

The strategy here works a bit backwards. As I said before, I expect you can play a simple chord. You don't need to practice that. You can do it, but you need to execute that at performance speed. In actual performance you need to strike chords without any delay. When your accuracy and confidence improves through the octave exercise you should be able to stop rolling chords during performance.

-1

When playing, lift your wrist about 1-2 inches above the keys. Make your fingers arched, very arched. Make sure when you play you use strength from your arm and not your fingers as other answers have stated.

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  • Both lifting the wrist and arching the fingers make it harder to play notes simultaneously, because those postures emphasize the difference in the lengths of the fingers. Further, weight, not strength, is the healthy way to produce sound. Strength leads to tension leads to injury.
    – Aaron
    Jan 11 at 16:24
  • @Aaron, his wrists are very low, no piano player would play this low. The lowness of his wrists is causing him to lose strength when playing chords. He is simply relying on his fingers instead of his arm. This creates inconsistency. When I said strength I was referring to the same concept, not straining.
    – Luke Abram
    Jan 11 at 16:27
  • His wrist is in the ideal position -- the same position as when one's arm is resting at the side. This is how pianists play, excepting those who arch their wrist when releasing a key. Raising his wrist would bring it out of alignment. His fingers are already arched -- any more and he'd be playing directly on his fingertips which is not where the strike point should be. And he's dropping his hand onto the keys from his arm. Not ideal, but clearly using weight rather than force.
    – Aaron
    Jan 11 at 16:33
  • His wrist appears to be below the keys which is much too low. Fingertips are the best way to play the keys.
    – Luke Abram
    Jan 11 at 17:40

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