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I am learning Fantasie impromptu C# minor op 66. right now, and my fingers tense up intensely near the ending of the first part before the slow transition; i.e., the place where you play all of the notes starting from the G# to the C#, and after you play the intro part again.

Is there also any types of tricks I could use to not tense up so much? Because when I tense up, I mess up notes, and it all sounds really bad.

So I would like to know how I could prevent tensing up my hands, and to play the correct notes for this song. (Maybe a warmup before the song or something like that? I practice all of the scales twice prior to playing this song. Is this good enough)?

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  • Just a brief response to your question about scales: are you relaxed when you play them, and do you play so many that you get tired? If you aren't relaxed, or if you're getting fatigued, that will work against you when playing the Chopin.
    – Aaron
    Mar 6 at 22:43
  • Sorry I didn't respond. But yes, I try to play as relaxed as possible in order to hinder the tensing in my fingers. Plus, thank you for the link Mar 7 at 17:52
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You have probably had the experience as a young child of running, stumbling, and not quite falling. Think about how much more effort it required to recover from the stumble than it did to simply run.

There is an analogous situation in your fingers. You are tensing up because you haven't fully worked out exactly where to put your fingers. To get that sense of precision requires thought, planning and experimentation. You can't do all that and play up to tempo as well.

So, you have to slow down and work out exactly where to put your fingers, hands and arms. I'm sorry to be yet another bearer of the "slow practice is the solution" news, but there it is. You can look at any number of articles about how to play quickly without tensing up, but the answer is still play slowly without tensing up first, and the quickening will take care of itself.

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  • So practice with a metronome and get muscle memory? Or something along those lines? Mar 27 at 16:46
  • @al'stoybarn I would use a metronome much in the same way that you might use a tuning fork: to tell you what the tempo is, not to keep you on the beat. That you have to learn to do yourself. You can use a metronome periodically to see whether you are speeding up without realizing it, too. As for muscle memory, yes, but it's much more important to avoid telling your muscles the wrong thing to remember! Find the music. Imagine exactly what you want it to sound like, each note. Slow that idea down; replicate it with your fingers. Get it exactly the way that you want it to sound, at some tempo.
    – BobRodes
    Mar 28 at 6:07
  • @al'stoybarn That tempo will generally sound slower than you want it to for quite a while, and you have to be patient about that. You have to be very focused on the idea of finding what you want the music to sound like and replicating it. And avoid focusing on expected results. Be very disciplined about that. If you do that, you aren't focusing on creating the music in your mind. If you focus on building that, one brick at a time, it will happen. If you focus on expected results, it will not. One brick at a time. And not only that, you have to make each brick yourself! :)
    – BobRodes
    Mar 28 at 6:16
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"There is an analogous situation in your fingers. You are tensing up because you haven't fully worked out exactly where to put your fingers. To get that sense of precision requires thought, planning and experimentation. You can't do all that and play up to tempo as well."

This a 1000 times. A common mistake is "this piece sounds amazing, I want to play it as soon as possible at a tempo close to the original, cause that's so much fun". (And I don't blame you (or others) for wanting to do this at all, and have spent myself hundreds of inefficient practice hours as a result). Save it - learn the notes slowly and carefully. If you want to learn it by playing it over and over at the right pace but slowly ironing out the mistakes (if this is at all possible) then you'll be absolutely sick of the pieces at the end (despite how great they are). Practice slowly, ultra slowly even, but focused. As much as is possible, touch the keys before you play them (this is the single most valuable piece of advice I was ever given). Save the "proper run throughs" for another time, or if you really can't resist then maybe just once at then of your session or something. But your session should be slow.

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  • Wow! This is exactly me! You nailed it! Over two months later, I still have troubles, but it is far better than before! I am now going to try to practice slower! Thank you! You a piano genius or something? May 25 at 13:14
  • :D no, i just recognise when we're being human:)
    – tomos
    May 25 at 14:09
  • @al'stoybarn We all do it, and we all do it over and over, and we all have to learn not to. Unless maybe we're a piano genius or something. :) I'm no genius, but I did get my degree in piano nearly 40 years ago. Which means I've probably spent THOUSANDS of inefficient practice hours getting frustrated and refusing to admit that it was because of my own impatience. :) So, keep practicing slower. Things will continue to improve.
    – BobRodes
    May 26 at 5:04

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