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When I do finger exercises (e.g. Hanon's), my pinky finger is being raised after I play (press and release) a key with my fourth finger, and then is raised even more and is striated after the third finger plays a key. I try to fight it, in order to preserve a nice curvature of the hand. However, does every piano player have a problem with this, and is this problem able to be overcome?

19

Unnecessary effort is inefficient. Unnecessary tension is damaging both to your technique and to your body. Play as slowly as necessary until you can relax your pinky. I guarantee you can play one note a minute with a relaxed pinky. Then slowly increase speed. If there's one thing that proper practice is good for, it's breaking bad habits. But, like anything else worth doing, it will take time. Be patient.

  • Agreed. I just tried what the OP described and was surprised to see my pinky move, but with concentration kept it from happening. I would assume I'm able to do so due to piano practice. – Matthew Read Apr 29 '11 at 13:23
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    Make sure that you pay attention to the issue even after you fix it; because of my inattentiveness, I've had the "british pinky" sneak back into my technique several times. – Babu Apr 29 '11 at 13:48
  • my own experience supports your advice and Babu's : if you want to add something to your technique, you have to build it in progressively from the slowest speed and utmost conscious attention to the speed and automaticity you can reach with your other skills. Rushing will only mean volatility. – ogerard May 3 '11 at 6:05
  • My wife calls them "Alien Antennas." This is about the only way to solve them. – Josiah May 16 '15 at 14:43
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A good excersise to help overcome that is to put your hand flat on a table. Then, with your hand relaxed, try to lift one individual finger while keeping your other fingers on the table. Do this with all of your fingers. The goal is to move one finger without moving the others. This will help with your finger dexterity and "finger-eye" coordination.

Similarly, you could try this excersise on the piano. Just keep your hand relaxed on the keys. Don't press the keys, just keep them relaxed and in playing position. Then slowly lift each finger like before.

At first it may be difficult for some of your fingers. Just don't give up! Keep at it, go slow, and eventually your fingers will stay relaxed.

  • Wouldn't it make more sense to practice pressing DOWN instead of lifting UP the fingers? After all, in actual music making, we usually concentrate on pressing the keys down, even though the speed with which the fingers are lifted also influences how the music sounds. – Ansa211 Mar 17 '18 at 0:24
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I actually have the exact same problem. After doing some experimentation, I found out that the reason for this was solely because of my ring finger. When I use effort to try to lift my ring finger up by itself, my pinky uncontrollably lifts with my ring finger.

This appears in piano playing when one plays a fast passage, as my fingers move very fast, so my ring finger jumps up after playing a note to move onto the next note. This causes my pinky to jump up with it, causing the infamous "flying pinky." My goals to fix my problem are:

  1. Make my ring fingers more flexible and try to separate their movements from those of my pinky (Dasaru's exercise).
  2. Practice so my ring finger doesn't jump to unnecessary heights in fast passages (Rein Henrichs's exercise).

This is just what I came up with my own experimentation, and the goals are just a sort of "hypotheses" since I haven't tested them out, but I feel like the main issue of this problem is the inability or inflexibility of lifting the ring finger. I hope this explanation helps!

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I have found that it is worth experimenting with two kinds of rotation, namely the rotation around the long axis of the forearm (moving the thumb up and down and the pinky down and up with the forearm and index finger acting as the axis of the rotation), and the rotation of the palm in parallel with the keys so that always the playing finger is in the same direction as the long bones in the forearm (in order to avoid twisting the hand towards the outer side as in A in this image; I find that my flying pinky problem disappears when my wrist is straight as in B).

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