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I've just been recently returning to the piano after a long hiatus. I've been classically trained since eight years old and went to a music gymnasium/lyseum in Greece. Eventually I stopped playing when I got diagnosed with polyneuropathy two years ago which causes tingling and burning pain in the nerves of the hands, arms, feet and legs, at least that's how it manifests in my case.

I was thrilled to discover that my speed was the same and that I could still play smoothly and softly my left hand (dominant hand) but the ring and pinky on my right hand produce horrible loud notes making my playing sound choppy and uneven. The faster I play the worse it gets. I don't think it's because of the neuropathy but I must be doing something wrong with my technique or something else. Does anyone have tips on how to play more evenly? I've been practicing Hanon and Czerny in the hopes it helps with the uneven tones.

All help, tips, thoughts etc. are very welcome.

  • Wish I started that young :p – Kolob Canyon Feb 26 '17 at 1:32
  • Does this happen with every note that you play with those fingers, or just the ones in a particular range? – JimM Feb 26 '17 at 12:29
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There are a lot of sense in all these answers.

However, this is an insight of a similar thing that happened to me:

I use to practise very hard as I was a late bloomer. Also classically trained including a lot of self teaching.

I liked Hanon and other exercises a lot but didn't like the way it was taught...just for the fingers... It however made my fingers "too strong" and that problem migrated to other parts of my playing. I had to adapt/change my technique with rotations, turn arounds when changing directions and other arms and wrists techniques.

This made me realise that actually, my 4th & 5th finger were stronger than 1 & 2 because of the emphasis these exercises put on the weakest fingers. I never thought of concentrating on fingers 1 &2 and took it for granted.

A further thought:

Biology has a lot to do with the way you play. There are new teachers emerging who combine classical techniques with new findings:

You mentioned that you haven't played for sometimes and even if your brain has remembered what to do, your hands, arms have probably changed physically. That's worth considering.

I personally discovered that my hand balance was not my 2nd finger(next to ring finger) but my first one(next to thump), which was due to some early sport activities and injuries. With that in mind, I rethought my technique and adapted.

I know these are insights and not necessarily the answer this website requires but thought it might help

EDIT:

This guy is the guru at the moment. Here's a link to one of his video:

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It is possible you were taught the very classical way, like a teacher hitting your hand with a ruler when your hand position is wrong. There's more up to date thoughts on piano techniques these days. The one rule I follow is always do what feels right. If it hurts, I am doing it wrong!

I suggest watching videos on a piano technique search.

One more thought: are your fingers tensing without you realising? Tension can creep in at anytime and it can take a while before you realise, especially if you've been out of the loop for a while.

Remembering complicated pieces is great but it s your body ready? Are you trying to run before you can walk?

I'd suggest you sort of go back to basics: scales, arpeggios. Start slowly with whole notes, quarters notes.... this should help control.

Whenever I am stuck, I go back to basics, even now. I always start my practise with scales chords or arpeggios works, just to warm up... I will always do that to keep control.

  • Interesting to hear you were having "similar" problems. I agree that biology has a great role in how you play. I have long tapered fingers, thick at the base and gradually becoming slender as they go up. My index and ring finger are very strong but also controlled. Maybe the fourth and fifth are too strong. I try to incorporate rotations into my technique but it's been years since I had formal lessons and I'm a bit rusty on how to improve my technique. Any tips on that? – Millie Feb 26 '17 at 11:32
  • See edited answer from your comments – user33232 Feb 26 '17 at 13:54
  • Wauw thanks for the link. His movements look very natural and relaxed. I actually had to lol when I read the part "a teacher hitting your hand with a ruler when your hand position is wrong" that is exactly how I was taught to play Bach. I went through four or five different piano teachers each teaching me different method's (move your wrists when counting, keep them still, no move them more...) but none of them stuck as much as being hit with a ruler. I'm going to watch all the videos in the series and really focus on looser wrist playing. Thanks! – Millie Feb 26 '17 at 16:16
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I'm betting that you're practicing on an instrument that has too little resistance in the touch. A really well-made acoustic piano such as a Steinway, Yamaha, or Kawai concert grand will have a firm enough "touch" that with practice any unevenness in your finger pressure will even out and no note will sound horribly loud in comparison to another.

On the other hand, many electronic pianos have little to no resistance and so will tend to over-react to finger pressure. Some cheaper acoustic pianos have the same issue. On electronic instruments with 'touch control,' you should set the firmness of the action to the highest level you can stand and practice there.

If you're already on a well-made acoustic with good firm touch and are still having the problem, then I'd say you are indeed having issues from your medical condition, and, not being a physician, I would hesitate making any further suggestions.

  • "A keyboard with a very light touch doesn't" explain why the OP only has this problem with two fingers of one hand, though. – user19146 Feb 26 '17 at 2:57
  • Of course it doesn't explain it! I'm trying to help the OP find a workable solution for the phenomenon. Everybody has slight differences in finger pressure from finger to finger and that's why the people who developed the piano made them with firm touch. The fact that the OP has an unusual problem doesn't change the fact that firm touch helps with un-evenness of pressure. – L3B Feb 26 '17 at 3:38
  • Actually I think you might be spot on about the piano. I am practicing on a electronic kawai c220 but an older model with only 2 pedals. I never had this problem on an acoustic piano where I'm used to having to use more weight to reach the key bed. But then again why am I only struggling with two fingers? – Millie Feb 26 '17 at 11:17
  • I'm no anatomy expert, but I've heard that the fourth and fifth finger share a lot of tendon and nerve pathways, and anything that affects one of those two fingers will affect the other. The famous composer Robert Schumann had a problem with those two fingers of his left hand. Couldn't get sufficient pressure out of them and so they played too softly. Tried tying the fourth one to the bedpost at night hoping to strengthen it. Backfired, he almost lost the use of it altogether. Might be your neuropathy, might be something else. Don't know. – L3B Feb 26 '17 at 16:46
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I wouldn't recommend anyone wasting spending time with Hanon, especially if they have some previous hand injury problems!

Try very slow practice of single notes, alternating the "good" and "bad" fingers. You might also want to practice exercises where you sustain a note with your thumb and then play "five finger exercises" with 4 fingers. Since you have already learned to played before your injury, you shouldn't really need sheet music to make up this sort of exercise for yourself.

You could also try exercises that require finger control away from the keyboard. That could be as simple as just pressing your thumb and a finger tip together, while focussing on how much pressure you are applying and how smoothly you can increase or decrease the pressure, or moving your finger(s) slowly and smoothly from one position to another.

It's impossible to diagnose over the internet whether the cause is some residual damage to your nervous system, but simply "forgetting" how to play notes evenly after a two-year break with no practice doesn't seem right to me.

  • 1
    I agree that Hanon exercises are usually time wasters since they don't promote any real hand or finger independence since you're playing the same thing with both hands. Im practicing them to get my speed back up. The exercise you recommended sounds like the ones from Czerny and I will definitely do them instead. That way I can see how my two fingers are responding to individual action. And I should practice slower waaaay slower but I'm kind of over compensating from being away for two years and in this case "haste makes waste" applies. – Millie Feb 26 '17 at 11:22

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