I have difficulty to play the left hand on tempo, especially the ' D Bb Ab' part at the beginning. I am not stretching my fingers, but I am moving my wrist to reach the note, yet my wrist still gets tired. What am I doing wrong? Is it my technique, or just a matter of practising? What are more tips when playing this piece? Video (1):Video (2): Video (3):
I have difficulty to play the left hand on tempo, especially the ' D Bb Ab' part at the beginning. I am not stretching my fingers, but I am moving my wrist to reach the note, yet my wrist still gets tired. What am I doing wrong? Is it my technique, or just a matter of practising? What are more tips when playing this piece?
In my opinion, these questions are too general to answer specifically. A specific answer will depend on the size and shape of your hand and the fingering used. Pictures or video of what are you doing would give the only hope of offering specific advice. Here are some general pointers in the meantime:
- Technique depends on the desired sound. Be sure of that first. Note that the bass is generally the LH's most important note here, except when the "tenor thumb" is required for melody. Therefore a technique that powerfully launches the hand toward the top note, creating an accent, won't help. For example, with your D Bb Ab, D should be stronger than Ab. Note that this opposes what the RH is doing.
- The fingering for D Bb Ab depends on your hand but will most likely be 5 2 1. I suggest a simple exercise: rocking gently between the chord D-Bb and the single note Ab focusing on getting the intended balance of sound, as above: D more prominent than Ab. For more ideas you can consult Cortot's edition of the Etudes. His exercises don't work for all of us, but at the very least they show how problems can be broken down.
- Be sure that the thumb is moving freely from the bottom joint, rather than relying on the hand to jab it onto its note. I find my LH thumb describes small circles in playing this piece. A liberated thumb is very important in several of the etudes; Op10 No7 is another example.
- In my opinion, it makes sense to study Op10 No9 at the same time, or even before, studying this piece. The left hand is developed in a similar fashion. I found Op10 No9 slightly easier. This is probably because it has greater variety of movement, which can relax the hand - therefore stiffness due to imperfections in technique takes longer to appear.
- Finally, consider looking at YouTube videos of celebrated pianists playing this piece. Try to find players with similar hands to your own - admittedly it isn't always obvious from a video. Your question suggests you have a relatively small hand, so you won't learn as much watching Richter playing it!
The video gives a much better idea of what you are doing and of your level. This is quite a difficult piece to be attempting, more difficult than it sounds. Here are some more specific suggestions.
- Fingering: try 2 not 3 on Bb. Ab might seem further away, but that leads to point 2:
- Use the arm, not the wrist. In the video, you are using 3 on Bb as a pivot point and making a large movement with your wrist to swing from D up to Ab. Instead I suggest positioning the hand with 5 above D and 2 above Bb, then as you play the notes, swing your whole forearm toward the right, carrying your thumb to where it needs to be.
It may seem that with finger 2 playing Bb and the thumb playing Ab, it is a long distance between them. It is, if your hand is still. However, you have to play Ab after Bb, not at the same time! This is the point of using the arm: if the arm is carrying the hand toward Ab, then the distance is reduced! This is a very important part of piano playing, starting with scales and arpeggios.
Much less wrist movement is needed with the technique suggested and you shouldn't experience the same dangerous stiffness. On the other hand, it might involve larger movements with the arm than you are used to.
It's hard to tell from the video, but make sure that you aren't sitting too close to your electronic keyboard, otherwise the arms cannot move freely. Sit as far away as you would at a real piano.
Disclaimer: this is not a professional advise, I am a self-taught pianist and I have been playing for about 14 years some interesting pieces like this, but I was attending musical school on a different instrument (balalaika). Some principles are shared. I might be mistaken because from the video it can't be seen really clearly.
The first thing is that everyone begins with, is a posture, it seems that you are sitting too low. If you sit higher, you will decrease the tension in your wrists, gradually. I always have a problem to find a chair of proper height. So I use some occasional materials to put it on the chair: some books, sleeping pads, you can use whatever you have. Also, you should try to sit on the front half of your chair.
I had the same feeling when I was playing for a long time and felt "muscles swing". After some practice the strain reduced but the feelings were not really stable.
Some textbook recommendations that I just found on the internet, also include
- Straight back, don't lay back on the chair;
- Don't stretch your neck forward, it induces extra tension in your other muscles;
- Keep straightened shoulders;
- Don't put your feet under the piano bench, you need stability in your legs when practicing;
- not too close and not too far from the keyboard (as noted by replete in his answer);
- you can adjust your elbows to be slightly above the keyboard;
- a rather metaphoric advice is to play from the shoulders, not from the fingers;
I can show you some pictures but you should mostly rely on your feelings when adjusting the height.
This one seems ok
This one seems worse, at my first impression
Glenn Gould has a very bad posture but manages to perform wonderful music!
P.S. If you have followed all the recommendations above and still don't manage to hit the notes, I can tell you one more trick that you can adopt. You can try to play with your eyes closed. At the beginning it seems incredibly difficult. But then you gradually learn and this improves your muscle memory.