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This is kind of a common question here, but one point I haven't seen addressed in detail:

While sight-reading, it is recommended to practice jumps (over an octave) without looking, which is difficult, but evidently possible after a lot of practice and effort. So far I have only seen one method for practicing this, but it is not very pleasant and a bit frustrating, as it does not give a sense of step-wise progression: The method I am referring to, is to just "try" to blindly find the right keys, where the "trying" is either guessing, or touching around the keyboard to find landmarks based on the black keys.

  1. The guessing part is important for building the spatial awareness, but clearly there is no easy start, and the result is qualitative: "you either get it or not". So there is no real practice here, just absolute result.

  2. The finding landmarks method is what I have most conflict with. Touching around the keyboard blindly is a way to find the position, but this is not something that will happen during real playing, so its not something you should get good at (is it?). It feels like a waste of time to practice this, and instead it seems way more important to practice looking quickly at the keyboard without missing the part of the score you are reading. But this is hardly ever addressed (and even frowned upon).

    As an example for this in a real practice session, my hand jumps to the position of the new chord, but I am not sure if I am over the right keys. Shortly looking down will quickly tell me that I am just shifted by one tone, so its a quick adjustment. If I want to get this reassurance without looking, I have to remove the hand of the position altogether and start touching around for black keys, therefore the "jump" is lost, and suddendly I am training to find the position from a totally different one than the original set by the music.

    Is there a reason for this? Do professional piano players really practice "touching around the keys" and do this in real time?

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  • For the 2nd point, I'd like to think that feeling around helps to build and strengthen your internal map of the keys. I think of it like this, let's say I try the jump and I land wrong. Instead of just looking and correcting, if I take the time to find the right keys by feeling around, I'll have a richer and more detailed mental picture of the layout that I can use in the future to get it right. Maybe. I'm trying to do more research here I'll come back if I find anything. – Nickolai Dec 16 '20 at 22:06
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It's down to 'muscle memory' - whatever that is!

Feeling for where you are is no great help - you won't be doing any of that when you play properly. It's a great help visually, while you jump endlessly up and down octaves. And, yes, get used to jumping both ways.

You know the geography of the keyboard, so watch where the fingers need to land. Slowly is good. It's basically training your hand and more importantly, arm, to move just the right amount. And if you're talking octave jumps, the most used, the bonus is that every jump from one note to its octave copy is exactly the same distance!

Just like athletes practise a move hundreds of times, so it becomes automatic, so will you. And even without the piano there, you can measure out the octave distance, (6 1/2" on most) and bounce your hand on any available surface!

The bigger problem is working out which finger plays the lower note, which plays the upper note. That's for you to figure out.

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Ah, this question is really perfect for me because I used to struggle with this until I figured the following method out.

As cliche as it sounds, the answer is to start slow. Start really really slow and keep your eyes open as you do it. Make sure you nail it exactly right every single time.

Then, close your eyes as much as you can. Close your eyes as much as possible, but open them to make sure you are perfectly accurate. Keep doing it at this speed until you can do it with your eyes completely closed the whole time.

Then, start speeding up the tempo. I suggest you get it right 5 times IN A ROW, before making the BPM 5 or 10 ticks faster. Eventually, you will get it up to speed and you will nail it perfectly.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you need any clarification or more help.

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  • So you don't do the second method of looking for tactile landmarks right? And you seek for visual confirmation instead. This seems more intuitive to me too. But are you aware that this is often not recommended? Any idea why? – hirschme May 2 '20 at 17:11
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    In short, learning to play blind, will make you a thousand times better if you have your eyes. In other words, if you can play the piece without opening your eyes, then when you do open your eyes, it will be very easy to play. This is also especially helpful in expressing yourself in the piece because if you can close your eyes and not think about the execution, then you can focus on the interpretation. I am not sure why this method is not recommended that often but it truly helps - it got me to Carnegie Hall and first in several competitions. This method should gain more attention. – Polydynamical May 2 '20 at 17:25
  • @Haversine - it was a taxi that got me to Carnegie Hall, and in no time at all... – Tim May 12 '20 at 15:55

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