This article will hopefully give the piano student a better idea of how to acquire the knowledge, which is necessary if the piano student wants to play the piano well. That is the knowledge to produce a good tone. It is necessary for the piano student to observe, and learn fully and precisely, as much of the mechanism of the piano as possible. It is only with careful study that a scientific knowledge of piano-touch can be attained. No piano student, however musically gifted they may be, can, in these days of "higher development," afford to depend solely on the aesthetic side of his nature for the cultivation of his technique. If the technical study of the piano is approached in a spirit of calm inquiry, there is no reason why a study of the piano should not brace the mental system of the student, and do him as much good as would a careful study of grammar or geometry.
And although this technical study is not sufficient of itself to make an artist, still the benefit derived from it will be always at hand to help the piano student unravel many difficulties which otherwise could cause a great deal of frustration, and would slow the learners progress. Of all musical instruments, the piano is perhaps the one, which a player can, quite easily misuse. The pianist has an almost unlimited freedom of movement for the body, arms, and hands; and the instrument imposes few conditions to its use. Therefore, it is necessary for the student to have a knowledge (1) of the correct use of his limbs, (2) of how to use correctly the mechanism peculiar to the piano, and (3) of how to adapt the one exactly to the other, before he can acquire an unexaggerated style of playing. It is unfortunately a commonly accepted idea that the piano, like the organ, is dependent for its quality of tone on the manufacturer alone, and that "Broadwood" or "Bechstein," as the case may be, is wholly responsible for the kind of sound, which the player produces. And parallel with this opinion runs the generally accepted one that touch, or, the method of producing correct tone, cannot be taught, and is entirely a "gift.
" When a great pianist plays, there is a beauty, delicacy, and richness of tone in what the piano player produces. This is usually thought to piano players touch being born with the player. Or to the fact that his fingers have been for so many years never off the keys, or to his large hands, or long fingers. Or to some other qualification possessed only by pianists of similar rank, and quite out of the reach of less gifted players. In examining the question of how one may learn to produce good tone, the following fact should offer a foundation for observation and reasoning, that is to say, that both the great artist and the poor player have one common field of action in the external mechanism of the piano, that is, its Keyboard.
The great artist and the poor player may both be seen at work, and notes may therefore be taken of their different methods of using the means given them for the production of tone. The hands of both obey the same primary laws of muscular movement and the piano, is a keyboard instrument that will reproduce accurately what is being played on it, good or bad, and no respecter of who is playing. It is simply the acted-upon, and not the agent.
When therefore the great artist is seen to use his hands differently from the poor player. The reason of the different character of the tone must partly be that the method of touching the instrument is different. Part of the reason lies, of course, in the fact, that the great piano player starts with a greater degree of musical talent than the poor piano player does. But as this article discusses not so much musical feeling itself, but rather the expressing of musical feeling, and as it is very evident that the great piano player does use the hand differently from the poor piano player.
Michael Shaw teaches students of all ages to play the organ and keyboard. You can now download his popular Lesson1 eBook for beginners at http://www.mikesmusicroom.co.uk and http://www.keyboardsheetmusic.co.uk