How to Play Keyboards
PRESS 50,000,000 KEYS

I know this isn't much help
but neither is anything else
It will take a few years

really don't have the expertise to instruct anyone in the art of keyboard playing (I've only put in about 20,000,000 key presses myself and I haven't practiced in about two years). However, a few of the more obvious things the neophyte might need to know are here explained.

Firstly, nothing I or anyone else can say can release you from the obligation of actually playing the damn thing (the 50,000,000 key presses). And there is nothing I or anyone else can tell you that you wouldn't figure out for yourself anyway. These observations can simply encourage you when you think you can't EVER LEARN IT ... You can ... and ... you will.

How long does it take to learn to play well?

Approximately 5-10 minutes as I have explained elsewhere. The keyboard is a relatively simple device and has only 88 keys to deal with. And ... you already know how to move your fingers!

Unfortunately, it takes several years to "release" that information to conscious control. The proof is that some Downes Syndrome kids have demonstrated the ability to do just that without years of practice. Therefore, it is an ability we all possess but which is suppressed in the normal mind. This is all well known but not well understood.

One must learn to get one's conscious thoughts out of the way. As soon as you "think" about what you're playing (the technical aspects) your efforts will collapse.

This is better understood.

When you think, you think in words at about 6 hertz (6 words per second). this is painfully slow in comparison to the rate at which we can "take in" musical notes (about 30 hertz, i.e. 30 notes per second). Obviously then, if you think about your playing like this ... "Oh what note comes next? ... oh yes, this one ... then this one ..." , you're going to trip all over the place.

Actually, when you learn to play even modestly well, the problem is slowing down. It is easy to go over the 30 hertz limit when both hands get "in the zone". And if you play 50 notes per second, it sounds like a blur and very "unhuman" ... and quite boring. Though it is possible to play the minute waltz in one minute, it sounds terrible and should be played at the designed speed of ~2 minutes.

On the two basic styles of play

These are:
  • Crab Style
    This style is the one recommended by the establishment and consists of putting your hands on the keys with the fingers bent in the position that they would naturally take if you just let them hang limply. The goal here is to conserve energy by applying a smaller stroke to the key (because the arc through which the finger tip moves sweeps out a smaller area than the other style ... greater leverage ... And ... you don't have to expend energy to extend the fingers into the straight position of the alternate style).
    This is excellent for staccato passages and fast pieces of long duration where one might tend to "poop" out in the other style.
    A good example of this would be Emmanuel Ax who plays almost exclusively this way.

  • Flathand
    This is the style used by almost all Negro jazz pianists and practically anyone who is self taught. (Hence, it is not favored as a formal technique.) However ... there is a good reason to adopt this style for legato playing. When you extend the fingers and play with a flat hand, you apply the entire pad of the finger to the key whereas in the above style you apply the tip of the finger. The difference is the number of nerve endings you can utilize. They are mostly on the flat part of the finger ... as everyone knows. Therefore, you can "feel" the music much better which is just what the doctor ordered for playing the slow stuff.

  • Combo Style
    Here you do some of each as the piece or your mood warrants. This is actually what everyone does anyway after they are on their own for some time and realize that their own experience overrules anything taught to the contrary.
    I watched on TV one of Horowitz's last performances and he played with a flat hand most of the time ... and ... and ... and ... damn he was good. He didn't use a finger stroke a millimeter longer than necessary to get the job done. Absolutely masterful ... if you can, find tapes of performances of recognized masters and watch closely just what they do and don't do.

Neophyte problems

My forearms hurt
You are turning your foreams instead of lifting up you elbows. Put you hand on the keyboard in the natural position (like you're holding a joystick). Now, you've got to rotate it to play. Don't rotate your forearm ... just raise your elbows and the same thing is accomplished.

My fingers slip on the keys
Your fingers don't "slip" ... your timing is off. Your finger is coming down before or after it's supposed to. Think about it ... is your finger suppose to stick on the keys? Does anyone you know of use a pitcher's rosen bag at Carnegie Hall?

I can't play different music in left and right hands at the same time

You and a million others, buddy. That's where the release from verbal control really shows up. To play harmony (where the left hand supports a right lead) is much easier to learn than playing counterpoint (both hands playing an independent but integrated musical line).
In the first case, you need only give up a little of unitary control (the type you're used to). In the second case, you must construct a separate but equal partner within you own mind which is totally foreign to normal experience.
It takes a long time to release this state.
Actually you do this all the time without knowing it as when you're driving a car and thinking of something else ... you don't remember driving the last mile but ... you got there in one piece anyway.

I practiced for 8 hours and now I've got a headache
The maximum (generally) amount of time you can spend practicing is about 4 hours per day. Any more bores the hell out of a normal mind. This is because the piano is an "information starved medium" ... there are only 88 keys and though the possibilities seem endless ... they are as nothing when compared to the full panoply of visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and mental experiences available in the "real" world.
Get away from the keyboard and do something else and remember ... you already know how to play the thing ... you practice to bring it to your conscious forefront (not of the "thinking in words" type).
Hence, in strictly technical terms all practice is waste (unless you are entertained by it).

My computer won't play my midi input
The line labeled "out" goes where the device is labeled "in" and vice versa for the other line ... Ahah!

Nothing will ever replace
the first advice given


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