When Brian began studying with me a couple years ago, he wanted to recover from an injury he had developed at the piano. He couldn’t do some of the things his previous teacher had asked him to do — dropping his arm directly into the keys, or hitting keys directly and forcefully with his fingers. He didn’t feel comfortable playing like that, and he wondered why some of his fellow students were able to play that way without difficulty.
For 10 years he didn’t dare to direct energy directly into the keys with any power. Then, when he developed an injury, he got even more worried about how to play safely and comfortably.
When he started working with me, he loosened up and made great progress quite soon. But recently he realized that he was trying too hard to do it “right.“ He’s highly sensitive and artistic, and playing with a lot of power still felt unsafe to him. For several months I’d been encouraging him to not work too hard to express his sensitivity. I wanted him to just let go, to let the energy run freely through his body into the piano, and to trust that he had plenty of sensitivity to balance out whatever power he allowed himself to have.
Then suddenly, he came into last week’s lesson playing with tremendous freedom. I asked him what happened. He said he finally realized that after his fingers hit the bottom of the keys, he was adding extra, unnecessary pressure on the keys. After seeing a video that week of someone letting their arm go with a lot of power, he suddenly realized he just had to “forget about everything.“ He had to let his arm move freely and not worry what happened. From there, he also let his wrist and fingers move freely. As he described it, he “finally learned to not be afraid of the speed of his movements.” He said, “After you hit the bottom of the key, you have to release your effort as much as possible.”
He acknowledged that I had been suggesting and showing him this kind of freedom for quite a while. But he just wasn’t ready to let go until now. He needed time to figure things out from his own experience—to let go and trust that the way he naturally wanted to move was OK.
It’s understandable that after having an injury, a musician would be extremely careful with their movements. Now Brian was finally ready to trust his body and let go. What a pleasure to see him enjoying his newfound freedom!
It’s been a wonderful journey teaching Brian. He’s made consistent progress all along. But as a teacher, I know that each student has their own inner timing of when they’re ready to take the next step. Although I was quite surprised by Brian’s sudden leap forward, I knew he was working on it in his own way. I’m glad he trusted himself to do only what he was ready to do every step of the way.
Here’s to more expressive freedom in your performances!