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#577240 09/04/08 05:40 AM
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I have long hesitated to write this.

I started learning Bach's Invention #8. Wonderful, "magnetic" piece.

It massacred my fingers like no Hanon has done.

It became so bad that every day I practiced it for more than 30 minutes I would wake up with aching fingers the morning after (only a very localised part, though, which we call "falange", that is the first third of the finger starting from the palm of the hand).

I had practised hours a day before without any pain, so I attributed the problem not to my wrong posture of tension etc., but merely to the kind of movement very often required by the piece (similar to the first 10-12 Hanon exercises, though Bach's genius makes it sound so wonderful).

I was so intrigued by the music, so fascinated, and so stubborn, that I wanted to go on with the piece irrespective of the pain, just practicing less.

I have finished "learning" the piece some 10 days ago and am now polishing it. It's addictive.

The hand problems are now not disappearing, but are largely improving, I can practice Bach 30 minutes a day without any problem, and the rest as long as I want, and no pain.

I'd like to ask as follows:

1) did you have the same experience with a similar Bach piece.

2) If yes, how did you react.

3) Is the pain, in your opinion, something due to *lack of practice of those particular finger movements*, which improves with the time, or are these kind of Hanon-like finger movements intrinsically unhealthy for one's fingers.

I must again clarify that I do not have arthritis or other finger problems, and if I leave Bach aside I can play for hours a day without any disturbance.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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Hi Inominato

I'm about to start learning this invention, not beacause I'm particularly fond of it - though that may change - but rather because of the benefit to my technique that I anticipate. So far I've only bothered to learn one Bach piece, the little prelude BWV 939.

I'll let you know how I get along with No 8 smile


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Innominato, I would first advise to stop practicing the piece until your pain is completely gone, otherwise you may risk chronic problems. If the pain is not bad, you can just work on another piece instead of taking a real break from practice.

I must say I'm surprised: how can you get hand problems with #8? There is only one note at a time for each hand, and the 16ths are mostly scales. The (wonderful) piece should appear as a charming little canon full of sparkling energy. Maybe you are not used to actively releasing the fingers from the keys -- if this is the cause, don't exaggerate the release movement. That's just a guess though, and you should have a teacher (or somebody else, or you can post a video) watch your playing to identify what is the real cause of the problems.

Your practice will be most efficient if you
-- work in small sections
-- take a 'mini-break' of a couple of seconds between each repeat of a section
-- use this break to (a) think through your last playing of that section and formulate an aim for your next attempt (what do I want to improve? - as specifically as possible), and (b) let your hands loosely hang down during this time
-- by doing this, you will use your practice time more efficiently (because you are explicitly devoting time to use your brain) and because of the hands hanging down you will automatically go back to a relaxed state, and this should also prevent you from getting hand problems again.

Good luck!

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i never got injured playing Bach, though his music always gives me troubles, especially on memorizing. however, i remember that when i was learning invention 13 the first time, i got my LH pinky a little pain. but later i adjusted my hand/finger position and it went away.

so, i would say that you check on your hand/finger positions and movements to see what causes your problem. try to avoid any kind of 'twisting' position if ever, and always try to support your fingers with weight transferred from your arm.

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Bach, more than an other composer, requires the use of the interosseous muscles. These are the ones that allow you to 'cross' your fingers. If you are not using them (and you're probably not) to their maximum contraction, a) the rhythm won't be there and b) you will be working the wrong muscles needlessly. Use the interosseous to stretch to each note with as much stillness in the hands as possible.

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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
.. Use the interosseous to stretch to each note with as much stillness in the hands as possible.
Could you please elaborate on this? Is there a way to tell when one is playing with the interossei?

The best description I have found so far is in

http://www.musicandhealth.co.uk/movies/beast.html

(Particularly video 3.)

Is this what you mean?

ocd


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As KBK points out, Bach's writing requires a technique that is somewhat unique to his music. In this way, it does stretch the fingers/hand in ways you might not be accustomed to. Having said that, I find the Inventions (2-part) to be much harder to play than the Sinfonias or Fugues, or rather, I should say, more awkward. Perhaps it's just my memory of learning the Inventions, which were the first exposure I had to this style of playing (Anna Magdalena Bach pieces don't come close to what is needed for Inventions), or perhaps I find the complexity of the Sinfonias and Fugues to be much deeper and therefore more interesting to work on. Is this your first Bach? I would let this one go and perhaps start up another if you are unable to eliminate the tension. Sounds like you might have that tension programmed in your muscle memory and so it might be best to look at a new one now that you have an idea of what's needed.


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Quote
Originally posted by ocd:
http://www.musicandhealth.co.uk/movies/beast.html

(Particularly video 3.)

Is this what you mean?
No. You are still using the other muscles but only when you can no longer stretch the interosseous. Try and think of your fingertips as totally separate entities. DO NOT MOVE ANYTHING apart from your fingertips until you feel you can't bear the strain anymore. Then larger muscles will move in to assist. Remember your hand must be still.

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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
No. You are still using the other muscles but only when you can no longer stretch the interosseous. Try and think of your fingertips as totally separate entities. DO NOT MOVE ANYTHING apart from your fingertips until you feel you can't bear the strain anymore. Then larger muscles will move in to assist. Remember your hand must be still.
Do you mean moving only the distal finger joint? I thought the interossei move the proximal phalange. (They need to do that to cross the fingers.)

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Yes, reaching with your distal joint. How do you think this joint moves sideways as it reaches? But don't pay attention to the physiology as you know it. Do you cross your fingers from the proximal joint? No, you reach over with the distal.

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Quote
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Yes, reaching with your distal joint. How do you think this joint moves sideways as it reaches? But don't pay attention to the physiology as you know it. Do you cross your fingers from the proximal joint? No, you reach over with the distal.
I am puzzled by your statement. This is my understanding: The interossei (both palmar and dorsal) attach to the proximal phalanges. Not one of them attaches to the distal phalange. There is no way for them to bend the distal joint.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorsal_interossei_of_the_hand

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmar_interossei_muscles

"The palmar interosseous muscles adduct the fingers towards the middle finger. This is in contrast to the dorsal interossei, which abduct the fingers away from the middle finger."

When activated together (palmar and dorsal) they move the finger towards the palm of the hand, the finger bending from the metacarpal joint without affecting the middle and distal joints.

I believe the movement you describe (activating only the distal joint) is effected by one of the flexors.


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If you don't cross your fingers reaching with your distal joint then none of this will make sense to you. We are not made to have a knowledge of our physiology. We are made to do.

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KK,

I think you should stop using anatomical terms. Throwing in terms like "interosseous" (see post 3160 above) incorrectly confuses the issue and helps no one.

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Wrong. If you begin to play Bach properly your interosseous will initially cry out in discomfort (unpleasant bending). This is a sign you are on the right path. You need to be able to recognize this for what it is when it happens.

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Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Wrong. If you begin to play Bach properly your interosseous will initially cry out in discomfort (unpleasant bending).
If I understand it right, this discomfort is related to playing Bach in perfect legato, isn't? And it can be avoid by playing the notes a little bit detached.

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No. You want the discomfort (it goes away in no time). There is no rule re: legato/staccato in Bach. It depends on the context - both piece and instrument.

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Thank to you all. I'd like to elaborate on my particular problem as follows:

1) yes, it is my very first Bach.

2) I do not have problems in crossing fingers. For some reason, this comes to me easily and without problems.

3) The problem is in my eyes, as pianovirus has identified, exactly with the "easy" part, the hanon-like playing of several fingers in succession 2-3-4-5. I say this because it is exactly the same kind of problem that I encountered when I first started practising Hanon, so I suppose that now that my hands are making the same movements again, the same problems reappears.

4) Again, the problem is (or better: was) very localised: only the first third of the fingers starting from the palm of the hand.

5) I do not have a teacher, which is why I I asked here. I had hoped to hear from other people saying "oh yes, it happened to me too". One or two answers seem to point out in that direction, but I am still not sure.

Cruiser,
thank you for letting me know. Have you ever played Hanon and did you have problems with it?
Anyway, this invention might not be the most beautiful piece I have played, but certainly is the most "magnetic". It takes hold of you, and you'd never want to stop playing it. I think you'll greatly enjoy it and I can almost hear it now, played on your beautiful piano in your beautiful home... smile


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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Sorry I forgot: I play it as legato as possible, because I like it more that way.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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This is interesting...

I don't think you should have any pain playing the 2-part Inventions. You have just two voices to contend with--one in each hand, one note at a time. There are no giant leaps, no overheld notes while your other fingers are playing other stuff, and no legato-voicing of inner melodies. Especially for Invention No. 8, there's nothing in that piece that should cause you pain, unless you're doing something wrong physically. Are you using good fingering so that you don't have huge stretches (especially between fingers 2, 3, and 4)? This is the reason why fingering is so huge when playing Bach--poor fingering will lead to all sorts of problems, including pain.

Now, if you are playing 3-part Inventions (Sinfonias) or other polyphonic compositions (especially fugues) that contain 3 or more voices, then--yes--you will experience pain. This really happens when you have to hold one note with one finger, and then play another voice legato with the same hand, causing unnatural stretches between your fingers. I have a student whose hands could stretch only a seventh, and she's experiencing pain playing Sinfonia No. 15. I had to find some notes to "untie" for her, letting her release the finger early to avoid big horizontal stretches.

On a side note...aren't the eighth notes supposed to be played non-legato in Invention No. 8? It's a terrific piece to use rotation of the forearm. smile


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yes AZN, by legato I meant the "scale like" notes, the one which I think are those who give me the pain.

As far as the fingering is concerned, I always choose it so that I move my hands as little as possible and feel as comfortable as possible. This has also to do with the fact that I still have a "little hand complex" from my childhood days, so I am terrified of those "stretching" so unpleasant in those years.

In fact, whilst playing I feel truly comfortable with hands and body posture, I'd never be able to foresee any finger pain, this was another element of surprise because you can not feel that you're doing something wrong.

Also, I can play no other piece in which my hands move so little (in the Gymnopedie #1 or in "Le Onde" they are all over the place, but I never had any serious discomfort with those).

I am playing more and more these days and now every pain has disappeared, though I will wait before I increase the pace. It might have happened that it was only a slight discomfort of my "falangi" at doing new things, strangely enough I never had pain in the wrist, forearm or shoulder.

My father (74) is going to undergo treatment for a light form of arthrosis. One part of the problem could be that I am oversensitive on this and this stress makes me more "finger conscious" than I should.

Thanks again.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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