TAKE CARE OF YOUR THUMBS
by Laza Greenway
“an awesome contribution”
I have developed a revolutionary idea about the piano. It is not about how to play or practice. It is specifically about the inevitable misuse of our thumbs on the piano, about its consequences, and finally about how to reverse those effects.
The problem is that the construction of the piano requires us to move our thumbs in an unnatural way---in the same direction as the other fingers, not in their normal, opposite way. Only it doesn’t look like it’s much of a problem. It seems simple enough. Just put your thumb on a key, press down, and presto, a note resounds. So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that you don’t do it once. If you only did it once, the slight misuse of the thumbs would be inconsequential. But pianists use thumbs to depress keys hundreds, even thousands of times. Those repetitions render the misuse of the thumbs cumulative. That misuse gradually becomes a significant but unrecognized problem with serious ramifications.
I have developed a revolutionary idea that solves this problem.
Let’s take a look at how thumbs function: normal thumb movements are made possible by two sets of muscles on either side of the thumbs. The anterior thumb muscles are in the palm; the posterior thumb muscles are in the back of the hand.
The functioning of both sets of thumb muscles together make us capable of a wide range of tasks without even thinking about them, from strong grasping to delicate things like microsurgery or cross-stitching, and mundane tasks like washing, dressing, eating, etc. All these tasks are made possible because we have opposable thumbs--digits that move independently and in the opposite direction from the other fingers. Except that, on the piano, thumbs don’t do that.
Notes are produced on the piano by applying weight to the keys. For the thumbs we use the anterior thumb muscles to depress the keys. But very little exertion is made by the posterior thumb muscles to get off the keys, because the keys come up automatically! This inevitably causes an imbalance in strength between the two sets of thumb muscles. That imbalance seriously diminishes our control over the thumbs’ weight that we apply to the keys.
So the weight of the thumb, instead of acting as a counter-weight to the other four fingers, is added to the weight of the four fingers, not just in depressing the thumb keys, but in depressing all the keys. Therefore the weight we apply to all the keys is necessarily excessive, which tends to make pianos sound more like percussion instruments, despite the fact that it’s the strings that create the sounds. So some people achieve bravura techniques that are very impressive, but which all too often do not evoke emotion.
I have developed a revolutionary idea that corrects the thumb muscles’ imbalance. Implementing this idea, freeing my thumbs, also had the surprising result of freeing the other four fingers as well. Amazingly, this result enabled all my fingers to stroke the keys, rather than strike them, allowing my piano to sound less like a percussion instrument and more like a string instrument.
My revolutionary concept solves the problems of muscle imbalance and control of thumb weight on the keys. In addition, my concept integrates the theories of three musical giants. Bach said that the thumbs are the most important finger in keyboard playing. Liszt said that how we get off the keys is just as important as how we play them. Schumann said that strengthening the inherently weak 4 th finger was the key to transcending what he called ‘the dance of virtuosity’.
If you elect to test my idea, I am convinced that you will love the enhanced quality of the music you will produce.