Is Pain Necessary to Play the Piano? – Playing on the Tips of Your Fingers

Piano Lessons / piano lessons / Is Pain Necessary to Play the Piano? – Playing on the Tips of Your Fingers

You may have heard about the need to play on the tips of your fingers. But if you hands are weak, you may find that your fingers collapse and there is no way of playing on the tips of the fingers no matter how hard you try.

I used to watch my father, Morton Estrin play the piano with his massive hands in the rounded position that you hear about.

Some people describe the ideal piano hand position as one that is shaped like holding a ball.

If you let your hands drop down onto the keyboard, your fingers will naturally round and you will be in a position that takes no effort to maintain. That is the ideal piano position.

My father seemed to have pads at the end of his fingers which could punctuate the notes on the piano while maintaining rounded fingers playing on tips. But what if you have weak fingers that collapse, and your fingernails extend beyond your fingers? Then, you can’t play on the tips without getting “clickety-clack” sounds with your fingernails sliding all over the keys. So, you end up playing with flat fingers. This creates all sorts of problems, not the least of which is when your fingers are outstretched, your thumbs and pinky don’t extend far enough to play the keys!

So, how do you develop pads at the end of your fingers?

Here is what I experienced: I was always dazzled by brilliant octaves I heard my father, Horowitz and other pianists display. When I had the opportunity to study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria in high school, I worked furiously on the Liszt 6th Hungarian Rhapsody which has a long, demanding octave section that goes on and on at the end of the piece. There were Bösendorfers and Hamburg Steinways to practice on and I was in heaven!

Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody #6

Then something happened that caused great pain. I’m not referring to the kind of muscle pain you experience from exercise when lactic acid builds up in your muscles. That pain subsides as soon as you stop playing (as long as you don’t overdo it!) If you have ever clipped your nails a little too short then practice the piano intensely, the fingernail can become slightly detached at the very end of your finger. You see a thin line of blood right at the point at which the nail meets the finger. As long as you keep your fingers clean (as well as the keys) you probably won’t suffer infection. (You can even put a Band-aid over the end of the finger if necessary.) But it is intensely painful! Since I was in Austria taking master classes and had this phenomenal opportunity, I just powered through my practice and ignored the pain.

Something really interesting resulted from this. Since the ends of my fingernails became detached from the fingers, I developed the pads like I saw on my father’s hands! I was able to play on the tips of the fingers which were rounded avoiding the clicking of the nails on the keys! I have spoken to other pianists who have had similar experiences. Perhaps there is a method for developing these pads which avoids the horrific pain I experienced developing my piano technique. I would love to hear from any of you who have either shared this phenomenon or have found other ways of being able to play on the tips of the fingers without your nails hitting the keys.

This is Robert Estrin at Your Online Piano Store 949-244-3729