In order to play piano musically, you need to train your fingers to use the little muscles within the fingers and not the big muscles that run up and down your arm. You want to develop a sense that gravity is working with you to push down a key from the knuckles rather than feeling like you are pushing buttons using your arm muscles. This is counter to what the brain naturally wants to do so you have to get a little Zen about things. It is sort of like setting up a “trust fall” for your hands. Once your brain trusts that the finger muscles are safely supporting your hand, your arm and shoulder muscles will relax and you achieve a gravity-based down stroke of the finger that works with the action of a piano to optimally hit the string. You will notice that your technique is far faster, more expressive and less tiring. My piano teacher, had a good exercise for focusing on this that I still use today:
- Relax arms and shoulders.
- With both hands form the chord E, F#, G#, A#, C one octave apart.
- Hold down all of the notes.
- In slow/no tempo, one at a time lift up a finger and release it back to the held chord making sure that arms are relaxed and you are not “pushing” the note down but releasing the weight of your arm into the note.
- Listen carefully to the notes and try and achieve a uniform volume. Pay real attention to how your arms and hands feel. Do not just mindlessly play the notes.
It is a lot harder than it sounds.