Scale Evenness

Balance the mind; fingers follow

Evenness of scales and balance between the left hand and the right hand has been a matter of discomfort for many pianists of all levels for many generations primarily because we all have one hand stronger than the other.  Unfortunately, we are taught from the beginning of our piano studies to separate the left hand from the right and only train each hand to do what is traditionally expected of it, that of left hands playing chords and right hands playing melodies.

Many pianists traditionally learn according to traditional methods; they are trusted and used by the majority.  This is not to say that they are not useful, surely they are, but there is never a focus on the connection between the mind and fingers, and this is the great shame because anything that a pianist ever learns or plays, always comes from the mind through repetition and eventually habit.

During all of the pianist's years, they never really stop and think about the fact that their mind is being underused and that all the attention is on the fingers.  It is my wish to change this conception.
There is absolutely no reason why both experienced and inexperienced players should not alter their thinking and recognise that no matter which hand is dominant in life for activities such as writing, holding cups or playing sports, playing the piano requires an equal ability from both hands.

No doubt this fills you with dread.  "My left hand could never play how my right hand plays", or "It would take ages to make my left hand better than it is", or "My left hand is weak, so I just play chords".  What you are hearing is your ego, not the truth.

Before you push aside such thinking, please give thought to the process of movement: your fingers move thanks to tendons connected to muscles connected to nerves connected to the brain - it is not the opposite!  Many pianists also talk of 'finger strength' whereas strength comes from muscles and the fingers... don't have any muscles!  So, why focus on the fingers when they are at the far end of the process?  By having a clear, balanced mind, the fingers' abilities shall be equal in balance to that of the mind.

How does one do this?

It is necessary to spend some time alone with your hands and your mind because this is the only way you will be able to strengthen the connection between them.  Playing the piano and practising directly on it is only 10% of the effort; 1% for each finger.  We need to deal with the much-disregarded 90% which is the mind.

With your eyes closed, since this removes any visual distractions, place your hands flat out in front of you.  In your mind, focus for around 10 seconds solely on each finger, in any order you wish.  Think of nothing but that one finger.  Make yourself more aware of it.  By doing this exercise daily, you are treating each finger equally so be sure that before you know it, you will be able to play with more evenness since the connection between the 'weaker fingers' will have been strengthened to match the naturally stronger or more experienced fingers.  Of course, this is the first step.  Do it daily for as long as it takes.  Focus longer than 10 seconds if you wish each time; try 20 seconds moving up to one or two minutes on each finger.  This stills the mind and is really very powerful.

After you have done this exercise, still with your eyes closed, push each finger individually downwards, the same finger on each hand, until you have to force it; but do not force it, just reach the natural limit.  Imagine with your hands and fingers stretched out straight, your middle finger is pushed downwards to around 70-80 degrees on each hand.  Do your best to not let other fingers go down with it but do not force.  Be sure to bend at the highest knuckle, the one connected to the hand, not the middle knuckle.  By doing this, and focusing on the pushed fingers alternately, you will begin to feel 'closer' to them individually.

This may sound strange, but it most certainly is not.  Those fingers have been adhering to your mind's programming since the first time you ever played a note and everything that you have learnt, no matter the perceived level of difficulty, the outcomes (the fingers) have always been dependent on the mind.  This is why you must begin with your mind.

The above exercise need take no more time than 10 minutes per day.  After a very short while, when your mind understands what you are doing, you will find that your fingers are responding more equally, even when you merely play the first five notes of a major scale:  C, D, E, F, G using both hands from the little finger on the left hand and the thumb on the right hand.  You will feel, naturally and without effort, a natural balance coming through.  This occurs not because you have been 'practising scales', but because you have spent much quiet, still time and strengthened the bond between your fingers (the outcome) and your mind (where it all begins).  To think that your fingers are the starting point is simply futile.

In my books and videos, I discuss the 'internal piano'.  This is your mind's eye's view of the keyboard when you are not near a physical piano.  What people greatly neglect is the power of this internal piano.

You may be quite interested to learn that what you can imagine yourself playing on your internal piano is exactly what you are able to play on a physical piano.  Why?  Because the same areas of the brain light up (when scanned with various clever equipment) when an individual both does and imagines doing something.  This tells us, categorically and scientifically so, that the brain does not know the difference between reality and fantasy; or in other words, what you can imagine doing, you can do physically, and what you find difficult to imagine doing, you will have difficulty doing it physically.

This is true for me.  Quite a long time ago, my left hand's ring finger was so weak that I never used it; I had given up any belief that it would ever become a useful digit.  What a terrible, yet typical, ego way of thinking.  However, once I came to realise the true power of the teachings I am sharing with you in my blog articles and videos, primarily that of positive thinking and developing your internal piano, my left ring finger began to do what I was imagining that it was able to do in my mind.

For example, playing the chromatic scale in parallel from the centre D# and going up in the right hand, and from the centre Db and going down in the left hand.  If you close your eyes, you should find that this is very easy to imagine since it is completely symmetrical.  If you have never played this before, then focus on your mind, eyes closed, your left and right index fingers on the Db/D# respectively, and playing chromatically up/down simultaneously about 2 octaves then returning.  You should be able to feel your middle fingers playing the first black note (F# right hand, Bb left hand, due to symmetrical movement) they come across, and then on and on.  If you go to the piano, after 10 minutes of doing this firmly in your mind, you will find that you are able to do it with equal evenness in both hands since that is exactly how you would have done it in your mind.

However, if you must start in a different place, it suddenly becomes very challenging (but not 'difficult' since difficult cannot be defined, nor can easy).  Start your right hand on the F# and your left hand on the D#, resulting in asymmetrical playing, and you will find difficulty since you will start to consciously focus on each finger position individually.  It becomes like riding a bike and constantly focusing on each pedal movement and slight correction of the handlebars to maintain balance; you would simply fall off.  It all happens naturally.  Why on a bike?  Because you have removed the ego's need to question and analyse every movement.  You simply know that you will not fall off, so balance is maintained, even over rugged terrain having never ridden over rugged terrain.

Interesting, that.

So, you can go to the piano and 'practise' playing asymmetrical chromatic scales from weird and wonderful places, but you will have no more success than by doing it in your mind.  You should know why by now:  because your mind is where it all happens!  When you are practising with your fingers, you're simply feeding your mind with experience but, in the end, you can feed your mind through Pure Imagination during moments of stillness and then, when you can do it in your mind, you will be able to perform, with evenness, on the physical piano.

You may not believe me, but this is as true as gravity; if you don't believe in it, try walking off a balcony more than once.

To conclude this article on scale evenness, simply recognise that:

- The fingers are at the end of the line; it all starts in the mind.
- A clear, balanced mind is required to play even scales (amongst other things in life).
- A clear, balanced mind is obtained through regular relaxation.
- The fingers will surely follow your mental training and become greater than through mere physical practice due to the power of the internal piano.

Remember, as always, that water never forces; it adapts to its environment.  It never rushes since it does not have a destination.  Do not force scale evenness and do not let your ego tell you that you are not learning fast enough.  What is fast enough?  It is indefinable, so why give energy to an illusion?  That's a sign of madness.

Through application of the content herein, you will find, in your own time, that your fingers already possess the ability required, you simply need to still your mind, remove your ego, and allow yourself to do what it does best... naturally.

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