Speeding Up Your Octaves
By Hazel Victoria Goodwin
With the fingers clustered together, somewhat as they would form themselves about a short pencil (and with the second protruding downward a little more than the others) play the scale of C major, producing this is sex of tones with the second finger by means of the wrist stroke. With the metronome set at 69, the amateur will find he can put in three or four even tones to a tick, while if he should take the passage in octaves, he finds he cannot play much more than half as fast. Why? The single tone passage proves that the hand finds no difficulty in traveling sideways, or up-and-down from the wrist joint, sufficiently fast. There must be some consideration other than these that slows the temple in the octave passage.
Indeed, many of us who aspire toward rapidity and octave playing are hurling ourselves against the stone wall consideration with no results but bruises. However, we assail the factor of the “traveling;” but it is in the dead stance sills that speed is promoted.
Rapid Octave Passages
The mechanics of rapid octave passages embrace the added feature, a hand span. With the hand, so generally limp, that’s holds an unsteady octave span, there must be developed a network of muscles that will hold the member in such a staunch convexity or arch. This, when the arch is set, must be reinforced as if with iron; though the wrist remains free, the hand must be as one on joint to whole.
To acquire this arch is a study, especially since it must be fleeting as well as stable. The hand merely braces itself for the blow on the keys. Between blows, the bracing is unnecessary and the arch muscles are relaxed to allow the bracing to come and go with ease, though the actual contour of the hand deviates but little. (In ascertaining this, one has recourse to speculation as well as to minute observation. Nature as logically abhors the unnecessary as she does a vacuum, and, to maintain an ironbound hand condition throughout the raise and strike during a long passage in octaves, is not only unnecessary, but impossible without draining the muscles.)
Rapid octave work, then, requires a quick galvanizing into, and an instantaneous relaxing from the hand arch at each octave. The reinforcing, consequently, demands to be well conned – lurking just beneath the surface.
This installing a reliable hand span would seem to bring octaves up to single tone speed, but that the changing of the lateral angle (at the wrist), which place so small a part in the speed of a single tone passage, is an appreciable factor in the octaves. To illustrate, let us imagine a line – running through the hand from wrist forward – and name it the whole of the hand. It is always nearly at right angles (latterly) with the keyboard front. Keeping it thus causes the hand, in its progress up or down the keyboard, turn left or right at the wrist. (Is this turning that is obviated in the somewhat discussed circular from piano.) When the wrist can shirk the turning, it will – in most instances. We can strike one note with the hand being at almost any lateral angle to the key; but we can strike to notes, of an octaves distance apart, only under particular angular circumstances. We can hold the key down with the second finger and turn the hand about it as a pivot, but we cannot hold and octave down and do the same thing.
To keep the angle that lies between the imaginary poll of the hand and the keys unvarying (and we must do that, being physically unable to strike the keys otherwise) the wrist must be prepared, at each octave, to make the little, precise angular change that will bring it in line for the next octave. When the knowledge of this change has been reduced by hard labor to wrist instinct, we shall find the double stone wall of rapid octave playing raised.