(UPDATE 2018-01-20: This is an out-of-date version of this post. Please visit the revised version).

Which finger do I use? Does my wrist go up or down? What do I do with my elbow?

Let me offer a radical idea. You can take it or leave it. It’s just my perspective.

You’ve probably been very frustrated with your playing. You want to play better. Understandably, your mind is trying to solve this problem by telling you that you need to acquire a better grasp of technical concepts.

I am not going to tell you that you are obsessing over this. I have been there myself many times. Intelligent people look deeply into these things. There may even be many benefits to having a good intellectual understanding of how to play.

But, I will say that trying to understand this intellectually is not the way to go as far as learning to play it physically. I wish it were, but I have not found it to be the case. It must be learned experientially.

I am also not saying to just “let go” and play naturally and hope for the best. That won’t work either. You need targeted exercises that encourage you to experience what needs to be experienced in order for your brain to learn.

So…piano playing is actually not that complex, is it?

You need to make the right key go down at the right time.

That’s all there is to it.

Is that an oversimplification? Bear with me. I am saying that this is the end result. How you get there is another story. But it is the end result, right?

Would you agree that everything you know about piano technique is basically a bunch of strategies for pressing the right key at the right time?

  • You move your wrist so that your hand is in the right place, so that your fingers are in the right place.
  • You rotate your forearm so that your fingers are in the right place at the right time.
  • You curve your fingers so that the fingertips move slightly into a different position, so that they can press the key at the right time.
  • and so on

All those things that you do…

Do they work? Are they getting the right keys to go down at the right time?

100%?

If so, keep doing them!

If not, would you be willing to (at least a little bit) reevaluate anything (something?) you know about piano technique, if you knew it was going to help you press the right key at the right time?

Can we, as an exercise, start from scratch with just that one goal in mind?

Learn how to press the right key at the right time.

(That is where I am coming from in my technical approach. No, of course this isn’t a complete answer to how to play the piano. But, I think you need to ask the question before an answer will make sense. Does this article raise any questions? Comment!)

(UPDATE 2018-01-20: This is an out-of-date version of this post. Please visit the revised version).