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Rotation in Scale Playing

Richard Beauchamp, April 2004
For some time I have been reluctant to put these pages on the web because I know how easy it is to misinterpret instructions about rotation in piano technique. However, I now realise that those who visit these pages are almost always wise and well balanced people in the first place and therefore unlikely to take information too literally or any of my advice to ridiculous extremes — if at all.

Hand and keyboard Rotation movements are often (but not always) so small as to be almost invisible. Indeed they are often invisible and then are really only supporting movements made by the muscles that pronate and supinate. They nevertheless still make a huge difference to the feel and efficiency of playing the piano. Bear in mind that, as the scales become faster, the technique should change, and a different use of rotation becomes appropriate. The coordination given here would be suitable for semiquavers (sixteenth notes) up to speeds of about crotchet=160. At faster speeds the thumb will tend to move under less and will will find its notes more by means of a ‘rotary exchange’ (see reference under point No. 9).
1. The thumb has played the C, with the help of a little pronation (anti clockwise rotation) of the forearm. This also helps to set up a mechanically advantageous angle for playing the E later on.
Hand and keyboard Hand and keyboard
2. The second finger has just played the D. Note the angle of the third finger before the E is played. This is so that the finger can be driven directly into its note when the forearm is rotated clockwise (supinated).

Note that the second finger has played slightly on its side to make this possible.
Hand and keyboard Hand and keyboard
3. The E is played by rotating the forearm (supinating) just enough to put the note down. Note that the third finger is almost vertical to the key, but not quite. The rotation makes the note and then stops immediately so that there is no superfluous movement.

The thumb has travelled under the hand towards the F, but has not quite reached it.
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© Copyright: Richard Beauchamp, 2004

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