How to practice?
Short notes by Roberto Prosseda

4. Program your gaze

The management of our gaze is one of the mental automatisms that can be attended to and refined during our daily practice. One of the main causes of mistakes during a performance is, in fact, linked precisely to the lack of a conscious and well “programmed” gaze: vice versa, we are less likely to play a wrong note if beforehand we look at the zone of the keyboard where we are going to play it. This is true for the piano, but the concept can also be applied, with due adaptations, to string instruments.

The most challenging piano passages are those in which both hands are involved at the same time with leaps or figurations that call for wide shifts, where it can be useful to help the hands find the position as effortlessly as possible with the aid of our gaze. In cases (not so common) where it is not possible cover both zones of the keyboard with our visual field, it may be useful to use our photographic memory. By looking at a zone of the keyboard some moments before and taking an imaginary photo of the zone, we can “save it” in our memory for some seconds, and this will be of great help in the ensuing passage that we must play in that zone, when we won't be able to look at it in real time.

One way to develop this technique is by looking at a zone of the keyboard where we will have to play a difficult passage (for example, involving a wide leap), then closing our eyes and playing the passage with our eyes shut: once this technique has been acquired, we will be able to visualize the keyboard in our mind, recalling to our memory the “photo” we have “taken” some moments before.

Programming the gaze also means choosing to not look at the keyboard when not necessary: often, raising our eyes from the keyboard will allow us to broaden our visual horizon, and this can have a positive influence on the emission of the musical phrase. Closing our eyes, especially in certain moments of particular introspection, or at the end of delicate phrases, can also help us to concentrate suitably on the sound. After all, we play and listen also with our eyes.

Roberto Prosseda

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