We are happy to announce that due to increased interest in the Niks Piano Technique Without Tension, the unique invention the piano device, Hand Guide, is once again available. Exercises with the Hand Guide expose for the first time the inner work of effective muscles of fingers, wrist, and shoulder to achieve a secure physical approach and to produce beautiful singing tone of the piano. This approach was characteristic of the outstanding pianists of the past, but was never explained in a simple and tangible form.
The supplemental manual, Play Without Tension, describes and illustrates step by step exercises with the Hand Guide making the complex phenomenon of inner work of muscles clear for teacher and student. The exciting result of this technique is the revival of the acoustical attitude toward producing sound. Great teachers of the golden area of piano playing: Czerny, Liszt, Leschetizky, and others worked meticulously to instill the skill of independent finger work, convinced that only this approach can assure the production of the best piano sound. While exercising with the Hand Guide this phenomenon that was lost in the second half of the 20th century is demonstrated.
What does the Niks Technique looks like?
With the principles of Niks Technique piano playing becomes very economical, visually. This quality is striking while watching footage of great pianists such as Ignaz Paderewski, Alfred Cartot, Vladimir Horowitz, Arturo Michelangeli, Art Tatum and Thomas “Fats” Waller. In the following video sample, Inessa Niks illustrates the economy of movements in piano playing without tension:
What does the training with the Hand Guide accomplish?
· EXERCISES FOR BEGINNER LEVEL
Principle of released arm muscles, effective hand position, training of finger muscles leading to finger independence, and of “resting arm” with unlocked joints of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers
· EXERCISES FOR INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED LEVEL
Principle of increased forward force of shoulder for more powerful sound production, training of interval and chord production by only finger movements as required by composers of the Baroque and Classical Styles, and training of interval and chord production by vertical movements of the wrist and forearm as required by composers of the Romantic Style
For the piano teacher:
Exercising in the beginning of the lesson serves as a quick warm-up of proper muscles which are then applied to playing without the device. Training with the Hand Guide establishes correct habits from the first lesson, leading to a secure foundation for the piano student. The Hand Guide can be a very effective tool for the improvement of physical coordination, especially when it is used at the student’s home for practice during the very first year of study. The Hand Guide is also indispensable for transfer students of any level and facilitates the work of instructors of group lessons. Having a Hand Guide for home practice promotes efficient retraining that otherwise might remain a long and tiresome process.
For the pianist:
The Hand Guide serves as an effective “coach” to acquire safe and secure physical approach by exclusion of the struggle of antagonistic muscles, a common cause of tension and even tendonitis. The result of this training is the significant improvement in the quality of produced sound reviving traditions of beautiful singing tone with optimal projection in a big space. Outstanding teachers of the past worked meticulously to preserve the arm as a base for fingers without active engagement at the moment of sound production. This key principle of independence becomes available for pianists while exercising with the Hand Guide.
“Mystery of Singing Tone”:
The outstanding performers of the past were concerned with the quality of sound production that personifies the beauty of piano music.
"Thousands of pianoforte recitals are given in the music centers of the world by aspiring students every year. They look forward to great careers. They play their Lizst Rhapsodies, their Concertos and their Sonatas, often with most commendable accuracy, but with very little of the one great quality which the world wants and for which it holds its highest rewards-- Beauty,"
commented in 1924 Josef Lhevinne, one of the greatest piano masters and the first artist invited to teach at the newly formed Julliard School of Music. The situation in piano playing deteriorated drastically in the second half of this century. Gradually, traditions of Liszt and Leschetizky schools, with their distinctively acoustically effective quality of piano sound, were lost, and the empirical method of transferring of teaching ideas from one generation to another came to an end. At the present time, to revive these lost traditions, only scientific explanations of the acoustical phenomenon of this distinctive "singing tone" can help.
As an introduction to the Niks' piano technique, a lecture-recital, Mystery of Singing Tone, dedicated to the solution of producing an acoustically effective sound of piano, is available:
FREE DOWNLOAD AUDIO: Mystery of Singing Tone (high quality MP3, 36.2 Mb)
The lecture is illustrated by playing of pianists representing a school of "singing" tone of the past and the playing of Inessa Niks-- the author of the lecture-recital (Inessa Niks was recorded on a 1927 5' 7" Steinway model L).
“Distinctive Sounds of Great Composers”:
The invention of the Hand Guide in 1991 provided a precise demonstration of the effective work of muscles engaged in piano playing. The principles of piano technique without tension led to the explanation of the “singing tone,” the most acoustically effective and beautiful sound that the piano instrument can produce. Understanding of this phenomenon inspired further investigation into the specific sounds of great composers. The lecture-demonstration, Distinctive Sounds of Great Composers, is dedicated to the discovery of an amazing variety of acoustical sounds which we deem characteristic for different musical styles and major composers. The lecture is illustrated with excerpts performed by Inessa Niks:
FREE DOWNLOAD AUDIO: Distinctive Sounds of Great Composers (high quality MP3, 46.9 Mb)
sample page from, Play Without Tension, click pic to enlarge
Hand Guide attached to piano, click pic to enlarge
The device, Hand Guide, which represents the Niks Technique was on loan to the Händel-Haus in Halle and Robert Schumann Museum in Zwickau, Germany for the Robert Schumann Year celebration in 2010-2011 and subsequently acquired by the Robert Schumann Museum in 2011. The Hand Guide (photo taken by Christiane Rieche, Curator of the Musical Instrument Collection, Händel-Haus) is attached to a piano built by Matthäus Andreas Stein, Vienna, 1827, an instrument very similar to one which Clara Schumann received as a gift from her father, Friedrich Wieck in 1825.