Principles of Method
In spite of significant contributions in the field of piano technique made by major researchers of the 20th century: Tobias Matthay, Otto Ortmann, and Arnold Schultz, no practical method for piano teachers, who are ultimately responsible for building foundations, was developed. We define method as an effective, scientifically-based physical approach to piano playing. Since piano playing is physical activity, an effective method should lead to optimal results with minimal effort. A correct physical approach should provide the potential for long hours of playing without any harmful tension or pain. The ultimate goal in music performance is the quality of the resulting tone— a sound which possesses good projection and a beautiful spectrum, rich in overtones.
The essential contribution of researcher, Mikhail Niks, was the discovery of the condition of the resting arm with unlocked joints of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. This condition provides an effective base for the work of fingers. Each joint is characterized by antagonistic groups of muscles (for example, biceps and triceps acting on the elbow joint). An unlocked joint is neither stiff nor relaxed. It is defined by the activation of a single muscle group of an antagonistic pair at a time. The condition of the resting arm with unlocked joints was demonstrated in the first invention, Hand and Wrists Exercising Means (patented in 1989). The principles of the device were tested and approved by the medical experiment conducted by the Pathokinesiology Department in Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, CA in 1989.
Mr. Niks then went further, searching for the most effective solution for the work of finger muscles in piano playing. He focused his attention on the activity of the lumbricalis muscle. The lumbricalis attaches to the root phalange of each finger (excluding the thumb) and is inserted in the palm area of the hand. The advantage of this muscle is that it does not impact the wrist area. Activation provides security from the pain in the wrist area thus preventing the development of tendonitis. This discovery led to the invention of a second device, Hand Guide (patented on 1992) which became the teaching aid for the effective and tension-free piano technique. Together with the supplemental manual, Play Without Tension, accomplished by Inessa Niks in 1998, training with the Hand Guide provides a complete and secure foundation for the piano player. Another advantage of the developed approach that is extremely valuable for the advanced piano players is the principle of the forward force of the shoulder that supports the condition of the resting arm. Forward force allows a player to obtain an optimal volume of sound from the piano instrument while avoiding tension.