Many people struggle with relaxed, right-hand alternation. i m alternation seems to be the preferred combination because that’s what everyone does right?
I’m here to tell you that i m alternation is overrated, and I want to introduce you to my friend, p i alternation. We don’t often have to play long, fast scales in a piece, but p i is a great tool with which to do so.
In my extremely over-simplified view of looking at the hands and how they function, our hands work in three units. The thumb, the index and the rest. Any combination of one of the independent digits (thumb, index) with one of the less independent (the rest) makes for an easily developed, relaxed alternation.
Combining the two independent digits, p i, is like magic. They work well separately and work equally well together.
Beware the Heaviness
Most of use use p exclusively for accompaniment and bass notes, as a result, p tends to be “heavy.” That is, we tend to accent it. The key to a nice p i alternation is lightness. Try to get the thumb sounding the same as the index. To me, it feels like consciously holding back the thumb.
Practice and Development
The easiest way to get a sense for what p i feels like is to practice is slow a couple times. Sometimes it’s a bit weird to start with. But, as I’ve mentioned before, playing slow to get fast is not as effective as people make it out to be. To develop some speed work with quick bursts. Like p i then p i p and p i p i, etc. Don’t forget to do those bursts starting with the index as well.
After some good bursts are going, you can work on string crossings and more scalar things.
p i alternation is saving my life this year because I suck at i m. Give p i a test run and let me know what you think.