July 2011

July 2011

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Ah! Not that big after all!

Little Grace (2)

Someone once said that he knew that Liam Gallagher would become a good guitar player, because he behaved like one right away from the start. 

There is nothing wrong with the idea 'Oh, I am going to be awfully good at this!'

And there was Grace now, sitting behind the large black grand piano. This being very much an 'adult' instrument, nevertheless she could with her right hand reach the lowest key on the piano and with her left hand the highest one. 

'Ah! Not that big after all!'

I ask Grace to keep her right arm in the air in a straight line with the floor. Her hand should be in a straight line with her upper arm and she should not do anything at all with her fingers. They are then slightly curved.

I ask Grace, whether this feels good, which it does.

'Can you now stretch your fingers and check how much effort it costs to keep them like that?' Admittedly, that costs quite some effort!

'Can you now bend your fingers a little bit as if you hold something in your hand?'

Admittedly, that doesn't feel quite so good either. A common misperception amongst piano teachers! They ask the child to keep the fingers 'as if they are holding an apple' and the fingers then play the keys as if they were little hammers. That is surely the way to go, if you want to wreck the child's piano playing right away from the start.

We will later see how this misperception came to exist amongst piano teachers. 

The hands then are put on the piano just the way they are, when the fingers are not used at all and the wrist can best be flexible. Piano books starting on the black keys are indeed very practical, because the fingers not used can easily 'fall back' to the white keys and the hand shape is natural. 

The wrist can drop slightly with every keystroke. Because a child's fingers are really still very weak and specific finger exercises should not be attempted before reaching grade 4.

This helps developing a sense of rhythm when playing the first tunes and that is the most important thing to develop in the beginning. Later we will see how the child will learn how to feel rhythms and phrases, so essential in learning to play the piano with pleasure. And playing with a sense of rhythm surely is also a pleasure for those listening to it.

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