Click to the newly updated PreTime to BigTime Piano Library--VIDEOS, song lists, and more!
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >
Topic Options
#27732 - 08/18/03 03:38 PM Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
I'm curious to know how important it is that students need to be drilled to keep their fingers "on the tip" when playing. My beginners all play flat-fingered and only round them briefly if reminded. I realize playing on the tip from the start is good to instill in the student, but how often is it necessary to remind them "on finger tips!"? each lesson? continually written in their notebook until it becomes habit? As they advance, it would be good for them to have already had the technique down, yes. but so often from the start I feel as though I'm harping too much about it and eventually will discourage the child from piano too soon, if at all.

It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.

#27733 - 08/18/03 06:35 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jason Offline
Star Member

Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 2019
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Harp all you want. (In a nice way!) Good hand shape is one of the most important early fundamentals of piano playing.
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

#27734 - 08/18/03 07:54 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I always seem to have a number of girls and women who insist they keep their long nails. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have good hand position when your nails are too long! I am on vacation but I got an extra pair of clippers and have set them on the side of my piano. I intend to ask the long nail wearers to please clip their nails before their lesson when we starg back. They have not done it at home at my request. I know some will be extremely offended if I do this. What do all of you do with this problem?

#27735 - 08/18/03 09:17 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
It's in my studio policy: Pianists must keep their nails short in order to maintain proper hand position. We will clip them during the lesson if they are long. It applies to boys too, who tend to forget. I make an exception for high school jr. and sr. girls for 2 lessons at prom time, but I make sure to roll my eyes. :rolleyes: ;\)

#27736 - 08/19/03 06:27 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
pianoc Offline
Star Member

Registered: 08/14/03
Posts: 1088
Loc: Goshen, Indiana
I am so obviously out of the loop from most teachers in this forum. I apparently look at it all differently. (I've been reading about how to set your rates).

I've found that if I have a student that really wants to play their best because it's what they want to do - they will do whatever I ask. If they're goals are little fuzzy - or not quite at that point (mostly teen girls) then they pick and choose.

There have been enough times where from one week to the next, a girl will go from long beautiful nails and only moderate interest in piano to trimmed nails and a whole new attitude toward piano. I love to see that happen, and I'm willing to stress the 'other' benefits of studying piano in the meantime.

They all know where the nail trimmers and file are at. When they were early elementary they did whatever I asked. I just see it as a phase - and it's one I'm willing to ride through.

#27737 - 08/19/03 06:55 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
When I was a pre-teen, I wanted to grow out my fingernails. My piano teacher advised me to cut them, but I didn't. Guess what happened? Well, one day when I was practicing at home, my thumb nail bent all the way backwards & broke off! Painful! Needless to say, I clipped my nails & never grew them out again. Had I listened to my piano teacher to begin with, I wouldn't have had to learn the hard way. \:o

So, what's my opinion about this issue of getting students to do what they're supposed to do? As Jason said, harp often, just in a nice way. It's your job as a teacher to provide proper instruction; if that means reminding someone about proper hand position (or about cutting fingernails, or about anything else related to piano study) from now until the cows come home, then so be it. Just make sure you do it in a kind, gentle way. \:\)

Of course, some students do what they want no matter what you say or do. :rolleyes: There's not much you can do about people like that.

[ 08-19-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

#27738 - 08/19/03 07:46 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
[ 08-19-2003: Message edited by: Lilla ]

#27739 - 08/19/03 07:55 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
unreal Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/23/03
Posts: 945
Loc: CA
Originally posted by pianoc:
I've found that if I have a student that really wants to play their best because it's what they want to do.

Same here. The thing is, I stress technique quite a bit, because you really do get a better sound out of the piano with good technique. My students know this about technique, and they know this about ME. Because of the way I teach, it is impossible for me to teach someone with long nails. If a girl decides her nails are more important than her piano-playing, I would simply have to let her go, with the greatest respect for her and her decision, and with best wishes and the hope that she would continue to play the piano for her own enjoyment, and an invitation to come back any time. This would not come out of the blue, as we would have discussed the how-to's of good piano-playing plenty of times. Interestingly, no one has ever refused to trim their nails for more than the allowed 2 weeks, although sometimes we have a good laugh over the "sacrifices" we make for our art! \:D

Back to CR's question--I have some little ones with the same problem. We've been doing special "hand shape songs" or "fingertip songs" each week. Or they play a short song with their whole fist, very slowly and relaxed as if underwater. (we get a giggle out of how crazy it sounds--tone clusters, you know). I'm still working all this out, but it seems that when you tell a kid to curve fingers, they tense up. Then the wrist pokes up, or they say "it's too hard to play like this." Somehow we need to help them play relaxed AND with good hand shape, because one without the other doesn't really work. Their hands are small--for me it would be akin to playing over an octave spanconstantly. I think when they are young, they need to have the *experience* of curved fingers/relaxed playing (big benefit of PA T&A). As long as they are aware of what it feels like to curve, they will do more the bigger their hand gets and the more experienced they become--with our helpful guidance, of course!

[ 08-19-2003: Message edited by: unreal ]

#27740 - 08/19/03 08:11 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
One of the main reasons I choose to use PA is because of the T&A books (the other main reason is because the pieces are expressive to reinforce concepts learned in the T&A books, & they're written with a child's small hand span in mind). I value expressive playing, & I use the books & materials that I believe best teach the technical skills needed to perform artistically. Anyone who enrolls their child in my studio knows this from the start. Therefore, I expect my students to complete their assignments & fully cooperate with me in all areas of piano study--especially those issues related to technique. However, I don't think it's necessary to be a control freak teacher & turn my students into basket cases. Whatever I ask them to do, I ask nicely. If they don't do it, I ask them again (still nicely). Of course, if a student repeatedly ignores my advice (which has unfortunately happened on a couple of occasions), I then feel compelled to terminate lessons, because I do not wish to spend my valuable time trying to get a person to do what s/he obviously doesn't want to do. If a student doesn't want to receive & heed the instruction & advice I have to offer, then s/he needs to find another teacher. I don't give up on a student if s/he doesn't readily respond positively to my teaching; however, if after I've tried everything I know to do & the student is still not cooperating, then I feel no guilt in terminating lessons. If they chose to quit lessons entirely, or to take lessons from a teacher who doesn't emphasize expressive performance the way I do, then so be it.

#27741 - 08/19/03 11:46 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Getting back to your original post, I would say that Jason is correct about the harping, but if you harp from the beginning about the ends of fingers, etc. you are setting the Poor Child up for a lifetime of tension and rigidity, not to mention the agony & anxiety of not being able to do what you're asking because they are physically incapable due to undeveloped little muscles and thangs.

For the beginner,change your thinking to that of hand shape and then figure out how to develop the finger muscles, etc. to support the hand shape from the very first lesson. If you do that, firm fingers and playing on fingertips will take care of itself.

If the above seems foreign to you, then it might be due to the materials you are using. With the method you are using, how is the hand first being developed? Is "anatomic nuetral" taught from the first lesson? Clusters? Fingers braced? Blocked hand exercises anywhere? Outer or inner core strenghthened when? Etc. These are the things one needs to think about to get kids off to a good healthy start.

Possible resources: Barbara Lister-Sink's video, Artistry at the Piano: Introduction, PA Technique & Artistry Primer + later T&A books, the how to teach beginning technique chapter of the new Practical Piano Pedagogy textbook, Music Tree Time to Begin and the how to teach Music Tree book that's free, and, finally, the new Celebrate Piano series book 1A. The technique is pretty well thought out in that last one, btw.

Hope this helps and wasn't too confusing! \:o

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >

Moderator:  Archivist 

Recent Posts
Which books to use?
by Amberly
10/06/15 06:02 PM
Transfer Students Struggling with Note Reading
by Beartime
10/06/15 02:37 PM
Business up or down?
by J.Baker
10/05/15 10:30 PM
Do You Know Your Piano Brands?
by gbmc
10/03/15 03:48 PM
Piano Pedal extender - Need help!
by Finnur
09/25/15 10:36 PM
Starting 4-year-old who only speaks Spanish
by Bridget
09/22/15 07:16 AM
Video Recording Piano Lessons
by EllaCat
09/21/15 09:56 AM
Hello, looking for advice/reassurance please
by EllaCat
09/18/15 11:20 AM
Maternity Leave?
by shannonspiano
09/09/15 03:53 PM
Partner Pages in Faber website
by Joyful
09/06/15 08:27 PM
Top Posters (Last 30 Days)
Newest Members
krowland, Maxwell, E Berrocal, Emma, Beartime
2632 Registered Users
Forum Stats
2632 Members
46 Forums
5747 Topics
62911 Posts

Max Online: 273 @ 01/14/13 12:57 PM