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.
~S.Rachmaninoff~

Top
#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)


www.pianoped.com

Top
#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?

Top
#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: ;\)

Top
#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.

Top
#27737 - 08/19/03 06:55 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeña 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: Jalapeña ]

Top
#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 ]

Top
#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
 Quote:
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 ]

Top
#27740 - 08/19/03 08:11 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeña 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.

Top
#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

Top
#27742 - 08/19/03 03:28 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeña Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
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.


All the more reason not to enroll preschoolers in traditional piano lessons. Wait 'til they're developmentally ready to play; in the meantime, do music readiness activities with them to prepare them for traditional piano lessons.

Top
#27743 - 08/20/03 07:36 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
ruth-c Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 05/30/03
Posts: 27
Loc: Idaho Falls, ID
Has anyone seen the new books by Catherine Rollin?---Pathways to Artistry, Technique I and Pathways to Artistry, Repertoire I. I think Catherine Rollin is Alfred's answer to the FJH Technique and Artistry books (which I also LOVE).

In the Rollin Technique I, there is an excellent page about "strong fingers", and it is explained in a little different way. This is on page 7 of this book. Catherine Rollin gave a workshop here about 2 weeks ago, and I was very impressed with her methods of teaching technique.

She starts with preparation before playing---such as, Place r.h. on fallboard, curve fingers in natural position. With l.h. gently exert pressure on the first segment of finger 2 (then 3, 4, 5). To prevent the first joint from caving in, keep the weight of the arm focused on the playing surface of the fingertip (broad fingertip cushion, and with the finger a little less than a 90" angle to the white keys). Etc, etc., but really good information and examples of how to present these to the student.

There are many other useful hints on teaching technique, and the repertoire book reinforces these things, and also teaches a bit about various musical periods and styles.

I plan to use these books with a few of my students who are in need of technical improvement!!

Ruth-c \:\) ;\)

Top
#27744 - 08/20/03 10:30 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I just got these and though I sort of like the technique book I wasn't vey impressed with the rep book at all.

Top
#27745 - 08/21/03 08:25 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
I do use the PA series, and that would include the T & A book. I walk the kids through the natural hand position deal... show them how to drop their hands at their sides [relaxed], then I take their hand and place it on the keys, telling them to stay relaxed. There's our natural hand position! they're excited. "That's what we want when we play..." I tell them. they then begin the song and play with nice h.p. but eventually it soon flattens. I suppose now that I have "permission" to harp, I'll continue - nicely, of course, like I always do. I liked the rest of the comments, too. Especially about keeping a nail clipper at the piano for girls/women who like their nails long....

ruth-c!! I attended Catherine Rollin's workshop she gave on the 5th! I, too, was impressed with her technique ideas. She demonstrated Pathways to Artistry last, and being that we were nearing the time to be finished, it seemed sort of rushed through. Still, it was very insightful.

[ 08-21-2003: Message edited by: CR ]
_________________________
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.
~S.Rachmaninoff~

Top
#27746 - 08/21/03 08:27 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
CR Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 03/18/01
Posts: 289
Loc: Idaho
[ 08-21-2003: Message edited by: CR ]
_________________________
It goes without saying that technical proficiency should be the first acquisition of a student who would be a fine pianist.
~S.Rachmaninoff~

Top
#27747 - 08/21/03 11:09 AM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
CR, If that's the case then you might want to have them work with soft plastic hand-sized footballs that you can find for a song at discount stores. They help develop the shape, arch and the ridge joints. I'm pressed for time right now - maybe Jala can chime in with what's she's done with 'em since I know she's used them too.

What I got out of the latest Faber workshop/video peek was the way they stress the importance of spending a lot of time on the building exercises at the very beginning. I wonder if often teachers introduce it really quick at the first lesson or two and then it gets kinda dropped (in the kids' heads, at any rate!) because they feel the pressure to have the kid start churning out songs so the parents feel they're getting their money's worth. I'm revamping my beginner lesson plans for fall. They will probably have no songs assigned until the 3rd lesson or so.

Man, am I jealous you guys got to see Catherine ROlling! I saw those books listed in a flyer and was enticed by them. Can you give more details? Nancy, what didn't you like exactly about the repertoire books?

Top
#27748 - 08/21/03 12:04 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
ruth-c Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 05/30/03
Posts: 27
Loc: Idaho Falls, ID
Lisa Kalmar--
I always notice your posts because of the Overland Park address; I have many friends and relatives in that area. Graduated from Baker University many years ago, and was back in K.C. area in 2000.

Yes, it was terrific to see and hear Catherine Rollin. I agree that the Technique I book of the Piano Artistry series is the more useful of the two. I think it's especially great for teachers because it consolidates all those wonderful ideas that we are trying to impart to "The Young and the Restless!!!!"

This way all the technical ideas are in one book, and you can use any appropriate repertoire to have students work on these things.

How is the K.C. weather this summer? Idaho is generally cool, gorgeous, and fantastic in the summer, but we just endured the hottest July on record, and August has not been much better.

Top
#27749 - 08/21/03 02:24 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeña Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
The football helps, but it has to be a certain size & type of football; not just any kind. When I get back from picking up Piano Kid from school, I'll post more info.

Meanwhile, permit me to mention some success I had in dealing with a child who was dropping her wrists below keyboard level & playing with completely flat fingers (she must have tried hard to get her fingers that flat). At one of her lessons, out of desperation, I found a shower curtain rod & held it under her forearms--close to the keys--as she played. Every time her wrist dropped too low, she felt the rod & corrected her hand position herself, without me having to say anything to her. \:\) This was great, because when she raised her wrists, her fingers also rose to the proper playing position (anatomically neutral or natural position).

More later... TTFN!

Top
#27750 - 08/21/03 02:29 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
Necessity is the mother of invention! \:D Love it!

Top
#27751 - 08/21/03 02:46 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
Lisa...when I saw Catherine Rollin, she mentioned these books as a possible "method" for those intermediate students moving on and out of their previous standard method books. That's what I understood anyway. So, I was very interested because I have a few needing a transition right now and thought these books might be good for them to use as we move into more standard literature as well. I was thinking I would use the Technique and Rep. book together sort of page by page..all neat and tidy you know! But I can't seem to figure out how I would do that. Each piece in the rep book has written in which technique is being used in that piece...usually several to many. So the student would have to be working on several to many of the technique at one time for any given piece. So then I thought well I would just use the technique book as a guide in my studio to focus on one at a time..one a week or something and then after doing some let them begin the pieces. Much of the technique is what we have already been teaching from the beginning but it never hurts to go over them again with exercises and if the student had their own copy could read and play the exercises at home. I then got to looking at the Rep. book and played through it. I only have book 1 of each, and though I liked the idea of pinpointing which era the music applied to, I found the pieces very dull and not very difficult or interesting for the intermediate students I was thinking of. They would have to be used strictly on the side, along with other core music, maybe just as etudes to utilize the technique they worked on. I guess I was trying to see it as a main, core method for intermediates but I can't see it being used that way. So, I guess if I were to use it I would use it on the side as extra technique application and also maybe for explanation on the differences of the eras. Maybe the books just didn't fit what I had in mind, but they may still be beneficial. Anyone else have comments on these books?

Top
#27752 - 08/21/03 03:36 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Jalapeña Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
Okey dokey, folkey... I'm back. \:D

Mary Gae's finger tug-of-war (from Seminar A tape; I hope I don't get in trouble for sharing it online): Link fingers together and pull. This strengthens the end joints. Without strong end joints, you don’t get good tone.

Mary Gae also works with dowels to build up the hand arch. This is explained on the Seminar A tapes.

Before I elaborate on the football, I want to mention one other thing I thought of. This may seem obvious, but always check that the student is sitting at the proper height. If the student is sitting too low, his/her wrist will drop & the hand will not be in proper position. Most of the time, correcting the seat height only involves putting a cushion or telephone book on top of the piano bench for the student to sit on.

Now, about the football: Buy one of those soft (but not too soft) vinyl-covered Hedstrom footballs that are about 6.5" long x 4.5" wide. Have student place hand over football. The shape of the football helps student develop anatomically neutral hand shape.

Top
#27753 - 08/28/03 12:25 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
lynn Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 06/11/03
Posts: 21
Loc: TN
I have a transfer student (about 10) who had not hand shape at all, just jello: wrist ALWAYS dropped way down and always playing with the entire length of finger. No tension problems there! I finally took a little stone-cast cat (small) and put it on the keys and they had her play her hand oever it so the cat filled the space under the "arch". I asked her to play a key: of course, she "squashed" the cat who said, "Meow!" (Guess who \:D ) Since then, when she collapses, I just say "Meow" and she laughs and fixes it. Better style of nagging, I guess!

Top
#27754 - 08/28/03 01:06 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1573
Loc: Chicago
Lynn, that's fantastic! I have to steal that idea.

Top
#27755 - 08/29/03 03:18 PM Re: Firm Fingers/Playing on Fingertips
lynn Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 06/11/03
Posts: 21
Loc: TN
You're welcome to it, minus all the typos I didn't see when I posted! :rolleyes:

Top
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >


Moderator:  Archivist 
Search

Recent Posts
Beginner Rhythm Struggles... HELP!
by AmyEliz
Today at 12:37 PM
Annual Studio/Material Fee
by Lilla
11/25/14 07:57 PM
ipad vs ipad mini
by Jennifer
11/25/14 06:10 PM
Advanced Level Christmas Duet/Duo
by Niftynote
11/24/14 01:58 PM
New piano student volunteering at nursing home?
by EllaCat
11/24/14 10:54 AM
Pre-Staff Christmas music - with note names
by EllaCat
11/18/14 05:24 PM
uncooperative parents
by rainy
11/18/14 03:22 PM
I need to buy a new printer - suggestions
by Joyful
11/17/14 08:38 AM
Teaching Plan
by Jon
11/14/14 11:21 AM
Siblings fighting
by Joyful
11/12/14 01:16 PM
Top Posters (Last 30 Days)
12
EllaCat
10
Joyful
6
Nyke
5
SharonAdelle
5
Jennifer
5
Bridget
4
Jon
2
alidoremi
2
Lindy
2
susanmusic
Newest Members
CarrieGirl, 88Keys&6Strings, chernobieff, jaredluvsmusic, Texas Tel
2565 Registered Users
Forum Stats
2565 Members
46 Forums
5678 Topics
62602 Posts

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