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#1252013 - 08/19/09 02:02 PM Missing Fingers  
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 9
TXPianoTeacher Offline
Junior Member
TXPianoTeacher  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 9
Texas
I just had a new inquiry who is very excited about starting lessons, but he only has 3 fingers on his left hand, and thinks he can only actually use one of them to play notes. I am fine with taking him and think it will be a great adventure for both of us as we work together, but was curious if anyone had any ideas about method books or rep that would be good to use.

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#1252038 - 08/19/09 02:55 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: TXPianoTeacher]  
Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
John v.d.Brook Offline
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John v.d.Brook  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2006
Posts: 7,639
Olympia, Washington, USA
Depending upon the nature of the hand injury, this could be an exciting adventure for both of you. If the thumb is missing, it becomes even more complex. Can you give us more details?


"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA
#1252053 - 08/19/09 03:23 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,184
Monica K. Offline

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Monica K.  Offline

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Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,184
Lexington, Kentucky
Somewhere in the archives is a link to a YouTube video about an amazing pianist who only has a total of four fingers, I believe it was, across both hands. I was completely amazed at how well she was able to play... it was incredible (AND incredibly humbling... she played rings around me and I've got all my digits). I wish I had bookmarked that video, but maybe somebody here remembers it and can give you the link. I'm sure it would prove to be a major inspiration for your new student.


Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
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#1252055 - 08/19/09 03:24 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: Monica K.]  
Joined: Aug 2005
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Monica K. Offline

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Monica K.  Offline

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Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 18,184
Lexington, Kentucky
p.s. man, I love Mr. Google. Here's the clip:



Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica
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#1252060 - 08/19/09 03:33 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: Monica K.]  
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,212
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Boynton Beach, FL
If you notice in the video, this woman's deformity allowed her quite a bit of space between the fingers on each hand, so she could get a decent span.

It would depend on which fingers your student has and how far apart they are, but I don't think it would be too difficult to find music appropriate for him. You may have to make some adjustments if he cannot do octaves for the LH, but it is very doable.

I had a student for had broken his index finger in his LH, then when that healed he broke the middle finger in the LH. So essentially we were without a very important finger for the majority of the school year. I chose music that had lots of open intervals in the LH or one with a walking bass. Certainly with some creative fingering your student could learn to play many standard pieces.

Depending on his hand shape, you may be able to make use of those other fingers if played unconventionally (on the knuckle or on the side). Best of luck! Let us know how things go with him. laugh


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#1252128 - 08/19/09 05:35 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: Morodiene]  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,905
rocket88 Offline
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rocket88  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2006
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Here is a link to a woman in Florida who was born with 3 fingers on each hand, and is a professional pianist:

http://www.bandvillage.com/bandcds.php?BandId=4&CDId=8

Also, I had two adult students who were missing a finger on their LH. One was the middle finger, the other was the ring finger.

In both cases, it was a real challenge to teach them, because if you use classical repertoire or traditional beginner music, it does not work very well, so in each case we had to come up with entirely new ways of fingering, playing chords, etc.

Best wishes in your endeavor!


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1252306 - 08/19/09 11:52 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: rocket88]  
Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 48
slowlearner Offline
Full Member
slowlearner  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2008
Posts: 48
Hello,

I started playing 20 months ago, having never thought I'd be able to play due to 2/3 of RH #5 missing for the last 27 years. There are definitely challenges having a truncated digit. For me, the worst is that the remaining stump has no pad and the knuckle end tends to slide off the sharps. Also, that short RH #5 makes it difficult to maintain an arched hand.

When I started lessons 19 months ago I showed my prospective teacher and it did not phase them. We've found ways of adapting, but the bigger challenges have always been other than those posed by RH #5.

#1252469 - 08/20/09 08:51 AM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: slowlearner]  
Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 155
Mrs.A Offline
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Mrs.A  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2009
Posts: 155
Last spring a parent approached me about a child who is missing a thumb and third finger on her left hand due to a birth defect. She was turned down by two other piano teachers. It was only at the end of the phone interview did she reveal the disability. I was surprised and a little angry that the other teachers would turn down this student.

Yes, students play with their fingers but more importantly, they play with their hearts, ears, head etc. Fingers just facilitate making music.

This nine year old student was very self conscious at first. The minute she finished playing she removed her hand from the keys and hid it in her lap. I made an effort to squeeze her hand encouragingly and place her fingers where they need to be and she is now very comfortable.

At first it was tricky as the beginning lesson involved finger number exercises. We practiced crossing under to play pent scales and we are writing in a lot of finger numbers. I am encouraging her not to “hop” one finger between notes. I also encourage to anticipate the next measures and to find the finger numbers that are most comfortable for her. She come back to lessons using different finger numbers than we worked out at lessons and that is good. She is working around the disabilities herself.

At first I thought I would lean more towards an monophonic -accompaniment/melody rather than polyphonic repertoire and curriculum but the more we progress, I am realizing she can handle any style if she chooses.

We are still new in to lesson and we are learning as we go but it is working very well.


Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.

#1252500 - 08/20/09 09:32 AM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: Mrs.A]  
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,212
Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 16,212
Boynton Beach, FL
Mrs. A and slowlearner,
Your experiences from both sides of the piano are very encouraging words to hear. Something that I firmly believe in any musical pursuit is: you do the best with what you have. I think this concept is more readily accepted in the singing world because you cannot change your God-given voice. You can only strengthen it and learn to use it the best you can.

This is really no different from piano, but so many students feel inadequate if their hands are small, and in some cases, if they are missing digits or have some deformity. These things should not be seen as limitations: they are what they are, and we have been given that challenge for a reason. Not to think of 'overcoming,' but just to do your personal best. If it is 'overcoming' then it is a limitation in your mind. One's personal best is all about 'just doing it' (to adapt the Nike tag line).


private piano/voice teacher FT

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#1252537 - 08/20/09 10:04 AM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: Morodiene]  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,905
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member
rocket88  Offline
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Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 3,905
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Mrs. A and slowlearner,
Your experiences from both sides of the piano are very encouraging words to hear. Something that I firmly believe in any musical pursuit is: you do the best with what you have. I think this concept is more readily accepted in the singing world because you cannot change your God-given voice. You can only strengthen it and learn to use it the best you can.

This is really no different from piano, but so many students feel inadequate if their hands are small, and in some cases, if they are missing digits or have some deformity. These things should not be seen as limitations: they are what they are, and we have been given that challenge for a reason. Not to think of 'overcoming,' but just to do your personal best. If it is 'overcoming' then it is a limitation in your mind. One's personal best is all about 'just doing it' (to adapt the Nike tag line).


I remember seeing a video of two retired piano teachers who were living in a retirement community.

Both had suffered strokes; one was paralyzed on the right side, the other on the left...so they sat on the piano, and one played the right hand, and the other the left...

Lemons into lemonade. smile


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1252631 - 08/20/09 12:04 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: rocket88]  
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 357
J Cortese Offline
Full Member
J Cortese  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 357
Los Angeles, CA
Hm. this may be an odd comparison, but I remember seeing a bit of a documentary on something that made my jaw drop -- wheelchair rugby. I cannot imagine playing rugby on two good legs much less in a rolling chair, and these people go at it as hard as any standing rugby player. They are NUTS.

Because a jock is a jock is a jock, and to some extent, it just doesn't matter whether the body is perfect, these people want to get as much as they can out of the bodies they have, and that's exactly what they do. And a musician is a musician is a musician. If someone's head is wired to do it in such a way that they want it that bad, they'll do it because they won't be able to NOT do it.

I also know one friend of mine who's deaf as heck (okay with HAs, but generally deaf as a post without them) who is a damned good language learner and is fluent in Spanish. Her head is just well-wired for language learning.

How many people have ten perfect fingers and thumbs and can't play a note? That alone tells you that perfect, large, strong, flexible hands are, like perfect pitch, an asset to someone who already has that gift and drive, but they are far from necessary.


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#1252895 - 08/20/09 06:09 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: J Cortese]  
Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 9
TXPianoTeacher Offline
Junior Member
TXPianoTeacher  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 9
Texas
Thank you all for your replies, advice and encouragement. I have my consultation with the student tonight, and we will begin to work. I am excited to work on finding different ways of fingering and playing, and humbled by someone so excited to learn an instrument that he won't let anything stop him. I am not sure which fingers are missing yet, but will see tonight, and will keep all posted. Thanks again!

#1253013 - 08/20/09 09:11 PM Re: Missing Fingers [Re: TXPianoTeacher]  
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 695
DanLaura Larson Offline
500 Post Club Member
DanLaura Larson  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 695
Pocatello, Idaho
Years ago, I had a student who was born with only her RH. She had her left arm down to about midway between her elbow and wrist. She had very fine muscle control on the end of her stump, so she was able to play one note with the left arm while playing all RH notes. It has been so long ago that I, unfortunately, don't remember what method book I had her in. At the time I was using Music Pathways a lot by Lynn Freeman Olson, but probably went with something like Alfred or Faber just because of their approach. I seem to recall considering the Music Tree series. So much of the first book relies on playing only one or two notes per hand, that it was easily adaptable. I think that Alfred has a chord approach method that might work for your student. The Fabers have some books called ChordTime Piano that might also be good.

Please keep us posted! I would love to hear about your lessons with this student!

Laura


Dan and Laura Larson
Fazioli and Ibach grands
Larson Piano Studio
http://www.stoneformsart.com/

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