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#1277385 - 09/29/09 02:52 PM finger position  
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I'd like some feedback on helping my students maintain good hand position on the keys. Most of my students start out rather flat fingered, and as we work on technique and exercises, with an occasional reminder from me, they eventually develop a nice, natural hand position.

But I have one student whose right hand 4th finger continues to bend inward. When we stop to work on it, she can make it round, but as soon as she puts any pressure on it, it bends inward again. She is nearing the end of level 1 PA and has been taking for 2 years. (Slow progress initially, due to lack of practice. Much better recently, although she does tend toward laziness. She is 9.)

She understands what I want, just doesn't produce it, either because she can't or she won't - on that finger only. Her left hand is beautiful (she's right handed.) As we get more into pieces that require her to cross fingers, her right hand seems more and more awkward to watch.

I feel like I've read about this issue before on these boards, but can't find the thread now. How much time should I be spending on this? Are there any tips or techniques that will help?


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#1277425 - 09/29/09 03:59 PM Re: finger position [Re: Lollipop]  
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She's got to want to.


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#1277457 - 09/29/09 04:47 PM Re: finger position [Re: Lollipop]  
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Originally Posted by Lollipop
She understands what I want, just doesn't produce it, either because she can't or she won't - on that finger only.


It's because, as KBK stated, she doesn't want to. You are probably recalling a recent thread on this issue. I had suggested a kind of tug of war with the offending finger opposing yours. Students have surprisingly strong finger muscles. After you demonstrate that to her, I'd recommend a rather stern tone of voice, with words to the effect that continued collapsing of the finger is simply unacceptable, and if she does it again, she'll be sent home. Or some similar approach.


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#1278292 - 09/30/09 11:07 PM Re: finger position [Re: John v.d.Brook]  
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Saw same student today. She started out with the C major scale. She played 1 octave, hands together, first time without mistakes. Except that dippy finger. (I said 4th above - I must have been mixing up students. This is the student with the worst problem, but it is her middle finger on both hands.) "Hmmm. Let me check something." We did the finger tug of war. I pulled her all the way across the piano bench! Complimented her on how strong her fingers were. Then explained that since I could see her finger was plenty strong enough, that I was guessing that it was dipping because she was either being lazy, or had developed a bad habit.

She worked very hard on curving it the right direction. I think it surprised her how much attention it took. There were times when I had to ignore it to work on other things, but she is definitely aware of it. I wish I could tie a little string around the knuckle and pull it up whenever it bends backward - kinda like how I bump the wrist while they're playing if I see it start to droop. I don't like having to interrupt an otherwise smooth performance to point out the finger position.

I wrote "round finger" on all her pieces, and helped her recognize the points when it is going to be the most problem (playing forte, for example, or when holding it for a long time.)

Thanks for the tip about the tug of war. It gave me a positive place to start.


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#1278325 - 10/01/09 12:37 AM Re: finger position [Re: Lollipop]  
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You could always explain why it's important.


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#1278514 - 10/01/09 09:58 AM Re: finger position [Re: keyboardklutz]  
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The idea is that the finger whenever pressing down a key, must remain firm. Students who do this are relaxing that finger, and of course the pressure forces the finger to cave in like that. If they keep the finger firm, it will not do that.


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#1278558 - 10/01/09 10:45 AM Re: finger position [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
Students who do this are relaxing that finger, and of course the pressure forces the finger to cave in like that. If they keep the finger firm, it will not do that.


I'm not arguing but I am trying to understand.

It seems the student has no trouble pressing the key down. That may be what kbk was asking as well.

Perhaps it's confusion over where the finger is just too flat or actually bends backwards at the joint(s)?

I just tried to make my middle finger collapse while keeping the others curved and I can't do it.

One thing I've noticed though it's probably not relevant is the difference between pianos. On a digital, if I'm playing close to the fallboard, my middle fingers often extend beyond it. On an acoustic the middle finger slams into the fallboard first time you reach for a black key chord, you learn to curl it to avoid the collision.


gotta go practice
#1278577 - 10/01/09 11:07 AM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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I don't have any trouble making my finger collapse if I try. Put your fingers on your desk top as if you were playing a I chord. Thumb is of course on it's side. Pinky is stretched a bit (at least for me with smaller hands) and not hitting dead-center either. Middle finger is longer, and hitting the key further back. It is easy to put pressure on the pad and cause the knuckle to cave in.

Yesterday, I had her hold this chord, and work that middle knuckle back and forth so she could see what was required to get it in the right position. She had a tendancy to over-correct and play with the finger so vertical, the (short) nail touched first.

She plays on an acoustic at home and at lesson, so in her case, I don't think it's a keyboard issue, but I can see how it might be for some.


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#1278595 - 10/01/09 11:20 AM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Morodiene
Students who do this are relaxing that finger, and of course the pressure forces the finger to cave in like that. If they keep the finger firm, it will not do that.


I'm not arguing but I am trying to understand.

It seems the student has no trouble pressing the key down. That may be what kbk was asking as well.

Perhaps it's confusion over where the finger is just too flat or actually bends backwards at the joint(s)?

I just tried to make my middle finger collapse while keeping the others curved and I can't do it.

One thing I've noticed though it's probably not relevant is the difference between pianos. On a digital, if I'm playing close to the fallboard, my middle fingers often extend beyond it. On an acoustic the middle finger slams into the fallboard first time you reach for a black key chord, you learn to curl it to avoid the collision.


The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses. I can duplicate this easily if my finger is limp as I press the key down (while keep other fingers curved).


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#1278602 - 10/01/09 11:31 AM Re: finger position [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.

#1278620 - 10/01/09 11:52 AM Re: finger position [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.


How is that possible? When the first joint of the finger is firm, then it is curved (or can be very close to flat, but it is harder to maintain firmness in total flatness). When it is relaxed, it can either go curved or collapse when pressed, usually it will go collapsed.

Last edited by Morodiene; 10/01/09 11:53 AM.

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#1278623 - 10/01/09 11:59 AM Re: finger position [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.


Or too tightly curled? (might be the same thing)

The fingers are all different lengths. (I know, stating the blindingly obvious). But this problem only occurs with the longest fingers, and those are the ones that would curl most tightly if one were playing with tips in a line.

And this problem likely doesn't occur at all with flat fingers.

I still can't really picture this, but I am grateful to find at least one symptom I don't posess myself. (Though it's probably not too late to acquire it.)


gotta go practice
#1278759 - 10/01/09 03:41 PM Re: finger position [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.


Tension in the wrong place can increase the force upon a finger. However, without tension in the right muscles, the joint will collapse.

#1278779 - 10/01/09 04:15 PM Re: finger position [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.


Tension in the wrong place can increase the force upon a finger. However, without tension in the right muscles, the joint will collapse.


Okay, but even without getting into finger anatomy does this make sense?

If this child can relax two fingers while tensing eight, I want to take lessons from her. That's a nontrivial task for a yogi master.


gotta go practice
#1278783 - 10/01/09 04:20 PM Re: finger position [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Sounds to me like she has double-jointed fingers. And if anyone knows of a way to fix it, please let me know, becuase I think I might be suffering from the same problem!

#1278784 - 10/01/09 04:21 PM Re: finger position [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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And tension in the wrong muscles?

I am not going to try to play at physiologist, but when Lollipop can say

Originally Posted by Lollipop
... her right hand seems more and more awkward to watch.


there is no doubt: there is a tension problem.

And I am certain that it isn't limited to this unique finger.

Originally Posted by Lollipop

the points when it is going to be the most problem (playing forte, for example, or when holding it for a long time.)


This also seems an important obervation.

#1278786 - 10/01/09 04:25 PM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by Morodiene

The problem stems from the fact that *when* the student presses the key down, her finger is relaxed, and not firm. Therefore it collapses.


I don't believe that this is correct. To the contrary, it is the manifestation of a tension.


Tension in the wrong place can increase the force upon a finger. However, without tension in the right muscles, the joint will collapse.


Okay, but even without getting into finger anatomy does this make sense?

If this child can relax two fingers while tensing eight, I want to take lessons from her. That's a nontrivial task for a yogi master.


In what context? Presumably the third rests on a key- and hence has the return force of the key to contend with. Whoever heard of fingers collapsing, when they are simply hovering over the key, rather than resting on them? Sorry, but it's a simple fact that when a slack finger has a force applied to it, it collapses more easily. When a finger grips, it stops the joint moving the wrong way. Gripping provides a force that works in the opposite direction to that in which the joint collapses. If you don't want it to collapse you need to counter the force with one in the opposing direction. Simple.

Muscle tensions can lead to alignments in which collapses are more likely. However, if anyone thinks that a joint can be stabilised through relaxation, I'd certainly like to hear precisely how. Just what is going to provide the force that keeps the joint stable? Magic?

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 10/01/09 04:29 PM.
#1278795 - 10/01/09 04:37 PM Re: finger position [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
In what context? Presumably the third rests on a key- and hence has the return force of the key to contend with.
?


She's playing scales. How do you keep 8 fingers tensed and 2 relaxed while playing scales? A scale has eight notes, but this only happens on the middle finger.

It may make sense to you but not to me.

And double jointed? Same objection. Shouldn't more than two fingers be double jointed?


gotta go practice
#1278798 - 10/01/09 04:39 PM Re: finger position [Re: Nyiregyhazi]  
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Let's teach students to shape the hand first and then tap the finger tips lightly on a hard surface, not the piano keyboard.

They can tap in 3 ways:
1) With the 1-5 being the supportive frame resting on the hard surface with the 2-3-4 tapping all at once, or,

2) The entire hand dropping and lifting quickly while tapping from the wrist so that all fingers are tapping.

3) Then to go through tapping of individual fingers as in a 5 Finger Parallel C Major Position exercise, but with fingers not yet on the keyboard, still on the hard surface.

1 2 3 4 5 (RH)
C D E F G
5 4 3 2 1 (LH)

Point out that the fingers are contact the hard surface on the very ends of the fingers and that the joints are curved in support to making the finger tips do this correctly. Remember to demonstrate that the thumb moves differently than the other fingers.

The whole idea is to do this lightly with just enough movement by the fingers to accomplish this. Shoulders, elbows and arms in alignment with no tension issues.

Transfer this to the keyboard emphasizing that the joints must not bend. Start with tapping as we have done. Ask the student to increase the dynamics and the length of the note each time he plays through the exercise. At some point his knuckles will start to collapse. Be aware of the circumstances when that started to happen and work with the student to help him produce the right amount of "touch" for the dynamic of the note and for the length.

How much "touch"? Just enough is the answer!

Work with this idea until it transfers to a piece of music and the student can use these "dimensions" you have created together to select his "touches" in the development of the music.

Betty

#1278800 - 10/01/09 04:41 PM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Had another thought. The specific example given was the C major scale. So the finger is collapsing just at the point where the thumb is about to pass under or over. As she's a relative beginner I'm guessing you've been working mostly thumb under (though some start scales with thumb over, I did). So perhaps it's not the finger at all, but the wrist movement? Does the finger collapse if you let her play thumb over instead?

Or, (and this is heresy, but worth a try) what if you varied from tradition and let her play C major 1234123 instead of the correct way, just to see what the finger did?


gotta go practice
#1278805 - 10/01/09 04:45 PM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
In what context? Presumably the third rests on a key- and hence has the return force of the key to contend with.
?



And double jointed? Same objection. Shouldn't more than two fingers be double jointed?


Yes, 3 of my fingers on both hands are double jointed, but for some reason the two middle fingers get "locked" inwards when I press and hold certain chords. Especially when I play then with force...

#1278822 - 10/01/09 05:18 PM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
In what context? Presumably the third rests on a key- and hence has the return force of the key to contend with.
?


She's playing scales. How do you keep 8 fingers tensed and 2 relaxed while playing scales? A scale has eight notes, but this only happens on the middle finger.

It may make sense to you but not to me.

And double jointed? Same objection. Shouldn't more than two fingers be double jointed?


Because the other fingers grip enough to prevent the joint buckling, but those don't? Is that so fantastically improbable? Any finger that doesn't buckle is not actually 'relaxed'. The muscles are simply not tensing to the point of discomfort. Every finger would buckle, if the grip were released.

In any case, you didn't clarify. Are you talking about when resting on the third finger, or when the other fingers are playing? When resting on my third, I can certainly relax it enough for it to collapse while gripping in my others. Not exactly difficult stuff there.

Last edited by Nyiregyhazi; 10/01/09 05:21 PM.
#1278912 - 10/01/09 08:32 PM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR
Originally Posted by Nyiregyhazi
In what context? Presumably the third rests on a key- and hence has the return force of the key to contend with.
?


She's playing scales. How do you keep 8 fingers tensed and 2 relaxed while playing scales? A scale has eight notes, but this only happens on the middle finger.

It may make sense to you but not to me.

And double jointed? Same objection. Shouldn't more than two fingers be double jointed?


But you don't play them all at once. It's when the key is pressing presumably that the student's first joint collapses. No double-jointing here, anyone can do it to one degree or another. I have a student who when she plays chords the middle finger of each hand collapses. All the other fingers are nicely curved. It's something that just requires her attention to stop doing it, that's all. It's a habit, and it is a lack of tension in that joint that makes it collapse. I've taught a lot too and have resolved this issue in many students.


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#1279087 - 10/02/09 01:35 AM Re: finger position [Re: Morodiene]  
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Flexion is initiated by the middle phalange. If the brain stops there the nail joint will break in. Flexing the nail joint is the next stage and takes further thought which is why only lazy people break in the nail joint. Am I the only one who knows why it's undesirable?


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#1279158 - 10/02/09 06:39 AM Re: finger position [Re: TimR]  
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Originally Posted by TimR

I still can't really picture this, but I am grateful to find at least one symptom I don't posess myself. (Though it's probably not too late to acquire it.)


Perhaps I spoke too soon.

I found myself doing something that might be similar (hard to tell without a video). I was playing double thirds and noticed the nail joint of the middle finger starting to bend the wrong way.

A little experimenting showed that for me it depended on how far the middle finger was reaching. Reach forward (less curvature) less than half an inch, no bending. But reach back, without moving the other fingers, (slightly more curvature, hard to even see) and the joint bending occurs.

I don't what happens with physiology (tendons and such). I know psychologically that for me a negative is hard to do and a positive easy. If you told me "don't bend that joint" I couldn't do it. If you told me "reach out a quarter inch more" I'd have no problem complying.


gotta go practice

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