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Yesterday, I gave a spoken "flat fingered hand" award with great enthusiasm. "You have the most flattest fingers I have ever seen!" I just gushed about it with a big hoop-de-doo.
But, she got it. She looked at me with a grin, and then the grin fell, and she realized I didn't really mean it. Smart kid! She seems more determined to work on curved hand shape as lesson went along. I have said "curved fingers, please" over and over and over to her until I can't say it anymore!
She started lessons at age 5, and I got her as a tranfer student in October 2007. Her teacher already had her playing C and G7 chords in both hands and her joints just gave in from the pressure. She still has trouble playing efficiently and expressively because of very flat fingers. She just can't hold a curved finger position. She turns 9 this month and we've doing some exercises at lessons for her upper body as well as the hand for the past year. She is a petite little thing. We are working on "jigs" and fun children's songs like "Do Your Ears Hang Low" and "The Wheels on the Bus" and a book of technique exercises by early classic composer-teachers. We have previously played lots of slower, steady music. She is a bright learner and has a capable and musical mind.
The party store has these inexpensive little soccer/basketball/baseball types of squeezees in packages. It goes on the list for my next errand day. I gave away my last little soft ball for finger exercise yesterday to a 6 year old also with flat fingers.
Any ideas to share? Or comments to make? Could I be missing something?
Horowitz is gorgeous! His sound is mesmorizing to me and he makes piano virtuosity look easy to do.
Liszt is a black key composer and extended fingers play black keys nicely.
But, I'm talking about a little girl with very small fingers and elevations and octaves are out of the question for her. We are out in front playing on the white keys with F# and Bb as black notes. These keys need even slightly curved fingers to fit out in front of the black notes.
I'm thinking the answers to solving the problem are elsewhere in the anatomy besides in her shoulders and arms. A friend in piano world was telling me about things in ballet and in drummming that seem provident for answers like this - after all it's all about movement, yes? And elsewhere this week I read about yoga being used to teach young musicians good movements to work with in gesturing and in relaxing tensions in the body.
So, I'm thinking elsewhere is the answer to help this child discover things she can do. Fixed positions or freedom, it is all essential to the long-term developed pianist, but it must also be happening in children in their first attempts to play the instruments. The body has to work with the appropriate physical motions put into place by the thinking mind of the player. It's all connections in our body - a network of muscles and nerves, bones and joints, blood, tissue, cells....oh, my, I wish I had studied biology and physiology because it's very much a part of a musician's domain.
Betty, you are correct. It is the biology of the hand and some have to work at it and some just naturally curve their fingers.
I close the lid of the piano and ask the student to play on the lid with their 2,3, 4,5 fingers I tell them to start by playing with flat fingers. I ask them to notice the muscles tension in their arms. They can feel how much muscle it takes to move each finger. They can fill the muscle tension up the whole arm. Physically it takes a lot muscle just to move one finger if the finger is flat. Then I have them play 2,3,4,5 with curved fingers. I ask them to tell me how many muscles they feel are used. They can feel that just the muscles in the hand and fingers are used.
I then ask them to try playing four imaginary notes on the lid again but quickly using both flat and curved fingers. They will notice how much more control they have and less muscle energy they use when playing with curved fingers. They just simply can not play quickly with flat fingers.
I also explain that not correcting flat fingers will prevent them from moving forward technically. They may learn on the theory, can read all the chords and the notes on the page and solve the rhythm problems but if they can’t move their fingers correctly they can’t play the more complicated pieces. .
I hope this helps
Piano Teacher. Church Music Director. Kindermusik Instructor. Mom to four boys.
I have one 7 year old student who seems to have trouble with this, though his younger and older brother don't have a problems, though he seems to have been improving in that aspect in the last year. Maybe make a "Flat Hand" award?
Well, there are instances when a flat hand actually works better, if not absolutely necessary, due to the limitations of the hand size vs. the chord/interval being played. Sometimes I even surprise myself how much flat finger I use in order to reach wide intervals or play certain chords.
But if the student uses flat hands/fingers _all_ the time, intervention must take place.
Instead of buying balls you can buy balloons. You blow up the balloon to fit whatever size hand you need. The student can slip the balloon insider their hand and bounce around the keyboard.
Another thing I do with students when they are learning their five-finger patterns is to have them play up and down the pattern and then play all five-fingers in a cluster. We look at their hand and make sure that they are holding all 5 keys down, we look at their fingers and make sure they are round and that they can stay that way. We look at their knuckles and make sure they are not wobbly.
After they have gotten the idea of the round shape and the student can play the cluster, hold 4 keys down and then play one finger at a time. They can play fingers 1 and 5 and lift up fingers 2, 3, 4. You can work on any combination that needs practice.