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Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2880320 08/16/19 03:45 PM
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Not a teacher here, but I just gave this a try. I think the position feels surprisingly natural and it's a logical thing to do. Not of course in the long run, but if the only task you have with the piano is to play F#-G#-A# with 2-3-4 then holding your thumb against the rigid surface like the front of the piano gives a nice support very close to action and you have much better control of the fine movement of 2-3-4 fingers compared to having to support the arm in the air all the way from the elbows. I've seen some painters extend their pinky and hold it against the surface they are painting while holding the brush between thumb and index finger. It gives the same kind of support point close to where fine finger movement is needed.

Moving the thumb between the keys and the "support position" doesn't feel natural anymore if the thumb has something to play. I guess the easy solution is to use exercises that don't omit the thumb.

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Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2880348 08/16/19 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Andamento
He does this more when he's playing black-keys-only pieces, because those notes are fingered with 2, 3, and 4, and there's nothing for the thumb to do. There's a lot of tension in his hands because of pushing his thumbs against the wood. Maybe I should take him off the black-key pieces and get him to play only white-key-pieces that use the thumb often?

I don't understand this (presumably) 'modern' method of teaching where beginners are playing exclusively on black keys using 2-3-4 and obviously not reading whilst playing. (Surely he's not reading F# - G# - A# while playing them?)

Personally, I think it develops really bad habits like this one, as well as not allowing the student to get used to the normal 5-finger position on white keys, which is important to develop proprioception for piano playing. The thumb is the most important finger for any beginner to get used while in alignment with the others, because its 'natural' (anatomical) position is in opposition to all the others - which is the way that kid is using it.


This is an interesting comment I've been pondering.

I believe the point of students playing on the black keys early on is to better attune them to keyboard geography -- the patterns of two-black-key groups and three-black-key groups, and how they relate to the white keys around them.

That said, one has to wonder whether there might be a different way to effectively teach keyboard geography than to have students play exclusively on the black keys for a period of time?


In the early days of keyboard playing, generally only fingers 2 - 5 were used, because it was felt that the thumbs are not designed to be used like fingers - which is true (ask any anatomist) - but we can train our thumbs to play just as well as fingers (unlike primates, who can't play a keyboard like humans, because their thumbs are too short, like early versions of humans - ask any anthropologist).

But the training of thumbs to play properly need to be done correctly right from the start, otherwise thumbs will lapse into doing what they were designed to do: oppose the fingers. Which is why those new-fangled beginner primers that (apparently) aim to teach students that black keys are as valuable as white ones right from day 1 have a fatal flaw (actually, more than one, but we'll talk about them some other time), especially when young children are involved. Abduction of the thumb is actually a clumsy movement compared to opposition (or flexion or extension), but that's the movement used to play a key on the piano. And kids especially need to get used early on to the feeling of a flat keyboard beneath the whole hand and ten fingers, not just beneath the fingers 2 - 5.

And they need to realize that playing a piano keyboard is not like typing on a computer keyboard (where the thumb is only used on the space bar.......like the wood bar).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2880437 08/16/19 09:23 PM
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Luckily, he will not be able to do this soon enough when he's playing a white key with his thumb - most methods get to this relatively early on. Correct it when you see it, but don't worry too much as it will go away on its own.


private piano/voice teacher FT

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Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2880456 08/16/19 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Try this:

When he is playing the 2-3-4 on black keys, put a little red dot sticker on the white key and say, "Thumb sits here."


Thanks for this suggestion. I will try that.


Maybe you could also modify the piece to give the thumb a few notes to play on the sticker.
All performers love a speaking part.


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Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2880855 08/18/19 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Andamento
I may have misled you, putting the word "keybed" in the thread title. It's not the horizontal surface on which the keys are placed that is the place he's putting his thumbs (what I think AZN meant by "resting thumbs on that rail.") The boy is putting his thumbs on the vertical wood surface at the front of the piano, a little bit below the rail.

Isn't it a sign of a poor hand shape? I mean if a little boy is bracing his thumb on the vertical surface of the piano while playing on black keys it may be a sign that his fingers are too flat.

Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Iaroslav Vasiliev #2881217 08/19/19 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by Andamento
I may have misled you, putting the word "keybed" in the thread title. It's not the horizontal surface on which the keys are placed that is the place he's putting his thumbs (what I think AZN meant by "resting thumbs on that rail.") The boy is putting his thumbs on the vertical wood surface at the front of the piano, a little bit below the rail.

Isn't it a sign of a poor hand shape? I mean if a little boy is bracing his thumb on the vertical surface of the piano while playing on black keys it may be a sign that his fingers are too flat.


I'm not so sure. I just tried bracing my thumb on the front edge of my desk, and my hand naturally went into a gently curved shape that looks pretty correct.


gotta go practice
Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2881690 08/20/19 03:05 PM
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Thank you for all your comments, everyone. The student has his lesson tonight, and I plan to closely examine different aspects of his posture, hand and arm shape, any visible tension, and the like. We have talked some already about sitting up straight (last week his torso was shaped like a letter C at one point), and about the bridge of his hand.

I'm taking notes on the additional considerations you've brought up here, and also plan to ask mom about seat height at home, etc.

I'll let you know more after the lesson. I appreciate the thoughtful questions and suggestions you've all offered so far.

Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2881845 08/20/19 09:50 PM
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So... when he played a black-key piece tonight, there were no thumbs on the wood. He kept them near his playing fingers.

But... he instead held his thumbs in the air somewhat, above the white keys E & F, fighting gravity and causing just as much tension in his hand as he had last week when he was pushing the thumbs forward into the vertical wood piece.

At which point it would have been great if I'd remembered AZN's and Malkin's suggestions to put down a red dot sticker and improvise a few things for the thumb to play on it. Sigh. Last student of the night, and I had a pretty good headache going by that point. Not my most stellar brainpower moment. laugh

Meanwhile... I seriously have to wonder how important it really is to even play exclusively on the black keys? I might have to start a new thread on that. I'm curious about how that even became a thing for beginning students. (Well, young beginners -- the older beginner series by the same authors has only two pieces on the black keys, versus about ten in the former.)

Last edited by Andamento; 08/20/19 09:53 PM.
Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2881847 08/20/19 10:03 PM
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See my new black-keys-only spin-off thread HERE.

Re: Resting thumbs on the wood in front of the keybed
Andamento #2882702 08/23/19 10:16 AM
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I have a smart and stubborn young boy who has hand posture that makes me cringe! Falling thumbs!!!

as a "joke" I took a ruler with a metal straight edge, and held it just under the white keys. Told him it was a knife blade and not to get cut! Since he is all things frogs and snails and puppy dog tails, and that we have a very good rapport and he trusts me, he got this idea, and it worked!!

He does have a digital at home, so that may be an issue.

(do not recommend for all students. Know your audience.)


And, choose music that has any finger anywhere any time on any key. If they are "locked in" to any position, a poor habit can develop. Change things up! (even if just moving octaves.)


Learning as I teach.
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