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Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes (Read 4347 times)

Offline vletenyei

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Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
« on: September 30, 2013, 10:35:06 PM »
I have several young students playing the "Bach" Minuet in G from the Piano Town method book in middle C position which requires them to use finger 5 to play F# with the left hand and Finger 4 to play F# with the right hand.  I am instructing my students to shift up toward the black keys, so that all the fingers are resting on the white notes between the black keys and LH5 and RH4 can rest properly on the black keys, as an adult would position the hand to play and E flat chord or arpeggio.  This makes sense to me for young students as well so that there is no hesitation when its time to play the black notes.  It also avoids the bad habit of swinging the wrist to reach a black note rather than lifting the wrist toward the black notes.  Does anyone else agree or disagree with this hand position/shape? and why?  A parent questioned me on it so your feedback is appreciated.

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #1 on: October 01, 2013, 09:11:47 PM »
Do not have them preposition their fingers on certain keys. That is a very traditional yet inefficient way of teaching. From the perspective of the Taubman Approach, which I am in dedicated study of, when the student begins to play let their hand hold it's natural position. Never should they try to change that position if not necessary. The fingers should not stretch away from the finger playing because that would result in a dual muscular pull. This is my suggestion and hopefully I am directing towards the correct issue.
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19

Offline sucom

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #2 on: October 01, 2013, 10:48:14 PM »
I would agree with you that moving the hand slightly forwards to reach black notes is better than swinging the hand outwards.  Younger students don't like the feeling of having their hands positioned forwards because the black keys feel harder to press down in this position using weaker fingers.  But strength is gained with practice so I feel it is worthwhile to keep the hand aligned correctly.


Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #3 on: October 02, 2013, 12:38:13 AM »
Do not have them preposition their fingers on certain keys. That is a very traditional yet inefficient way of teaching. From the perspective of the Taubman Approach, which I am in dedicated study of, when the student begins to play let their hand hold it's natural position. Never should they try to change that position if not necessary. The fingers should not stretch away from the finger playing because that would result in a dual muscular pull. This is my suggestion and hopefully I am directing towards the correct issue.

try playing a fast b major scale without the "inefficient" approach of preparing fingers on keys. There's nothing efficient about leaving it until the last moment to align both finger and arm to a black key. The later you leave it, the more strenuous the task of finding the note will be and the more physical contortion it will likely demand.

Who said anything about stretching the finger away? Forget your cultist textbook of dogmatic oversimplification and try some common sense. Does readying fingers in a standard b Major scale demand this dual muscular pull? No, because no such thing is required. You're introducing a meaningless strawman. Is it bad to have a finger ready for the D sharp while you play the c sharp in b major scales? Sillier still, you should find the f sharp without getting ready for g sharp and a sharp in the same global realignment? We should send the fingers over g natural and a natural first and then adjust? No, because anyone with an ounce of sense slides the whole arm forwards enough to have the finger's mostnnatural alignment set for the required black keys, so no finger can get stranded in no man's land nor need to be abruptly repositioned via anything of even mild strain. It's not a finger issue but an arm position issue. It's the short notice emergency scramble to find a single key (after a lack of  advance planning) that introduces a need to stretch away from the finger that is playing, due to a totally unsuitable arm position for accessing that black key without exertion. The finger should already have been where it needs to be, in order to perform the simplest possible action- thanks to an arm position that offers equal ease of access to every individual finger. Setting the position for just white keys and then having to do a last moment adjustment to access each black key is one of the most fundamental amateurish errors in the whole of pianism. You'll almost never see a top pianist finding a black key at the latest possible moment. They think in chunks, not decontextualised moments followed by corrections for individual black keys.

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #4 on: October 02, 2013, 02:22:58 AM »
try playing a fast b major scale without the "inefficient" approach of preparing fingers on keys. There's nothing efficient about leaving it until the last moment to align both finger and arm to a black key. The later you leave it, the more strenuous the task of finding the note will be and the more physical contortion it will likely demand.

Who said anything about stretching the finger away? Forget your cultist textbook of dogmatic oversimplification and try some common sense. Does readying fingers in a standard b Major scale demand this dual muscular pull? No, because no such thing is required. You're introducing a meaningless strawman. Is it bad to have a finger ready for the D sharp while you play the c sharp in b major scales? Sillier still, you should find the f sharp without getting ready for g sharp and a sharp in the same global realignment? We should send the fingers over g natural and a natural first and then adjust? No, because anyone with an ounce of sense slides the whole arm forwards enough to have the finger's mostnnatural alignment set for the required black keys, so no finger can get stranded in no man's land nor need to be abruptly repositioned via anything of even mild strain. It's not a finger issue but an arm position issue. It's the short notice emergency scramble to find a single key (after a lack of  advance planning) that introduces a need to stretch away from the finger that is playing, due to a totally unsuitable arm position for accessing that black key without exertion. The finger should already have been where it needs to be, in order to perform the simplest possible action- thanks to an arm position that offers equal ease of access to every individual finger. Setting the position for just white keys and then having to do a last moment adjustment to access each black key is one of the most fundamental amateurish errors in the whole of pianism. You'll almost never see a top pianist finding a black key at the latest possible moment. They think in chunks, not decontextualised moments followed by corrections for individual black keys.


People call the Taubman Approach a cult, but it is a redemption from your conservatorial ways which has destroyed an innumerable number of wonderful prodigies. You claim to know how to teach students efficiently. You may not have been directly responsible for the major injury of a student but you're just as responsible. I've seen it happen. I've seen doctors tell people they could never play again. I have seen international prize winning pianists told to wear a cast for a year and they have no idea that it's not their fault. I understand you will respond with a defensive and accusing response but you very well know that this all goes on.

As for the prepositioning, it may not be damaging or even bothering when you're playing a "fast B major scale" but when working on full scale works it can help to understand something.
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #5 on: October 02, 2013, 03:10:58 AM »
People call the Taubman Approach a cult, but it is a redemption from your conservatorial ways which has destroyed an innumerable number of wonderful prodigies. You claim to know how to teach students efficiently. You may not have been directly responsible for the major injury of a student but you're just as responsible. I've seen it happen. I've seen doctors tell people they could never play again. I have seen international prize winning pianists told to wear a cast for a year and they have no idea that it's not their fault. I understand you will respond with a defensive and accusing response but you very well know that this all goes on.

As for the prepositioning, it may not be damaging or even bothering when you're playing a "fast B major scale" but when working on full scale works it can help to understand something.

Your tone does nothing to discourage the impression of cultism. I didn't learn my technique in the conservatory. The vast majority of everything that took me from straining amateurishly to beginning to acquire ease was learned after, and not through traditional avenues. Your logic does not hold up. If it were genuinely physically strenuous to prepare for black keys, fast b major scales would be the most strenuous thing imaginable. They aren't. Slow ones with singular adjustments on a finger by finger basis really are strenous.

You can speak in such bizarre terms (as if to imply that all non Taubman pianists can be lumped together in a singular group of pianists who all used a single identical approach) if you will, but it doesn't change practicality. When students dont position the arm in a way that accounts for white and black keys alike, they are forced to resort to emergency movements that contort the hand- particularly the attempt to stretch a single finger in so as to reach a key (that you ironically misattribute to what the OP described as alignment of hand AND arm and not as a stretch of a lone finger). The easiest way to play a black key with a simple movement is simply to have been there all along, in a natural alignment of both hand and arm.

From the repertoire you list, you can probably get away with emergency movements for black keys for now. But try some of the most difficult works of Brahms without thinking in unified chunks and you be lost. You'll discover that the awkward finger stretches that you wrongly attribute to preparation of black keys actually manifest themself when you FAIL to take into account black keys in due time and instead have to keep making individual corrections to what should have been simple unified positions. There's a level that cannot even be accessed without this. I had a student today who struggles greatly in the a flat waltz, due to all these individual emergency corrections, rather than simple movements between complete positions. Even in a slow scale, if you do not learn compound movements between just two basic alignments of the hand, you neither learn how to progress to virtuoso speeds nor how to play the scale with the utmost ease.

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #6 on: October 02, 2013, 03:22:45 AM »
Your tone does nothing to discourage the impression of cultism. I didn't learn my technique in the conservatory. The vast majority of everything that took me from straining amateurishly to beginning to acquire ease was learned after, and not through traditional avenues. Your logic does not hold up. If it were genuinely physically strenuous to prepare for black keys, fast b major scales would be the most strenuous thing imaginable. They aren't. Slow ones with singular adjustments on a finger by finger basis really are strenous.

You can speak in such bizarre terms (as if to imply that all non Taubman pianists can be lumped together in a singular group of pianists who all used a single identical approach) if you will, but it doesn't change practicality. When students dont position the arm in a way that accounts for white and black keys alike, they are forced to resort to emergency movements that contort the hand- particularly the attempt to stretch a single finger in so as to reach a key (that you ironically misattribute to what the OP described as alignment of hand AND arm and not as a stretch of a lone finger). The easiest way to play a black key with a simple movement is simply to have been there all along, in a natural alignment of both hand and arm.

From the repertoire you list, you can probably get away with emergency movements for black keys for now. But try some of the most difficult works of Brahms without thinking in unified chunks and you be lost. You'll discover that the awkward finger stretches that you wrongly attribute to preparation of black keys actually manifest themself when you FAIL to take into account black keys in due time and instead have to keep making individual corrections to what should have been simple unified positions. There's a level that cannot even be accessed without this. I had a student today who struggles greatly in the a flat waltz, due to all these individual emergency corrections, rather than simple unified movements between complete positions.

I personally believe that you should not preposition. Your fingers should lay as they naturally do. The rotation of the forearm will move the hand in a motion targeting the key. These are not "emergency preparations" also. They are motions that are perfected and executed identically to eachother.
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #7 on: October 02, 2013, 03:32:39 AM »
I personally believe that you should not preposition. Your fingers should lay as they naturally do. The rotation of the forearm will move the hand in a motion targeting the key. These are not "emergency preparations" also. They are motions that are perfected and executed identically to eachother.

Well, you should upload a film of yourself visibly putting this into practise without stuttering or straining. ALL good pianists switch between just two compounded positions when playing fast scales. They never find notes one by one. If you don't ready each finger in a single movement, there's not the slightest possibility of abruptly changing the alignment of a finger in time to get to its note. The idea of moving every finger to any old place that it should happen to land (just because Taubman priests chant something about how that's "natural") and then moving it to where it actually needed to be (ie departing from the natural starter point and going to somewhere that is now unnatural, if you read between the lines) is simply a nonsense, in the fastest scales.

And I have absolutely no idea how rotation can ever take a finger from the white keys inwards to the black keys (either in a fraction of a second or at all) . The doctrines that you are reciting don't even make coherent sense. Either the finger is naturally IN for the black keys or it's OUT in a position that is only suitable for accessing white keys (without straining to reach forwards). Rotation cannot have any influence on getting a lost finger in towards the necessary black key. Why not use your own mind before simply reciting something by rote?

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #8 on: October 02, 2013, 03:38:51 AM »
Well, you should upload a film of yourself visibly putting this into practise without stuttering or straining. ALL good pianists switch between just two compounded positions when playing fast scales. They never find notes one by one. If you don't ready each finger in a single movement, there's not the slightest possibility of abruptly changing the alignment of a finger in time to get to its note. The idea of moving every finger to any old place that it should happen to land (just because Taubman priests chant something about how that's "natural") and then moving it to where it actually needed to be (ie departing from the natural starter point and going to somewhere else if you read between the lines) is simply a nonsense, in the fastest scales.

And I have absolutely no idea how rotation can ever take a finger from the white keys inwards to the black keys (either in a fraction of a second or at all) . The doctrines that you are reciting don't even make coherent sense. Either the finger is naturally IN for the black keys or it's OUT in a position that is only suitable for accessing white keys (without straining to reach forwards). Rotation cannot have any influence on getting a lost finger in towards the necessary black key. Why not use your own mind before simply reciting something by rote?

Who said anything about letting the fingers settle out? That's absurd. Obviously if you're playing a black key scale you will let your fingers settle inside the black key area just not on top of each of the black keys.
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #9 on: October 02, 2013, 03:48:53 AM »
Who said anything about letting the fingers settle out? That's absurd. Obviously if you're playing a black key scale you will let your fingers settle inside the black key area just not on top of each of the black keys.

ah, so it's "natural" to rest a finger at the back of the keys on a white key. And it's unnatural to rest the finger a few mm to the side on top of a black key (that  will also happen to be needing to play in as little as 1/10th of a second or possibly less still, in rapid music). If there's no cultism here, you'll have to forgive me for observing that this premise makes not even the slightest amount of sense. It's a statement of faith, not a statement founded on any signs of common sense.

You go ahead and deliberately avoid covering black keys (just as all of my beginner students do without fail, before either straining to find the necessary black keys or haphazardly missing them altogether- until they learn how to prepare the hand properly) and I'll stick with covering them in advance (just the same as my diploma level students do) so I can run my fingers with ease and without inviting strain and mishap.

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #10 on: October 02, 2013, 04:04:47 AM »
ah, so it's "natural" to rest a finger at the back of the keys on a white key. And it's unnatural to rest the finger a few mm to the side on top of a black key (that  will also happen to be needing to play in as little as 1/10th of a second or possibly less still, in rapid music). If there's no cultism here, you'll have to forgive me for observing that this premise makes not even the slightest amount of sense. It's a statement of faith, not a statement founded on any signs of common sense.

You go ahead and deliberately avoid covering black keys (just as all of my beginner students do without fail, before either straining to find the necessary black keys or haphazardly missing them altogether- until they learn how to prepare the hand properly) and I'll stick with covering them in advance (just the same as my diploma level students do) so I can run my fingers with ease and without inviting strain and mishap.

No it is NOT natural to rest at the back of a white key. It is unnatural if the fingers are being prepositioned whether it be an inch, or .5 mm. It is stretching which is not a natural position. You must be in a natural position if you are not playing.



In this video is the testimony of Edna Golandsky the director of the Golandsky Institute of Music. She is a graduate of Julliard and knows more about technique than any of us ever could hope. Go to 1:19 and she will quickly speak about it. The entire video is about a scale from several aspects. If you doubt this technique that is your problem.
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19

Offline dima_ogorodnikov

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #11 on: October 02, 2013, 04:41:15 AM »
-
No amount of how-to information is going to work if you have the wrong mindset, the wrong guiding philosophies. Avoid losers like the plague, and gather with and learn from winners only.

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #12 on: October 02, 2013, 12:07:40 PM »
No it is NOT natural to rest at the back of a white key. It is unnatural if the fingers are being prepositioned whether it be an inch, or .5 mm. It is stretching which is not a natural position. You must be in a natural position if you are not playing.


So it's fine to be at the back of the keys, but only if neither on a white key nor a black key? Or are you suggesting that access to the back of the keys means stretching. If so, you already said we should be in thst region for black key scales. So they're all dangerous? Or you're saying they're safe as long as your fingers lie halfway across both a white key and a black key - rather than safely and easily in place for the key actually needed?

Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #13 on: October 02, 2013, 12:22:50 PM »

In this video is the testimony of Edna Golandsky the director of the Golandsky Institute of Music. She is a graduate of Julliard and knows more about technique than any of us ever could hope. Go to 1:19 and she will quickly speak about it. The entire video is about a scale from several aspects. If you doubt this technique that is your problem.

Specifically a c major scale. I didn't see one black key in the whole video. What possible relevance can that have? Also, you seem to have forgotten how you lumped all conservatoire teaching together as harmful. But now it's supposed to prove something because she was at Julliard?

I suggest that you go and watch videos of great artists on youtube. You will see pianists constantly aligning their hands to chunks. The issues lie in the fine details of how you accomplish that. If your beliefs were correct, Chopin would have been wrong when he said b major is the most natural and easy scale. He wasn't wrong though.


Offline awesom_o

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #14 on: October 02, 2013, 12:46:43 PM »
Edna Golandsky's playing leaves much to be desired. The Taubman technique is wrong because it doesn't work well for improvisation or sight reading.

It causes students to be far too focused on avoiding physical movements that they perceive to be 'harmful'.

 Lumping all conservatoire teachers into the same category?  Come on.... conservatoire teachers come in all shapes and sizes....

Offline sucom

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #15 on: October 02, 2013, 01:01:09 PM »
My teacher gave me this exercise.  The hands should remain aligned throughout the exercise as it progresses upwards through all the keys until the starting note is reached.

This exercise allows the hands to move slightly forwards and/or backwards whenever necessary.

Edit:  Oops, I missed a G flat so have re-attached the corrected image)

Offline cometear

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Re: Hand Shape for Young Students playing the black notes
«Reply #16 on: October 03, 2013, 01:27:48 AM »
@ cometear

Here is a Taubman document that will be of interest to you to clear up a couple of points about the method you are schooled in: Learning and teaching healthy piano technique: training as an instructor in the Taubman approach. I am being retrained myself, but the Taubman/Matthay approach is only part of the process.

It will be clear from this document that the Taubman method does not entirely reject position playing as long as it does not cause UNHEALTHY stretches, etc. You should understand that what you are taught in your lessons may be meant purely didactically and may apply to YOUR hands only, and there are always exceptions. Also, other approaches to technique may be ridiculed deliberately sometimes to make a point. Actually, hand memory (the memory of a certain position in your hand) is the basis of all good playing. Tension blurs that memory, that's why it's generally better to avoid it. A big chord, for example, is better "chunked" into two positions than in one almost impossible stretch.

P.S.: I do not generally agree that stretching is always bad. As a matter of fact, while practising, I do LOTS of deliberate stretching like a ballerina to avoid injury during performance. If you need an octave in a piece, then it's just psychologically and physically comfortable if you are able to stretch more or much more than you need (Alicia de Larrocha is a very good example of how that approach helps). The stretch should be felt not so much at the periphery (the fingertips, which pull in the arms and often lead to professional "accidents") but in the hand palm, the intrinsic muscles. While playing, then, I never stretch deliberately because my hands already feel the reserve power I acquired with stretching exercises. Stretching without knowing that you are doing it is a thing that should be avoided at all cost. :)

Thanks for the article!
Clementi, Piano Sonata in G Minor, No. 3, op. 10
W. A. Mozart, Sonata for Piano Four-Hands in F Major, K. 497
Beethoven, Piano Concerto, No. 2, op. 19