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What are your thoughts on teaching hand position? (Read 3889 times)

Offline Mayla

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What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
« on: April 03, 2014, 02:25:20 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline awesom_o

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #1 on: April 03, 2014, 02:39:25 PM »
I find hand position tends to develop beautifully on its own once you start kids on improvisation.

Occasionally, I have to remind younger students to keep their thumbs on the keyboard, or to make a good tone without collapsing the last knuckle joint, but generally my students understand well what to do with their hands, and we can focus more on the music itself.

Overall, I teach music! Not "hand position".

Offline goldentone

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 03:45:11 AM »
Some years back, from the influence of a pianist here knowledgeable in the area, I began to be conscious of the integration of my arms and body in playing.  It was not fully developed, but birthed into existence.  In subsequent years there has been interference in that awareness, but that seed should still be there to be developed further when the interference ceases.

I've never, while pursuing my development as a pianist, given thought to hand position in its rudimentary definition.  Your approach as I might say seeks that which naturally bends in the pianist, and would accommodate exactly what the piece calls for.  For pieces of music do not begin roundly in the center of the keyboard in the white zone, but anywhere it is called for.  Nevertheless, there are still fundamentals I need to bring to fruition despite where I have advanced to, and perhaps with the right instruction those can be cured instead of my doing it all by myself as I have without that assurance in all of these years.

I like what you've shared.  I'm comforted by your philosophy on a truly natural hand position, which, then, is a fusion of the universal and the person themself?  When playing there can be much passion that is released in the whole hand, and a calm, trusting psyche, can harness the energy and make for a natural experience where tension might easily prevail.  You'd probably agree that we desire a natural force (because there is a point of harshness that can be crossed as I have heard in pianists before) to be released on the keys above, the keyboard and the pianist in their natural close relation while playing.  
I'm interested if you could expound some more, in your third point especially, which is the center of your points.  I would really appreciate it as it would give me some more meat to work with.  :)
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Offline Mayla

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 04:27:15 AM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline goldentone

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #4 on: April 09, 2014, 03:48:08 AM »
It's true you may never have a student proper who is willing to submit to the intensity of the awareness and knowledge you seek, but that doesn't mean you are without a compeer who may wish to overlap with you, at least to an extent, in a mutual way.

I am curious as to what your two big goals are if you wish to share them.  I'd like to say more, so I may be back later.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

Offline go12_3

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #5 on: April 09, 2014, 02:48:13 PM »
I think hand positions has to be done naturally in a progressive way, depending upon the student's age and perceptions.  I feel the basic hand position is important, which is the middle C, however, it may be beneficial for the student to experience not just the Middle C hand position, but an octave higher or lower.  Make it interesting and enjoyable for the student.  Children gets bored quickly and so moving the hand position to octaves up or down, creates a more interesting aspect of hand position.  Then do the G hand position, and so forth.  It all depends upon the student's ability and perception.
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Offline seanrb

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #6 on: April 18, 2014, 01:14:07 PM »
I strongly agree with the original poster here. Grasping invisible balls, bubbles, etc. leads to tense fingers and wrists. This leads to inflexibility in the hand, I think. A "natural" hand position is truly the way our hand exists when at our side while standing or casually walking. If I have a student with unusual issues regarding hand position, I will have them stand up with their arms at their side, then tell them to sit down without bothering their arms or hands, and then I simply place their hand on the keys. This is an exercise that has the potential to enlighten you and the student to all sorts of tension issues that may be hiding if you find that their various joints don't move easily when you try to place their hands at the keyboard.

Offline cometear

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #7 on: June 09, 2014, 09:56:45 PM »
Occasionally, I have to remind younger students to keep their thumbs on the keyboard

Did I read this wrong? Keep their thumbs on the keyboard?
I think. A "natural" hand position is truly the way our hand exists when at our side while standing or casually walking. If I have a student with unusual issues regarding hand position, I will have them stand up with their arms at their side, then tell them to sit down without bothering their arms or hands, and then I simply place their hand on the keys.

This is exactly what I do.
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 hardy_practice

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #8 on: June 11, 2014, 07:16:35 AM »
You might want to turn the stool sideways so the arms can hang while the student is seated.   
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Offline awesom_o

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #9 on: June 13, 2014, 03:01:55 PM »
Did I read this wrong? Keep their thumbs on the keyboard?


No, you read correctly!

Many of my youngest students like to play with their thumbs quite far away from the keyboard, which tends to compromise the natural shape of the hand.

Offline cometear

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #10 on: June 13, 2014, 03:34:26 PM »
No, you read correctly!

Many of my youngest students like to play with their thumbs quite far away from the keyboard, which tends to compromise the natural shape of the hand.

Could you not have their thumbs off the keys and their fingers on the outside of the white keys to have the natural shape? Then when they play black keys, the thumb would come forward.
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 timothy42b

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #11 on: June 13, 2014, 04:03:02 PM »

3.  Formulaic - I believe that, while there are physical characteristics of a natural, relaxed hand position, a truly natural hand position as it relates to the piano is a matter of a calm, trusting psyche and a kinesthetic understanding/relationship with (musical) note-groupings - and that I mean very literally.  Groups of notes, not just one, in relation to the whole hand.  
  

This seems like three ideas to me.

One is whether to prescribe a hand shape at all.  I tend to think that may be a good idea.  I'm not sure a beginner always lucks into a usable one.

The next is whether the commonly prescribed "grip the ball" is overly tense and rigid and needs to be replaced with a more modern understanding.  This sounds logical but I'd defer to your experience on that one.

The third is that all students have the same learning style, and your focus on the psyche, with the implications of an "inner tennis" oriented approach, will work for everybody.  I would disagree with this.  I think learning styles are almost hard wired, and a one size fits all approach, even as general as this one, is doomed to failure for the students that don't match. 
Tim

Offline Mayla

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #12 on: June 24, 2014, 05:00:26 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline timothy42b

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #13 on: June 24, 2014, 05:12:56 PM »
So are you basically saying that some individuals benefit from and find the most natural-for-them technique with specific instruction on how to hold their hand on the keys?

Yes, precisely. 
Tim

Offline Mayla

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #14 on: June 24, 2014, 05:26:54 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline dinulip

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #15 on: June 27, 2014, 04:42:05 AM »
Contrary to most -- if not all posters here, I start teaching the right hand position right from Day 1, regardless of the student's age.  And contrary to what is being said repeatedly on this thread, my students are not tense when they play.  I just do not understand all the big fuss everyone makes about when and how to teach the right 'hand position'!  I just do it very early on, making sure that the student does not develop bad habits that would be extremely difficult to eliminate later on.

Despite my straight forward approach to teaching hand position, most of my students remain enthusiastic and eager to learn.  They do not develop carpal tunnel, and play in a natural and relaxed way.  

Only those who do not practise daily (and they are very few) never learn how to place their hand properly on the keyboard within the first year.  I am not too sorry when they quit, as I figure music was not their true calling.

Offline keypeg

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #16 on: June 28, 2014, 03:15:32 PM »
Contrary to most -- if not all posters here, I start teaching the right hand position right from Day 1, regardless of the student's age
Can you define what you teach in terms of "right hand position" (I assume right = correct rather than the opposite of left)?  What else might go together with this (relaxation, the rest of the body) if you teach it?  If you mean the "round holding ball" type of thing, what about the music that goes with the teaching?  I mean: 5 finger position on white keys gives one shape, black keys already varies it, and expanding to a 6th, 7th, or octave expanse wants changes in hand shape.

Offline Bob

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #17 on: June 28, 2014, 06:49:12 PM »
Relaxed, curved/holding a bubble.  No fallen arches.

Stuff on black keys.  C five finger pos.  G, etc.  And then it dissolves away.


Just make the parent happy.  Tell her you cover hand position in the lessons.  And tell her her kid has a naturally good hand position, so you don't need to focus on it much.  You could also throw in 'everyone has differently shaped hands,' 'kids are still growing,' etc.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline toomuchpolitics

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #18 on: October 10, 2014, 08:37:49 PM »
I don't like to talk about curled fingers.  I find it to be confusing for students and parents alike, and can lead to a lot of tension and rigidity.  From the first lesson, I talk about joint stability, and I don't stop talking about it until it's firmly ingrained in the student. Here's a video I made on the topic.

Offline Mayla

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #19 on: October 10, 2014, 09:55:29 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline Mayla

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #20 on: October 10, 2014, 10:08:39 PM »
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"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving"  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Offline hardy_practice

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #21 on: October 11, 2014, 07:20:15 AM »
I don't like to talk about curled fingers.  I find it to be confusing for students and parents alike, and can lead to a lot of tension and rigidity.  From the first lesson, I talk about joint stability, and I don't stop talking about it until it's firmly ingrained in the student. Here's a video I made on the topic.

"The bridge...very important it's held in the right position"  I'm afraid once 'holding' is brought into it I have to switch off.  Holding is tension.  Also, you'd go on about joint stability with a sprinter?  A footballer?
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Offline nyiregyhazi

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Re: What are your thoughts on teaching hand position?
«Reply #22 on: October 11, 2014, 08:50:21 PM »
To take one point, for example, a "raised" bridge at the first joint is not actually, truly raised.  It's not lifted, and the height at which we sit on the bench (as well as other factors) comes into play on this, too, even just in the way our hand appears to be on the keys.  But, when the first joint is supportive so that the fingers can hang, it is actually a result of the hand being in a natural, resting position (which is what I actually see in your own hand when you talk about it being "raised").  It is possible for it to be thought of as "raised" though, as though we must somehow cause it to go there, and suddenly, one wrong step along those lines, and we have more challenges to deal with.  Not to mention that it's eventually important to not think we must keep our hands in that precise position at all times, and it's very easy to fall into thinking that we should!  I realize that part of the problem is simply in trying to verbalize concepts that can't be perfectly verbalized, but that's part of the reason I resist verbalizing them!

Raising makes perfect sense. Don't forget that keys push back at fingers. So if the finger isn't felt to be trying to grow (in balance with how the key is trying to push back and squash it), then the only way it can be keep the key down is being generically locked instead. In fact, pretending the position can occur with zero effort is one of the most likely causes of tension. Remove the growing action and you have no choice but to fixate everything to maintain it. A lot of people who think they are relaxed do exactly this kind of locking up. When you're trying to grow the knuckle up and away, that will both keep the key down and connect the arm with a lower effort (as long as you're not pressing down through it from the arm).

I strongly suggest collapsing your knuckles against the keys and practising lightening up from the arm enough to push the hand open again. You can practise this both against a cluster to start with and against the surface of keys which are not depressed, as you grow more sensitive to the opening action. It's very much a raising. The moment it stops being that, everything will begin collapsing down.