Barnyard follies in the piano studio, or how imaginative prompts can improve technique

As piano teachers, we often devise spur of the moment, impromptu strategies to deal with redundant student glitches as they frequently play out in scales and arpeggios. In this creative teaching/learning universe, we can become quite imaginative as we integrate physically-based adjustments with mental cues and prompts that might ironically lead us to the “barnyard.”

As far afield as this may sound, two of my pupils were “clucking away” to center their hands on the black keys, as they de-intensified unmusical, intrusive thumb accents. In the framing of the F# minor arpeggio arpeggio, by intoning “Black—Black, Black,” etc. (referring to the SHARPS), a student omitted a tendency to fall hard on her white note affixed thumbs.

clucking hens

Two examples:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/popii93OQGs?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

https://www.youtube.com/embed/bQ_pLOuZyAU?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

In this particular terrain, one of the biggest obstacles to fluid legato and staccato romps through 4-octaves, is the obtrusive thumb.

Because it’s the shortest finger it will exhibit a Napoleonic complex, asserting its un-entitled authority along the scale or arpeggio route if not specifically reigned in.

To undermine its Accent-heavy Autocratic leanings, I give it “feather light” status, while I position it in a way where it’s stripped of its pretension to Power. (One of my suggestions is to obliquely angle the thumb on the key so it does not flatten out on its side making it positioned for a sneak ATTACK.)

Students usually thrive when given tangible instruction and imaginative prompts that they can take home and integrate into their practicing.

So while a pupil’s piano sanctuary may oddly transform into a barnyard, it will reap the benefit of providing fertile ground for improvement.


from Arioso7’s Blog (Shirley Kirsten)
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/barnyard-follies-in-the-piano-studio-or-how-imaginative-prompts-can-improve-technique/

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