Small Changes Make a Big Difference

I’d like to pose a suggestion.  Your student can play better and more confidently instantaneously with just a small change.  When you catch yourself thinking “they just don’t get it!”, think again.  They don’t need hours of practice, or yet another verbal explanation or demonstration.  You may simply need to correct a small habit that’s getting in the way of their true potential.  One often overlooked elephant in the room…

Example: Excessive looking at hands.

Pianists looking at their hands is a huge external sign that they are processing music backwards in their brain.  Note reading in terms of brain process should go:

1. Book (take in the information from the page) -> 2. Piano (play it)

LOTS of students get this backwards and go:
1. Piano (Look at hands first to guess what note is next or rely on looking to remember where their fingers are) -> 2. Book (checking the book to see if what they hit is what the book says)

Recommendations:

  • COVER their hands with a piece of paper (you hold it) or cloth (just lay it over their hands) so they are forced to look at the book.  Point along with a pencil to show them how to follow the music with their eyes.
  • While their hands are covered, play a note for them and ask them to name the note by feeling which finger moved.  Or, name a note and ask them to play it.  You’re trying to give them a sense of where their fingers are without looking. Good pianists “see” with their hands and sense of touch!
  • Have them tap our the fingering of the song on the lid of the piano.  They can say the note names or finger numbers out loud while doing this.
  • Have them play only right hand while their left hand points to each note as they play it (and vice versa).  You’re trying to keep the visual field of attention on the book.
  • As always, reverse teacher-student roles and have them play any of these games on you!

Remember, the goal is to correct the note reading process back to:  1. BOOK -> 2. PIANO  If your student is looking at their hands a lot, this could be a sign they are not processing the music in the most effective way.  Anything you can do to correct this process only takes a few minutes and can make a HUGE difference!

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