Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Teaching Little Hands Technique Part 3

technique part threeDo you’re students joints collapse when they play? Some children don’t find week finger joints to be a struggle, but many do. Often times if you have a student who is “double jointed” then they are going to have quite a challenge learning to play without collapsing joints.

One of the common approaches  to working with students who have week finger joints is that it will improve with time. I have a few concerns with this philosophy. First, is that student’s who are double jointed do not find this skill just “improves with time”. I know because I personally am double jointed and this approach didn’t work so great for me. Second, all teachers know that to play certain literature well you can not have collapsing joints. So what happens when a student can do many other things well and is ready to play more advanced literature, but their joints are still week? Is there a way to more specifically help students improve these week joints?

Here are just a few tips that I have found useful in my teaching.

1. Practice Slowly. How can students learn to play without “bending fingers” if they are playing so fast the can’t watch what their fingers are doing?

2. Give the concept a fun name to help them remember. I like to call them “squishy fingers”. I have also heard them referred to as spatulas because of the spatula shape they make. Or create your own meaningful phrase.

3. Have students pick only one finger to keep track of and watch at a time. This helps make practice more focused and gives a more measurable goal for students who can’t achieve perfection immediately.

4. Turn it into a game. Create a reward system for when they play correctly. Count with animals etc.

What causes collapsed joints anyway?

When I was in college my professor told me that the reason my left hand finger 5 was collapsing was because the balance of my hand was “off”. When I properly distributed the weight, my finger 5 was immediately fixed. She compared my left hand to a table that wobbles due to uneven legs. Though I am no expert at fixing a student’s hand when the weight is not distributed properly. I do try to keep this in mind and make sure that a student’s arm is properly aligned with the finger(s) that is playing.

 

Teaching Chords with Games

As I began using games in my studio to teach theory, I found there were not many games for teaching chords to students. In order to continue using games to help my students understand more advanced theory concepts, I started creating my own games focused on these concepts. This week’s game is Cupcake Chords.

 

Cupcake Chords gives students practice identifying, playing, and spelling the most common major chords. It includes practice  product photo copywith C,D,E,F,G,A,B,B flat and E flat Major. Students are either asked to name a chord, play a chord, or what notes are in a particular chord. Children love the cupcake theme of this game and it is a great way to solidify at student’s understanding of common chords.

From now to next Wednesday (October 26th-30th) only, this game will be 20% off the regular price. Just use code NOV20. This code will only be good till Wednesday at midnight. You can find the game in the store.

 

I hope you enjoy this wonderful game with your students this week!

A Simple Game to Teach and Practice Note Reading

Flashcard hunt-a great game to work on note readingEach week my goal is to provide a game for you to use in your studio. This will be a game that I personally have used in my own studio with great success so you will know that it is kid tested and approved!

Looking for a simple game to practice note reading with things you already have in your teaching bag? All you need is a set of flash cards and a piano.

Take the set of flashcards you are working on with a student and hide them around the room. Have students search for each flash card and run to the piano and play the corresponding note as they find each card. If you want to add an extra challenge you can set a timer and see how fast a student can find and play the notes.

Music NotesThis is an excellent game to work on not only naming notes, but also playing them at the piano, witch is the end goal.

You could easily begin lessons with this game or bring lessons to a fun close.

If you are looking for a good set of flash cards Joy Morin at Color in My Piano has a great jumbo set.

Anne Crosby Gaudet and Susan Paradis have great smaller sets.

Teaching Little Hands Piano Teachnique Part 2

Teaching technique to little hands part 2 One of the major issues that needs to be addressed in young piano students is hand shape. I can’t even count the number of students who have come to me playing with “flat” hands. So I thought I would share some of the philosopy I follow when correcting hand shape and some fun tricks to use with younger students.

First off, I don’t necessary believe that a student should have curved fingers. So I don’t follow the idea of giving them a ball to hold or visualize. Why? Well research has shown that for some students curving their fingers is unnatural and causes more piano playing injuries. Students instead should learn to use their hand naturally as they will be less likely to struggle with playing injuries.

How do you know what is natural? Have your student place their relaxed hand in their lap or hanging down by their side. Tell them to put their hand by their side just like they do when the walk. What shape is their hand in? Are their fingers more curved or less curved. Each student will be unique. Now take their hand, and without changing the shape, place it on the piano. This is the shape you are striving for.

That said, all students will have some gentle curve to their hands, no one can play with a completely flat hands.  Here are some ideas to help students develop a natural hand shape that is perfect for them.

My favorite is having them pretend their hand is a cave. Let them pick their animal and pretend to “place” it in their cave. Then the goal is for them not to squash their animal by letting the “roof fall down”. I have also seen this modified to be a cage with a butterfly or bird inside.

The second idea is a bridge. A student’s hand is the bridge and underneath is the road. You can even get a toy car to go under their hand. This is a great one just be aware that some student’s bridges will be shorter, smaller etc.

So if you are looking for a fresh way to introduce proper hand position then give these ideas a try.

What are your favorite ideas to introduce technique with young students? I would love to hear what you do!

October Freebie and Other Details

This week I thought I would offer a freebie for the game I mentioned in Teach Piano Today’s Podcast interview. If you didn’t get to hear the interview you can go here. I discuss how I use games to teach theory in my piano studio.

So if your just starting out and want to add games to your piano studio you can check out this week’s freebie, Caterpillar Scales, in the store (It’s at the very bottom of the list) . Just enter code FREE101105. Enjoy!

caterpillar scales game

 

On another note, a kind reader today informed me that my subscribe widget was not working properly. If you have tried to subscribe before and it was not successful, it should be fixed now. Also if you were previously subscribed you may want to subscribe again as I am now using a different plugin for this and the emails don’t look like they transferred.