This summer, I took my four-year-old to the dentist for his checkup. Thankfully, there were no cavities. To celebrate, the dentist took his picture (complete with a huge smile) and hung it on the wall with all of the other children who were cavity-free. He was so proud (and to be honest, so was I!).
This made me think about our piano students. How could we celebrate them in a way that is noticed by their peers? And so, “Perfect Piano Hands Club” was born. Through the months of September and October, we took pictures of students who had a great piano hand position and hung those pictures on a bulletin board in our waiting room. It was a great way for students to feel pride in something that takes a lot of work to develop: a good piano hand. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to focus on hand position as it sets the stage for a good hand position throughout the year.
Even at the very first lessons, it is important to focus on developing a good piano hand. A teacher can show the student how their hand naturally falls into a “hill shape” when resting at their sides. Simply translating this shape to the keyboard will result in a great piano hand. Further work may need to be done to make sure the bridge of the hand is not collapsed and the knuckles of the fingers are not buckled in. I like to tell my younger students, “Make sure your fingernails say hello to the front of the piano, instead of the ceiling.”
Once students start playing with the thumb, we work to make sure they play the thumb in the corner between the nail and the top of the thumb. At the New School, we use five finger patterns as a way to teach the correct placement of the them.
More refinement is still needed when students begin arpeggios. How do students cross the thumb under without disrupting the rest of the hand position?
Developing a hand position that is natural and free from tension does take a lot of work. However, it is worth it when our students are able to play naturally and freely. The Perfect Piano Hands Club has been a great way to celebrate our students’ work on their hand position this fall!