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Teaching hand shape from the start?


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#1 Iulia

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 19:17

I'm sure anyone who has taught for more than a week has a share of transfer student horror stories, but I've come across one of the worst I've seen.

 

Was asked to take on this kid as I do home visits and new baby twins is making them getting to lessons hard.

 

Kid is 6, been studying since September. Apparently just finished John Thompson Book 1.

 

The keyboard was set to a kind of height that an adult would use while standing, the kid wasn't so much playing as hanging off it. Which was less of a problem than might have been as apparently the previous teacher had never told them she needed to practice between lessons.

 

Two lessons now, with me being more horrified with every passing minute how little she knows.

 

One of the many things, is she is part of the time playing still with index finger fist curled, and sometimes with one finger and all the others hanging down below the keyboard. Its difficult to even describe how weird it is.

 

At the end of the lesson I said to mum to watch out for that and correct if she sees, and she said, that a friend of theirs had lessons with this same cowboy, FOR ONE AND A HALF YEARS, and was still playing with one finger each hand, and he was just starting now to play with curved fingers and individual fingers.

 

Kid also doesn't know note values. At all. Parent said they didn't realise this was something they normally did 'already'.

 

Is this some kind of new teaching technique I've missed?? wacko.png

 

 

 

 


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 06:28

So was the child going to the previous teacher rather than a home visit before the twins arrived? In which case the teacher probably never saw the keyboard.
It does sound like poor teaching but I do have very young students who don't retain what I've taught them and maybe another teacher would be horrified if they took them on.
I don't know why I'm making excuses for the teacher. Music teaching is not regulated and anyone can set themselves up as a teacher. And parents wouldn't have a clue if teaching was good or bad.
At least you've taken the student on early enough to remedy everything.
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#3 zwhe

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 07:58

You'll be able to tell if it is the child or the teacher by how well she responds to you. I've taken on some truly dreadful players who have very quickly sorted things out, so it has clearly been the teaching. There have also been a few who refused to listen to anything I said, so it was most likely the child (or adult - one only had a few lessons as they kept 'correcting' me and thought they were grade 5 when they struggled to put both hands together on a simple piece!). It could also have been a personality clash - a rebellious child won't listen to a controlling adult, and a strong-willed child won't listen to a timid adult.

I often use just one finger with the little ones to begin with, but only for a few weeks, not months! It means they can explore the piano and the different sounds it makes while they are learning the basics. I'm always surprised that very few children even know the difference between high and low sounds - I wonder what they do in school music lessons.


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#4 Dorcas

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 08:55

I have found students struggling in the lesson, and found out from photos that there is an issue with how things are set up at home.  A six year old will need frequent reminding about things like note values, to be honest.  I wouldn't be too quick to judge the previous teacher, as it might be more a case of the parents not taking on board advice that has been given.  I tore my hair out with one parent, who despite frequent reminders, never tuned the piano at home.  Every time I mentioned it, it was like the first time!  When I put up my fees, it initiated a move to another teacher, and a new piano.  I have a feeling, I was blamed for the out of tune piano.


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#5 jenny

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:13

The thing that shocked me when I read your post was that there was a lack of any kind of hand position. I would have thought that any piano teacher would talk about this in the very first lesson. Even if only middle C is played in lesson one (hopefully introducing different rhythms) the other fingers should be on the keys. The beginners' books that are aimed at very young pupils nearly always have a picture of a curved hand position in the opening pages, so that the pupil learns from day one what a pianist's hand position should be. 


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#6 Gran'piano

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:14

I, too, was really shocked when I read the first post. Plenty of realistic comments on here.
One never really knows what was happening though.

With regards to the ‚guilty party‘ I loved the Mum who took her child to kindergarten for the first time and said that she promised not to believe every tale the child came home with about the goings on in kindergarten if the teacher would promise not to believe all the tales of things which happened at home.

Regarding correcting hand position in general - as the child possibly has no idea what her hand is doing when she is listening to the sound she is making, I‘d go back to my old friend the mobile phone and film her. Ask her where her fingers are? Perhaps film yourself to show the difference. Particularly if something is a long-standing habit, I like the idea of making it into a non-personal joke. „Oh, can you see? That hand of yours is sneaking down below the keys again.“ It doesn‘t sound nearly as bad as ‚bring your hand up‘.

Sorry about the inverted commas etc. I‘ve forgotten how to swap to the English Keyboard.
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#7 Iulia

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:24

"At least you've taken the student on early enough to remedy everything."

 

that's true.

 

Though I suspect currently the parent is blaming me because the other teacher said she was picking it up really fast and I've gone back to basics lol.

 

A couple of her friends have kids at same tutor - one apparently going much slower than my kid which I don't understand how its possible to learn less than zero, and the other who plays one finger after a year and a half.

 

Plus her saying she didn't realise they did note values 'yet'.

 

So either its a really really stupid or confused parent, or a really really bad teacher.

 

To be continued .... laugh.png


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#8 Iulia

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 10:35

Sorry I was writing my post when last two comments came in ...

 

To me it was a given that you introduced the correct hand position immediately. Yes some kids struggle, esp with the non dominant hand, but its so intrinsic a part of playing the piano I don't see how any teacher could ignore it.

 

She literally could not play 1-2-3-4-5 with either hand - saying 'its hard' - and trying to use index finger.


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#9 musicposy

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:34

I spent the best part of a year with one 6 year old saying "let's use all our fingers, keep a nice rounded shape, like this" etc etc. Every single week I would correct it and every single week she would come back playing all her pieces with her index fingers, the others curled in a tight ball. She was extremely resistant to using the other fingers and complained every week that it was hard. I was constantly persuading her - "if you keep using them I promise it will get easier". It came good in the end but I dread to think what another teacher would have made of my teaching in that time!

Mind you, as Latin Pianist says, anyone can set up and there are plenty of cowboys out there. I guess time will tell with this pupil.
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#10 Gran'piano

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 11:48

Maybe we have to remember that, from the point of view of a child, there is only one difference between ‚picking out a tune‘ with one finger while looking at the keys, or playing the same tune using both hands in the correction position looking at the score. The difference is that the second method is much harder to execute. And a listening mother? - I bet she cannot hear a difference either. So she may well have the feeling that the child is making progress playing tunes. How they are being played? Irrelevant.

Perhaps the child and/or the mother has the same logic as my granddaughter. Little children cannot do it. Big girls can. Therefore when I am big I shall be able to do it.
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#11 Aquarelle

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 12:57

The really good  thing about the My First Piano Adventure series  (not the PA primer but the series designed for  very young beginners) is that it uses nice big lateral movements rather than finicky finger movements and starts with bracing the striking finger with the thumb. I would suggest that with a very young beginner or a reluctant or badly taught   taught  six or seven year old, this could be the way to go.


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#12 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 13:12

A very sad story, but I hope you can quickly get this student sorted out, lulia.  As I'm sure you know, parental support will be very important with a student like this.

 

Sadly, some children never really develop good technique, probably because they don't want to.  I worked with one student for over a year.  This student hardly ever practiced, but at least they would engage all five fingers.  We worked on hand position every [expletive deleted] lesson and they would have it right by the end of the lesson, but the following week they would be back to their old capers.  Furthermore, they had a very bad attitude and would routinely trot out shockingly racist statements.  I usually just bit my tongue and ignored the shocking statements, but when I asked where they heard such things, the reply was "from my teachers at school."  (If that's true, then woe unto us here in the States.)  Nevertheless, this student swore up and down that they wanted to learn piano.  I was relieved when the parents finally pulled the plug.

 

(For the pedants here, I have intentionally obfuscated the gender of this student.)


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#13 BadStrad

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 18:05

(For the pedants here, I have intentionally obfuscated the gender of this student.)

I think many of us do this.
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#14 jpiano

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 18:33

The really good  thing about the My First Piano Adventure series  (not the PA primer but the series designed for  very young beginners) is that it uses nice big lateral movements rather than finicky finger movements and starts with bracing the striking finger with the thumb. I would suggest that with a very young beginner or a reluctant or badly taught   taught  six or seven year old, this could be the way to go.

Yes, I like these books for very young beginners for the same reasons. I find that this approach helps to avoid tension and to encourage good technique from the earliest stages.


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#15 funkiepiano

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 07:33

Could be poor teaching, but also a learning difficulty. A student I’ve been teaching for two years has suspected autism, dyslexia & dyspraxia. (undiagnosed as his parents refuse to have him labelled) He can’t play 5 notes in a row using fingers 12345 so I’ve given up insisting on correct fingering, and he has the most bizarre hand position. He doesn’t retain information from week to week so although we’ve been over and over note values he’s not secure on them either. I just aim for enjoyment and 1:1 attention in the lesson which he seems to love :)
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