By Dr. Julie Knerr
Some students come to us with naturally strong, relaxed hands with firm fingertips. They may take a bit of work to form a good piano hand shape, but the process is relatively easy. For other students (I estimate 70%), more intensive and long term work is required to help the child find the coordination between strong fingertips, relaxed non-playing fingers, thumb on corner, tall bridge, rounded hand shape, relaxed shoulders, and everything else that goes into a good piano hand. For B, our featured Level 1 student, this work is ongoing.
I generally use the Introduction and Unit 1 of Piano Safari Level 1 as a chance to let students find their arms, discover their fingers, and build basic coordination. If the student has a naturally good piano hand, I also insist on strong fingertips, relaxed non-playing fingers, and a rounded hand shape. For students that have a harder time finding their basic coordination, I delay insistence on a perfect hand shape in the Unit 1 pieces and work on hand shape away from the pieces in preparation for Unit 2 (White Keys). It is often easier for students to balance with a good hand shape on the white keys than on the black keys.
Here are two activities to work on hand shape:
1. Fuzzy House. Walk the fuzzy down the student’s arm and have the fuzzy enter his house through the hole between Fingers 1 and 2 created by a raised bridge. Would you want to squish this adorable little guy? I don’t think so. Neither do the kids.