By Christopher Fisher
So you are probably thinking, “What does bubble wrap have to do with piano teaching?” I was recently working with my thirteen-year-old pre-college student Kristina to refine the voicing and tonal control of the chordal passages in the Rachmaninoff Etude-Tableaux in G Minor, Op. 33, No. 8, and happened to glance across my studio to notice a sheet of bubble wrap. It was the proverbial light-bulb moment! I grabbed the sheet and placed it on the closed keyboard cover. I asked Kristina to place her fifth finger on one of the bubbles with the other fingers of the chord gently resting on the surface of the bubbles. Then I asked her to sink the weight of her arm deep into her fifth finger until the bubble popped, followed by a gentle wrist release. We did this twice and then I asked her to play the chord on the keyboard. It was magical: perfectly and artistically voiced with gorgeous tone! I wish you could have seen her face and the face of her mother!
Now, of course, Kristina is no novice to voicing chords. This artistic concept was certainly not a new one for her, but is one that requires occasional reminding. We experimented with a few additional chords, some that required voicing to finger four or finger three, and again, the results were spectacular. I was delighted and so was she. But, I was curious. Could this be replicated with a much younger student? I am thrilled to report that it exceeded my wildest expectations. How exciting to see and hear even my youngest beginners voicing chords like pros! I’ve found this to also be an excellent strategy for developing deep, rich, warm tone quality. So, grab a sheet of bubble wrap and give it a try. I think you’ll be as astonished!
If you want to see this in action, click on the video link below!