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#2060232 - 04/06/13 07:57 AM Do you practice while looking at your hands?
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Sometimes when I'm performing for others, when I glance at my hands that can sometimes throw me off. Ie. I start questioning myself is this the right note that my finger should be pressing, that usually result in pressing the wrong note and a series of mishaps thereafter. I told my teacher this and she suggested I should start practicing whilst looking at my hands (without the sheet music). I think she may be right so I'm going to do that from now on. I might have relied on muscle memory too much if I don't look at my hands? What do others think? I remember as I child I was told not to look at the keyboard...

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#2060235 - 04/06/13 08:12 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
I was also told not to look at the keyboard as a child and so now the exact thing happens to me that you have described. I am torn on this. I want to memorize some pieces, but for me that entails looking at the keys whilst playing, which throws me off. On the other hand, I learned to be a good reader and my muscle memory is good (especially considering I only starting playing again last year after not having played since I was a child - 30 years ago). I think both skills are beneficial. I don't know if I answered your question or not, I just wanted to say that I understand smile
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#2060242 - 04/06/13 08:23 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
ClavBoy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/21/11
Posts: 67
Loc: Germany
I have exactly the opposite "problem": I have to look at my hands the most time to play the right keys and that forces me to memorize the pieces I want to learn. And memorizing takes a large amount of time for me when learning a piece.
I don't know what is better, to be able to play without a score (and lokking at the hands) or with eyes alyways on the score. Maybe in the end (after some years of playing) it will be a mixture of both.
_________________________
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Working on:
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Dreaming of:
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Satie: Gnossienne No. 1. Maybe a bit earlier



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#2060253 - 04/06/13 08:58 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Thanks Heather and ClavBoy.

I'm guessing that with the sheet music you should practice without looking at the keyboard (for sight reading), and after that, without the sheet music, you should practice looking at your hands (for memory)?


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#2060269 - 04/06/13 09:43 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
fizikisto Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/12
Posts: 311
Loc: Hernando, MS
I do it both ways. When I'm sight reading, I avoid looking at my hands. When I was first learning I even used this posterboard paper contraption that blocked the line of sight to my hands so that I couldn't look down and see the keys. That probably sounds weird but it really helped me to establish the habit of keeping my eyes on the score.

However, when I memorize pieces and no longer use the score I practice both with looking at the keyboard and not looking at the keyboard. I also will sometime just play with the score even if I don't need it.
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#2060271 - 04/06/13 09:49 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11586
Loc: Canada
The instruction not to look at the hands, is to prevent people from depending on the hands to find the notes. So actually instead of telling students not to look at their hands, maybe the instruction should be what TO do - to learn to read the notes and make sure you're reading the notes. What we want is a connection between what's on the page, and the piano keys. You will see pianists such as Horowitz looking at their hands while they play, maybe to get the right touch and the right angle or whatever (but not to figure out where that note is).

I seem to go by feeling where the sound is, and I also have a touch of what causes some kinds of dyslexia, where you mix up left and right. It's some kind of visual space confusion. When I first tried to look at the keys, I'd get into a complete muddle and had to stop playing. Even now, if I want to get certain chords automatic, like the "Oreo cookie chords" (black white black) it's by touch (up down up). If I try to look at Eb, I remember the touch first, and then I know where to find Eb, Bb, and the G. (I'd like to be able to do both).

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#2060290 - 04/06/13 10:24 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
zrtf90 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/29/12
Posts: 2310
Loc: Ireland (ex England)
It's useful to be able to play without worrying about where your eyes are focussed.

You might spend a little time each day, with suitable material for each activity, playing from the score without looking away from the music, playing from the score but allowing yourself to look down at the keys for leaps and hand movements (also returning to the score without losing your place) and a little playing from memory just looking at the keys or looking away from the piano (the last is difficult with an upright - like a child being stuck behind an adult in a theatre - but eyes closed is an option).

If you haven't started memorising any of your music yet you might start with scales or Hanon. Scales are expected to be done from memory and Hanon is designed to be easily memorised. You might begin scale and Hanon work by looking at the right hand only (when playing hands together), then the left, then the fallboard, then an empty music rack and finally looking away or closing the eyes altogether.
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#2060301 - 04/06/13 10:59 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: zrtf90]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
The idea is to be able to play the piano. Playing the piano requires you to play at different speeds, slow and fast music and simple and very complicated music. If you are typing and you look at your fingers you can't type fast. Same for the piano, if you have to look at your fingers, you won't be able to play fast and complicated music. When you drive a car or ride a bike, you have to look at the road at all times when driving. So it is your choice, if you look at your fingers, but your eyes are need to read the music.



Edited by Michael_99 (04/06/13 11:00 AM)

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#2060329 - 04/06/13 11:54 AM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
If you want to really throw yourself off, look at your hands while you play. (Most people, when they say they look at their hands, actually look at the keys on the piano.) I did this, and it took quite a bit of getting used to before I could continue to play while doing it.. if you can get used to it, you can see things in your hand movements that you couldn't see before, and you'll start to feel them better, too. smile
_________________________
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#2060350 - 04/06/13 12:43 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4884
Loc: Italy
Actually I do look at the keys (not my hands Derulux, but maybe now I'll try!) ---but I also look at the music. Before it was one or the other - and even now I get mixed up a bit sometimes.

My teachers have never fussed too much about "not" doing one or the other, but rather feel that it is important to be able to glance down, and back up to the music at the right spot!

My first teacher preferred that I memorize pieces, my second really doesn't care if I memorize or not but DOES want me to read better, more smoothly, and with better precision right from the start, which may mean looking to be sure my hands are in the correct position before hitting the notes!
_________________________
XVIII-XXXIV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#2060363 - 04/06/13 01:08 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5455
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
For a long time I looked at my hands for all the left-hand jumps. And yes, I look at both my hands and the keys, and shift focus when I need to. I can picture my hands and the way they move in my head. I particularly do that when I'm first learning a pattern of chord changes that's unfamiliar to me - I try to see and feel the "spideriness" of the change, and to feel it "at ease" so that it comes naturally.

But when I'm reading - I'm mostly reading, with sometimes a glance for jumps. I can't sight-read a piece with large left-hand jumps at anywhere near speed, tho I may be able to some day smile

But I gig a lot, and I play from memory 99% of the time for those. So my current project, may my neighbors not see me practicing because they'll think I'm nuts, is to learn to play and look around and make eye-contact with the listeners. So I practice keeping my head up and looking around and smiling and nodding laugh

But all of it comes with time and practice. I couldn't have begun to try eye-contact with listeners while playing solo a year ago, tho I've been able to watch the dancers while comping for a couple of years.

So there's lots of skills left for me to practice in this realm.

Cathy
_________________________

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#2060367 - 04/06/13 01:12 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 515
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland
First when I try a piece for the first time, I look at the sheets.

From then on I look at my hands. The notes are memorized way before my technique is even good enough to play it, so.

Then when I finally have the piece in my fingers, I try to play the piece a few times blind. When that succeeds, from then on I look at my fingers again.

I don't know if this is good, but my teacher doesn't say anything about it unless I would flip flop my head up and down constantly. whome
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Chris

Playing since May 02 2009

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#2060374 - 04/06/13 01:21 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 579
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
I found out recently that I cannot play most pieces without occasionally looking to see where my hands are. If you can, then I salute you.

That said, I think it will ultimately be inevitable that your eyes occasionally stray to the keys or your hands while playing, so my advice would be to be as prepared as you can be for this possibility. Practice your pieces in a way that allows you to *know*, come performance time, that you won't be thrown if you look at your hands.

That may mean practicing while looking at your hands exclusively for a while, or it may mean deliberately practicing the occasional 'glances'. In the end, you have to do a little bit of everything, as others have suggested.
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Future
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#2060379 - 04/06/13 01:25 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: casinitaly]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: casinitaly
Actually I do look at the keys (not my hands Derulux, but maybe now I'll try!) ---but I also look at the music. Before it was one or the other - and even now I get mixed up a bit sometimes.

My teachers have never fussed too much about "not" doing one or the other, but rather feel that it is important to be able to glance down, and back up to the music at the right spot!

My first teacher preferred that I memorize pieces, my second really doesn't care if I memorize or not but DOES want me to read better, more smoothly, and with better precision right from the start, which may mean looking to be sure my hands are in the correct position before hitting the notes!

It takes getting used to.. what you want to be able to do is look independently of movement. So, your eyes can bounce around without affecting where your hands go. If you want, try giving this a shot: while playing a piece you know well (memorized), look all over the place. Focus on a clock, a picture, a painting, the edges of the piano, the door frame, look over your shoulder if possible and pick a focal point. Then, try to repeat the exact same pattern so you're brain is actively thinking about where you're looking.

Next, try a piece you have memorized, but put the score up. Alternate looking at the objects around the room, and then finding the place in the score. Get lost in the piece, and then read the score from the beginning (without stopping the hands from playing) until you find your place.

These helped me get better at "glancing". Another one that works really well for sight-reading is to read a choral book from a church. The treble and bass clefs are usually separated by at least 5 lines of verses, so it means your eyes have to jump around even more. This helped me a LOT.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2060389 - 04/06/13 01:45 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Thanks for all the advice so far. The reason why I ask this question is because my NUMBER ONE problem right now is memory lapse. By memory lapse I mean forgetting what the next notes is in the piece, I can actually sing the tune in my head, I can hum the piece from start to finish easily, but it is the notes that I keep forgetting from time to time, I always remember the notes by the fingers/keys pattern that I memorized, but sometimes when you practice a piece too often you get "lazy" and stop paying attention to your hands/keys, and when it comes to performance time, the pressure to hit all the right notes is on, so you look at your hands but then you get confused. I don't know if that makes any sense.

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#2060404 - 04/06/13 02:36 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 515
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland
Ah ok, now I understand.

I don't perform alot for others, because of this problem. Actually I performed one time for a group of people (15, each person did a performance).

So I asked my teacher what to do, because I was certain I would press the wrong keys in front of public, searching for the right keys and making mistakes, although I know the piece inside out.

She said, in the week before performance don't practise the piece from begin to end. But practise a single measure each time as it was like in the beginning.

When it was the last week before performing, the first three days I did nothing.

Well, 4 days before the performance, I just practise single measures very slowly, like I was exploring the piece. And the same single measure I practised again at the speed I wanted to play. Then I practised counting the speed I wanted. I didn't practise the piece from beginning to end at all.

My biggest problem I thought would be, was counting at a faster speed while performing with adrenaline. I was scared to count fast, because that would have made a huge difference in sound. A sound I didn't want to perform. All 4 days I did the same thing.

Then when performing, all I was focussed on was counting. I got the right speed, the public didn't even existed for me, so much I was focussed on counting at speed. My feelings expressed the music automatically and my hands found the right keys without thinking. My teacher thought I did the best performance of all.

Although it was a big compliment (teachers are good in that), I think everybody has his own level. So comparisation would not be appropiate. I just was happy I didn't make any mistake.

I don't know if this works for you also, but you can try and see. But for me it worked very good.
_________________________
Chris

Playing since May 02 2009

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#2060409 - 04/06/13 02:43 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Jean-Luc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/19/12
Posts: 322
Loc: France
Someone posted this video recently (on an unrelated subject)
and for me it's a good example of what I would call "braille reading the keyboard. I am not judging the technique (I am a beginner and I am not that arrogant) but it's for me a very good example of "growing antennas" to always perfectly know where you are on the keyboard without having to ever watch it (well, at least as long as the hands remain in contact with it)
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- Please, forgive my bad English smile

Jean-Luc

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#2060420 - 04/06/13 03:28 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 677
Okay, you have you think you have two problems, however, you only have one.

First, you take "every" piece you study and you write in the harmony above each and every chord. Then, you memorize the harmony.

Is that the way, Arrau, Rubinstein, Horowitz, Michelangeli, Hoffman, et al, were all taught to learn their music? Yes, it was.

What they also had in common is that they stared at their hands when they played. That, combined with a thorough knowledge of their music, is why they never had memory lapses.

You forget at the piano because you don't know your music. That is very easy to fix, that is if you are serious about playing at a top level.

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#2060429 - 04/06/13 03:52 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Louis Podesta Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/13
Posts: 677
Sorry, for the composition mistake in the first sentence. It should say: "Okay, you think you have two problems."

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#2060435 - 04/06/13 04:01 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 321
Louis, I think you might be onto something. I do remember watching a very short clip of a famous pianist as a child getting taught by his teacher and as he played his teacher would tell the young child the modulations in the piece. None of my teachers I had taught me like this. The only time we discuss the modulations is when I am about to go into an exam and have it memorized at the last minute for the general knowledge section! Thanks for bringing this up, I will discuss it with my teacher next week.
And also thanks to everybody for the input. All very much appreciated.

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#2060448 - 04/06/13 04:28 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5286
Loc: Philadelphia
Originally Posted By: albynism
Thanks for all the advice so far. The reason why I ask this question is because my NUMBER ONE problem right now is memory lapse. By memory lapse I mean forgetting what the next notes is in the piece, I can actually sing the tune in my head, I can hum the piece from start to finish easily, but it is the notes that I keep forgetting from time to time, I always remember the notes by the fingers/keys pattern that I memorized, but sometimes when you practice a piece too often you get "lazy" and stop paying attention to your hands/keys, and when it comes to performance time, the pressure to hit all the right notes is on, so you look at your hands but then you get confused. I don't know if that makes any sense.

I don't think anyone can say for certain what causes the lapses. It could be a number of different things.

The first thing I would ask is, do you know the next note/line of music in your head? (In other words, can you hear it, but not play it?)

If the answer is no, then you are not familiar enough with the music itself. Listen to it more often.

If the answer is yes, then you are not familiar enough with the notes in the piece. There are a number of remedies, mostly involving learning more music theory.
_________________________
Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.

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#2060468 - 04/06/13 05:44 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
monads Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/23/12
Posts: 161
Loc: CA
Same issue here. But my memorization is not consistent. Some pieces I need to look at my hands, other pieces if I look at my hands I get messed up. That's probably because I'm relying too much on muscle memory even though I know the structure of the piece. Need to fix this.

Louis is correct on harmonic analysis. It really helps to visualize where the piece is going. It'll help you memorize.
_________________________
My music_website at http://www.OdysseyofaG.com

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#2060469 - 04/06/13 05:46 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Brian Lucas Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 951
I think the only time you really have to look at your hands is on big jumps, or maybe when you hit a note you weren't expecting. There's a trap while reading music of looking at your hands, memorizing the pattern, and trying to replicate it, that I believe does a player harm. Often when I'm reading, the goal is to look at the hands as little as possible. However, when improvising, I tend to look at the keys, and try to see the next few notes I plan to hit. I'm trying to connect a sound in my head to the keys on the piano. In that case, looking at your hands/keys is beneficial.

The best way to get comfortable with where the keys are is to improvise freely, no matter what level you are. I used to do this in the dark when I was younger (and still do sometimes). Or close your eyes. Feeling rather than seeing. The one element that sometimes instruction misses is trying to connect the player with the instrument. Just play. A few minutes a day, don't look, no rules, just play. See if that doesn't improve your sense of hand/key relation.
_________________________
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BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 21+ year teacher and touring musician
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#2060471 - 04/06/13 05:48 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: Derulux]
casinitaly Offline


Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 4884
Loc: Italy
Originally Posted By: Derulux
Originally Posted By: casinitaly
Actually I do look at the keys (not my hands Derulux, but maybe now I'll try!) ---but I also look at the music. Before it was one or the other - and even now I get mixed up a bit sometimes.

My teachers have never fussed too much about "not" doing one or the other, but rather feel that it is important to be able to glance down, and back up to the music at the right spot!

My first teacher preferred that I memorize pieces, my second really doesn't care if I memorize or not but DOES want me to read better, more smoothly, and with better precision right from the start, which may mean looking to be sure my hands are in the correct position before hitting the notes!

It takes getting used to.. what you want to be able to do is look independently of movement. So, your eyes can bounce around without affecting where your hands go. If you want, try giving this a shot: while playing a piece you know well (memorized), look all over the place. Focus on a clock, a picture, a painting, the edges of the piano, the door frame, look over your shoulder if possible and pick a focal point. Then, try to repeat the exact same pattern so you're brain is actively thinking about where you're looking.

Next, try a piece you have memorized, but put the score up. Alternate looking at the objects around the room, and then finding the place in the score. Get lost in the piece, and then read the score from the beginning (without stopping the hands from playing) until you find your place.

These helped me get better at "glancing". Another one that works really well for sight-reading is to read a choral book from a church. The treble and bass clefs are usually separated by at least 5 lines of verses, so it means your eyes have to jump around even more. This helped me a LOT.


Derulux - that is a really interesting idea. I'm pretty certain that the first few times I try it will create a major train wreck - but yes.. I like the idea very much and think it could be an exercise in developing focus.

I'll let you know how I make out with it!
_________________________
XVIII-XXXIV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#2060474 - 04/06/13 05:58 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3459
Loc: Northern England.
As long as the difference between the keys played isn`t great, you don`t need to look at the keys, But if ya can sneak a glance out o` the corner of yer eye . . it helps things along somewhat.
_________________________
"I'm playing all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order." Eric Morecambe

""

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#2060484 - 04/06/13 06:41 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: Brian Lucas]
SoundThumb Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/10
Posts: 334
Loc: San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas

The best way to get comfortable with where the keys are is to improvise freely, no matter what level you are. I used to do this in the dark when I was younger (and still do sometimes). Or close your eyes. Feeling rather than seeing. The one element that sometimes instruction misses is trying to connect the player with the instrument. Just play. A few minutes a day, don't look, no rules, just play. See if that doesn't improve your sense of hand/key relation.


Thank-you, Brian! I have always done this but as sort of a guilty diversion from practice. From now on I can consider it part of practice and avoid the guilt.

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#2060940 - 04/07/13 06:47 PM Re: Do you practice while looking at your hands? [Re: albynism]
Sly Cat Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 103
Loc: England - via Scotland
I confess, when I'm not sight-reading, I do look at my hands.

Strangely, I find that off-putting at first but, the more I get comfortable with a tune I'm attempting to memorise, the more it becomes part of my practice. Like a memory aid.

Whatever works, I suppose.
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Currently playing a Yamaha DGX 640

Rap is to music what Etch-a-Sketch is to art.


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Recital 35 --- Call For Submissions
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