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#935331 - 08/10/05 01:08 AM Question for Teachers about "Hand Positions"
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
Time to vent. Like most people that started playing piano out of a method book (or at least the vast majority of them), I learned how to recognize the notes on the keyboard by learning "hand positions". I can't emphasize enough how incredibly wrong this was for me.

It wasn't until I read Howard Richman's "Super Sight-Reading Secrets" that I learned how inefficient hand positions were. Here's a summary of HIS method of learning the keys on the keyboard.

1.) Memorize the sequence EGBDFACE... notice
how the sequence repeats forever in a loop.

2.) Use flashcards or some other technique to
learn all the line notes on the grand
staff.

3.) Learn the space notes as they relate to the
line notes.

4.) Concurrently with #2&3 above learn the
position of all the white keys in relation
to the groups of 2 and 3 black keys on the
keyboard. Work on being able to grope for
a white key by feeling for the black key
group it belongs to.

Thanks to Howard's book I overcame my "hand position" handicap and am gradually improving my ability to find any key without looking at the keys (using my sense of absolute/relative touch).

So heres my question:

Do most of you teachers use hand positions at
the onset of beginning lessons?

I think the non-hand position method takes more time to start off with, but the payback is that you are actually learning in a way that will lead to comfort at the keyboard instead of learning hoky "hand positions" and then (By some act of God apparently) one day waking up and realizing how to actually find notes without looking.

DISCLAIMER: I should mention that when I started learning piano I began without a formal teacher and basically used the Alfred Adult book along with my roommate to learn, maybe this is an issue that most teachers would rectify immediately.

~pianocliff

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#935332 - 08/11/05 11:30 PM Re: Question for Teachers about "Hand Positions"
pepper Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/13/01
Posts: 171
Loc: SF CA
NO NO NO NO NO ... NEVER USE "HAND POSITIONS"! The words are not allowed in my teaching studio! NEVER. \:\)

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#935333 - 08/12/05 12:15 AM Re: Question for Teachers about "Hand Positions"
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
I think that the one thing that every pianist
can do to immediately improve his/her playing
significantly is to consider the
keyboard off-limits to the eyes.
In fact, I think that every
student from day one should
be forbidden to look at the keyboard
under any circumstances--perhaps
a set of blinders that looks like a horizontal
bib could be fitted around a child's neck
so that he can't see the keys when playing,
or a kind of hood that fits over the keys
could be supplied with every piano.

When you don't look at the keys your sight
reading automatically improves since you
can keep your eyes riveted to the score,
and--almost as if by magic--things like fingering
and technique will tend to sort themselves
out without much effort. The way you find
your way about the keys without looking--at
least initially--is, as you mentioned,
by the black keys, which are
grouped in a repetitive pattern of
2's and 3's all along the keyboard--so a
C will always be found to the left of the
first of the set of 2 black keys, and so forth.
Eventually, you should be able to gauge the
distance to any key without groping along
the black keys--blind pianists can do this,
and you often see concert pianists playing
with their eyes closed, so it possible for
a person do do this, with some effort
and determination. Of course,
initially there will be some
difficulties if you are trying to wean yourself
from a lifetime of looking at your hands,
and sometimes you might find yourself
looking at the keys when there are long
leaps with the hands, but the goal should
be to never look at the keys. After a few
months you should get the hang of it and
it will pay big dividends for your playing
as you get better and better at playing without
looking at your hands.

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#935334 - 08/12/05 09:25 PM Re: Question for Teachers about "Hand Positions"
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
Like I said, I don't look at my hands now and that was never really the problem for me. I always tried to play without looking at the hands. Neglecting this aspect however hand positions are still wrong because they don't train you to think of the entire keyboard as your "domain". If you can't shift by a perfect octave you don't know how to play the song because you can't find the notes! This problem is made worse by the fact that method book editors sometimes use extremely verbose fingering numbers along with hand positions. This teaches you to play "by number" instead of by initmate knowledge with the geography of the keyboard which is how all non-beginners eventually play.

I feel like I wasted a lot of time early on with keyboard choreography issues that I could have addressed had I simply approached the process of finding the notes the way I do now. I have heard that a lot of beginner method books are dropping the "hand position" methods from their books.

~pianocliff

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