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#941220 - 08/20/06 04:07 AM low hand position and flat fingers?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Hi, teachers,

I'd like to find out what you think about this...

My son's teacher always asks my son to "round" or "curve" his fingers and "lift" fingers when playing. My son's natural hand position is quite low (close to the piano) and fingers flat so that the "meaty" part of the fingers instead of the tips touch the keys. But my son seems to have an extremely hard time to switch to the teacher's way. The teacher does think that my son has a very good control of sound given his age and experience, but he says curving and lifting fingers would improve the sound a lot.

I've heard various opinions on this issue. Some say the curving and lifting fingers are very important and others say whatever way gives out a good sound will do. And I'm just confused. My question is: is there any kind of consensus on this issue regarding beginning young students? What I really want to find out is whether I should believe the teacher 100% and remind my son daily during his practice, or whether the teacher's opinion only reflects his own training (he is hard core Russian school, I think).

Thanks...

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#941221 - 08/20/06 04:20 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Oops, too impulsive... I found a few old posts on the exact same issue right after I posted my question. But frankly I'm still quite confused after reading those posts...

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#941222 - 08/20/06 05:41 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
florhof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 133
Loc: Germany
 Quote:
Originally posted by childofparadise2002:
But frankly I'm still quite confused after reading those posts... [/b]
You are confused because there is not only one correct position of hand and fingers. It depends largely on the consecution of keys in every single passage you play, and also on the size of your hand. Generally it is better to use the fleshy part of the fingertips because it gives you a better "grip". Joseph Lhevinne compared the wrist with bumpers and the fingertips with the pneumatic tires of a car.

But anyhow, the finger position has nothing to do with the sound you produce. If you are able to read in German you find more information on this item in www.pianistenschule.de

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#941223 - 08/20/06 09:02 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
The consensus is a rounded hand shape.

While many people do very well with a flatter hand, the vast majority of students will develop better habits using a rounded hand shape.

For many younger students, the use of a flat hand isn't so much "natural" as it is a side-effect of not having enough strength in the hand to hold a firm bridge. Even pianists who play with a flat hand will tell you how important a firm bridge is, and playing with a rounded shape helps build a firm bridge.

Trust the teacher. Besides, a teacher is only effective if you let them teach the way they know how. If you really believe your son is destined to be a flat finger player, then you'll need to find a different teacher.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#941224 - 08/20/06 06:18 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
nuteachr Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/07/05
Posts: 166
Loc: Michigan
child2002:

I believe Kreisler hit the nail on the head with this one. While a perfectly curved hand position with a high bridge is not always used in all repertoire, especially advanced rep., it is, in my opinion, EXTREMEMLY VALUBLE that your son listen to his teacher now. If he never builds a strong, firm curved bridge, he will be seriously held back as he advances....for example, just try to play any major scale with comletely flat fingers at a fast, or even moderate tempo....it can not be done cleanly.

Basically, there is a time for a flatter hand and playing on the fleshy part of the finger, but there are too many skills and movements that require a strong bridge and curved fingers. As long as your son can play well with good intonation, sound quality and stay RELAXED (which is the most important thing)...he should develop just fine.

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#941225 - 08/20/06 08:41 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Thanks. My son's teacher actually told me to watch him practise as much as I can and remind him of the hand and fingers posture on a daily basis. I was just wondering how important this is. I guess I will try my best...

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#941226 - 08/21/06 12:35 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
There are different opinions on piano technique and personally I disagree with the curved finger type of instruction. To me it limits the freedom of moving your fingers naturally.
I teach that your hand needs to be up and over the keyboard, naturally hanging from your wrists with fingers hanging as the arms are carried. Florhofs description is more like how I teach, using the pads of your fingers to produce a beautiful natural tone. Tone can differ depending on the technique used. Does your teacher talk about tone? To me this is part of learning correct technique.
So yes, it is confusing, because some teachers teach one way, others teach another. What does a parent do? I suppose you need to research.
I would look for a Piano Basics teacher that can show and explain to you how natural technique produces a natural and non-forced tone. Take a lesson yourself. Try another teacher and see how you like their way of teaching. And then trust the teacher that you decide to have your son take lessons from.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#941227 - 08/21/06 01:32 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianobuff:
There are different opinions on piano technique and personally I disagree with the curved finger type of instruction. To me it limits the freedom of moving your fingers naturally.
I teach that your hand needs to be up and over the keyboard, naturally hanging from your wrists with fingers hanging as the arms are carried. Florhofs description is more like how I teach, using the pads of your fingers to produce a beautiful natural tone. Tone can differ depending on the technique used. Does your teacher talk about tone? To me this is part of learning correct technique.
So yes, it is confusing, because some teachers teach one way, others teach another. What does a parent do? I suppose you need to research.
I would look for a Piano Basics teacher that can show and explain to you how natural technique produces a natural and non-forced tone. Take a lesson yourself. Try another teacher and see how you like their way of teaching. And then trust the teacher that you decide to have your son take lessons from. [/b]
Thanks. I do take lessons myself, I started a couple of years earlier than my kid. My teacher, unfortunately, is not particularly strong in classical music (he is a good jazz musician) and I just said bye-bye to him and am looking for a teacher with strong classical background (classical music is pretty much all I want to play). My teacher never ever said anything about my hand posture (or round fingers) because my fingers are naturally round when playing. I think it's easier for grown-ups than for kids. My teacher also never ever talked about tones, which did bother me.

My son's teacher commented that my son knows exactly what effect he needs to make, but he is using inefficient ways to achieve that effect. And according to the teacher, round fingers and lifting fingers will be more efficient to produce good and controlled sounds...

I tend to trust the teacher because he has a pretty impressive (to me) credential, and he is highly regarded in the community music school that my son goes to. But I do need to educate myself more...

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#941228 - 08/21/06 03:21 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3655
Loc: Surrey, England
I was taught to play with curved fingers. Having taken lessons with very good Russian pianist for a few months now, I have been encouraged to adopt a variety of techniques to suit the passage being played. That sometimes requires a low hand position and flat fingers. In fact often the left and right hand postures need to be different.

That said, I am fully in agreement with Kreisler (who always talks sense).

Kind regards

Adrian
_________________________
S&S Hamburg D, Yamaha CLP 280


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#941229 - 08/21/06 04:51 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
The important thing is he stay relaxed as nuteacher mentioned. I don't think there's anything wrong with rounded hand, curved fingers as long as one is relaxed. I think the danger can come in when one is trying sooo hard to do exactly according to the teacher's directions that they bring tension or a tight, fixed position into things. Just be sure fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, back, are all relaxed and loose vs. fixed or locked.

Here's a good, easy little exercise I learned: (The teacher may have used). Hang both arms loosely and relaxed at one's side. Take note of the natural shape of the hand while hanging loosely at the side. Then lift the hand up in that natural relaxed state and rest it on the keys. That's what I was taught for a relaxed, nicely shaped hand position.

Faber and Faber, in their technique and artistry books give a lot of good tips for kids, I think. One for this is to rest both hands on the tops of one's knees as in the picture given. That's the rounded hand shape then suggested to use.

Again the important thing is to avoid tight, locked positions but stay loose.

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#941230 - 08/21/06 05:18 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
COP,
As both a classical pianist and a Physical Therapist, I will tell you that I was trained to keep my fingers and hands curved, but, have experimented extensively with what hand positions worked best FOR ME. My criteria were control, accuracy, speed and comfort. I have found, based on my hand anatomy and muscle/bone relationships, that I can play MUCH more accurately, faster, cleaner and more comfortably with my hands/fingers in a flatter, more neutral position. Just like any other physical endeavor, I believe playing the piano should be adapted to the individual's physical uniqueness. Trying a "one size fis all" approach is counterproductive and may not result in optimal results. By the way, Horowitz was an excellent example of a very unorthodox, "flat", hand position while playing.
Dan
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#941231 - 08/21/06 10:16 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
True, but adopting a "trying many sizes and see which one fits" approach with beginning students is more confusing than helpful.

I'd also remind people that Horowitz learned and played with curved fingers for many years before changing to a flatter technique.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#941232 - 08/21/06 11:58 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
Phlebas Offline


Registered: 01/02/03
Posts: 4654
Loc: New York City
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:


I'd also remind people that Horowitz learned and played with curved fingers for many years before changing to a flatter technique. [/b]
Which he could do, considering the turbocharged action on his Steinway.

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#941233 - 08/21/06 12:30 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
my teacher noticed my fingers at much flatter position all the time at the first lesson with me, and said it's good. but he also said regarding playing certain passages that i need to use more curlled finger either for certain sound or for articulation.

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#941234 - 08/24/06 12:53 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Hi, all,

Thanks. I guess a somewhat less controversial statement would be "try to use the standard hand and finger postures as a beginner, but one can become more idiosyncratic as one becomes an expereinced pianist"...

Sarabande, yours is a very interesting idea, to find out what is one's natural, relaxed position. I did it with my son and indeed his natural finger posistions are a bit flat.

I've started watching my son practise as much as possible and gently reminding him about round fingers. But I'm also trying not to make this a big deal. Making sure that he enjoys his practice is more important to me. He knows what he is supposed to do, he just forgets to pay attention to his fingers when he is busy sight-reading or when he is totally enjoying the music. With time, I'm sure he will improve.

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#941235 - 08/24/06 03:00 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
pianobuff Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 1580
Loc: Pacific Northwest
COP,
Try this... when your son is playing, gently put your hand underneath his wrist, try not touching it, but if you do thats okay too. The idea is to have him play more up and over the keys. Low wrists are not what you want. I wouldn't worry so much about the fingers being curved but having a "hill" on his wrists would help with everything, imo. Of course there is finger technique too. But the getting up and over the keys would be the first goal. Nice soft fingers are beautiful. Curved fingers are sticks. Again IMO.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher,
member MTNA and Piano Basics Foundation

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#941236 - 08/28/06 02:05 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
starsea49 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/06
Posts: 77
i cannot agree more with CC2 and Chopin Lover & Kreisler ...

natural position to garner interest is important but training the fingers for agility is highly imperative.

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#941237 - 08/28/06 06:22 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
LisztAddict Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 2896
Loc: Florida
I am not a teacher but I'll pitch in my experience on this.

It depends on what type of sound I want to achieve. I usually play flat hands/flat fingers but sometimes I do play round hands/curved fingers.

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#941238 - 08/28/06 06:50 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
The answer to your question can be found here:
Rachmaninoff hand position

Go about a third of the way down the page and look how the great Rach positions his hands. So it's NOT just Horowitz!!!
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#941239 - 08/29/06 02:55 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Info on the Rubinstein Method of hand position...Thank you for this forum as I so enjoy reading and learning from your posts ... I researched with Google and Ask.com ...Pianist hand -wrist problems..About a year ago...Here is what I read...The method of ball in the hand position ...Many students over the long haul develop hand and wrist problems...The article stated the "Rubinstein Method" is more flat handed and over the years these pianist do not have the hand and wrist problems in general ...I studied with two teachers with Masters in Music Ed, two concert pianist, and, I had never heard this concept ever... I now use this Rubinstein Method, for about one year now... at 67 years old... and ...I do notice my hands and wrists are much, much better...Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#941240 - 08/29/06 03:25 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Hi Sandy,
Basic anatomy and kinesiology are behind what you're saying about the flat hand and finger positions versus the "ball in hand" curved positions, and explain the difference in stresses at the fingers and wrists. When you curve the fingers, the wrist naturally pulls into a flexed position as well. This will then crimp, and restrict movement of, the tendons of the wrist and finger flexor muscles located in the forearm that control the downward pull of those structures. Three of those tendons travel through the carpal tunnel on their way into the hand. This is where the crimping and restriction will take place. Also, when you bring the tips of the fingers down on the key, in a piston like fashion, from this curved position, the compressive forces on the finger joints eventually will wear out the cartilage on the surface of the bones that protects these joints (osteoarthritis). Additionally, you will have less accuracy because a smaller portion of the finger actually comes in contact with the surface of the key, therefore, fewer positional, touch and pressure sensory nerves in the fingertips are relaying information to the brain about where the finger is in relation to the keys. The above shortcomings are absent when one positions the fingers and wrist into a more neutral position, close to horizontal with the keyboard.
Dan
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#941241 - 08/29/06 06:44 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Thank you Dan... This is excellent information and I will continue to use the flat hand method now... I only perform for fun now...Should I rest my hands one day a week as I have often read? Thank you so much again...Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#941242 - 08/29/06 07:26 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Rest and stretching of the fingers, wrist and forearms can be beneficial, and prevent repetitive injuries. Glad I could be of assistance Sandy.....make music and enjoy!!!
_________________________
Piano Technician/Tuner

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#941243 - 08/29/06 07:35 PM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Thank you so much Dan...Your information is so valuable...I plan to play piano until I am very old ...Your suggestions will long be remembered...Thank you again...Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#941244 - 08/30/06 11:48 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
193866 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/06
Posts: 777
Loc: Manassas,Va
Dan... you are on the ball as I was going to suggest the wrist problem person come to this Teacher's Forum for your info and I read the previous posts ...you were already onto this one...Great...Sandy B
_________________________
Sandra M. Boletchek 08/02/06

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#941245 - 09/02/06 05:57 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
May I make a small comment or two?

I watch as much film as possible (not because I want a close up of someone sweating profusely, as most camara-men seem to think!!) but to study the fingering and having never had lessons myself it was always my natural requirement to get the precision correct.

Two examples of jazz pianists, 'Erroll Garner' stabbing down fingers plus curved, never flat. Art Tatum flat fingers and the exponent of the most fantastic runs over 4/5 octaves down the piano of any pianist ever (IMO)

Art was taught classically. Erroll, self taught, jazz mostly, never clssical but used some of the traditional runs up and down the keyboard never flat hands. In fact he sat high above the keyboard on two telephone directories to gain sufficiant height! These are true facts.

Alan

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#941246 - 09/02/06 07:54 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I had two very fine teachers who 'demanded' a developed hand, i.e., firm knuckle bridge that did not cave in and strong fingers. One showed me early on, as Signa suggests in her post, to let the hands drop naturally by the side and, holding that position, put them on the keyboard which results in a very natural position. He did mention that the hand assumed various positions as the music sometimes required what might be considered unorthodox positions. But the higher bridge and somewhat curved fingers is a 'basic' position.

My teacher in Chicago had studied the two Russian schools of playing--one that developed facility but was not as prominent on tone and one that developed strength and tone.

On my music she would mark 'low wrist, flat fingers' or 'high wrist and play on the tips' which would achieve different tone coloring. Sometimes in a run/scale passage she would suggest low wrist to start and ending with a high wrist. She mentioned in an article she wrote that Horowitz played with a high wrist at times. I think this must have been in his early years as his later playing shows something different. She, my teacher, disliked percussive playing and from her experience with Gabrilowitsch (noted for his beautiful tone) and Safonoff, tried to inculcate that same quality in her students--rich, full sonority in heavier passages and utmost delicacy in softer passages but with projection that would reach the 'gallery' usually achieved by flat fingers and low wrist.

And as other posters have mentioned, relaxation is most important and she referred to that primarily as 'repose.'

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#941247 - 09/03/06 02:42 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Varcon, you say:- "She, my teacher, disliked percussive playing"

On an acoustic piano, surely all use of the piano keys is percussion? They are said to be percussion instruments? Unlike their nearest and root design, the Harp, which is plucked.

I realise that we should not dab our fingers at the keys in some cases, but that is a 'splitting hair' thing, yes?

Finally, it's not easy to tell someone to play in a certain way as most pianos have their own action touch, which then dictates the playing at the time.

That is a fundemental part of mastering any piano surely?

I have been playing for a long time and have never ever thought about how my fingers are used.

One adapts to the instrument perhaps?

Alan

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#941248 - 09/03/06 06:20 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Have a look at signa's link to "Genius of the Piano" (Pianist Corner) for the most revealing expose on correct use of the fingers of the hand ... largely based on the teaching of Chopin and the "natural" ball-shape of the hand on the keyboard. Pages 74-79 of Alan Kogosowski's book give a rivetting explanation of this approach.

Chopin is on record as teaching his pupils to accustom themselves to the ideal five-finger configuration at the the keyboard ... resting their hand upon it gently ... RH thumb on E and the next three fingers gently resting on the set of 3 black notes with the little finger on the upper C ... "getting used to connecting with the keyboard in this manner, then easily, without any force or strain, depressing each of the notes one by one."

The author has got a lot to say about the correct use of the thumb in advisadly returning to the "natural" hand position after brief extended thumb stretches for octaves ... he's so right in saying that any continued holding of the big stretch puts a rigid strain on the wrist and should be avoided.

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#941249 - 09/03/06 08:25 AM Re: low hand position and flat fingers?
Varcon Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/15/04
Posts: 1931
Loc: Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
Swingal: You're quite right that the instrument is percussion as the general definition of that is something that is hit or struck and, of course, the hammer hits the strings. However, some pianists have a rather blatant, harsh sound, while others seem to draw out beautiful sonorous qualities and on the same instrument.

While saying she disliked percussiveness, it might be lacking in precision of expression but I'm sure you understand that she was interested in getting a pleasing tonal result rather than a harsh, unpleasant quality.

She also disliked what she referred to as 'wiping the keys' and 'slapping the keys' which I think you refer to as 'dabbing'?

Of course, as you suggest, each instrument has it's own peculiarities which require the pianist to adjust the playing mechanism to it.

As to thinking about how the fingers work, it seems to be important, especially for those who might not have as 'natural' a position and use of them as others. Perhaps they need some direction to overcome movements that a teacher would consider deleterious to the student's progress. I've been playing a long time too and have never had wrist or finger problems which some have and I credit this to intelligent instruction from my best teachers and, perhaps, to some natural feel and use.

Thank you for your observations.

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