All About Thumbs

Posted by: pianogirl87

All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 09:16 AM

So how do you introduce the use of the thumb into piano playing, for the primer level? It seems like with some students, bringing the thumb in, after predominantly using the second and third fingers, is quite difficult. The methods seem to just to throw them into it with no preparation. Are there any technique exercises I can use to gradually get them used to playing with the thumb? Thanks.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 11:03 AM

I find that using blocked open 5ths is the best way to introduce the thumb. You can set up a good hand shape that way and it's fun to use in improvising accompaniments or student compositions. At least one method starts with open 5ths, not the inside of the hand -- Music Pathways.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 05:47 PM

Originally Posted By: pianogirl87
predominantly using the second and third fingers

And what method does this?
Posted by: Bluoh

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 06:16 PM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: pianogirl87
predominantly using the second and third fingers

And what method does this?

I think pianogirl means moving from playing only black keys (using 2-3-4) to playing white keys.

This isn't a common problem for my students, but I'd get them to play on a tabletop first, to get used to the feel of moving all five fingers on a surface, without tension.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 06:39 PM

Originally Posted By: Bluoh
I think pianogirl means moving from playing only black keys (using 2-3-4) to playing white keys.

Good call!

Like you, I've never experienced this thumb problem before.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 07:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I find that using blocked open 5ths is the best way to introduce the thumb. You can set up a good hand shape that way


I agree with this. Introduce the thumb as part of the bridge...bridge going from finger 1 across to 5.

Review finger numbers and have them tap the correct finger on a table or key cover...and introduce use of the thumb side tip at that time.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/24/12 10:05 PM

Sometimes I wonder if we don't worry over nothing, or to put it another way, over analyze our teaching. Using the thumb has never been an issue for me or my students, in fact, I've given it very little thought. I simply place my students hands on the keyboard and we begin playing. We just make minor course corrections there after.
Posted by: Ann in Kentucky

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 10:21 AM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Sometimes I wonder if we don't worry over nothing, or to put it another way, over analyze our teaching. Using the thumb has never been an issue for me or my students


laugh Good point. How many of us want a 45 minute course in "How To Peel a Potato", when the simple directive "Peel a potato" will do?


Edit: I admit that sometimes I enjoy participating in atom splitting. He He.
Posted by: TimR

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 08:09 PM

Originally Posted By: pianogirl87
Are there any technique exercises I can use to gradually get them used to playing with the thumb? Thanks.


If it must be musical, there's always Tapper.

But I would think any kid with a cell phone can text moving his/her thumb faster than Horowitz does
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 08:25 PM

You're right. That's what got me scratching my head in the first place. I've never encountered a student who had any inkling of a thumb problem.
Posted by: pianogirl87

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 11:01 PM

Wow, I wasn't expecting these kinds of responses.

To clarify the question, it's getting the students transitioning from using 2-3-4 consistently to including all fingers (like in a 5-finger scale, for example). This isn't a problem with most students, but two of my younger students (ages 6 and 7) are having a hard time with the transition. They have small hands, which I think might contribute to the problem.
I was just asking if there was a way to ease into it. I can see how this is a rare issue, but somehow I ended up with it.

Thanks for the suggestions so far! I will definitely try them this coming week.
Posted by: keystring

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 11:12 PM

Pianogirl87, it is possible that the different teachers are using various approaches. If you are having your students use only their middle three fingers, maybe explaining what you do might help. Is it, as somebody suggested, that you are starting with the black keys? Maybe many of the teachers here start with all the fingers and thus are unfamiliar with your problem.
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/25/12 11:39 PM

If their hands are small, make extra sure that they learn how to use the wrist to keep the arm aligned behind the finger being used. That way they can transfer the arm weight carefully into the finger that's playing.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/26/12 10:55 AM

+1
Posted by: TimR

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/26/12 11:51 AM

Well, there is a method that specifically addresses it, breaking it down into small steps and gradually increasing the motions.

Letischetsky.

I'm relatively sure I've misspelled it. If it even has a current English spelling. It's available on the web for free download with a little search.

I worked through a few of the early exercises. They do, maybe, explain some of the mystery of thumb under, but it is such a finger centric method that it does not really appeal to me. Whiteside would clearly be appalled.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/26/12 12:49 PM

Tim, I believe the OP was referring to initial use of the thumb, not motion of the thumb while playing scales, arpeggios, etc.
Posted by: keystring

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/26/12 01:55 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Tim, I believe the OP was referring to initial use of the thumb, not motion of the thumb while playing scales, arpeggios, etc.

From what I gather, the OP has students playing using only the middle fingers, and then introduces the outside fingers later. I think the OP assumes everyone teaches this way so that the question makes sense. But does everyone?
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/26/12 02:58 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
From what I gather, the OP has students playing using only the middle fingers, and then introduces the outside fingers later. I think the OP assumes everyone teaches this way so that the question makes sense. But does everyone?

That was my impression as well. But this takes only a few lessons, at most. If properly positioned, the thumb and 5th finger are on the keys anyway, so moving to an all white key position changes nothing, except the wrist, which is a bit lower.
Posted by: TimR

Re: All About Thumbs - 11/27/12 03:30 PM

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Tim, I believe the OP was referring to initial use of the thumb, not motion of the thumb while playing scales, arpeggios, etc.


Aha!

Then I have the answer.

This link teaches use of the thumb on every motion, starting of course with right hand only to simplify it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-CI9FABTw4

<humor>