Are you a (new) piano parent? Hello! Today I am going to give you my two top tips to ensure your child begins playing beautifully – whether your teacher is a Suzuki method or traditional teacher.
These tips are not of my own creation BY ANY MEANS! My children’s teachers are my teachers – they are the ones who have taught me what is important. However I am the one, as the piano parent, who has learnt the cost of not following their advice (RELEARNING! And it really sucks, believe me) and progress just generally being more laborious.
I will start today with hand and thumb position, but first POSTURE! Posture is key, fellow piano parents!
Make sure your child is seated at the correct height for the piano. When their arm is bent at 90 degrees at the elbow – their fingertips should just touch the keys, when their hand is held palm facing down. Imagine (or actually get one!) a small, soft toy or juggling ball is being held in their palm and their finger are curved around the ball facing downwards. Now remove the ball and this relaxed hand position is how their hand should be held above the keys. You may need to add books or a wedge to get the right height, if your piano stool does not go up high enough.
Also ensure your child’s feet are resting squarely on a foot rest, not dangling down. You can use telephone books or similar as a temporary measure. Their feet should be able to firmly rest on the rest to give them balance. We purchased an adjustable foot rest so that all my children could have their own setting that changed as they grew.
There are some excellent detailed pictures of good posture here.
So now that you have the child with the right posture, two things for piano parents to consider to start with!
- Curved, tall thumb
- Tall hands
Check out the two videos of a scale and then Twinkle A (for Suzuki students). Whilst there are lots of other technical things I could ask Thomas to improve on, given I just grabbed him mid-practice to do these videos for me tonight, he does demonstrate want I wanted.
Curved thumb not splayed thumb is critical for beautiful tone and fast movement up and down the keys. Thumb should touch all notes near the corner of the thumbnail closest to the keys. My teacher would often mark a dot with a pen on this spot to assist remind the child.
If you look at your thumb curved at the piano you can see it almost ‘smiles’ at you – so you might remind your child to keep a smiley thumb not a sad (downturn mouth) thumb!
Tall hands is also so important for tone and being able to play rapidly up and down the keys.
It is so easy for new students who don’t have strength in their hands and fingers to let their wrist drop down to key level. Often it can be so low that the thumb hangs down below the keys when the fingers are playing. I find when this happens, they even forget they have a thumb it is so far from the keys so when the next note in the piece requires the thumb they come to a grinding halt, confused as to how they go on!
All students at all levels sometimes need to watch these two points. Get the technique right early and save yourself hours, weeks, months of headaches correcting bad technique!
Are you a new piano parent? Do you need help with your piano practice with your child? I am offering a Skype coaching service for parents of new piano or string students. I am offering a free first half an hour (which may indeed be all you need!) so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interesting in finding out more about this.
Does your teacher use any other terminology other than curved, smiley thumb or tall hands? Would love to hear from other piano parents in the comments below!
Happy playing and remember – smiley thumb!
PS I am super critical of Thomas’ performance above in many areas other than his curved thumb and tall hands – his piano teacher will I am sure give us lots to work out after viewing these! But nonetheless I hope they serve the purpose for new piano parents of showing these two critical technique areas!