“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”
Plato

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finding a Hand Position at the Piano


     Finding a hand position has long been an issue among teachers. Some advocate rounding the hand into a circle, a sort of fist, as if squeezing a tennis ball. Some feel the fingers should be pulled in (shudder) so that the thumb is in line with the fingers to make a triangle between thumb and index finger.  None of this is in harmony with what I call a natural approach because the hand is being made, forced, to do something requiring work, something it doesn't want or need to do.
     Here's how I find the perfect hand position. Drop your arm to your side. Allow your arm and hand to just hang. Notice what the hand feels like. Look at it in a mirror.Then, raise the arm and hand up from the elbow without changing how the hand feels and rotate the arm toward the thumb in order to place the hand on the keys. This will be a perfect hand position. It will be slightly curved, but not gripped or pulled. 

     The normal placing of the hand is with long fingers on short (black) keys and short fingers (thumb and five) on long keys, although we can of course play anywhere on the key. For adults, the thumb does not need to be over the white keys. This is true even for children, though sometimes its easier to let their smaller hands drop where they like, at least until they can take in more instruction. Chopin taught B major as one of his first lessons in order to instill this idea of positioning the hand on the keys, and because there is only one possible fingering. 
     The fingers do not grip as if pulling inward toward the palm. This gripping motion tends to isolate the fingers from the hand and arm, which is not an efficient or well-coordinated way to play. To me, gripping implies continuing a finger activity after the point of sound has been reached, which would be wasted motion. When I look at my thumb, the opening formed is neither a circle nor a triangle, but rather more like a rectangular window with the index finger forming a slight descending awning. 
    I've never seen a satisfactory answer to the question of hand position in lesson books.
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