Weak fingers

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Hi, This is my first time to ask something, as a matter of fact it is my first time to come to this site. I was impressed with the answers given and decided to throw out a question. I just started a new student, a little girl in kindergarten. I have never taught a child with this problem, but her fingers are so double-jointed that she can hardly press down a key. This, combined with her young age(six) has me concerned. It is a struggle just to get her to push down a key without her finger collapsing completely, and I feel I must do something about this before I can even begin to introduce any musical concepts to her. I have thought about making up some specific excercises for her to strengthen her fingers but I wonder if it is possible - her mother says she has trouble even holding a pencil in school. Also, I wonder how to keep her interested in lessons during the duration it would take to strenghthen her fingers enough to play Any ideas would be greatly apprecitated. Denise T.

-- Denise Thompson (DDKthomspon@man.com), August 22, 2001


Hi Denise and welcome!

This isn't always easily solved, but one activity that often helps is to work on "strong fingers" away from the keys. Have the child press on the piano front or your arm. Challenge her to have "strong fingers". Show her the little knuckle that needs to be curved (rounded like a little spider)--not lying down but standing strong to play the piano. It's something to work on from the beginning, but often takes a while to fix. Comment often even if one finger is strong. "Oh look how strong #2 was just then." She will want that praise some more and work for it hopefully.


-- Flo Arnold (flo@pianimals.com), August 22, 2001.

I think Flo has the right approach - praise plus working on the lax joints away from the piano. A small but helpful exercise: place the fingers on a table top the way they would be on the keyboard (keeping rounded fingers, as Flo says). Using the other hand, lightly press on each of the fingers in various places, but never pressing so hard that the joints collapse. Use very light pressure at first, and then gradually increase the pressure as the joints can withstand more. The student can learn to do this exercise himself. Doing this several times a day for a few weeks often helps a lot.

Also another exercise that sometimes helps the concept (if the student understands what bones are): working one finger at a time, raise the wrist and hand high enough so that the finger points straight down and is firm the way a person's leg is when standing. Then put the key down using the bones that are lined up (probably using full arm stroke, or a drop, or whatever you want to call it, but trying to develop the sensation of one firm bone depressing the key). It's true that you can't do much playing this way, but it helps the sensation of playing with firm bones rather than with lax joints.

-- Alan (Noname_Poster@yahoo.com), August 24, 2001.

Several thoughts: 1. At six, your student still has time to mature physically. 2. The suggestion above about a full-arm drop with a finger's bones lined up and pointing down is excellent. You certainly don't want any student trying to work the fingers independently up and down with a fixed hand - a sure recipe for tension and difficulty later. 3. for a six year old, I would focus much on developing the ear, and the ability to read and comprehend rhythm and notes (intervals). 4. I would try to use a lot of pieces for black keys alone, without the thumb (many good method books essentially do this in their off- staff pre-reading sections).

-- Jon (jlens@cybrzn.com), August 27, 2001.

I have a young boy that had the same problem. He has been taking lessons from me for over 2 years and I'm seeing a great deal of improvement. We started working in the "Sportacular" series by Carolyn Miller about a year ago and those books have really helped. Even though his fingers are still weaker than other students I have, I can say that it's a problem that can be fixed in time. Best of luck to you!

-- Angela Hartman (stephensangela@hotmail.com), August 12, 2002.

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