Teenager has trouble with chords

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I am an "ameteur" teacher, teaching our 13 year old neighbor piano. He has a hard time playing chords, the finger positions feel awkward to him. He understands the concept, and reads notes fairly well for a beginner.

Also, he seems to have a good ear for music. (He plays other instruments in school band). I am teaching him with a standard theory book for beginners; should I ditch the conventional method and try something more innovative?

-- Barbara Simon (Sandee74@aol.com), September 18, 2002


Barbara, if your student has a good grasp of reading the notes, but is just uncomfortable with the feel of the keyboard "topograghy" when playing chords, try having him at first play only the bottom note, then just the top note, then the bottom & top notes together. See where the rest of his fingers naturally lie. Then fill out the rest of the chords. Not all chord positions will feel comfortable, so it's important to train the fingers carefully to go where they're intended inspite of it feeling awkward. Another thing is to have him play one of the chords where written, then move it to every playable octave on the piano. This helps to "set" it in the fingers. Repeat with the other chords. He could also "position" the chords with correct fingering on his arm or keyboard cover. Something I try to help my students discover when playing a series of chords is to identify any shared notes between chords. This seems to help them relate each to the other.

Good luck.

-- Gretchen Taylor (gtpiano@yahoo.com), September 20, 2002.

It sounds as though you need to have him focus on his kinesthetic memory. Try having him play solid chords and their inversions (hands separately if he is fairly new). After playing the first chord with a full arm staccatto, have him quickly move his hand to the next position. He should not play the chord immediately - only after his hand position is perfect. Also try having him put his hand in proper positions away from the piano. For example, ask him how his hand should be shaped to play a C7 chord. Have him show you his hand. Then, without moving his hand position, see if it fits properly on the piano. He should eventually be able to put his hand in the proper position just by thinking about the chord. Hope this helps.

-- Zoe (z_phillips@excite.com), December 07, 2004.

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