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Messiest Child Ever

Image by Myles! via Flickr

We already know what his hands look like!

This post is a followup to “Student makes a breakthrough!”

After my student’s lesson this past Saturday, I have become a shameless advocate for sticky fingers!

Sticky fingers? I don’t want anyone to play my piano with sticky fingers…

Neither do I!  Let me explain.

Brief recap

Two lessons ago, an “adult beginner” and I spent the entire time on a Mozart Minuet. For the first time ever, my student understood how to use the indicated fingerings.

Throughout the next lesson, she stuck to the fingerings! She played the entire Minuet perfectly. So we decided that we would explore the Trio (the middle section of the Minuet and Trio) at the following lesson.

The most amazing progress!

My student arrived this week with the Trio ready to go.

She played hands alone first, with perfect fingering, phrasing and dynamics.

The she played hands together the same way!

Funniest moment

My student told me about finishing a practice session.  As she stood up from the keyboard, she glanced at the music again. Her eyes took in a ledger line note above the treble clef.  This is what went through her head:

It’s a “C” on flute.  I wonder what it is on piano?
Oh, right.
  I read the music the same way I always have.

New achievements this week

  • The learning time for the Trio was 3 times faster than for the Minuet.  The difficulty level is the same.
  • The fingering, phrasing and dynamics were all there the 1st time.
  • The Trio had direction! There were absolutely no pauses.

Our discussion

I was, of course, thrilled. But since this wasn’t my lesson, I wanted to discuss things with my student.

When I asked her how it felt to be able to play this way, she was reluctant to own her success:

I thought maybe it (the Trio) was just easier (than the Minuet).

But I’m sure she’s remembering all the angst she usually goes through. I responded with encouragement, repeating that I was very happy and that she had made major progress.

Next, I asked her how she did it!

Me:  Did you put in more time practicing?

Student:  No.

Me:  How much would you say you practiced?

Student:  Oh, about 5 or 6 times.

Me:  For 1/2 hour each?

Student:  Yes, for about ½ hour. 

Me:  How did you go about it?

Student:  I kept saying to myself, “Not flute!  Not flute!”

because flute and piano fingering are different (she plays both). 

Her next comment is well worth remembering:

It’s a matter of focus (not added practice time). When I focus on the fingerings (and not all the other things that usually lurk around), I can play it!

In addition, she realized that when she feels tired, it’s time to stop.  Mindless repetition is not helpful, and neither is the influence of force.

The “secret”

There is no secret about how to do this. Nevertheless, I learned something today:

  • No additional practice time was required.  (It would have been my assumption that it was.)
  • It is important for teachers to be very specific. Don’t just say “Pay attention to the fingerings.” Show your students how they can do that.  Make sure they can do that at least twice before they leave.
  • I will always discuss practicing with my students.
  • As my student said without prompting, “It’s a matter of focus.”

Upcoming lesson

I get to hear both the Minuet and Trio! And we’ll do some Christmas music, too.  This student is, just in the past month, no longer a beginner. I can’t wait!

All of us need to remember:

It’s about focus, not time!

More discussion about this is presented in my E-book (see below).

How do you work on fingering with your adult students? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!




E-booksBox with gift

Give the gift of music! “Goal-oriented Practice: How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer” will give every musician a fresh perspective!

My book frees up time to learn more music, memorize, or do something else entirely!

“Goal-oriented Practice” is also available in print!

Goal-oriented Practice

August 2011 review by pianist Robert W. Oliver

When You Buy a Piano

How to Maintain Your Piano

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