There’s a game I play with kids to cement the idea of using the fingers in a group.
I usually wait to introduce it until the child has gone through the beginning steps of fingering, and is at least familiar with the idea and knows how to number the fingers themselves.
We take a thoroughly familiar song that is very easy for them to remember. Each song inherently leads you into a different exploration of the fingers because, of course, each song has a different series of notes.
Let’s take MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB.
First I tell them that they are a secret agent, and the secret code that will save the world is 321. We play games memorizing it, being asked to recall it, reverse it, do any number of things with the digits.
Then we start to play the song. They will most likely reach for the key numbered 3 (E) with their index finger or thumb, or pinkie. Correct them and show them (take their hand) that we start with the third finger. If they start with the third finger, let them continue with the first three notes of MARY.
If they play 321 with the correct fingers (321 in this case) make a fuss like a game show winner has been found, and let the game begin.
The game is absurd. Ask them to save the world by playing the secret code 321 with the correct fingers. If they do it correctly, have a quick giant game show celebration.
If they do it incorrectly, instantly and gently correct them by taking their hand and physically push the correct fingers on the correct keys so their brain feels the impulses, but don’t let them try again just yet.
Make a giant explosion sound and say, “The world was exploded because we couldn’t find the secret code.”
Now start the game over. Announce that they have come to save the universe by remembering the secret code that no one can remember but them. Please!
No matter how many times they fail, start the delightful game over. The game lasts about 20 seconds.
After 2 or 3 repetitions, they will have it. Now, you can let them play the entire first phrase of MARY with fingering, and their success is assured:
3212 333 222 333 3212 333 2232 1
In fact, you will find the child wants to play the songs all the way to the end. Just get out of the way and let them.
Play this game with many songs, each time with just a small section of notes, say 3 or 4.
Here’s a list of songs (or portions) that stay within the first five notes of the piano, C D E F G, or, in PIANO BY NUMBER, 1 2 3 4 5. Take a small portion of a song below and make a game out of it.
Then put the parts together, if possible.
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB
ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH
HOT CROSS BUNS
POP GOES THE WEASEL
EENSY WEENSY SPIDER
By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved
See also DISGUISING REPETITION IN KID'S PIANO LESSONS
See also DEVELOPING CHILDREN'S PIANO FINGERING INSTINCTS
See also WHEN IS LEARNING FINGERING NECESSARY
See also EXPLORING CHILDREN'S PIANO FINGERING GAMES USING FAMILIAR SONGS
See also ABSTRACT MOTOR AND MENTAL SKILLS LEARNED IN PIANO LESSONS