The quarters piano game is a perfect example of an activity that demonstrates a physical fact about the piano in a vivid, fun way for a child.
What are some practical games a piano teacher can use? That’s a frequent question that piano teachers and parents write me and ask about.
I’d like to discuss a time-worn classic piano game that I have updated.
Games are an indispensable resource of the inventive, patient piano teacher. The reasons are several. Children’s psychology demands that you adopt a light-hearted approach to learning, in order to gain their trust and interest. Attention spans are short, and the teacher must know when to let the student rest and then later seize the right moment for learning.
Another reason for piano games is pacing. Piano lessons can grow tedious quickly while difficult parts are refined and repeated. A wise teacher will try his student’s patience with care and as little as possible, and after doing so will reward them with playful learning.
Quarters is derived from an old piano teacher’s trick, wherein a student must play with a coin balanced on the back of their hand to teach the hand to lay flat. This may sound difficult, but it’s not, and in fact kids find it fascinating.
The truth is that I have kids who could care less about ‘hand position’ and resist all patient, erudite attempts to explain and demonstrate it to them: they are simply not interested.
But put a quarter on the back of the same child’s hand and say, “Play Jingle Bells that way, bub,” and you have a child primed for an unusual, witty experiment in dexterity.
Yes, the quarter will drop on the floor. Yes, it will roll under the piano. Have several ready. Just laugh and continue. It’s worth 75 cents.
If it’s all right with the parents, give them the quarter for particularly good work. This game has led to indifferent kids showing me how they can play with all sorts of things balanced on their hands, a piece of gum, a Tic Tac, a rock.
One brilliant kid was also an eight-year-old magician, who, unknown to me, sprayed his hand before the lesson with a magician’s trick powder which sticks metal to the hand. I was mystified by his expertise during Fur Elise until he slyly turned his hands upside down and the quarters remained!
Who cares how kids arrive at the correct hand position as long as they do so willingly and without tension?
Be aware that some kids will raise their right shoulder to compensate for the coin, so gently push the shoulder down and say quietly, “Relax.”
This game works best when the child has started to use the fingers as a group. Even a small group such as three fingers makes use of this game quite well, and will help the child comfortably and quickly adopt a flatter hand position instinctively.
Make a game of everything at the piano.
Copyright 2012 Walden Pond Press
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