You can develop children’s piano finger instincts even though children are inept at first when it come to fingering.
The best example is the index finger.
The index finger is the first tool the child pulls out at the first piano lesson, much to the amusement of the wise piano teacher.
It’s like pulling out a teaspoon to bulldoze a mountain, but go with what the kid offers, see where it goes.
Beyond that initial index finger, kids have wild ideas, instincts, about how to use their fingers at the piano.
Rather than discourage these instincts, you should heartily encourage them, at first.
If you approach it properly, children actually like fingering. For those who do not know, fingering is the process whereby a certain finger is chosen to play a certain key. It is the secret to playing quickly and accurately.
At first, children are annoyed by fingering, and want to return to the anarchy of playing with any finger at all, which is fine to start with but soon becomes awkward as the complexity of the music increases.
Children quickly see that a clever usage of fingers is easy to accomplish, and as long as the song is simple enough, they are able to keep their fingers in a row, the standard position.
But the truth of professional pianists and fingering is that there are many ways to finger a passage of music.
Learning the concepts of “correct” fingering is merely a jumping off point, for real pianists are forced to devise unusual fingerings of their own, based on the basic principles but often breaking the rules. Every hand has a different physiognomy, a different shape and length of fingers, and this must be taken into account, especially with children.
Thus once children are familiar with the “rules” (all the fingers in a row) they are ready to start using their brain.
For example, assuming a child can grasp the rules of fingering, it is acceptable for them to use the fingers in a row, any row.
If a child uses the fingers in a row, not just one finger, I praise them even if they are not using the “correct” fingers. Why? Because to use the fingers as a group in any configuration shows that the child is becoming aware of both fingering and their fingers.
I offer the alternative of the “correct” fingering, and show it to them, but praise them for being creative and showing initiative.
You would think that kids who are allowed this leeway would become erratic perpetrators of horrible fingering practices, but strangely enough this approach makes them interested in the “science” of fingering, producing better fingering skills because the child is thinking.
And there is another added benefit to this approach: continuity.
Playing the piano involves both painstaking stop-and-go work, and also the opposite approach, where one simply keeps going no matter how many mistakes one makes. There is no other way to learn how to play continuously. If we stop for every little mistake, the child becomes frustrated and bored.
The child learns to be aware of their mistake, but to keep going since a lost fingering is a small matter in the larger scheme of things.
Keep laughing and pointing out their bizarre fingerings, keep showing them the correct position, but don’t be negative or insist on perfection right away.
Allowing the child to experiment with their fingers is the first step in gaining control of the hand, and increases their awareness of their fingers in general.
Copyright 2010 Walden Pond Press
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