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03/07/2017

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It's like riding a bike

How to avoid constantly looking at your hands when playing the piano.

Something I say probably every day in my teaching, especially with beginner students, is that play the piano is like a riding a bike. 


Imagine the first day you got on a bike, maybe at three or four years of age, you know, the one with stabilizers. Now remember how you tried to master the skill of trying to get your feet to go round the correct way. Your mum or dad were probably calling out to you, "Don't look at your feet, look where you are going!" as you forgot all about steering the bike. Sound familiar?

Well this is a lot like many beginner students, even using a simple hand position, which doesn't involve any movement of the hand, just keeping the five fingers in close position. They feel more confident if they can look at their hands, instead of the notes in front of them. Then however, just like on a bike, if looks at one's feet instead of where one is going, there is an accident waiting to happen.

Piano Stickers are the WORST thing you can do as a beginner. Not only do they not help a student to learn the note names, but they encourage them to be constantly looking down away from the music.I try to encourage all my beginner students to feel the notes without looking down. Maybe at first they feel uncomfortable doing this, but eventually this will develop better sight reading skills. One of my pet hates is those note stickers you can buy to stick on the keys. They are the WORST thing you can do as a beginner. Not only do they not help a student to learn the note names, but they encourage them to be constantly looking down away from the music. This will produce at best - hesitant playing,  and at worst completely losing your place.

If the habit of looking down is deeply ingrained, as sometimes happens when I take over students who previously learned with a different "teacher" I sometimes do a little experiment. I hide their hands by suspending a sheet of paper just a few centimetres above so that they can't see them. To their surprise, they invariably play better when they can't see their hands.

I am interested in you thoughts, either as a student or a teacher, so please leave a comment below.

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