Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 3)

Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 3)

The previous post was about the first part of a good strum, keeping your right elbow in the right spot.

Remember that in all these tips – the anatomy of a good strum – the whole is what is most important. As I said, my intention is not to make this more complicated than it should be. I just want to break it down a bit to help you observe well.

To use the painting analogy, you should watch yourself paint. There are a few questions in the first post that might help with this.

Here’s the next part of a clean and efficient strum: A smooth swing.

To reiterate, all these “pieces” work together. So, a good arm swing is contingent on good elbow position.

The Tip

For this tip, the focus is on swinging: Have both a down stroke and an upstroke.

That might seem a little funny, but a lot of beginner strummers use all down strokes, or choppy moves, with a few upstrokes. Let your arm pivot on your elbow and swing up and down. It should not be very “jerky.”

The key is that ALL strumming is like this: down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up… etc.

Notice there are as many “ups” as there are “downs.”

There are other things to notice as you watch yourself “paint the strum.” The goal is to have smooth strokes.

In addition, you should have a good balance between arm and wrist motion. You should NOT strum by twisting your wrist and not moving your arm. Likewise, you should NOT strum by locking your wrist and moving only your arm.

An efficient strum will move from the elbow and include a small twist as the arm moves.

The twist will only be slight.

As for the arm swing, it should cover all the strings – paint the whole canvas – but not be so big that you could virtually paint 5 canvases. Make the swing efficient by swinging only as much as you need to.

Note that this doesn’t mean you strike all the strings. I’m only talking about the swing of the arm.

I’ll say more about that later, but I’m simply referring to the fact that different chords call for different notes to be played. In other words, when trying to paint yellow (let’s say), it’s easy to accidentally mix in another color with your brush.

For now, the main thing to know is that ALL strumming is both up and down. When you paint the strum, you need both a down stroke and an up stroke.

Let me try to show you briefly:

 

painting-the-strum-3

The next tip will be about how to hold the paint brush…I mean pick.

Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 2)

Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 2)

I hope the previous post was helpful to begin describing what it means to paint the strum. The purpose of this series is to dissect the strum and describe for you what I would say are the parts of a good strum.

I suppose the word “good” is a bit relative, but I trust you know the difference. To be clear, I’m not talking about “professional” or “expert” strumming here. It is more like “clean and efficient.” That’s what I hope this series will help explain: The anatomy of a clean and efficient strum.

In this post, I will be covering the first part: Right Elbow Position.

Posture is naturally part of this, so I will include my thoughts about good posture and some tips to avoid bad posture.

The Tip

First, related to the series, here’s today’s tip: Keep your right elbow up on the guitar.

In other words, don’t let it come off really far forward where it’s more like your bicep resting on the top edge. Also, don’t let it go so far back that you can’t even swing your arm.

If your guitar is a little too small, your arm will naturally fall too far forward. If your guitar is a little too big, your arm will naturally, well…not reach.

As you can tell, there are a couple of things to be watching for already. My tip assumes that your guitar is about the right size for you. (Most people will be playing on a full-sized acoustic guitar by the time they are 12 or so.)

Different brands make different sizes as well, so if you’re in the market for one, pay attention to how well it fits the body that will be playing it.

As you are playing your guitar, just make sure that you are strumming with your right elbow up on the top front edge of the body of the guitar.

Posture

All this is related to how you are sitting (or standing). If you are sitting down and playing the guitar, there are some things to mention here.

  1. Sit up straight:
    • Don’t lean forward really far to try to see your left hand (it can push your right elbow forward and off the guitar)
    • Don’t slouch or lean back (it pulls your elbow too far back)
    • (Please) don’t put your left elbow on your leg or anywhere else. This curves and twists your spine. Bad.
  2. Keep your feet down:
    • This is just like it sounds. Keep your feet on the ground.
  3. Try and raise your right leg a bit
    • Okay, this one is a little tougher, but I’ll tell you why it’s important. It raises the guitar up closer to your head. It actually makes you a more efficient player because your right arm moves less and your left hand doesn’t strain and reach near as much. You can either get a small step to put your foot on, or get a book, a box, or a little sister under your foot to lift it up a bit. 🙂

Your right elbow is like a pivot point. If it is in the correct position, you can relax your body (because relaxing is extremely important) and let it swing.

This is the first part of a clean and efficient strum.

The next will have to do with how you swing your arm.

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Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 1)

Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 1)

Strumming. It sounds easy. But is it?

Well, actually, yes!

…and no.

There are several factors that can lead to good strumming, so this series will be all about the anatomy of a good strum.

That said, I should point out that my intention is not to make this more complicated than it should be. I just want to break it down a bit to help you observe well. All the pieces in this series should work together fluidly, but if, when you play, you notice your strum just doesn’t sound quite right, my hope is that you might observe that you could work on one or more of these parts for the benefit of the whole strum (since the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, after all).

In addition, as I consider this subject, I realize chances are good you do not think of strumming first when you think of guitar playing. With electric guitars dominating the musical landscape, most people think of the left hand – the one that seems to play all those amazing leads by itself. It seems to move the most after all, and t.v. cameras tend to focus attention on how it travels the neck, slides, bends, hammers, and wavers around like a well-controlled dancer.

What this means is that you may not see its importance immediately. Though it might be pretty obvious to say that both hands must work together for guitar playing, how should your right hand function for the benefit of the whole?

That’s what I hope to address in these posts. It will not be exhaustive – only the “first things.” That’s what I tell my kids – “First things first.” This is the prolegomena of strumming.

Here’s a summary of the parts – the “anatomy,” as I see it:

  1. Right Elbow Position (and related: Posture)
  2. Smooth Arm Swinging
  3. Pick holding
  4. Technique: ways to paint

The last two will really bring out what I mean by “Painting the Strum.” I tell my students all the time to “paint the strings,” because this has been a helpful analogy for the motions involved.

As a acoustical guitarist, you are like an artist with a paint brush in hand. With the color of the left hand work, the artist paints on the canvas of the strings. While the left hand chooses the color, the right hand adds depth of field, soft or rough edges, and “thickness,” so to speak. It creates motion and range, adding tone and volume to the overall picture.

Yes, its crucial a painter should know how to choose his or her color well. However, many don’t realize until they have the paint on their brush that it matters how you apply it as well.

That’s what this series will be about. It’s about the factors that lead to applying your color well.

Beyond introducing the series, this post is to say: pay attention to what your right hand is doing.

Here are seven questions to help you observe:

  1. Do you tend to be stiff, or relaxed?
  2. Do you tend to paint the whole canvas, or just part (i.e. do you strum all the strings?)
  3. Do you tend to twist your wrist or swing your arm?
  4. Does your volume tend to be loud or soft?
  5. Where, in relation to the sound hole, do you tend to paint?
  6. Do you tend to have a “jerky” swing, smooth, or a little of both?
  7. How are you holding your pick?

In all of these, I am not setting up a test. I’m just saying, “Pay attention to what your right hand is doing.”

I’ll summarize with the following tip: Watch yourself paint.

Next time, I’ll cover the first part: Right Elbow Position.

  

Life Songs: The Old and the New

Life Songs: The Old and the New

There are many kinds of songs and genres, and it hit me that the kinds of songs we learn can mimic the kind of life we live. Not always, of course, but consider these kinds of songs from the Bible (not exhaustive):

The Good Kind
  1. Songs of excitement and joy (Gen 31:27, 1 Chr 13:8, Ps 47:1, Ps 68:4, Ps 107:22)
  2. Songs of triumph/victory (Ex 15:1-2, Judges 5:12, 1 Sam 18:6, 2 Sam 6:5)
  3. Songs to teach/remember (Deut 31, Eph 5:19)
  4. Songs to express deliverance (2 Sam 22:1, Ps 118:14-15, Is 26:1)
  5. Songs to express thanks (Neh 12:46, Ps 28:7, Jer 30:19, Eph 5:19, Col 3:16)
  6. Songs as a prayer (Ps 42:8)
  7. Marriage Songs (Ps 78:63)
  8. Love songs (Is 5:1, Song of Solomon)
The Not-So-Good Kind
  1. Songs to ridicule (Job 30:9, Ps 137:3)
  2. “Oh, Bless your heart, honey, don’t Worry!” songs (Prov 25:20)
  3. Song of fools (Eccl 7:5)
  4. Fearful songs (Eccl 12:4-5)
  5. The silent song: a “used-to-be-a-song” void (Is 16:10, Ezek 26:13)
  6. Song of the prostitute (Is 23:15)
  7. Song of the ruthless (Is 25:5)
  8. Lustful songs (Ezek 33:32)
  9. That’s “noise,” not “song” (Amos 5:23)
  10. Idle songs (Amos 6:5)
  11. Taunt songs (Micah 2:4)
  12. Drunken songs (Ps 69:12)

[Yikes. Didn’t know all those were there, too]

The “New Song”

There is another category in Scripture – the “new song.” I’ve often wondered what this is, but when you consider the not-so-good kind of songs above, it begins to make a little more sense.

Here are a several represented in Scripture:

They all speak of singing a “new song” to the Lord. Psalm 144 is one of David’s songs. This one is popular because he asks a great question:

“What is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him?”

That is a great question. He knows his true condition: “like a breath” (v. 4), and calls on God to come in all His glory (vv. 5-6) that he might be rescued from many waters, and from foreigners (v. 7). He doesn’t describe “many waters,” but he does define foreigners in verse 8:

“…whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.”

These people sung the not-so-good kind of songs.

To contrast, David immediately adds, [on the other hand] will sing a new song to you, O God.

That is, I will not sing those not-so-good kind of songs like the foreigners do. They are foreign to Your goodness. They are foreign to Your love. They are foreign to Your people.

They live the kind of song they sing.

The Old and the New

To sing a new song is to live a different life. To sing a new song is to have a new hope. To sing a new song is to offer words of wisdom and grace.

A new song “befits the upright” (Ps 33:1), “for the word of the Lord is upright” (Ps 33:4).

In other words, it implies a new authority.

Romans 6, Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3 all talk about the “Old Self” versus the “New Self.” We have been given one in place of the other.

Old song out.

New song in…so live according to the new song.

Paul could have said “new song” in Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

You will die for singing the old song, but in Christ Jesus, we have been given a new, eternal, song.

It is this kind of song we now sing: eternal life.

Right. The good kind.

What does this have to do with real music, and lessons and stuff?

I’m glad you asked. If you have been given a new song, remember that it takes time to really learn to sing it loud and proud. It takes time to play it well, right?

I mean, name one skill in your life that you mastered immediately. If your new life is like a new song to sing or play, we should be okay with taking time to master it as well, right?

The song is in our heart, yes, but God is still working out what He has put in (Phil 1:12-13). Speaking of Philippians 1, read the context (vv. 12-18). The point is that, like Psalm 33, we shine as we hold fast to the Word. We have to be reminded to not sing the old song: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing,” he says (v. 14).

So playing a real, audible song on an instrument takes time. One cannot master it immediately. Students have to be reminded of what the song doesn’t sound like.

Over time, I want to offer this kind of lesson to my students.

Casting Crowns has a song called “Lifesong” that I really like. I think they’re saying the same thing. Here’s a little part of it:

So may the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you

Music lessons are not just another subject to cover in school, or a good thing to do because someone said you should. They are life lessons. They help answer the question, “How should I live my life?”

A Christian music teacher has the amazing opportunity to listen well and say, “Let me help you love the Great Musician and play His song well. Let’s take your instrument now and learn to adorn the air with the life of a beautifully played song – one that conforms to the beautiful boundaries set by our wonderful Creator.”

Cacophony existed before the world was formed. Unity and harmony after.

Let’s learn to play music that conforms to the latter – music that blesses.

Sin has caused cacophonous chaos. God has granted glorious grace to continue to move from the old to the new.

Let’s play with style and grace, and not settle with chaos.

  

Piano: Dealing with Information Overload

Piano: Dealing with Information Overload

Ever feel like your head might explode with an information overload? This is how someone (particularly a child just starting out) feels when they sit down to play a piece they haven’t learned.

There’s just a lot to look at.

So much to see. So much to do.

So much to translate.

Seriously. There’s so many symbols on the page that even a simple song can make your eyes cross.

Information overload. How do you deal with it? Glancing up at the page, the student struggles to know what to look at. Are they supposed to look at everything at the same time? How do they translate all these symbols into something that sounds beautiful?

It’s kind of overwhelming, and many have been known to shed a few tears over it.

(This may be why there has been so much psychological research done on it. Many have noticed this general issue. Did you know there is an Information Overload Research Group? Crazy.)

Anyway, not only does the music page look like Greek, but their hands aren’t cooperating and just won’t play it right.

This combination = “I stink at piano.”

Sidebar – Know Yourself

If you’ve felt this pressure before, you know what I’m talking about. It can make you want to quit.

Incidentally, this is where some wonderful character training can come into play. If you are a parent, how do you handle this? If you are the parent trying to learn in front of your kids, how do you handle it? God is interested in every nook and cranny of your heart.

It is very important to know yourself. In this case, know how you tend to respond to pressure, anxiety, frustration, and the like when you practice your musical instrument.

If you can take a breath and slow yourself down, you have won most of the battle.

It’s like looking at a map

My wife thinks quite a lot about education and homeschooling. She was working with a child yesterday who was supposed to trace a map of the world, but didn’t know what he was even supposed to trace.

There was so much there! He didn’t know what to look at. He didn’t know what the important lines were.

She led his eyes to the primary outline of the continents and had him trace those. She told me later that it would have been better to have a world map with only the outlines of the continents. That way there would be no question what to trace.

With piano music, it’s hard to simplify. You can’t just erase everything but the outline, so to speak.

That’s why looking at sheet music can be like looking at a map with lots of detail. Where do you start?

Dealing with Information Overload

Because of this issue, there’s a couple things I’d like to say.

First, remember that the more you look at something, the more familiar it gets. Be patient. Give it time.

Second, it is possible to help focus the eyes on some primary elements without feeling completely overwhelmed.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. There are typically numbers used in the Suzuki method. These numbers are a guide to help remind you of which fingers you should play. Try highlighting the numbers.
  2. The songs in the book usually have musical phrases written in (the arches above the staff lines). Try seeing the phrase arches like hats over different heads, or covers over different boxes. Play one box at a time.
  3. Shorten the song even more by playing one or two measures at a time. Only work on a small number of measures at a time, and master it before trying to do the whole thing.
  4. Take sticky notes and actually cover everything else on the page you don’t want to work on, to give your eyes a focused section to look at. Keep moving and removing the sticky notes until the whole song is played with ease. (Credit to my wife for this one!)

Keep listening to the songs on the CD! Your ear will do a lot of correction for you, and can help translate what your eyes see. Think of the difference between learning to play a song you’ve already heard, versus a song that you’ve never heard.

Information overload is a real thing. In our day of immediacy, sitting still while working hard is a lesson that is getting harder and harder to learn. It is much easier to give up and try something else.

Well, this is not a restaurant you can abandon if your food is taking too long, or a channel you can change if you don’t like what you see.

It is worthwhile to keep working at something you don’t get at first. Everyone can relate to this. We just happen to be talking about practicing piano presently.

It’s like life – you listen to someone else play their song, and then you play it as much like they do as possible. Only then can you begin to make it your own and create new melodies.

Observation of what’s important is key. But it can take time to train your eyes to see it.

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Guitar Tip: Lead fingers and Pivot fingers

Playing chords on the guitar is not too bad. Even the difficult ones can be played without much trouble…as long as you’re not playing it in the middle of a song.

With a little effort it’s easy to put your fingers in the right place and make the chord sound decent.

The trouble is switching to the chord from another chord – in time. In other words, going from chord to chord at the speed of the song is not as easy as it seems.

Here’s something to think about that might help. When switching from chord to chord there are a couple of things you can watch for. Learning how to play guitar is largely about teaching your own fingers to move how and where you want them.

Here’s the secret: they have natural tendencies.

Pivot Fingers

Pay attention to where your fingers are. A prime example of a pivot finger is when going from the D chord to the G chord. Most people play the G Chord like this (numbers represent fingers, starting with pointer finger #1):

g-chord

When you look at the D chord, the ring finger (#3) is in the same position as it is in the G chord:

d-chord

The 3 finger (ring finger) becomes the pivot finger. Like a dancer rotates her body on a single foot, a guitar player can (more or less) rotate his hand on a single finger.

So, when going from the D-chord to the G-chord, you can keep your 3 finger in place. Don’t lift it.

Many beginning players let their whole hand off the neck to switch chords, but it’s not necessary. Leaving the 3 finger in place allows the hand to quickly and easily pivot around to play the G-chord without looking.

Playing chords without looking is actually an important goal for a player. One of the methods to get there is to utilize pivot fingers when you find them.

Here’s a video about it:

Lead Fingers

Before trying to play chords without looking, feel free to look. In fact, be very observant. Using the same chords as above, when going from the D-chord to the G-chord, something else natural happens: there’s a leader.

Yes, watch closely. One of your fingers will usually get there first. My lead finger going from D to G is my middle finger (#2). It gets there first every time.

Why is this important?

Here’s a principle everyone needs to know: A leader has followers.

Interestingly, the same applies to your fingers. Sounds strange, but if you’ve spent even a small amount of time teaching your fingers where they should go for a particular chord, you start to see this happen. Your non-lead fingers will naturally fall into their place.

g-chord

For instance, if my lead finger is my 2 finger to the G-chord, and I utilize my pivot finger (#3), my other two will go right to their positions.

Fingers 1 and 4 know right where to go.

And this is just an example. This even works for bar chords, and other irregular chords. In fact, this principle is so important, you may not be able to switch effectively without it.

The reason is of the alternative: flyaway fingers. The closer your fingers can stay to the strings the better.

Utilizing Pivot Fingers and Lead Fingers will allow you to play more and more efficiently. Watch your fingers – try not to let them pull out and move more than necessary. In no time, you will be able to go from chord to chord at the speed of the song, and do it with fluidity.

Lead Fingers Video:

Keep at it!

Music Lessons and Leadership

Music Lessons and Leadership

Part of the reason I like to do a guitar class (as opposed to individual lessons) is because it helps train students to play with a group. It trains them to really listen to one another as they play together.

When people play together, they lead.

Even bands who perform are leading – they persuade with their music. Very often, performers call on the audience to interact and participate. They are leading.

As Christians, leadership is particularly important. What do performing Christians persuade their hearers to do? What do they call their audience to think on and participate in? What is most important? Is their music quality directly proportional to how well their music persuades?

I want to help give you the motivation and the resources and skills to play well and to lead well.  Playing well means nothing without being able to use your skills for others.  In addition, you cannot lead music well without being able to play well.  In music, especially as Christians, playing and leading are intertwined, for we must lead others toward our great God without distracting them from where their true focus must be (that’s another post for another day).

David was an excellent model of playing and leading together.  He was described in 1 Samuel 16:18 as one who is “skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” Expounding this verse, I want to inspire and equip people towards the following six things:

  1. For their musicianship to be noticeable and loved
  2. To have great boldness and bravery in life
  3. To be able to think strategically, practically and logically in a music leadership setting
  4. To be articulate and wise in their speech as they lead others
  5. To be confident, at peace and alert
  6. To be humble and aware of the Lord’s presence and authority

What kind of musician you are matters.

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Getting over the Blank Canvas

Getting over the Blank Canvas

Sometimes playing music can start with as much of a blank canvas as painting. Even if there is a sheet of paper with notes or chords on it in front of you, players or groups still get this familiar sense: “Where do I start?”

For instance, a guitar player, bassist, drummer and a singer get together to play. If there is no set songs to play, it’s worse, but even if there are songs that have been chosen, they still must decide how to start.

Or, when a beginning guitar player picks up his or her guitar to play, they play around on chords, but how do you put them together? How should they strum?

A large part of this blog is to help get over this hurdle. I hope to offer tips that help get over this “blank canvas” feeling.

I enjoy the visual arts as well and have felt this many times. It comes with the territory…and you don’t realize how tall that mountain is until you get right up next to it. In other words, until you pick up your pencil, brush, guitar pick, drum sticks or get together as a band and begin to play, you don’t realize that the squatty thing in the distance was Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Every artist must learn to overcome this feeling. And you can too.

So here’s the first tip: Imitate

One of the best principles I’ve found for learning anything is to try to copy what someone else has done.

This is called “mimesis” in classical education circles. It’s why God wanted Moses to write the song in Deuteronomy 31-32. It’s why Jesus asked those men to follow Him. It’s why Paul and the other apostles told the churches to imitate God and Christ in love (cf. Eph 5:1-2). It’s why the apostles not only told the churches to imitate them (2 Thess 3:7-9), but to also consider the outcome of the way of life of their leaders and imitate them (Heb 13:7).

Back to music. This is fairly easy to do these days with guitar. Find a song. Find the chords. Play along.

(Simply type in the name of the song in google with “lyrics and chords” next to it and you should find something.)

I have led worship music for much of my life and these types of songs are wonderful to use.

Number two: Consistent and Simple is Best

Secondly, remember that it is more important to be consistent with something simple than to try to do too much. If you’re by yourself, it’s better to work yourself up to the more complex thing. If you’re with a band, the same applies – it’s better to work up to the more complex thing than try something too complicated…even if one person can do it so easily.

It’s a trap.

Just work on being consistent with something simple – on your skill level – first.

For instance, as a band, try this. Strip the chords to their bare bones by only playing the chords shown at major places (like the down beats – or maybe even just the 1 count).

As a beginner guitarist, try this: play a D chord until you have mastered it, and don’t move on until you can close your eyes and put your hand in the right place. Or if you’ve mastered the D chord, try using the D to practice switching to a chord you don’t know as well, and go back and forth. Master that.

Work on being consistent with something simple.

I know there are many things going on that can cause a musician to freeze up, quit in frustration, or simply get bored. Remember you are training yourself (even as a band), to hear well and play well. It’s ear training as well as muscle memory training.

Stay the course!

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Guitar Tip: String Names

String names is actually an interesting subject. I try to tell my students that the names of the strings are for more than just knowing “chords.” They are actually notes.

I mean, for many guitar players, there is only one practical use for knowing the string names. It gives them a way to know where to put their fingers. They might as well use the string numbers: 1, 2, 3, etc. You could build chords this way just as easily. Now, this is just fine as a start, but all you need to know is which finger, which fret, and which string.

In this case, the name of the string is irrelevant. We might as well call string 5 “Albert” from now on, and string 4, “Doug.”

Seriously. Not really.

The name represents the note

String names are important because the name represents the note. This may or may not seem obvious or important. In other words, The D-string is named as such precisely because it was designed to be a D note.

And, incidentally, the D string only goes in one place. When you install a string designed to be a G in the D-string position, it’s probably going to sound weird. Worse, when you put the D-string in the G-string position, it’s probably going to break. The D-string wasn’t designed to be tightened beyond a certain point, and when you try to tighten it up to the G note, it goes past its design tension.

String names orient the student to the notes that are being played when they are “open” (plucked without a finger pressed on it).

The names must alert the student more and more to the actual note. Then, when an ‘Em’ is played, they would know that the note being played on the A-string is actually a B note. Likewise, the note being played on the D-string is actually an E note. Therefore, the notes being played (strummed) are like this:

  • E-string (low):  E note
  • A-string:  B note
  • D-string:  E note
  • G-string:  G note
  • B-string:  B note
  • E-string:  E note

The Triad

This leads to something crucial. When you look close, there are only three different notes being played: E, B, G

This is hugely important because three different notes together is what makes a chord. It’s called a triad.

Test out any other chord and you will find the same thing: though the guitar has 6 strings, you will almost always be playing some version of a triad.

The Tip

To summarize, here’s my tip: Know that string names are notes. They are merely links in a chain; pieces to a whole. The bigger picture is the musical scale, moving two octaves from the open low E to the open high E.

Here’s how it looks on a piano:

tune-guitar-to-piano

If you know the piano keyboard, note that “middle C” is the C furthest to the right, just to the right of the B. Therefore, most of the notes are below middle C.

Memorize the string names, and know that they are actually notes!

There are many ways to memorize the string names, but several of my students made this up: Every Aawesome Dog Goes Bonkers Easily!

Piano Fingers Tip

Holding your fingers properly as you play piano is very important. It’s as important with any instrument, for that matter.

I’d just like to point out a few things that affect finger position for piano.

Posture

First, posture is a big deal. It’s very hard to play properly if there’s any slouching going on. It’s not a good habit. The reason is that it pulls the wrists down. The arms get “heavy” as you slouch and the wrists find themselves resting on the keybed (the little piece of wood that sticks out past the keys). In turn, this pulls the fingers down so that the fingers are nearly flat on the keys. Try and sit straight with shoulders down.

Height

Ultimately, this refers to how high the elbows are. If a child is too low, she has to reach up to the keys. This is basically the same resulting problem as slouching, but the child cannot do anything about it. Her posture may be perfect. The solution is to give her something to sit on.

A related issue for children is that they have nothing to rest their feet on usually. They typically just swing above the floor. When she has something to rest her feet on, her lower back is actually supported better, which results in more confident playing. She will play more confidently when she is not (subliminally) distracted by trying to hold herself up differently. Comfy is good.

Stress

This is actually probably the biggest one (as I’ve mentioned before). When you’re stressed, muscles are tense, and everything travels north. Shoulders go up, breath goes to the chest, and fingers go up. Take some breaths and relax. If you’re too stressed, get up and walk around a bit. It is hard work to train your fingers, and can be frustrating. Keep tabs on your turmoil.

Finger position is important. Give them every opportunity to succeed by watching your posture, height and stress level. Then give them time. Keep working at it!