Getting students to play with a good hand position can be a challenge. Most of them know what to do when reminded. It’s the remembering that’s the problem. When they get home to practise, they forget. This means they don’t develop the muscular control and flexibility required for comfortable playing.
For my younger students I have several methods to help them understand how and why to play with a round hand. My favourite is the song Stone on the Mountain from Piano Adventures, where they imagine holding a stone in their hand. We also pretend a little mouse lives under our hand and we don’t want to squash it. We name our mouse and get quite “mock” upset if anything untoward happens to it.
These tricks are great but are unrelated to their actual pieces. What will help them remember as they are playing?
Well inspired again by Nancy Faber, of Piano Adventures, I have started creating scenarios from the pieces themselves. For example if their piece is about aliens then help them imagine the aliens are under their hands. If it’s a song about a boat then imagine the boat is sailing under their hand and they mustn’t sink the boat (of course there will always be one who deliberately tries to sink their boat!!)
Success! The technique is tied into the subject of their piece so they get a reminder every time they see the illustrations or title of the piece.
For adults it’s a little harder. Their pieces aren’t titled so imaginatively. Perhaps a minuet could have dancers under the hands?
Perhaps we need to pass the responsibility to our students and let their own imaginations lead the way.