Two pilots have just landed their plane after a very rough approach.
"Wow, that was the shortest runway I've ever landed on," says the co-pilot.
"Yeah," says the pilot. "But it sure was WIDE!"
I'm reminded of this silly joke every time I see my students struggle trying to place their fingers on the tiniest piece of real estate on the piano key.
The average piano key is about 1 inch wide. But it's 6 inches long!
(2.54 by 15.24 centimeters for the metric gang)
The video below is from a lesson where Audrey was exploring the difference in shape between a C minor five-finger pattern and an E Flat minor five-finger pattern.
As you watch, ask yourself these questions:
- Who is doing the teaching?
- Is the teacher giving her information by telling her anything?
- Who's asking questions?
- Is Audrey engaged in the learning process?
- Is it worth the time it took (3 minutes) to let her discover these things herself?
Where a student places their finger on the key is often the key. (Pun intended...sorry.)
I've been thinking a lot about this with students of all ages and abilities. From Iliana, with her magnets placed to help her slide her hand in to prepare for a black key, to my student Stan, who was working on the Chopin F Minor Ballade today.
Often the first note we hear as being "wrong" is a result of an error made several notes earlier. An incorrect fingering can cause this - but so can a "correct" finger poorly placed on the key.
A finger placed in the wrong place on the right key can set off a chain reaction.
We need to take the time to notice and adjust this placement.
There's a fabulous book called That's a Good Question...How to Teach by Asking Questions by Marienne Uszler. I had the good fortune to have Marienne as my Pedagogy Teacher at the University of Southern California. Her open-mindedness and curiosity was infectious. When I decided to started writing this blog, the first thing I did was reread her books.
I highly recommend all the books in this series including: Play it Again, Sam...How Where and Why to Repeat, and Time Flies: How to Make the Best Use of Teaching Time.