Mary arrived at her lesson last week with gigantic splint on her finger. She'd broken the pinkie finger on her right hand. Her mom hadn't had time to let me know. I couldn't tell how serious the break was. Her doctor's advice had been, "Do whatever feels good. If it hurts, don't do it." Not very specific instructions, and I certainly didn't want her to hurt herself.
Young students hurt themselves all the time. A jammed finger from basketball, a broken arm from horseback riding. One has to be creative and quick-on-the-draw to figure out how to handle these situations. I glanced through some books looking for pieces with interesting left hand parts. I didn't expect she'd be playing with her right hand at all for a few weeks. I picked up one of my standby favorites, the Gurlitt Selected Works for Piano.
The Storm by Cornelius Gurlitt turned out to be the ideal piece for Mary and her broken finger. The right hand part only plays two notes at a time, and she could play it easily and without causing herself any pain.
This video was taken at her second lesson on this piece - just a week after she'd broken her finger. Her finger still hurt unless she wore her splint, so she played wearing it. If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of the metal splint hitting the keys a few times, but otherwise you'd never know she had a broken finger.
We used a technique that is work well when learning pieces with busy accompaniment figures. (Things like Alberti bass.) Instead of playing exactly what's written, Mary's right hand played only one interval per measure at first. Gradually we increased the number of times her right hand played. There are many purposes for this:
- Hearing and listening for the melody
- Learning exactly when the changes in harmony happen
- Balancing the two hands - starting with the melody automatically louder than the chords. (The odds are in its favor!)
Most important though, it kept Mary's interest. The task kept changing and she had to adjust and learn along the way. When she comes tomorrow, I bet it will be perfectly lovely. And maybe she'll even be able to play without her splint.
Some of you may remember Mary from her other appearances on dianehidy.com. Here is Mary playing the popular Mashed Potato Clouds a few years ago. You can find the music in Attention Grabbers Book Two.