Positioning the thumb in scales

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James said: Sep 15, 2011
James Guerin
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
27 posts

I get hung up about teaching children to “snap” or “tuck” their thumbs into position early when beginning a scale. The Bigler/Lloyd Watts book for teaching Suzuki piano recommends that when we introduced the scale, the thumb should be tucked under as soon as the student plays the second finger to prepare for future rapid scale playing.

I recently retrained with teachers who have studied with Dorothy Taubman, and who now teach noninjurious piano technique via a system called The Balance Pianist. They oppose the early snapping of the thumb as a stressful action, and believe the thumb should move slightly in advance of the hand when we get to the third finger.

The key I believe here is whether we are encouraging the students to “prepare” the thumb by holding it in a directional position ready to touch the 4th note of the scale, or whether the thumb simply hangs slightly inwards under the two finger so it is better positioned to move. I wonder what “most of us” are doing? I’m amazed that this critical technique does not have a shared approach escalation point Thanks for responding at your leisure.

Lori Bolt said: Sep 16, 2011
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

What do you teach your students about the thumb position in the Twinkles and Book 1?

I explain that the thumb should be “gently” under—almost hanging (ie: not clamped under)—the other fingers while playing….this is what I was taught in my teacher training. When I begin teaching scales, I use Twinkles to introduce the one octave scale—for balance, etc.—and so have not had to mention the thumb position (unless it needs work anyway) since the student is used to where the thumb should be. Of the two options you mentioned, I guess I fall somewhere between the two….the thumb is prepared, but not “held” in position. It is gently under finger 2.

Lori Bolt

James said: Sep 19, 2011
James Guerin
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
27 posts

Thank you Lori for affirming what seemed like common sense to me. It’s mostly a mental game where I tell the student that if he is reaching with the thumb (I don’t say “he or she”— I prefer that we refer to our own gender) or in any way extending or pushing the thumb, he is doing it wrong.

Once this is established, if I see forceful pushing I can prescribe stopping on the second finger to let the thumb hang as you said, and then on the third finger practice gently moving the thumb until the hand moves with it. I will then go back to playing with a metronome to see if he gets it naturally. If not, we go back to stop and prepare.

Of course it’s also important that when the thumb plays the hand it not lie down on the keys with the hand— it must sustain the hand.

Carol Rohan said: Sep 19, 2011
Carol Rohan
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Voice
San Diego, CA
5 posts

Did you get my Bio paper? My husband saw it, but wasn’t sure that it went through.

Carol Rohan

James said: Sep 19, 2011
James Guerin
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
27 posts

Carol,

Huh? Do you know me?

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