Hand relaxation—Piano

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Monica said: Jan 22, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Hello fellow teachers,

I have a student who plays with a very tensed-up right hand (we are starting Book 1—Piano). While he is playing the Twinkle Twinkle variations even his left hand, the resting hand, is tense.

Does anyone have an idea of how I can help him?
Thank you.

Monica C.

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jan 22, 2012
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

New Comment on Hand relaxation—Piano from MonicaHere’s an idea for you to try. It has worked for me. I made it up, to get rid of tension in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, and fingers, that some children encounter the moment they are on “task” such as playing their instrument. They need to feel at ease:

Ask your student to let both hands hang in front, fingers suspended round and loose, like two round kitten paws, elbows free from the ribs and hanging comfortably down from the shoulders, elbows bent at 90 degs. With a gentle rag doll motion, LH alternating with RH, on each underlined letter, the teacher sings/says the following verse, to a 6/8 rhythm, slowly enough so the student can hear and respond, feeling the rhythm:

Flopsy Topsy, Molly and Mopsy
Wanted to make a Pudding pie,

Molly rolled and Mopsy filled and
Flopsy Topsy baked the pie.

Flopsy Topsy, Molly and Mopsy
Wanted to eat their Pudding pie,

Who is ready? I am ready! and
They all licked the platter dry.

When the student knows and is familiar with the silly verses, you can add a few new motions that help her/him relax further:

on “Molly rolled” : LH bounces once on Mollly and then on Rolled. LH rolls as if with a rolling pin
“Mopsy filled”: RH bounces and then makes a pouring motion to the left
“Flopsy Topsy baked the pie”: L R, then both hands push the pie into the oven

back to L R for Who is ready?—-
On “I am ready,” L R—- each hand rises to tap the chest lightly

On “They all licked the platter dry”: L R L R on the tummy.

Before you go back to repeat, add one line of L R L R, this time slurping on each beat.
By the time you repeat the verses, the hands and wrists should be feeling themselves relaxed and rounded, soft, and bouncy.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Tim Eckert said: Jan 22, 2012
Tim Eckert
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools
30 posts

I ask the student to tense up his or her hands on purpose, and then relax them. “Tense!” “Relax!” Back and forth several times, so the students become more aware of their muscles. Then it is easier for them to relax their hands.

For the youngest ones, I have an octopus stuffie which has dangling (i.e.., relaxed) “fingers” which the students can copy.

Tim

Monica said: Jan 23, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Thank you Wendy for sharing your poem/activity. I will try it for sure. That’s such a great idea to focus on something else (poem) to let hands relax and be nice and round.
Thank you.

Monica said: Jan 23, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Tim I think that’s a great way to make them aware of tensing/relaxing I will try that too for sure. Thanks!

Lana said: Jan 27, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Regina, SK
5 posts

Hi Monica,
I think this happens especially if the child is playing through the Twinkle . I always have the child practice with “ready-go” on each finger ( just the first 8 notes of Variations a, B and C), so that each finger is balanced, and the hand /finger can relax before playing. The rhythms are so quick and so nate by note , we can train the hand to relax. Hope that helps!
Lana

Lanamarie

Lori Bolt said: Jan 28, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

I have used Lana’s technique on the Twinkles with good results—sometimes needing to revisit it with a student over time. I use word descriptions such as soft hand, soft butterfly wings….to describe the relaxed fingers, and ask the student to let the hand be soft as each new finger gets ready. At first, we ignore any tightness that happens while playing and just focus on releasing tension in ready position. I look for this to be achieved with each finger before adding “soft hand” while playing (sometimes that just happens as a side benefit!).

I’ve also used shoulder rolls, tense/relax shoulders, swinging arms, yoga “ragdoll” at the start of lessons to loosen students before sitting down at the piano. That hand tension can be traveling down the arm too.

I look forward to using the other ideas mentioned—the poem/ tense-release of hands—as introductions to relaxing with my students. Thanks :)

Lori Bolt

Monica said: Feb 2, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Thanks everyone for the wonderful ideas…

Lana said: Feb 2, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Regina, SK
5 posts

Thanks also from me, so nice to get some new ideas!! :)

Lanamarie

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