47. The First Steps of the Piano “Walk”
Playing involves the work of all of your fingers in a set sequence. The perception and consciousness should have full control over all that is needed for the muscles to play. To accomplish this, the muscles must be exercised. Provided that the exercise is simple and easily memorized, and that work on it doesn’t distract from the main goals, it is the most effective way to teach the hands and fingers to work.
The key phrase for a starting pianist is “walking along the keys.” Putting our fingers on the keys for the first time, we become year-old toddlers again, taking our first steps. The difference is, this time, we’ve got a minimum of five legs instead of two!
There is only one way to learn to walk, and that is – to walk! In this regard, exercises and songs are like prescribed strolls. An active exploration of the keyboard achieves a score of useful goals.
- They develop coordination between the fingers and keys.
- They train the perception to fixate on this coordination and the keys at the same time.
- They allow the vision to become more familiar with the space of the keyboard. After several trips forward and back, it no longer seems as scary and mysterious.
- They help to slowly memorize how the black keys are grouped in twos and threes, and how the white keys are organized in octaves and in order.
- They help to apply the music alphabet to the keys.
The effectiveness of exercises doubles if stickers are used (it’s like applying a road map with the names of the keys), and if each pressed key is also voiced out in Solfeggio.
Many argue that exercises are too tedious and mechanical. Again, this is the view of more mature musicians. But at the very beginning, it’s the other way around. The task of the exercise, its predictability and repeatability, is a great starting point for the new skill of “walking.”
Plain, repetitious movement can quickly be memorized, and the attention is free to focus on the coordination of the fingers and hands. Rather than worrying about figuring out where to go and how to find out the direction, the student can move on autopilot and focus on the fingers and the sounds they make, slowly developing a feeling of balance.