August 1st, 2010 :: Recipes for Technique
After dozens and dozens of 5-Finger Positions, it is time to move on. Teachers often ask me how long I teach 5-Finger Positions, but there is no real answer. Some days it seems like forever, and I think a student will never graduate to chords and scales. Other students rip through these quickly, and after a few months are ready for more challenging technique work. It just depends on the student, the age, the rate of progress. Certainly, my average younger student often lives in the 5-Finger world for a year or more, making the arrival of scales and chords something to celebrate.
Although these posts
have provided ideas for various patterns and ways of approaching 5-Finger Positions, this is hardly an exhaustive list. When I need more patterns, I dig through various technique books sitting on my shelf, or other creative resources for beginners. I especially like little pentachord songs with good lyrics that can be transposed into a 5-Finger pattern, giving our solfege a much needed break for a week or two. Even then, however, I often write out the patterns using both solfege and the lyrics, keeping with the concept that the students never actually see a printed score for their technique work.
Eventually, however there comes a day when I introduce chords. I always start with "bridges" of the basic I and V chords----Do/Sol for the I chord, and Ti/Sol for the V chord. We talk about whole steps and half steps, and quickly discover that although the beloved C position is all white notes for the bridges, the equally loved G position needs that tricky F-sharp for the V bridge. I tell students the right hand can take the week off, and we concentrate on bridges for the left hand the first week. Little ones are particularly excited about the idea that the right hand gets a "vacation" from positions. If the foundation of all major 5-Finger Positions is well established, kids do fine learning bridges in all keys that first week. This, in fact, is often so easy that I am tempted to go ahead and teach the whole I and V chord, but I have learned to curb that urge. Better that students---whatever age or level---have complete success in a new concept rather than compromising our learning with too many new things. Think like a video game, I remind myself. Kids like video games because they provide the perfect combination of challenge, novelty and opportunity for success at every level. If I can coax progress along at just the right pace, real live chords in a week or two are a simple matter.
67. LH Bridges: I-V-I (Do/Sol---Ti/Sol---Do/Sol)
Bridges are a great time to really focus on space under the hand. After all, kids understand that bridges need to be tall and strong. A collapsed bridge is no good.