I see this question come up quite a bit. How do you help students who have consistently collapsing fingertips? No matter what you try, or how much you coax, some students just cannot seem to keep their top finger joint rounded and firm.
This is especially common for our youngest students, and can iron itself out as they get older and their dexterity grows. But what do you do when the problem persists? How do you avoid saying the same thing over and over and over?
Below are my top 5 go-to solutions for the dreaded collapsing fingertips. Keep these five things in your memory bank, and you might just avoid pulling your hair out the next time you come across this issue.
Teach Piano Today had this wonderful little invention up on their blog a while back. It’s since been shared all over, and it’s no wonder since this is such a pain point for piano teachers.
This little finger drum is especially helpful for young students who can’t really identify or understand the problem you’re asking them to fix.
Irina Gorin (Tales of a Musical Journey) and Julie Knerr (Piano Safari) both suggest using putty to give students the feeling of firm fingertips, and develop a warm tone. This is something I still have to experiment with more myself, but I think it’s a really interesting approach.
This is another exercise from the fabulous Piano Safari. During their research for the Piano Safari method they found some form of this exercise (under different names) in many different teacher’s approaches. The repeated non-legato notes help students to hone in on their fingertip shape.
I have seen this particular exercise have fantastic results with many students. As well as playing it on the piano, we also “play” this on tabletops, drums, and each other’s arms. It’s a lot of fun!
Piano Adventures uses this technique in the ‘My First Piano Adventures‘ series, and I have seen similar exercises in other methods too. Basically the student presses each fingertip in turn against the tip of their thumb, without letting the joints collapse.
It’s simple but I have seen it help students understand the feeling of firm fingertips. With really ingrained poor technique, I don’t think this is sufficient. In the early stages it can be helpful though.
Housing a Spider
For my youngest students, I often use a little story to remind them to arch their hand. I tell them to imagine a little spider is sitting underneath their hand on the keys. We don’t want to let our hands fall, since we don’t want him to think his house is falling down! You can use a little prop or toy for this, or he can just be imaginary.
My favourite thing about this is that it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like nagging to exclaim about the spider’s house falling down! It’s also a much more convincing reason for a 4 year old to have good technique than because I say so.
Let’s hear your top solution to collapsing fingertips!
These are just my favourite five that I’ve come across, but I’m sure there’s more out there.
Share you’re favourite in the comments so we can all borrow it!