- Creating a relaxed, round hand shape.
- Playing with the correct part of the finger without collapsing the joints.
- Playing with a non-legato touch, using the arm and maintaining a flexible wrist.
These goals can be challenging for small hands and fingers! However, I have found a great teaching tool that is working wonders with my students—the game “Last Mouse Lost.” I discovered this game at the recommendation of another teacher on Facebook last year, and I have been incorporating it into my lessons in different ways over the past year with great success.
Although this game has official rules, I use it a bit differently--as a teaching tool for helping students to see and hear that they are landing on the correct part of their finger and to practice dropping onto each key with a bit of arm weight and a flexible wrist. It is also a great way to review finger numbers with young students. Here is what I do:
- Place the game on the closed piano lid.
- Demonstrate for students how to “pop” each row of bubbles with one finger (use fingers only—no thumb). You will use a light, bouncing motion of the arm with a flexible wrist, floating up slightly after you pop each of the bubbles.
- Call out a finger number and ask students to “pop” a row of bubbles. Make sure students are maintaining a round, relaxed hand. If you see tension developing, stop and have students gently shake the hand to release the tension. (Or, if you are goofy like me, you can sing the Taylor Swift song “Shake it Off”!)
- If students land on a bubble correctly, it will press all the way in with a satisfying “pop.” If students land on the wrong part of the finger, or without enough arm weight, the bubble won’t pop all the way. This is a great visual and aural reminder for students that they are doing this exercise the right way.
- Once the student has popped all the bubbles, flip the game over and repeat with the other hand.
After we play this game, I open the piano and have my students repeat the movement on the piano keys. They should be able to hear the difference this makes in the sound—they will get a nice, fat tone because they are playing each key using their arm weight and the correct part of their fingertip. We do this game at the start of the lesson to get students thinking about how their arms, hands, and fingers should feel as they play. You can also pull the game out and do a quick refresher if you see bad habits creeping in as students are playing their pieces.
I think the best thing about this game is that it turns a rather difficult technique that can be the cause of much frustration for young students into something fun. I have even used this game as a “gentle reminder” with a few of my older students—especially those that have chronically flat fingers.
I purchased “Last Mouse Lost” on Amazon HERE, but you should also be able to find it at your local toy store or in the toy section of your local big box store.
What do you think? Any favorite teaching tools you like to use to work on technique with your students? I’d love to hear your suggestions for making technique practice fun!