Finger/Hand Intelligence – Part 5 of the Series on 7 Musical Intelligences.
- Awareness of finger and hand feedback
- Using minuscule motions
- Teaching your fingers to remember their place
Most music students gain only a rudimentary awareness of their fingers before forgetting all about them. Once the basic hand position over the instrument is mastered, greater consideration is given to the “notes”, usually with unnecessary amount of effort, rendering fingers and hands into wild roaming beasts thrown about with every gesture!
The biggest issue which arises in finger coordination is excess motion of both hand and fingers.
Perhaps I should invent a device to limit motion to a small area above each key to highlight this particular problem!
Beyond that, the majority have a poor spatial memory and do not “remember” where each key is located with the result that their hands and fingers must “find” the keys anew for nearly every note.
Developing Detailed Awareness
For most players, the problem is not a lack of coordination but a disconnect from the feedback of fingers and hands.
The hands and fingers have some of the highest concentrations of nerve endings in the body. In other words, they transmit a huge amount of information about everything they touch.
Turning Consciousness into Coordination
Concentrating on finger sensitivity, pick up your instrument and hold it. Place your fingers gently in the basic playing position but don’t sound any notes - only feel the keys (or strings) under your fingers. Close your eyes if it helps.
Feel the holes and the rings. Feel the shape and position of each key, the resistance of each spring. Create a memory of each key’s position and motion.
Notice how little effort is required to move each key or cover each hole. Use as little movement as possible - the absolute minimum.
Mastering Complex Motions
Moving one finger at a time is not the greatest challenge of finger coordination; that honor rests with complex motions - moving two or more fingers at once, or having to move one finger in multiple directions to hit different keys. The real clincher for most people is coordinating movements of both hands.
Once again, acute awareness is the remedy. The actual effort required to move hands and fingers in almost any combination is minuscule. The “wild beasts” do not respond well to force (effort); instead they are tamed with calm cooperation.
The real work is done by the mind. Fingers and hands only do what they are told. Don’t make them work more than necessary.
I want to go back to the beginning of the Rondo from Mozart’s Concerto by way of a practical example.
The piece is technically quite simple for the first several lines requiring mostly single finger motions. Beginning bar 20 however, that easiness disappears with notes leaping up, down and skipping all over the place!
Focusing in on bar 20, interval G-B calls for moving 2 fingers up - not too difficult so far. The next interval, B-D, demands several motions at once - lifting 1 and pressing down 2 in the left hand while the right hand depresses the 2nd and 4th fingers. Remember - each finger barely moves!
Many clarinetists develop a problem with the interval in this register because it involves both a register change and a complex finger movement. The first issue tends to exacerbate the other and vice versa, resulting in a downward fear and tension spiral.
If I have them blow through the clarinet while I finger the notes - with the clarinet turned towards me - the D pops right out. So what’s the solution? Tiny well placed finger motions coupled with a “zombie” or non-adjusting air stream.
Following on from the interval I’ve just discussed, the next few in the rest of that bar are not too bad except for numerous changes in direction.
In bar 21 we have a repeat of the G-B issue in a lower register. The player must move from no fingers down to ALL fingers down.
Goodness! Moving all fingers together must require a lot of coordination, right?
Try flexing both hands into fists and open them several times. Do you have any problem moving all 10 fingers together? I doubt it.
It really is that simple to go from G-B in this passage. It only requires that you believe how easy it is rather than approaching it with a struggle in mind.
To sum up - remember 1) tiny motions; 2) detailed awareness of feedback from fingers and hands and 3) memory of motion and position. Before you know it, your fingers will be calm well-heeled helpers in any passage.
Finger passages without sound. Do some fingers press harder or move the instrument more? Do some fingers tense unnecessarily to “help” others move? Does your hand or arm tense when attempting difficult passages?
When playing fast passages practice one beat at a time at full speed, then try two beats, then three. Feel the “shape” of the entire motion of all the notes, not only individual notes.
Let your fingers dance.