Issue 141: Leaping about on a piano

Well, not literally, of course!

No, it’s when you have to jump to a new chord.

Step 1 is to KNOW where you have to land – seems obvious, but too often the student hasn’t really, REALLY learned the notes, shape and fingering for the chord they are jumping to.

Step 2 having overcome deficient note-reading skills to work out the notes and accidentals they are aiming for, they need to commit it to memory. Sometimes I give it a “name” – maybe something bizarre like “Fred”, more often something descriptive like “middle black note E and D”. I might even call it “G7 second inversion” if that works.

Step 3 you need to be able to take off from the previous note, and while in flight, form your hand into the shape for the landing chord and arrive in good time to be able to delay playing the chord until the exact moment in time that it should sound. It is always a recipe for disaster if arriving at the chord and playing the chord are not separated into two separate motions.

My student hadn’t really dealt with steps 1 and 2┬áso it was no wonder that step 3 never worked. He’s impatient of a step-by-step approach to learning, so I used trickery and guile…

In order to assist with the note learning, I asked him to think about which finger in the three note chord would be the one to focus on, as the “guide-finger” to aim for. We tried each one in turn, to work out which was best. (Hidden agenda – we learned each finger’s note in turn, and also the hand/finger shape of the chord).

I asked him to come up with a descriptive name for the chord. He rejected “Fred” as “too silly” (if often works for me, but then it was to be his choice. He came up something that suited him, so we were now able to play the preceding notes and then jump to “D-middle black-C”.

The next thing was to remove the rushed, panicky approach to the chord. So, to start with, just freeze on the preceding note, imagine the fingers and notes and shape of the chord, and then gently move to it, naming the chord and using the chosen guide finger. Keeping everything gentle, steady, un-hurried, calm and accurate is essential at this stage, and as the mental and physical tensions are removed the leap becomes easier and easier.

Sadly, I suspect that this student will be in too much of a hurry to go through this process back home… well, we shall see…

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