Joe's Blog


March 1, 2017

Originally published on Facebook on 2.21.16

The principle at work here is that of creating in our body the replication of a sensation that it previously experienced.

First, the hand has to experience the sensation of a very smooth and effortless transition when putting the thumb under within a scale. This is done by using the other hand in such a way as to literally and physically push the thumb gradually under the 2nd, 3rd (4th) fingers. It does not matter if this is done off the keyboard or while sounding notes.

The other hand functions as a ‘helping’ or ‘driving’ hand. It is performing the role of an “external” force that appears out of someplace in space, and does something ‘to’ us. Pushes and molds the hand so that, without much initiative on its own, the hand playing the scale makes all the necessary motions for a smooth scale. This includes motions that it wouldn’t think of doing on its own, or which it thinks the hand cannot do on its own.

It makes no difference if we are using our other hand or a second person does it to us. It is ‘happening’ to our thumb. Now we know what it feels like in our hand and thumb when it happens.

Once we have felt it internally in the hand we can ‘recall’ that feeling whenever we play a scale. And our hand now acts in a way that it undergoes all the same physical and aesthetic (felt) details of as when the external force was literally present in time. If the ‘hand’ forgets, we can always reawaken the memory of the sensation by literally applying the external force again.

The principle here is the same one at work when watching a dance. Let’s hear it for the ‘mirror neurons’. By following this procedure the ‘problem’ of passing the thumb under the third or fourth finger disappears or becomes trivial. I’m glad of this because I am among those pianists who have short thumbs and who don’t have usefully shaped hands for playing the piano.

P.S. This basic principle works just as well for passing the 3rd or 4th finger over the thumb. The ‘helping’ hand will need to pull whether than push.

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