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dyspraxia stiff wrists piano

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#1 ten left thumbs

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 09:27

Just casting about for ideas. I realized last night that one of my students has real issues with excessively stiff wrists. This kid (beginner at piano) has dyspraxia, along with some eyesight difficulties and hearing loss. The eyesight and hearing haven't proven to be issues so far. 

 

His wrists are very stiff at the piano, so he is playing notes, and playing songs he knows, but without much control. I pointed out to him that he has wrists and that they can bend, I think this went right over his head! We tried knocking on a door (knock! knock!) and there was much pummelling going on, but absolutely locked and rigid wrists, all movement was from the elbow. 

 

I realize now this had been an issue some weeks back when we tried chime bars. He gets as far as holding the stick, but then he can't do a bounce so the chime bar immediately mutes. I'm not a percussion teacher, I just use the chimes as an easy pre-piano stage, so at that point I just put them away and didn't worry about it.

 

Last night, with his permission, I actually took his hand and arm and manipulated his hand so he could see the wrist joint move. I was amazed at how much muscle effort was going into keeping is stiff and I had to ask him to relax several times so it could bend. I didn't actually fight his muscles, I just wanted to see how much tension was happening. Answer - lots!

 

I don't normally do hands-on teaching of the Irina Gorin sort, but I'm thinking it may be needed in this case.

 

Any ideas?


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#2 HelenVJ

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 10:04

Yes, Irina Gorinsmile.png ( Tales of a Musical Journey) and also Irina Mints - her wonderful book, Hello, Piano, has pages addressing arm weight and encouraging large movements with a fluid wrist, srating with the 3rd finger only, then 2-note slurs ( fingers 2 and 3).  I don't expect my young students to buy this book, by the way - it's about 25 euros .  We do the exercises during the lesson, with CD backing sometimes, and they are learnt mainly by rote.
I'm sure you won't be expecting overnight success with this - it can be a long slow process. How old is your student, and does a parent sit in on the lesson?


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#3 ten left thumbs

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 14:37

The student is 7. Actually a very mature 7.

 

I have encouraged the parent to sit in, however she seems to need the time for a bit of extra shopping. I really want a parent to be there for 'hands on' teaching. The thing with this parent is I find she can be quite hard on him for inappropriate things.

 

We are using only finger 3 on each hand for now, I think slurs are a long way off. He does seem to be using arm weight, however just not the floating off bit.

 

This morning's ideas are (1) shaking hands like you have to shake water off them because there was no towel and (2) 'thumbs, pinkies, floppy wrists, floppy wrists' sung to 'heads, shoulders knees and toes'. 

 

What shocked me was, I've never known a student who just didn't seem to know that that joint could bend. In his mind, his hand is fused onto the end of his arm.


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#4 jjosiejo

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 07:55

Can you suggest Alexander Technique lessons to the parents? That would likely help with the overall dyspraxia as well as the stiff wrists...
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#5 ten left thumbs

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Posted 01 March 2018 - 10:52

I hadn't thought of that. My gut reaction is they wouldn't go for it, as (it appears) both parents work full-time and have very little slack time anyway. I have no direct experience of Alexander Technique. Can you give a few more details please?


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#6 The Great Sosso

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 10:31

I think the ideas you've had, Ten Left Thumbs, are all good.  I'm going to nick your "thumb, pinkie, floppy wrist" song.  Keep on with the games and exercises and you will see results eventually.  Making the games varied is good to avoid boredom, and also because some ideas will resonate more than others with the child - eventually something will click (hopefully not his wrist!)

 

My First Piano Adventures has a little rhyme "stone on the mountain" which encourages a loose wrist - involving circling the hands, raising the arms with hands flopped downwards, tapping the thumb, so that the wrist rotates outwards and back and finally whooshing the hands, wrist first, into the air and gently flopping down onto the keys.

 

Piano Adventures Primer has the "Gorilla arms" exercise where you make your arms as loose, dangly and long as possible, then bend the elbow to lift the hands up and drop them into your lap.  in some editions, it's imagining your arms are wet ropes, but gorilla arms are more fun in my opinion.  It's hard to keep wrists stiff when shaking out the arms. 

 

I might also encourage them to think about what their arms and hands do while they sleep - that gives you the rounded fingers, and a loose wrist resting on the piano lid, which you can gently pick up by sliding a pencil underneath the wrist and lifting, so that the hand flops forwards.  (I do this on myself before suggesting I test out their sleeping hands, so they can see it's not unpleasant.)

 

When they seem to be getting the hang of that, we imagine there is a helium balloon tied to each wrist, so that as the note is played the wrist lifts away from the piano.  If they struggle, you can again use a pencil (sideways, not pointy end up!) to push the wrist from underneath, so that they start to get the feeling of the wrist lifting away first, leaving the fingers trailing. 

 

If talking about "lifting" from the wrist makes them lift from the elbow (or the shoulders!), try describing it differently - rolling the hand forwards before coming off the key sometimes works.

 

You have to do some sort of wrist moving exercise every week, just a few repetitions, then don't keep mentioning it during the lesson after that, and eventually the student should start to understand how to isolate that joint and flex it at will.  

 

Finally, when I demonstrate a piece to a student with this sort of problem, I make sure to use quite exaggerated movements of the wrist and hand, so that they can see how I am moving about the keys (think flamboyant concert pianist) and if they try to ape that, they will start to get it right.

 

I've noticed that one of mine who had terribly stiff wrists is starting to get better with this approach after about a year.  

 

TGS X


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#7 ten left thumbs

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 12:32

That's fabulous, Sosso, I'm going to print it out and keep it in his file. :) Thanks. I do remember Stone on the Mountain from when I used My First PA. Due to snow I haven't seen this kid since first posting. I'm am very much hoping mum will sit in on the next lesson as I'd like to be a bit hands-on. I'd rather touch than use a pencil. (I'm sure it works for you).


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#8 The Great Sosso

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 13:30

That's fabulous, Sosso, I'm going to print it out and keep it in his file. smile.png Thanks. I do remember Stone on the Mountain from when I used My First PA. Due to snow I haven't seen this kid since first posting. I'm am very much hoping mum will sit in on the next lesson as I'd like to be a bit hands-on. I'd rather touch than use a pencil. (I'm sure it works for you).

 Yes, I think I would prefer to use touch rather than a pencil, except for "child protection" (which really means reputation protection).  If Mum is present, much easier to be hands-on, but I would still demonstrate on my own hand, lifting it up with the other hand, before on the child, so that they know what you are about to do.  In addition, my hands are always sweaty, so that's another reason I use a pencil - nobody wants my "toad hands" (as my lovely sister used to call them) on them!

 

TGS X


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#9 aje

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 19:32

I use this exercise with my students, which brings their attention back into the wrist and teaches them to feel the difference between tense and relaxed wrist positions and movements:

 

https://pianodao.com...igong-opening/

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#10 ten left thumbs

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 15:09

I use this exercise with my students, which brings their attention back into the wrist and teaches them to feel the difference between tense and relaxed wrist positions and movements:

 

https://pianodao.com...igong-opening/

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#11 aje

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 15:30

 

That's great, reminds me of that scene in Karate Kid (up-a-down-a-up-a-down-a). 

 

This is a young child however and he needs activities at his level. I'm not going to get anywhere by asking him to stand with his tongue resting in his palate. That's just not going to wash.

 

 

Of course! The level of detail in the presentation is for you, as an adult, to practise and absorb.

When using these exercises with younger students, it is necessary to use your common sense, knowledge of the student and general teaching skills to adapt, simplify, etc. 

My advice to any teacher is - try the exercise yourself. Then adapt for each student as appropriate :-)

I hope you find it helpful. 


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#12 ten left thumbs

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 18:17

Great, thanks!

 

Update: I saw the kid, now that the snow has melted. We went straight into thumbs, pinkies floppy wrists, floppy wrists. Gosh, his wrists were floppy! :D I couldn't believe it. I think his mum had been at him to sometimes relax them. I am thrilled to bits. :) He did stiffen up again when trying to play a note, but it was nothing like the 'concrete arms' of the previous lesson. I just never know what to expect this with kid. 


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