The kinaesthetic chart, or how to teach piano players to understand their own bodies

In the study of elementary technique, pupils first learn to use the hand as an entity and then gradually to differentiate between movements of the elbow, wrist and fingers.

The kinaesthetic chart unfolds as players become aware of the connection between specific movements and the tones they produce. Soft and light motion produces a quiet and soft piano tone, soft but heavy movement generates a soft but louder tone. Swift motion will produce a more percussive tone. Staccato touch requires a supple hand bouncing as an entity and fast, accurately timed finger technique.

From the perspective of body and posture control it is essential to avoid playing too complicated and demanding material too early. Given that human motor skills develop hierarchically, any disturbances in gross motor ability will be reflected in all pianistic fine motor activity. If a child’s fine motor skills are exercised before its gross motor abilities are sufficiently developed, serious problems may arise at a later stage. Devoting time to building the fundamentals of a functional technique is therefore well worth the effort. It is achieved by frequent repetition and persistent practice until the skill in question is sufficiently automated.

The assimilation of free hand movements during playing is difficult for young piano players, and I therefore advocate practising the various movements required separately, away from the instrument. To this end, I have selected, and partly devised, a set of motoric exercises, so-called “piano gymnastics”.  I would like to emphasise that it is an additional warm-up element in piano lessons, by no means intended to substitute piano practice. The aim is rather to consolidate it. Child learners have to focus all their energy on the music. Practising piano gymnastics in the form of a game helps them quickly to acquire a smooth, supple way of moving that can subsequently easily be transferred to their playing.

Does this subject interest you?

Read more (research results with source references). Junttu 2010 pp. 151-152

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