42. Hay or Straw?
Trust me: when first sitting in front of an instrument, a person has way too many hands! The grand staff is like two books that you are expected to read at once. It has two staves: the treble clef, and bass clef. Their symbols are placed at the left, and they aren’t that similar. Obviously, a beginner isn’t a pro. Think of the first time you sat behind the wheel in a car. There were two pedals and three mirrors, and you were told to keep an eye on everything at once! Was this easy? While looking at the music text, a beginner can’t always differentiate between the treble and bass clefs. And if he is a child, then a confusion between right and left is also added into the equation. Not every child knows his left hand from his right yet!
Adults forget the problems of childhood quickly. For us, it is a ready, subconscious reaction to use our left and right hands. But even all adults can’t do this! It’s common knowledge that when illiterate peasants first started serving in the royal army in Russia, they couldn’t tell their right side from their left. How could they walk in formation? Getting fed up during training, the officers thought up a clever trick: they tied a piece of hay to the soldier’s right leg, and a piece of straw to his left. Then the command was sounded: “Hay! Straw! Hay! Straw!”
My first piano teacher also thought up a way to help me sort out my hands. He asked me “What hand do you write with?” This helped…about halfway. Raising my pencil in my right hand, I answered with confidence: “Left!” Why? Because the words “right” and “left” are abstract to a child. In order to understand them, the child needs a contrasting guide. Muscle memory (which hand I write with) is a good hint… Until the hands find themselves on the keys of a piano. I write, of course, with my right hand; but I play with both!
Again, color can be used to help tell the difference. If the treble and bass staves are colored in contrasting hues, the perception can use them as a support. The treble system can easily be distinguished from the bass system, and the role of each hand is strengthened as a result.