44. COORDINATION, AND NO SLIGHTS OF HANDS
How Do Hands Get “Cramped Up?”
Cramped hands are a tragedy of music lessons. More than anything else, they cause the most worry. Teachers in traditional schools run into this “problem” at once, and struggle with their students’ hands from the very first lesson, and for the rest of their lives. How many students have come to learn music, and have left with beautifully rounded palms and straight fingers, but not the least desire to play? I don’t know of a single profession dealing with the work of the hands and fingers that is as obsessed with their “being too tense.”
Have you ever heard of a one-year-old, just having learned to stand up, being trained to do the ballet step so that he “doesn’t develop the wrong walk?” How about a baby, picking up a spoon for the first time, getting etiquette lessons while his caregiver anxiously wonders why he hasn’t learned to use a knife? Sometimes, it seems to me that piano teachers are pioneers from a different planet. Evidently, the children born there pop out of the womb with ‘rounded’ hands and an ability to play music from the books, with dynamics of course. As for “cramped hands,” well, they are a rare birth defect, and the mission of a real teacher is to save the child and fix his hands as soon as possible.
Before even learning which key is which, the student is already asked to place his hands properly on the keys. The teacher insists that he curve his palms and spends a good amount of time explaining exactly how this can be done. Imagine that you’ve come to your first driving class. Of course, you want to sit behind the wheel and drive, but unfortunately, your instructor is a man of duty. The hands are what’s most important to him. He tells you that when placed on the wheel, your hands must look relaxed and free. You must turn it with light, delicate fingers, or else you’ll never be able to drive correctly! You might not be in the condition to start and stop smoothly, to monitor your speed or turn, but this barely worries the instructor; he’s constantly chastising you for your “ugly hands!” And anyway, all of his struggles are in vain. I don’t know about you, but when I first got hold of the wheel I latched on and held onto it for my life! Only much later, after gaining experience, did I learn to drive the car relaxedly.