A New Approach to Teaching Thumb Position

At our fifth Briefing Session this year, the theme was “A Galaxy of Theory Concepts for Creative Minds.” Each student had to present a musical concept of their choice. The presentations could be simple or elaborate – basically as creative as the student wanted to be with it. It turned out pretty fun, and I was impressed with some of the concepts the students chose!

Having become recently convinced of the incredible importance of the position of the thumb for proper technique, I was wracking my brain to come up with a creative way of presenting it so that students would remember it and be motivated to work on it in their playing. Thus was born the “slide position.” It’s quite goofy, but has managed to have very good “sticking” power in my studio, so I thought I would share it here. đŸ™‚

I created this Piano Thumb Position poster. (I’m sure someone could easily create a more attractive poster, but I had to do this on the fly in a couple of minutes, so sorry it’s a little tacky – at least it got the point across!) The presentation started with me showing them the picture of the flat slide and asking if they would like to go down such a slide. How fun would it be? How effective would it be? Of course, they probably wouldn’t go anywhere because it is laying flat on the ground!

Then I showed them the regular slide and asked how they would like that one. Of course, it would be much more fun and exciting because they could get up their speed and enjoy a nice ride! Similarly, when playing the piano, we want to channel the energy and weight from our arm through our thumb into the keys on the piano. The best way to accomplish this is by keeping the thumb in “slide position.” I made them all hold their hands up in a playing position and told them to pretend that there is a little man in the crook of their thumb trying to slide down onto the keys. This is when they really started laughing and making fun of me. đŸ™‚ Oh well, I use it to my advantage and get onto my students when they are not providing an enjoyable ride for our invisible little man.

Super goofy, I know, but now we all have a common terminology – slide position – and they know exactly what I mean when I say or write that they need to keep their thumb in slide position when they are playing scales, technique exercises, pieces, etc. And that’s what counts, right?!

Share and enjoy!

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