Magic moment for an adult student

Something wonderful happened in a lesson yesterday.

An adult student of mine has been learning music for about a year and a half. Her reading and playing is coming along fine, but she can’t relax, and presses the keys with rigid fingers which produce a loud, jarring sound.

I’ve tried the games I play with kids who press down hard on the keys. I ask them to make their fingers and hands as floppy as possible, and just play their songs like that for a week! Never mind about timing, it’s a Floppy Hands Week. Flop, flop, flop. Limp wrists and fingers. It’s a total exaggeration of how you want to be, of course, but my idea is that if they get used to the feeling of being very relaxed, then when they start pressing the keys again with intent, they will have moved away from what they were doing before.

This approach had no effect on my adult student, who assures me that this is a reflection of her personality and she is generally quite tense when doing everything from reading a book to cooking.

Yesterday she played a piece perfectly well, except that it was a ballad and needed to be played with some tenderness.

I said, “Imagine that you want me to hear this piece, but it’s a secret and we don’t want anyone else outside this room to hear it. How quietly can you play it to me?”

She played it again.

It was quiet, and moving. It was beautiful.

“Oh my God, listen to you!” I whispered.

She was beaming from ear to ear as she played.

“Now go back and play all your songs like that.”

Magic.

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