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#63755 - 08/28/13 04:12 PM Teaching staccato technique
Swoop1 Offline
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Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 112
Loc: Tucson, Arizona, USA
I have a 9-year-old student who is at the beginning of PA 1 and we have just introduced the "Mexican Jumping Beans" song and the concept of staccato notes. In my many, many years of teaching I believe this child might be the first one that I've had that just can't quite grasp the concept of staccato and how to relax the wrist and let it "bounce" so to speak. He wants to play very stiff-armed and stiff-wristed. He also wants to kick his elbow out to the side and bring his shoulder in toward his cheek. I've never seen/had a student want to play staccato that way before. We've done the motion of bouncing a ball, we've pretended to be woodpeckers, we've even just bounced the hand on the lid of the piano. I've tried the analogy of touching a hot stove, copying the sound popcorn popping would make. All of the stuff that I use that usually works seems completely lost on this particular student. So, what are some different ways that I could try to approach this concept with this particular student? I'm out of ideas at the moment. . .
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#63759 - 08/28/13 07:03 PM Re: Teaching staccato technique [Re: Swoop1]
PianoStudent Offline
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Registered: 05/23/11
Posts: 106
Loc: Maine
Swoop1, I'm a student, not a teacher, so make what you will of this. Can he relax if he moves slowly? Learning the relaxed feel and the flexible wrist at slow speeds, and then slowly speeding it up, might be something to try. This also gives you time to spot where and when tension or misdirected motion starts to creep into his movement. It will also allow you to use different metaphors, for the slow relaxed motion, instead of the current ones for the fast motion which seem to all be being interpreted as "tense up."

I've been doing a lot of slow motion practice, paying attention to nuances of gesture and relaxation, which is why I thought of this possible approach.

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#63760 - 08/28/13 08:40 PM Re: Teaching staccato technique [Re: PianoStudent]
Swoop1 Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 112
Loc: Tucson, Arizona, USA
Doing the motion slowly is always the first thing that I do. I never try to have them do the staccato motion fast when we first introduce it.
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#63761 - 08/28/13 09:29 PM Re: Teaching staccato technique [Re: Swoop1]
PianoStudent Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 05/23/11
Posts: 106
Loc: Maine
Does he have the same problems when doing it slow?

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#63768 - 08/30/13 10:27 AM Re: Teaching staccato technique [Re: Swoop1]
John Offline
Star Member

Registered: 03/29/01
Posts: 2454
Loc: Bellingham, WA
What comes to mind is how we may tap a stranger on the back/shoulder area at a theater or church if they dropped something and we wanted to return it, or some kind of similar imagery where we LIGHTLY tap (quietly) someone in front of us without disturbing those around us. Perhaps recreate this scenario at the lesson, where you tap on his back, the reverse roles.

My first reaction when students use too much energy and force is to focus on creating the same gesture softly with less energy. For some students the woodpecker and hot stove work fine, but for others it creates more tension.

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