A student with good keyboard facility has developed a working familiarity with the piano topography—i.e., the pattern of black and white keys. This is not just a mental skill, but a physical (tactile) one that must become instinctive. It is an essential prerequisite for fluent sightreading. We teachers tell students to “look at the music,” because it is impossible to sight-read while constantly glancing back and forth between music and keyboard. But in order to keep eyes on the music, students must be able to feel their way around the piano keyboard—just as a fluent typist feels the “qwerty” keyboard.
Giving the student some opportunities to actually watch the keyboard as s/he plays will expedite the development of this facility. It will ultimately enhance sight-reading ability—as well as foster freedom and confidence at the piano.
Memorizing favorite piano pieces; playing folk songs by ear; playing scales in various keys (pentascales for beginners); and even composing or just “jamming” at the keyboard– all contribute to this ability to feel one’s way around the keyboard.
Keyboard facility also implies effective piano technique. All students want to eventually play fast, and many have amazed themselves with their speed– once they learn to use the entire arm, hand, wrist, and fingers properly. And it just happens that technique which enables fast playing is the same technique that will prevent harmful hand tension! So I teach a whole-arm approach –which includes hand rotation for equality of tone and volume in the 5 fingers; and skillful use of the thumb as a pivot to facilitate fast scale passages.
© Eunice Wonderly Stackhouse, 2020. All rights reserved.