29. April 2015 · Comments Off on Let’s Talk About That Pesky Half Hole · Categories: Ramble

… shall we? Yes. I think we shall.

“We” meaning me!

My students know all about this. When they are playing their scales I’m watching and listening for certain things. If I place a half hole symbol (I have a number of other symbols as well: stay tuned for posts on those!) under a scale name on their assignment sheet it means I heard what I call the “half hole pop”. What I mean by this is that I hear the lower note pop out before the note they actually want to play. This happens because the half hole isn’t fully uncovered at at least the start of the note. Sometimes it’s NEVER fully uncovered. Half of a half hole isn’t a half hole! You do the math. Yes, you might lip it to the right octave. But don’t go there. Fix your finger movement! Uncover the darn thing. Exaggerate the motion for a while.

Then there’s the “half hole hop”. This is when a student actually lifts the the finger off of the key to recover the hole. Very seldom have a seen a student hop to uncover, but to cover back up I see it quite frequently. Unless you are playing a note that requires your finger to come completely off of the half hole key you should NOT life that finger up. Ever.

How to solve these issues?

First, play slowly. Then play slower than slowly. Use a metronome to force yourself to go slower. Let it be the boss of you for a while.

Second, I really recommend you take movies of yourself. These days it’s rather easy: just use your smart phone! I do this in students’ lessons so they can see exactly what they are — or aren’t! — doing. Then, since fair is fair, after all, I let them record me. They are nearly always shocked at how they do what I call a “finger wiggle” without even uncovering the half hole at all!

And listen. My students know that I often say, “What did you hear?” That seems like a silly question to ask someone playing a musical instrument, but so frequently they say they didn’t really listen … we get so busy concentrating on fingering or rhythm or dynamics that we forget to listen! Guess what? I we have to multitask! Yep. Rhythm. Dynamics. Fingering. Notes. Expression. You name it, we have to do it. All at once!

Some teachers insist their students slide the half hole finger. I prefer the pivot method. This works very well for me. My index finger isn’t directly on the entire half hole. Rather, it’s between the key and the little plate to which we pivot when we are uncovering the key. Maybe someday I’ll remember to save a recording and demonstrate this. I disagree with the sliding method, but if you’ve got that down perfectly I wouldn’t argue with you. I don’t like it because it tends to cause the entire hand to move, while the pivot method, when perfected, only moves the index finger. But we can fight over that one later if you’d like. 😉

So be honest. Check out what you are doing with your half hole. No half hole pop and certainly no half hole hop allowed!