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#3138446 07/17/21 09:36 PM
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I am 61 and started learning to play the piano about 6 months ago. I am taking online lessons and really enjoy the progress I have been making. But... I also want a solid foundation as I learn. I was recently given the advice to start learning spacial recognition of the keyboard. That way, I would not have the need to look down at my hands while I was practicing. So I was wondering if this was solid advice? The reason that I am asking... Is that I do not want to get into any bad habits.

Thanks everyone!

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When you're playing beginner pieces with no big jumps, you would look to find the first notes and be able to play the rest by feel without looking down. The reason against looking down at your hands is that when you're reading notes off a page, moving your head down to see your hands and then back up again you're going to lose your place on the sheet.

Teachers are not against looking at your hands once in a while especially after big jumps to make sure your hands land on the right notes. The correct way is to move your eyes down for a quick glance and back towards the sheet where you left off.

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Developing that kind of spatial recognition is even more useful if you want to become proficient at sight-reading. On one hand, it needn't become any kind of "Must never look at keyboard!!" neurosis. On the other, as mentioned above, if you're going to be looking down to orient yourself, you're going to have to develop the skill of re-finding where on the sheet music you need to return to.

It actually feels great once you've gotten your spatial recognition skill down. Re-locating my place on the sheet remains far more annoying! laugh

Last edited by tangleweeds; 07/17/21 11:52 PM.

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Hi Dad9541, welcome to piano world!

Originally Posted by Dad9541
I was recently given the advice to start learning spacial recognition of the keyboard. That way, I would not have the need to look down at my hands while I was practicing. So I was wondering if this was solid advice? The reason that I am asking... Is that I do not want to get into any bad habits.

There are different schools, and my teacher thinks it is totally unnecessary to keep your eyes glued to the score. She recommends going back and forth and that is what I do.
Also, most concert pianists who memorise their pieces don't look up to the concert hall ceiling, they look at the keys.

Having said that, some passages are best played while not looking at my hands, because I need to look at the score. smile


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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
The reason against looking down at your hands is that when you're reading notes off a page, moving your head down to see your hands and then back up again you're going to lose your place on the sheet.

Teachers are not against looking at your hands once in a while especially after big jumps to make sure your hands land on the right notes. The correct way is to move your eyes down for a quick glance and back towards the sheet where you left off.
My teacher, who is also an accomplished performer and accompanist, says that you have to be able to look at the keyboard whenever you need to, and then find your place immediately again on the score. It’s a skill to develop, one that definitely improves if you work at it because I’ve gotten a LOT better in the last year alone. She says that it’s ridiculous to think you shouldn’t look at the keyboard, and that it puts unnecessary pressure on students who think it’s some kind of rule. It isn’t, you just have to develop the skill of knowing where you are in the score.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
There are different schools, and my teacher thinks it is totally unnecessary to keep your eyes glued to the score. She recommends going back and forth and that is what I do.
Originally Posted by ebonyk
My teacher, who is also an accomplished performer and accompanist, says that you have to be able to look at the keyboard whenever you need to, and then find your place immediately again on the score. It’s a skill to develop, one that definitely improves if you work at it because I’ve gotten a LOT better in the last year alone. She says that it’s ridiculous to think you shouldn’t look at the keyboard, and that it puts unnecessary pressure on students who think it’s some kind of rule. It isn’t, you just have to develop the skill of knowing where you are in the score.

Yes, sure. It's true great sight readers do look at the keys sometimes. Yes, you shouldn't be all stressed out not to look down at any cost. That is all true...

BUT

There is a huge difference between a quick glance from time to time and constantly bobbing your head up and down. Unfortunately, I don't think people realise how much they are looking down. I advise you to record your sight reading and see for yourself. I know that when I did I was SHOCKED by how much I was doing the back and forth, totally unnecessarily as the music didn't have any large jumps.

IMO, although you shouldn't stress out too much about looking from time to time when it's really necessary, by default you should consciously try to keep your eyes on the score as much as possible.

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@Dad
Be patient with yourself in developing spatial feeling Weird key relationships ( called proprioception). It takes time, snd the experience of playing a lot of music. You’ve only been playing 6 months, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to have mastered this sense of where the next key is.


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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I know that when I did I was SHOCKED by how much I was doing the back and forth, totally unnecessarily as the music didn't have any large jumps.

IMO, although you shouldn't stress out too much about looking from time to time when it's really necessary, by default you should consciously try to keep your eyes on the score as much as possible.
If it was unnecessary, why do you think you were doing it? Obviously you glance down when you need to, not randomly for no reason whatsoever.


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I’ve posted these eye-tracking experiments before, but look at around 3:20 for when the student’s eyes are being tracked vs the pros. We don’t have eye tracking eye glasses, but I do think recording sight reading and playing it back could be eye-opening to how inefficient we really can be And not realize it.


Last edited by dogperson; 07/18/21 10:15 AM.

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
I know that when I did I was SHOCKED by how much I was doing the back and forth, totally unnecessarily as the music didn't have any large jumps.

IMO, although you shouldn't stress out too much about looking from time to time when it's really necessary, by default you should consciously try to keep your eyes on the score as much as possible.
If it was unnecessary, why do you think you were doing it? Obviously you glance down when you need to, not randomly for no reason whatsoever.
It is unnecessary in the sense that it is a small movement that can be done very accurately by feel rather than by looking. It is very inefficient to go back and forth between the score and the keys all the time, even more so on a grand piano where the stand is higher.

Originally Posted by dogperson
I’ve posted these eye-tracking experiments before, but look at around 3:20 for when the student’s eyes are being tracked vs the pros. We don’t have eye tracking eye glasses, but I do think recording sight reading and playing it back could be eye-opening to how inefficient we really can be And not realize it.
Exactly. I did not realise it myself until I recorded my sight reading.

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I liken looking down at the keyboard to ‘stabilizers’ on a bike..you are going to use it a lot at the beginning…then looking at key board becomes an art depending on the score you are playing….it is a journey of practice, try it on a familiar piece and work on your spatial awareness. It does improve.


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Originally Posted by dogperson
I’ve posted these eye-tracking experiments before, but look at around 3:20 for when the student’s eyes are being tracked vs the pros. We don’t have eye tracking eye glasses, but I do think recording sight reading and playing it back could be eye-opening to how inefficient we really can be And not realize it.

But, as is stated at 3:14, it's due to the professional having way more experience and comfort at the keyboard than most of us on these boards. I'm sure if we were all pros, we'd be better at it, too, LOL.


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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by dogperson
I’ve posted these eye-tracking experiments before, but look at around 3:20 for when the student’s eyes are being tracked vs the pros. We don’t have eye tracking eye glasses, but I do think recording sight reading and playing it back could be eye-opening to how inefficient we really can be And not realize it.

But, as is stated at 3:14, it's due to the professional having way more experience and comfort at the keyboard than most of us on these boards. I'm sure if we were all pros, we'd be better at it, too, LOL.


As amateurs, we can identify our weaknesses and consciously work on improving them. How? Play more music; consciously think about eye movements. Record and play back

Why accept ‘I’m not a pro’ ?


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Originally Posted by ebonyk
My teacher, who is also an accomplished performer and accompanist, says that you have to be able to look at the keyboard whenever you need to, and then find your place immediately again on the score. It’s a skill to develop, one that definitely improves if you work at it because I’ve gotten a LOT better in the last year alone. She says that it’s ridiculous to think you shouldn’t look at the keyboard, and that it puts unnecessary pressure on students who think it’s some kind of rule. It isn’t, you just have to develop the skill of knowing where you are in the score.

I fully agree with Lisa! (Actually, with her teacher.)


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It's very good that you asked, because it really leads to many sorts of bad habits. The main task of first piano years is to develop a good touch, when every finger approaches every key from the optimal angle and touches it gently but confidently in the optimal place where you have maximum control over the key, trying to make every keystroke easy and pleasant. It may all be disrupted when you try to play blindly in that period. It may lead to attacking keys from weird angles, when you have to stretch or squeeze your fingers, it may lead to weird fingerings, because you'll intuitively avoid hand position changes, it may lead to bad habit of playing too deep on the black keys, it may lead to bad habit of touching keys before playing them in order to find correct ones, it may even cause fear of touching keys, because you'll be afraid of pain of touching sharp edges of keys. It all leads to bad, uncertain touch. Precise spatial feeling is perhaps the most slowly growing piano skill of all, it requires many years to be developed, and until then, please, forget about that bad advice and watch your hands as much as you need to develop proper key attack.


My two cents.

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So, looking up and down all the time is not a bad habit?

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Precise spatial feeling is perhaps the most slowly growing piano skill of all, it requires many years to be developed, and until then, please, forget about that bad advice and watch your hands as much as you need to develop proper key attack.

+1
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
So, looking up and down all the time is not a bad habit?
Would you rather they make many mistakes? Just guess at where the right notes are? Strike the ends or the sides of the keys? Get so frustrated that they quit?

It takes time and, when you're actually ready, practice. Why is this such a difficult concept?


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Originally Posted by dogperson
Why accept ‘I’m not a pro’ ?
Sure, but at 6 months in?


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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
So, looking up and down all the time is not a bad habit?
Would you rather they make many mistakes? Just guess at where the right notes are? Strike the ends or the sides of the keys? Get so frustrated that they quit?
Who is 'they'? The OP? Some theoretical beginner? Everyone else in this discussion and in ABF?

I'm honestly trying to decide whether my own looking up and down is a bad habit from years of sight reading that way and by extension asking the same question for other people in the forum having this issue. It is not strictly related to the OP's question but going on tangents is what we do don't we? wink

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by dogperson
Why accept ‘I’m not a pro’ ?
Sure, but at 6 months in?


I advised the OP that this skill takes a long time to develop, and be patient.

He was not the one posting I’m not a pro. If I were I would be better.


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