Over the years, I have had the pleasure of visiting with thousands of recorder teachers by exhibiting at hundreds of music conferences and attending dozens of sessions presented by my Dad and our clinicians. If I had to pick one challenge that seems almost universal for every recorder teacher, it would be having students keep the Left Hand On The Top!
There is no absolute foolproof method to ensure proper hand position especially since students are sometimes confused with right and left. However, we have a number of ideas that have met with great success. We provide an adhesive coin with every recorder ordered which is fuzzy on one side and has a strong adhesive on the back to mark right thumb position. I advise avoiding the adhesive coins with the rough surface. As we learned when we first started, those coins can be a little rough on student fingers and can also stick to sweaters and other clothing.
Students start by fingering a Low C (all fingers down) and seeing where their thumb rests comfortably on the back of the recorder. Instruct them to place the adhesive coin on that spot. The coin in conjunction with resting the mouthpiece on the lower lip serve as a balancing point for proper hand position. “Your right thumb always goes on the adhesive coin.” We like the adhesive coins because they provide a tactile reference point. One possible alternative is the old paper hole reinforcers or other circular stickers although they don’t have the same tactile feel.
Setting the right hand is helpful because there is only one hand left-no pun intended. One helpful reminder for distinguishing between the right and left is that the thumb and pointer finger of the left hand form an “L.” The thumb and pointer finger of the right hand form a backwards “L.” Instruct students to place their left pointer finger on the first hole of the recorder with the third and fourth fingers on the second and third holes. Another helpful reminder for telling right from left is to use a feature of the room. Pick a feature of your room that is on the left side such as windows, a door or wall and tell students that the hand closest to that feature is their left hand.
My sister and Dad created an additional aid that reinforces the reminder to keep the left hand on top. It is the “Left Hand on Top!” wrist band! The band, designed for a student sized wrist, goes over the left wrist and is similar to wrist bands that sometimes promote causes.
It is important to note that the band is not to be used as a penalty or to single any student out but rather as a fun reminder. To that end, the wrist bands come in five bright colors. Some teachers start class by having all the students put on their wrist bands. Some teachers use slap bracelets or scrunchies which are not as stylish but serve to provide the same reminder.
We hope you find this information useful. If you have hints that you use to keep the left hand on top, we would love to hear them!
Ed Sueta, Jr.