How to see without looking

Some beginners have trouble with looking too often at their hands. You can tell early on in the lessons because when they start working on reading music, their eyes are always looking at their hands. It’s okay to look when necessary, but if they’re looking straight down the whole time, you gotta say something.

The upside is that these students often memorize music quickly. But if you ask them to sight read it’s almost impossible. They are unable to connect the notes on the page with how their hand should play. The music steps up and they step and skip around in all directions.

Is the problem coordination?


I’m more focused on the solution. What usually works is to develop their proprioception.

I played for dance companies for about 10 years and one thing that developed over that time is my ability to know where my hands are on the keys without looking. I had to keep my eyes on dancers so that they would get all the right cues.

Proprioception is your ability to know how to move through space and know the relation of your body parts to others. Simply put – you can see without looking.

So how can you help students develop this?

Hand them a blindfold.


Just like the karate kid learned how to fight, pianists can learn so much from not looking.

For an easier way – have the student try to play something with their eyes closed. For most of them will think of this as a fun surprise in lessons, and used in the right way, it can make quick improvements. Win-win.

Getting back to the student who has trouble sensing their fingers on the keys. It’ll take some time for them to be confident in their ability to not look down, but it’s worth it in the long term. Follow the “eyes closed exercise” and have them just play five finger scales or ask them to play skips, steps or other intervals. Sooner then later they’ll be excited to learn new pieces and won’t be stuck looking down when reading.


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