If you or your child is enrolled in piano lessons, then you expect to learn all about the sounds that each key makes, chords and how to produce a melody.
However, you may be surprised by how much emphasis is placed on posture throughout the learning process.
Why is posture at the piano so critical?
The Value of Good Posture
When pianists play with good posture they:
- Don't experience unnecessary tension
- Have more freedom of movement
- Coax a more pleasing sound from the instrument
- Don't get as tired while playing
- Use better playing techniques
Perhaps just as important as these advantages is that a student who sits at the piano with good posture simply looks more polished and confident. They look like they are comfortable and really know what they are doing.
Perhaps it's because they have such ease and freedom of movement. That's what good posture at the piano gives musicians.
Common Posture Problems
Posture problems and improper hand positioning can really detract from the fun and enjoyment of playing the piano.
What are some of the common posture and hand problems that are confronted by pianists? These may include:
- The bench being either too far from or too close to the piano
- Hand shape on the keys
- Tension in the shoulders
- The height of the piano bench
- An imbalanced head that sits too far forward or back
These problems not only interfere with the quality of the playing but also may cause an injury. Many young musicians are sidelined from their lessons when they hurt a hand, wrist, shoulder or spine.
That's not exactly the positive experience that you'd like your child to have with their music lessons, which is why encouraging good posture and proper hand shape and positioning is critical.
1. Use Good Posture Practices
While it might be tempting to scoot the piano bench toward the piano the way that you would slide a chair closer to the dining room table, this usually isn't necessary.
In fact, better posture is encouraged when the bench is kept just a bit away from the piano. Musicians frequently measure this by noting the position of their knees. If the knees are just slightly beneath the keyboard, then they are just the right distance from the piano.
This position will give you control over the pedals, prevent tension in the arms and expand your range of movement.
With the bench properly positioned, ensure that you are seated on the bench's front half. Lean slightly toward the keys with your feet flat on the floor.
While seated, check to ensure that your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbows. The forearms, wrists and hands are all level with the wrists never dipping lower than the keys or curving higher than your hands.
The shoulders are relaxed and the spine is straight so that you are neither rounded forward nor slouching.
Ideally, you should be able to reach all of the piano's keys without having to adjust your seat. Leaning in or to either side a bit should enable you to be able to play every key. If you cannot, then you may have the bench slightly too far away from the piano.
2. Don't Let Yourself Get Tense
Learning to play the piano can be hard work, but that doesn't mean that the musician's body should be tense. In fact, it is beneficial for the body to remain as loose and relaxed as possible.
Before sitting down for a lesson or practice session, it is wise for the musician to do a quick body scan to check for any areas of tension. Try a few stretches or some deep breathing exercises to relax this tension before beginning.
It's common for pianists to feel tension in the shoulders, hands and back when they play. To avoid shoulder tension, it's sensible for musicians to learn to notice when their shoulders are inching upward. Recognizing this sensation makes it easier to relax and lower the shoulders.
Ideally, the pianist's hands will be rounded and soft while at the instrument. The fingers move freely and the joints are curved. Try making fists as tight as you can with both hands, then slowly release them. When your hands are fully relaxed, they are approximately in the position that you want them to be in while you play.
Most people are used to sitting in a chair with a back. It's comfortable, but it doesn't necessarily encourage good posture. Accordingly, sitting on a piano bench can be fatiguing. To avoid getting a sore, tired back and the tendency to slouch, be certain that the student takes frequent breaks to stand up and stretch.
3. Focus on Your Hands
Piano students quickly discover a newfound fascination with their hands and the shapes that they make. It's natural for some students to tense up their hands when they play, but soft hands are far better for playing.
You might ask the student to visualize someone pressing on their hands as they play. If someone did this, the musician's hands would feel flexible and move a bit under the influence of the pressure.
When the musician's hands are soft, it's easier to find the right finger shape. That means that your fingers are curved. Instructors may ask students to pretend that they are cupping a baby chick in their hands. Maintaining that finger shape, the student rotates their hands until the palms are facing the keyboard. Now, they are ready to play.
When it comes to hand position, the pinkies are of particular concern. The fingers are supposed to be rounded, which means that each piano key is touched by the tips of the fingers.
However, pinkies tend to be shorter, smaller and weaker than the other fingers. This means that it's incredibly common for piano students to flatten the pinkies when playing.
Rather than being a small, nitpicky item, a flattened pinky collapses the entire hand. The result is that the pinkies don't develop the same agility and independence as the other fingers. Accordingly, it's wise to be mindful of pinky position in particular when learning.
4. When It Comes to the Arms, Think Heavy
If pianists are committed to keeping their hands soft while they play, how are they able to produce such tremendous sounds from their instruments?
The answer lies in the weight of the arms. Experienced musicians allow themselves to feel the full weight of their arms as they play, and this coaxes a full sound from the piano.
Try this yourself by sitting on the piano bench with your farms dangling loosely at your sides. Feel how heavy your arms are. As you bring your hands to the keyboard, continue to feel the heaviness of your arms.
You may want to picture sinking your fingers into modeling clay with the heaviness of your arms while your hands remain soft. With practice, this visualization helps to keep the posture relaxed while also producing a beautiful sound from the piano.
When the arms are heavy, the shoulders and upper arms do not have to carry the weight. This leaves your arms free to move without restriction.
5. Find a Way to Keep Your Feet Flat
Adults usually are tall enough to place their feet flat on the floor when seated on a piano bench. However, smaller adults or children likely will need a foot rest to achieve a more comfortable position that keeps them the right distance away from the keyboard.
Avoiding dangling feet will make kids far more comfortable and secure while playing. It also helps to ensure better posture.
6. Pay Attention to Wrist Action
Many piano students injure themselves by using poor wrist action. Keep the wrists supple and flexible as you play so that the body can more effectively transfer arm weight to the fingers.
Practice this by sitting at the piano with curved fingers in contact with the keys. Allow the wrists to drop just slightly as you play a key. As you release the key, release the wrist back to the starting position before letting it drop slightly for the next note.
Piano teachers sometimes tell students to think of their wrists as being like trampolines that must rebound after being pushed down.
Of course, the most important thing to remember is that the wrists need to be relaxed and comfortable at all times.
Start a Solid Foundation with Prodigies Music
Music can enrich anyone's life at any age. In fact, we believe that no one is ever too young to be introduced to the joys of making and listening to music.
That's why we produce so many fun and engaging video lessons that are designed to capture kids' imaginations. It enables them to explore the possibilities of the world around them.
With a foundation in music instruction provided by Prodigies Music, your little ones will be ready to learn to play the piano or other instrument of their choice. Who knows? They might even be inspired to write songs or find other fulfilling creative outlets.
Music Prodigies helps to bring the lively and colorful world of music to your kids. Start browsing our lessons today to choose the right programs for your kids.