Healthy Piano Technique
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Here on this post I'll be listing different ideas that you should follow that I will stress in lessons for healthy piano practice to promote both good musical technique but also to take less stress from your hands when practicing!
First and foremost curl your fingers and have your wrists slightly elevated above the keys when playing. Flat fingers when playing means your fingers are not relaxed and there is no leverage of weight from your hand which is required to play relaxed. Each key that is played should not be played by the fingers alone but rather from your hand and even from your arm. Also if your wrists are below the keys or below your fingers, while not only looking sloppy and lazy, it also can damage the wrists and fingers because then have no leverage or use of weight over the keys. The keys are obviously not very heavy or hard to press down but being a pianist involves countless repetitions of movement with the wrists and fingers and needs to be done in a healthy smart way to not produce injury. If you can do the same action easier and smoother, why make it more difficult on yourself.
With curved fingers comes correct finger placement and fingering on the piano. Each piece of music or technical skill we cover has a prescribed fingering for generally normal hand sizes. I recently learned this isn't always the case with a student who has generally large hands. But for the most part fingering doesn't change for scales and technical exercises. As you delve into more advanced repertoire you will notice that there are very different and interesting fingerings for those crazy pieces. Try what is written first at least 20 or so times before changing the fingering, it's written there for a reason! Also a simple but important thing to remember is always make sure you are in between a quarter and halfway up on the key you are playing. This gives your fingers more leverage and they can grab the keys more easily. Think about a football player throwing the ball. Do they hold the ball right at the edge or on the laces in the middle of the ball to control it more easily? Easy answer right so same thing for piano!
Next before even playing the piano you need proper posture! Just like military men who have to stand up straight for hours and hours at a time need to keep backs straight and relaxed knees as to not faint or look lazy, if we as pianists are hunched over and looking at the music from an improper neck position we can hurt our backs after prolonged stress to our spines. You should be sitting at the edge of your seat and back straight but relaxed. Your posture is the first thing that people will notice when you go on stage to perform.
When playing, just like in most other sports, your shoulders and arms should be relaxed and should have little or no tension. Any tension on a pianist does not allow the body to be open enough to move freely, which as you get to be more advanced, you will need to be able to do for more advanced pieces and piano techniques. Tension also can create mistakes so make sure to shake your arms out and relax your shoulders when playing!
When practicing, be sure to never over-practice!! Especially at beginning and intermediate levels 30 minutes to an hour is all you need! As you get more advanced and need to practice more often because you have multiple pieces to get ready just remember if it hurts then stop doing it. Too many of us think pushing past the pain is a good thing and can lead to good results. In reality it can lead to muscle tears or other injuries for your hands! Also always be sure to stretch your hands out after a long practice! Soaking them in hot water or using an ice pack also help. Just relax, not getting everything perfect in one day isn't the end of the world, progress takes efficient repetition and good habits, not just 5 hours of practicing every day.
For lifestyles be sure not to stretch yourself too thin! You most likely have school or a job depending on your age so you already have a lot of work to do with homework and meetings and what not. Until piano becomes either your choice of education or you go into a job associated with music, the other things in life take priority and your teachers will understand that. Family and friends come first and then work and education and THEN hobbies/piano. Remember, I've probably mentioned to most of you all if you are my student that this is not my only job, I also coach and teach swimming at a few different places but I've divided up my time in such a way that I can still get work done at home if necessary and still give all of my students my best effort! Life is tough but if you can manage it then it's worth it! And music is always a plus whether it's as a hobby or you do it for work!
Lastly, if you are in lessons and working with a teacher they most likely have a general grasp of your ability as a musician, but if you currently do not have a teacher and you are still practicing make sure that you are playing level of appropriate music for yourself! If your not yet used to playing completely separate things in both hands then it might not be a good idea to decide you want to learn all of Bach's inventions. Build up to it first with slower pieces that have these elements but in smaller amounts.
I hope everyone finds this informative and there are countless resources inline to look at if you want to research this more online! But don't get too stuck on being healthy and perfect that you forget to experiment and make this beast of an instrument your own!