Can Playing Piano Too Much Damage Your Hands?
Is it possible to play the piano too much? At first thought, you might think, no way! And for the most part, we’d agree, it is pretty hard to do something you’re passionate about too much, however for those who are practising for hours and hours on end, there may some risk in playing too much that you might want to be aware of.
Now, when we say risk, we really mean pain or discomfort. Thankfully, few of us do physically have the endurance to be able to literally play until the skin of our fingers files down to the bone, however over practising certainly is a problem that can dampen your passion for learning and if left unchecked, can lead to cramping, seizing up of the hands, arthritis and leave you with an overall sour taste in your mouth towards your piano.
We see this most commonly in those who are perhaps dealing with stress or are nervous, namely those preparing for exams and are perhaps worrying about their performance – for this, we’d highly recommend our guide to the ABRSM grades and how to relax before your exam, also if it’s playing in front of others that you are worrying about, read our guide to overcoming the fear of playing in front of others here.
Is It Possible To Practice Piano Too Much?
Whilst for many of us, playing the piano is ultimately a leisure activity and of course, not all of us practice in the same way, if you are practicing for more than 4 hours or so every day (we wish we had that much free time!), then chances are, you’re either not practicing effectively or are actually doing yourself some damage to your learning. Of course there may be exceptions to this, such as composers or professional standard players, however for many of us, much like spending every waking hour in the gym, it can actually be unhealthy to practice too much and will likely lead you to plateau and become dissatisfied with your playing.
Signs You May Be Over-Practising
The first and foremost thing to do before every practice session is to check in with your body to see how you are feeling, this is best done by doing a few simple warmup exercises. If you are finding that your playing isn’t up to scratch, or your mind isn’t in the right place today, it might be best to take a day off or simply relax.
A few telltale signs that you might be playing too much, or that your body needs time to recover before diving into an hour long practice are: Sore, cracked hands, if your fingertips are too sore or painful to play effectively, if your fingers feel achy or sore a day or two after your last practice.
If you are experiencing pain in your fingers, then we would definitely look out to see if you have developed any hangnails. Not only can hangnails become infected if left untreated, but if they are occurring regularly from how much you are playing the piano and you are still cutting your nails, then you may find that you cut your nail bed too short. This can be incredibly painful as a pianist and will likely stop you playing until the nail grows back or recovers. Thankfully, these can be easily avoided by either clipping them off or cutting them with nail scissors and generally speaking aren’t a sign to worry about.
The final thing to consider is how much endurance and strength your hands have build up. For example if you are a total beginner, you should be praticing for no more than 10-30 minutes a day to effectively take in the information you are processing. For those who are a little more advanced, then you likely will be able to practice for an hour or two before fatiguing or needing a break.
As mentioned, it’s more likely that your hands (or mind) will run out of steam before you are physically doing any damage to your hands, but these tips are still worth considering!
Likewise, those suffering from conditions such as arthritis may find that their play is affected too and their hands may be sore or fatigue far quicker than expected (read more in our guide to learning the piano with arthritis here), but this is completely normal. There is no ‘right’ amount of time to practice and your body will tell you if you are pushing your hands or mind too hard. It’s important to remember that piano is an incredibly personal journey and you shouldn’t judge your progress based on someone else’s.
Want to learn more about ways to improve your piano playing, explore our blog here! For example if you’re looking to add more expression into your play, then read here, or if you find yourself not quite knowing what to be practicing, read our guide to structuring your piano practice more effectively here!
If you’re looking to upgrade or part exchange your piano, our experts would love to hear from you! Learn more about whether your instrument might be holding back your playing here, or contact our experts today!