When it comes to getting the most out of your piano playing, few things are as important as your posture. Much like then we work at offices or desks, when ‘working’ behind a piano, with incorrect posture, you will likely find yourself in a large amount of discomfort, your playing will suffer and perhaps most importantly, your enjoyment of the incredible instrument will decline.
Today we wanted to break down five quick, easy and actionable tips in order to help improve your piano playing posture and get the most from your sound and approach any piano knowing you will be confident, controlled and comfortable when playing!
It may sound silly, but the number one thing that often gets overlooked when approaching a piano is your attitude. Not only might your mood affect your playing in terms of how you strike the keys or the kinds of music you may want to play, but it is always crucial to approach a piano with respect and a positive attitude.
Many teachers report that having a positive attitude when playing the piano does affect your play and often leads to a calm and confident state of mind. This in turn will help you focus more on what you are playing and allow you to get a greater sense of satisfaction from your music.
Alternatively, if you approach a piano in either a ‘can’t be bothered’ or negative mindset, the only person who’s time you’re likely wasting is your own. This will likely lead to mistakes, causing more frustration and less appreciation for the instrument.
This being said, sometimes we all have those days where we simply don’t feel like practising, on days like that, particularly for children, check out some of our tips here, or call it a day and try to come back tomorrow.
2. Piano Bench
Now your attitude is in check and you’re excited to play, the next piece to focus on is your bench or stool. Much like an office chair, it’s important that your stool is not too high, too low, too near or too far compared to the piano.
This is often referred to as the goldilocks zone and the easiest way to find it is to gently place your hands on the keyboard, you should be able to comfortably reach all of the keys from end to end. In order to check your stool is not too high, make sure your elbows are aligned with the level of the keyboard. This position should be incredibly comfortable and not place too much pressure on any part of your body, whether it be your hands, arms or shoulders, if you are finding it difficult, adjust the stool.
As a fun fact here, if you are finding that you are lacking physical power when you try to play aggressively, try keeping your elbows slightly higher to give more leverage in key attack.
Particularly for those who do struggle with the likes of back pain or would like further lumbar support, there are a range of piano stools by Hidrau that have an arch in the lower back to allieviate back pressure. Contact our experts to learn more.
Back hunching is often one of the most common causes of discomfort for piano players, so it is important to try to keep your back as straight as possible. This doesn’t mean it has to be a solid board, however it is important to have a solid base to work from.
Having this sturdy base also plays into an important part of piano playing that is often ignored when performing...your image. No one likes seeing a slouching and uncomfortable pianist. A straight back allows us to sit behind the instrument with a degree of confidence and dignity. It projects a simple and modest attitude without pompousness.
As a general tip for performance or when trying to gain more from a piece, your image should always correspond with the pieces you are trying to portray, it helps bring them to life that little bit more.
4. Feet and Legs
Much like your back, your feet and legs act as another solid base from the body to work from. Even from the early stages of learning piano when not using pedals, it is important to avoid your legs and feet being unstable or swinging.
One common issue we see is crossing the legs or holding them underneath the bench. This is a habit that it is best to get out of quickly as it will help prevent any issues or delays when introducing pedalling into your play.
Again here, the pedals should be within easy reach, without the need to strain or stretch. For those not using pedals or are unsure where to keep their left foot, simply place a small comfortable, shoulder width distance from the right foot.
4. Shoulders, Arms, Wrists and Fingers
Unsurprisingly, the fingers, wrists, arms and shoulders are where the true magic happens within piano playing. What is perhaps often overlooked most however is the ways in which they work together to affect the entire sound.
The golden rule to follow here is that tension of any kind is bad for your play. Tension, particularly in the shoulders, generally results in abrupt, sharp or harsh notes where not intended and after just a short while will lead to some kind of pain or discomfort in your play.
As mentioned, your elbows should be in line with the keybed and held at a slight distance from the keys. The crucial part here however is that the elbows should always be flexible, This is because they are a key part of the ‘lever’ within your arm that touches the keys and drives the intensity of the note. They should not be tense as this will restrict your expression greatly.
Whilst many consider the fingers to be the real stars of the pianist, none of their talent would be possible without correct wrist technique! The wrists are incredibly overlooked as being one of the most important parts of the playing experience. They are what allows the pianist to ‘breathe’ into the piece, they should be light and free flowing in order to create a light and free flowing sound. It is the wrists that help dictate and allow for expression and deep sound within your piece, in some ways they are similar to the human voice in that they help project the sound whilst the fingers form the words.
Something that many beginner pianists in particular struggle with is how to position their knuckles and fingers. Some like the analogy of imagining you are holding an apple or a tennis ball, where the fingers and palm are forming a dome. This is a solid place to start, however again, the finger joints and positioning must never be tense when behind the piano.
Instead they must be firm, but still soft enough to push energy into the sound and create the notes as intended.
So there you have it! The beginners guide to understanding the basics of piano posture! If you like this article or are perhaps just learning piano for the first time, check out our beginners guide to the best ways to learn the piano or our tips for passing your grade 1 piano exam!