Posture is one of the most important technical aspects of playing the piano. Yet, it is also one of the most overlooked.
Let’s do a little math! If a musician started playing the piano at the age of 8 and spent an average of 2 hours at the piano per week, by the time they are 18 they will have spent 1120 hours sitting in front of the keyboard!
Over time, poor posture while playing leads to things like carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and repetitive strain syndrome. If these conditions arise they can greatly effect a musicians performance and the enjoyment they get out of playing. Injuries like these have put an end to the playing of many people.
So, don’t overlook your piano posture until pain starts to occur. Start now, and enjoy a healthy playing experience for the rest of your days to come!
Here are some tips to get you started!
Keyboard Height Setup
The height set up of your instrument and bench is critical for good techique! If you have a real piano then your height is already set for you.
If you have a keyboard you can set the stand to an appropriate height for the size of the player.
Bench Setup and Positioning
The bench height is where most adjustments in this area will be made. For proper posture, the wrists and elbows should be nearly level with the keyboard. Adjust your bench height until this is achieved.
A default sitting position is to sit ¾ on the width of the piano bench in the middle and use your mid section to turn and arm extensions while playing high and low passages.
If you notice that the piece is dominated by high notes, shift the bench to the right. Likewise, shift the bench to the left for pieces dominated by low notes, but avoid sliding around too much on the bench.
Remember: Bouncing and sliding around the piano bench will make you exert unintentional force onto the keys. Sitting strategically will help avoid additional strain placed upon your body.
The Neck and Back
Keep you neck in line with your spine and your ears above your shoulders.
Avoid slouching forward, jutting your chin out, and forcing your head forward, even if this feels more natural to you. Move your eyes instead of your neck when reading music.
Remember: The more forward your head is, the more weight your neck has to support. This causes a great deal of strain in your neck and shoulders, while your upper back will round to compensate for the added weight.
Your shoulders should look relaxed and not raised or rounded.
Remember: If your shoulders are too high up, you won’t be able to channel the weight of your arms and body onto the piano keys as you play. You need to be able to control how much of your body weight you exert onto the piano if you want to access the full range of dynamics and articulations needed to play pieces.
The elbows should be positioned around the height of the keyboard so that your forearms are almost parallel to the ground. They should not be touching your ribcage and neither should they be flared outwards like a bird flapping its wings.
Remember: If your elbows are misaligned, your shoulders will be under greater strain and your range of movements will be limited.
Your wrists should have the flexibility to move down and up as you exert force on the keys and up as you prepare to press the next key. Your wrists need to be kept above the keyboard level.
Remember: If your wrists are locked in place, it leaves your fingers to do all the work, diminishes the force you have to play the keys and minimizes the ability to create a fuller sound on the piano.
Your fingers should always be bent, except for your thumb, which should be straight but loose. Keep the curvature of your fingers and avoid having your fingertips buckle as you press each key.
Remember: Your fingers are comprised of many small joints. Keeping your fingers arched helps absorb the impact as you strike each key, therefore protecting your joints. Arched fingers also keep your fingers agile and help navigate tricky passages.
The knees should be at a position where you can comfortably reach both the keyboard and pedals. The “right” distance varies based on each player’s body, however, having your knees slightly under the keyboard is usually optimal.
Remember: Having your knees in the proper position ensure that the rest of your body is at a comfortable distance from the piano and has control of the pedals. If your knees are too close to the piano, it will limit your range, agility and cause the player to compensate with bad posture.
Your feet should be kept flat on the floor or an elevated surface (eg. a footrest), and not left dangling in the air. When using the pedals, keep your heel grounded on the floor and use the ball of your foot to step on the pedals.
Remember: Grounding your feet will help with the stability and balance of your whole body as you play.
Piano posture might not be the most exciting part of technique, but it is one of the most important! Start paying attention to it today to enjoy a lifetime of playing the piano!