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Question on piano technique/ergonomics


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when playing piano "properly," about how high should the keyboard be relative to your body?


I'm still in the early months of a concerted effort to develop some quirky keyboard chops to augment my quirky guitar chops, and I've been experiencing a lot of tension, cramping, something approaching tendonitis in my right forearm, all of which impedes my fluency. I'm sure answer varies based on body type and preference, but is there a rule of thumb?


BTW, I was taught by a formidable Medevalist and Chaucerian scholar that the expression "rule of thumb" comes from a folk law that determined the maximum thickness of the stick with which a man was legally permitted to hit his wife. YOu never know where these cliches come from.



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Sitting with a good posture at the piano (no slouching) and the elbows away from the body at around a 35-45 degree angle with the knees 2 to 3 inches under the front edge of the keyboard, the forearm and wrist should be straight so that the *fingers* play the instrument.


Drummed into me time and again by my teacher. If I slouched he used to smack me in the small of the back. Straightened me up right quick...

Setup: Korg Kronos 61, Roland XV-88, Korg Triton-Rack, Motif-Rack, Korg N1r, Alesis QSR, Roland M-GS64 Yamaha KX-88, KX76, Roland Super-JX, E-Mu Longboard 61, Kawai K1II, Kawai K4.
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From my experience, I find the keyboard most comfortable about an inch higher than the naval area. A good thing to remember that my professor taught me is to always think you're really big. Just imagine yourself as a really fat guy. That way, you keep your posture straight and your elbows out and loose.



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I've heard all of these and they all have merit, but you should follow the path of comfort and feel for yourself. The way I was taught, the elbows should be even with the depressed key and the torso should be leaning in. This allows you to use your arms more and thus get more power than sitting higher (my teacher was a symphonic pianist).


Depending on your style, and intentions, you may want to do it differently. I stand when I play in the band, and the two keyboards are above and below the technique stated above. If I try to sit, play AND sing, I have to sit higher or I run out of air (see Billy Joel or most singing pianists). If I'm trying to work on finger dexterity (i.e. Bach) I will sit on a footstool and that isolates the fingers and doesn't let you "cheat" with your arms.


BTW - I'd strongly encourage anyone serious about the piano to buy an adjustable artists bench. They're much sturdier than the wood ones and you can get them in any number of places. I think I paid $625 for my "duet" artist bench when I bought my piano. If you want a referral, please email me and I'll be glad to do so.

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There could be reasons other than posture for your pain and tension. I had piano lessons as a kid and my teacher drummed a lot of stuff into my head on tension. I don't know if they are right but here they are for what it's worth:


"Don't practise tense at all costs. If you are tensing up, take it slower until you can practise in a relaxed manner."


"Take specific parts of your technique and practise them slow to 'teach' your fingers how to relax."


"While you are practising, check your body for tension (esp. fingers, fore-arms, arms and shoulders.) Understand how a piece of technique is causing tension, then isolate and practise for relaxedness."


"Allow yourself one fast run through occasionally. Then take it slow again, so that your fingers remember the relaxed version."


"Try relaxing your finger after landing on a note. Use finger weight rather than hitting or pushing to do most of the work. Avoid wasted motion in the wrist. Practise arpeggios slowly to reduce exagerated wrist movements."


And in response to my plea that I wanted to play fast he would say....


"If you want to get faster, work on increasing the speed at which you can play without tensing up."


I can almost hear his voice, as I type this.....hope this helps. :)



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