Playing The Piano - Back To Basics No 1: Sitting At The Piano Keyboard

When playing the piano, there are a number of things we tend to take for granted. In this series of short articles, we'll be looking at some of them and examining exactly how they affect the way we play.

As the above title suggests, this opening article will concentrate on sitting at the piano.

Obviously, when we sit at the piano we need to feel comfortable. Posture is all important.

First of all, where to sit. This is fairly obvious when playing a piano with 88 or 76 keys. You just sit in the centre in front of Middle C. It may be less obvious, however, when playing a keyboard with 61 keys or fewer. But whatever keyboard you play, you should be seated opposite the C note nearest the centre.

The best sitting position is about half way back on your stool or bench. You should be able to rest both feet flat on the floor and be able to move forwards and backwards and from side to side whilst maintaining your equilibrium.

Your height at the piano will be determined by your piano stool and your own personal preferences. The most effective height, however, is one that allows for a comfortable holding position from elbow to hand so you can move your wrists in any direction and can support your fingers.

Especially if you are an adult, including one who is returning to playing the piano after even a short layoff, the fingers will be stiff. If you try forcing them to move too quickly, you may damage important muscles, as well as pick up bad habits. This is why it's so important to adopt a posture that enables you to relax. When you hover your hands over the keys, you must feel as if this is the most natural thing in the world to do (though this will take time).

You may find it helpful to perform some loosening up exercises. For example, let your arms rest by your sides and gently raise and lower your shoulders several times.

Lean your head forward, then gently roll it round to the right, to the back, then to the left, returning to the front and finally lifting it to the starting position. Repeat the exercise in the opposite direction, rest for a moment and do the same exercise several more times.

With your arms still at your sides, shake them, along with your hands and fingers. As they come to rest naturally, raise them so that they hover over the keyboard. Keep your hands and fingers cupped as they hang loosely poised.

Now, before you start playing, just 'mess around' on the keys a little, to familiarise yourself with how they feel and where they are. You might try playing a simple tune, perhaps in different key signatures, so that you begin to 'hear' the keyboard before you start trying to make sense of it. If you are a beginner, playing a tune might be difficult, especially in different keys to the one you have learnt to play. But any tune will do so don't worry about this too much.

And don't overdo it. Aim to start very gently by not spending too much time practicing in the early days. If your hands or fingers begin to ache, have a rest or stop altogether until the next day. Allow your hands and fingers to grow stronger gradually over time.

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