How to Maintain the Right Piano Posture When Sitting At the Piano: Complete Guide

wrong hand posture

Learn all about the correct piano posture, and how it can help to reduce injuries from prolonged piano playing. Maintaining a correct piano posture is an important aspect of piano technique. Learn how to make yourself comfortable while playing the piano, and how to sit right at the piano for proper piano playing technique. Here’s the perfect wrist & arm positions that enhances Piano Playing and reduces the chances of wrist injuries.

Piano Posture: Overview

Piano Posture: How to sit at the piano A good upright posture at the piano is very important to make you feel relaxed, and at the same time helps you to breathe easily. This is very important if you are going to perform, as being able to breathe properly helps you to stay calm and relaxed and lets you focus on your performance. Besides sitting properly at the piano, its also important to maintain the proper hand posture while playing the piano. If you play for any extended amount of time, having the proper hand posture not only insures that you are playing the instrument properly, but helps to reduce fatigue.

A good posture is also very helpful for your body as it prevents any kind of pain or cramp in your back, hands and fingers. So no excuses for not practicing 🙂

How to Correctly Sit at the Piano (Video)

Here’s a video that shows how to correctly sit at the piano while playing. Its important to learn to maintain the right posture right from the beginning so that you feel comfortable later on when you’re ready to practice for longer sessions on the piano.

Checkout the video.

As you can see, you may have to adjust the position of your seat/piano bench a little to get it to the right height. Its important that you do it before you begin playing. Take time to adjust your seating before you begin playing so that you’re comfortable while playing the piano.

  1. Take Your Time to Adjust
    If you’ve seen a live piano player, you’d have noticed how they take their own sweet time to adjust the height of the keyboard bench, because its important for them to be comfortable. Even if you’re appearing for a piano exam and have to demonstrate your skills to an examiner, please take your time to adjust the bench so that its at the right height. You don’t have to feel self-conscious and run through the process. Take your time to adjust the piano bench so that its at the right height.

    Also Read: How to get the right piano bench height for children

  2. Sit On the Front Half of the Piano Bench

    Yes, that’s how you’re supposed to sit. You don’t sit exactly in the centre, but in the front half so that your feet stay firm on the floor.

  3. Feet Firm On the Floor
    Make sure your feet is stable and relaxed when playing, ready to press the pedals when required; it should be far away from the pedals.

    The distance of the bench from the piano (considering you’re seated) should be such that your elbows just miss your body (torso) as you move them in towards each other.

  4. Knees Just Under the Keyboard

    Be seated such that the keyboard just covers your knees but your thighs are NOT underneath the instrument.

Importance of Right Height at the Keys: Here’s Why Benches Are Important?

Sitting too high can cause pain in the upper back and neck; sitting too low can cause stress in the wrists. Best position is where your forearms are parallel to the floor (thighs are almost parallel).

Also make sure sheet music is around eye-level, to reduce stress on the upper backs and neck.

This why adjustable piano benches are such a great option; especially for those who’re learning to play (and growing children). Traditional piano benches may not be the perfect fit for everybody, you may need to tweak it (add height using cushions, pillows, etc.) to achieve proper piano posture.

Piano Pedal Extenders
Piano pedal extenders help children reach the piano pedals maintaining the right posture

So if you’re beginner, it makes sense to invest a bit more and get yourself an adjustable bench & stand.

Useful Links

Perfect Wrist & Arm Positions for Safer Piano Playing

The first thing to make sure of is that your wrists are parallel to the floor and level with the piano. Make sure its neither too low nor too high. If your wrists are too low, you can’t hit the keys with adequate strength. If your wrists are to high then you won’t have proper control over the keys, and may find yourself accidentally bumping the black keys.

Piano posture diagram: How to keep your hands on the keyboard

Make sure when you strike the keys that you push your fingers down straight and with even strength; don’t flick at the keys.

Checkout this video for more on the proper hand positioning on the piano.

Now that you know the proper way to sit at a piano and also the proper hand positioning on the piano, here are some more wrist and arm positions that you should be aware of while playing the piano.

At the piano, you want to be relaxed, but in control. If you start to feel muscle tension, take a few minutes to stretch it away. This can increase stamina in the upper body, and help prevent piano-related wrist strain and muscle aches.

In order to get the correct piano hand posture (for beginners), be conscious of the following arm, wrist, and hand positions during play:

1. Hands & Fingers
Hands should make a slight arch, between “cupped” and straight.
During normal play, you want to touch the piano keys with the top 1/3 of your fingerprints. For heavy dynamics or staccato, increase the arch while keeping wrists straight.

Keep 1st knuckes from bending.
The first knuckle – closest to your fingernail – should not bend backwards while striking the keys.

Don’t bend your wrists.
Keep wrists and forearms aligned with one another. Refrain from leaning your hand towards the thumb or pinky; or bending your wrist up and down.

Keeping your hand, wrist and forearm in a straight line avoids friction on the tendons of the forearms (which controls the fingers). Piano players who sit too high, too low, with a “low wrist” or “high wrist” (for a longer period of time) usually acquire pain and could ultimately also lead to tendinitis, or carpal-tunnel syndrome – which can easily be avoided with the right piano posture.

2. Arms & Shoulders
Upper arms should appear to be almost vertical.
Your elbow should be 1/2 inch to an inch closer to the instrument than your shoulders.

Keep forearms parallel with the floor during soft and slow music.
For animated or dynamic songs, elbows can be a bit higher than your fingertips.

Keep shoulders relaxed.
To loosen-up shoulders, let your upper body go limp for a few seconds; then without too much force, bring your shoulders back until you find a straight, but flexible, posture.

3. Back & Neck
Keep back comfortably straight.
If your forearms are not parallel with the floor, adjust the height of your seat until they are; never slouch.

Pay no attention to the back rest.
If your chair or piano bench has a back rest, admire its uniqueness, but ignore it during play (learn How to Sit at the Piano).

Keep sheet music eye-level to prevent neck pain.
That new song may be a pain in the neck to learn, but keep it figurative.

Cultivate Better Habits

To maintain a good posture stick to some of these good habits:

  • Fingers should be Arched
    Wrist & Arm Position for Safer Piano PlayingKeep your fingers curled while playing the keys. Just imagine holding a ball in your hand. That is how you should keep your fingers while playing. That is the way you type on a computer as well.

  • Hand position
    Your hands need to have a relaxed arch. Make sure your forearms are parallel to the ground.

  • Keep your Back Straight
    Try to keep your back straight. Do not slump from time to time. A good posture for your back is good for any seating activity, not just playing the keyboards.

  • Play Seated
    If you want to play a Piano, you have to play it in a seated position! But you can play keyboards in a seated or standing position.
    As a beginner, start playing in a seated position; this helps you to maintain a correct posture while playing. Once you become a better player, you can choose to stand and play.

  • Use Correct Fingering
    Most of the pieces have finger numbers written on them. This tells you the most appropriate fingers to be used. Use them as it helps you to play comfortably and prevents you from stretching your fingers in a wrong way.

  • Keep Nails Short
    Cut them if they are long. I am sure you do not want to hear the clicking of your nails while playing.

  • Stop if it Pains
    If your playing is hurting you in any manner, stop! Take a break and then return. Talk to your teacher if it persists. Do not apply the “No pain, no gain” theory here when it is hurting.

Play Softer Initially to Develop Faster Fingers

Lot of piano players also own electronic keyboards (most beginners learn on these when they begin), but the problem with these lighter-action keyboards is that players have a tendency to press the keys harder than they would on a naturally-weighted keyboard (found on proper pianos) to overcompensate for the lack of resistance.

Most players try to press the keys harder to create a louder sound. But the problem is, the louder you play, the stiffer your fingers become, and the slower your fingers become at playing. Besides, the more you push, the more is the pain and damage inflicted on the fingers/hands.

So its important to constantly remind yourself (as you play on the keyboard) that “softer actually equals faster” (and not the other way round). This will automatically keep your muscles relaxed as well.

More on Piano Technique: Resources to improve your playing
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  1. One of my earliest piano teachers told me that beginner piano students should not learn the C scale first. Although its easy to understand, because there are no black keys, the C scale is the hardest to play for a beginner student, from a physical perspective, because the distance the thumb must cross from ‘E’ to ‘F’ in the C scale is much greater than its counterpart in the B scale. This encourages bad habits right from the beginning as the the student angles the hand to make way for the thumb, instead of crossing the thumb under a non-moving hand (which takes a long time to get right). It also does not keep you relaxed. That is why teachers should ideally teach the B scale first to their students.

  2. There are five points to remember – Good posture. Rounded hand shape. Firm fingers. Arm weight. Correct thumb position.

  3. Playing the piano requires coordination of movements across digits, and extensive piano training may elicit functional changes in brain regions responsible for hand movements. It has a potential risk of causing neurological disorders, which is characterized by unwanted spillover of movement from the intended digit to non-intended digits. Using proper hand movements in piano playing is therefore useful not only to develop skilled hand behaviors but also to prevent neurological disorders resulting from improper hand motor functions.

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