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Piano: Hand Positioning

Updated on January 12, 2011


When you play the piano or keyboard it is very important to position your hands, fingers, wrist, arm and the whole rest of your body correctly. Following these simple suggestions on positioning allows for better playing. This in turn, maintaining the hand, arms and posture relaxed allows you to play the piano for many hours.

Moving the fingers in a correct way and positioning the hand and the wrist in the best way guarantees you, the pianist the possibility to play the chords correctly and in turns minimizes mistakes. A large range of piano music are near impossible to be played and poor hand posture can cause your performance to suffer. If your hands are in an awkward position you may not be able to access the keys and the possibility for cramping may occur.

First rule of thumb for all pianists is to cut them nails! Yes you read correctly, I said cut your nails. Not only will long nails hinder your performance it sounds weird when all you can hear (and it's so distracting!) is clicking of nails against the keys. That certainly doesn't complement beautiful music.

Let me guide you and show you which would be regarded as the correct position.

General suggestions of piano positions:

  • Sit centrally to your piano

  • Sit slightly forward in comparison to the center of your instrument

  • Make sure you're back is upright, straight and relaxed

  • Relax your neck

  • Extend your arms and allow your elbows to be at the height of the keyboard

  • You need to sit just right (not too high and not too low) your arms, forearms, wrists and hands have to be on the same axle to the height of your piano

  • Arch your fingers

  • Your feet must be situated close to the pedals

In sitting correctly as explained above in front of your piano, placing your hands on your keys, you must keep your hands arched and your fingers slightly curled. This benefits you and pays off in the long run. Your hands don't tire as easily, are less likely to cramp and your fingers can reach the keys more easily.

A little exercise of sorts that you can do at home...grab a tennis ball and firmly hold it in your hand. Don't stress the hand and hold it tight! This is only to give you an indication of how your hands should be arched (-minus the tennis ball!) when playing your piano or keyboard.

Hand Articulation...minus the ball
Hand Articulation...minus the ball

Not only is it important to keep your hands arched during playing, but for those of you who aren't familiar with reading music, it would be vital to mention that certain sheet music (not all of them) has fingerings marked in them. It is an aid to help you plan which finger is used to execute a particular note/key.

Scale finger for the right hand (top staff) and for the left hand (bottom staff)
Scale finger for the right hand (top staff) and for the left hand (bottom staff)

Think of your fingers of each individual hand as being numbered from one to five. Start with your thumbs as number 1 and then move towards your pinkie, number 5.

Thumb: 1

Index Finger: 2

Middle Finger: 3

Ring Finger: 4

Pinky Finger: 5

When you begin playing with your left hand, you’ll notice that the fingering is often the same for both hands. Look at picture to your right: The same fingers play the same notes in both triad scales, but the numbers are inverted.

I trust and hope that these few tips will help you in your performance in being a better pianist. For more articles on playing the piano, refer below.

Happy learning :)


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