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Effective Piano Posture

Updated on March 30, 2011

Prior to beginning a long piano session, it is vital that you take your posture into consideration. The way you position your body impacts not only the quality of your playing, but also your physical health. You must give serious thought to proper posture every time you sit down to practice piano if you wish to prevent developing a sore back or painful fingers, arms and hands.

An initial recommendation is to obtain a piano bench with varying heights. It is highly unlikely that a conventional chair you happen to own will sit you at the correct height.

What is the best way to determine proper height?

Examine the placement of your arms. The forearms need to be roughly parallel to the floor, and located slightly above the keyboard, to keep the fingers resting on the keys while the hands and fingers can be properly arched. The majority of players will find this to be the optimal position. But, successful pianists do exist who employ either higher or lower postures than the one described. Try varying this basic position with the help of your adjustable bench until you feel content. There is nothing wrong with trying different levels, and an adjustable bench makes that process easier.

What is an appropriate distance from the piano?

For this determination, you need to examine the placement of your upper arms. There are those who suggest that a vertical alignment is best, meaning that the arms drape straight down to your sides. In my opinion, this is as close as you should ever get. Also try moving back from that placement a bit so that the elbows are somewhat closer to the keyboard than the shoulders. For me, this offers better stability and the ability to travel the entire length of the keyboard.

Healthy posture

Once you have identified your ideal positioning, it is time to consider correct posture. Generally speaking, good posture is the same in this context as it is when you are sitting down to eat, to use a computer, or to do anything else. Slouching or rolling your back forward is damaging to your health as well as to the quality of your piano playing. Failing to sit up straight and properly will cause back pain, and will lessen your ability to govern the movements of your hands and arms.

While it may not seem obvious, playing the piano requires you to use more than merely the fingers. The entire body must be solidly positioned so that the fingers and hands can complete the delicate and complicated maneuvers the piano requires.

Thus, you should attempt to achieve the following: Put both feet directly on the floor. Keep your back held straight while barely pitching forward in order to give support to the arms. Ensure that you are positioned at the correct height and at a proper distance from the piano, and you can begin to play.

Keep in mind that comfort is critical. It is best to stay relaxed and flexible. The posture I have described does not command complete stillness. Otherwise, you would be fixed in a stiff position which would be even worse for your performance than lazy posture. While you can certainly engage in a bit of movement and flexibility, always try to go back to a relaxed, yet correct position.

Your thoughts and experiences

What are your experiences of problems with piano posture? Have you suffered from any aches or injuries related to piano playing? Do you think our advice was helpful? Please leave your comments or any questions below. 

Comments and questions

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    • profile image

      ananda2 5 years ago

      Finding an accurate sitting posture at the piano is a critical issue. Some research has been made in order to improve ajustable piano stools, making them into inclined position. Unfortunately this knowledge is still not widespread. If you are lucky enough to have a try, you would probableby not going back again to the so called 'normal' sitting posture.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 6 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      An excellent guide for good core piano posture! As a child, before it was discovered I needed glasses, my neck and upper back ached after playing (probably from craning my head forward to make out the sheet music). Also, as my pedals were very high, I needed to use a block of wood under my feet to reduce the strain on my feet and legs.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      As someone who plays the piano, I couldn't agree more. Well written hub.