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I have to admit I can slouch when I'm not paying attention at the piano.

So what makes for good piano posture?

Extra: Are there any guides that are often used as standard? I've heard that the Alexander technique is often pointed to for this, any merit in that?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I was taught what @tim said as well as a few other tricks (My teacher also taught children so some of it was presented that way).

  1. Legs: When sitting at the piano you want your hips above your knees. This is good for your knees and your hips.

  2. Sit (Sitz) Bones: When sitting upright you should be able to feel two bones in your bum pressing against the seat. You should attempt to be sitting on both of your sitz bones at all times except when leaning to the high or low end of the keyboard, also know as "one cheek playing"

  3. Back/neck: My teacher would describe the idea that I was attached to a string at the top of my head and should pretend that I'm being pulled upward. This should encourage you to not only pay attention to keeping the back straight but the neck as well.

There are probably lots more but that's all that immediately comes to mind. I would also recommend good stretching, especially pectorals and biceps. Most things in our lives involve leaning forward and contracting our chest (Driving, computer, reading, yard work, and sometimes sex). Playing piano also encourages the inward lean. By stretching out these muscles there will be less pull forward, making it easier to stand or sit with good posture. Also, since everything in your body is connected, you will be less likely to get injured or may find that an old problem disappears if you stretch consistently.

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Excellent, and mentioning the stretches makes this wonderful. No matter what instrument you play, stretches will help and so will taking deep breathes while you warm up. –  filzilla Aug 26 '13 at 21:15

I don't believe there is a good posture. More important is the height of your hands above the keys. This needs to be so that your wrists are comfortable about 3 inches above the keys, so you're not raising the wrists whenever you move your thumbs under your hands, as in playing scales, etc. For this to happen, the forearms ought to be about horizontal, so for a small child, I'd use a cushion as well as having the seat pretty high.So, to sum up - elbows and wrists level, and knuckles 3 to 4 inches higher than the keys.

This all works for a standard piano, but goes out of the window when you play layered keyboards - but any good posture then needs to be changed a lot to accommodate.

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Czerny, who was Beethoven's student and wrote many books for increasing one's piano technique (his exercises are still regarded by many as the gold standard), give a precise description of good posture for pianists on pages 8 and 9 of LETTERS TO A YOUNG LADY ON THE ART OF PLAYING THE PIANOFORTE. The book is available online free and also through Amazon, which publishes a nice reprint. Basically, though, here the bottom line on posture at the piano, from Beethoven through Czerny straight to you:

"acquire a graceful. . . position, when sitting at the pianoforte. The seat which you use must be just so high, that the elbows, when hanging down freely, may be a very little less elevated than the upper surface of the keys; and if your feet should not reach the ground. . . have a dwarf stool. . . made of a proper height, to place them upon. You must always seat yourself exactly facing the middle of the keyboard, and at such a distance from it, that the tips of the elbows may be a little nearer to the keys than the shoulders. Equally important is a graceful position and carriage of the head and upper part of the chest; it must neither be still nor bent. . . .[don't make} a cat's back. . . sitting with their backs bent and oblique. . . . It is not merely that an awkward position is disagreeable. . . but it also impedes, if not prevents, the development of a free and elegant style of playing. The forearm of the arm (from the elbows to the fingers), should form a perfectly straight, horizontal line; for the hand must neither rise upward like a ball, nor be bent so as to slope downwards. The fingers are to be so bent, that the tips of them, together with that of the thumb, when extended outward, may form one right line; and so that they keys may always be struck with the soft and fleshy tips of the fingers, and that neither the nails nor the flat surface of the fingers shall touch the keys. In striking the black keys, the fingers must be stretched out a little more; but even in this case they must always remain sufficiently bent."

My own experience (not Czerny) is that the advice about the tangerine in the hands is good advice.

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When I first started learning to play piano, my teacher always told me to pretend there was a tangerine under each of my hands and if they became too close to the keyboard, I'd squish them (I was quite young at the time). However, I found this helped me a lot and made playing piano so much easier.

Also, sitting up straight is vital because you can actually sustain injury from slouching and turning too often. I myself have suffered from compressed vertebrae and have had to take time to visit the osteopath to have it corrected.

So, for better piano playing, lift your hands up high (and think about a piece as one entire movement, rather than the individual pressing of keys) and be sure to sit with a straight back, and try to sit in the middle of the piano stool rather than sitting right at the back or hanging off the front.

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