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The left hand tends to be sore from prolonged holding various block chords in curled finger position (sometimes looks like eagle's talons ;-)). While large spans is hard to reach, they are less likely to require tightly curled fingers. When I watch professionals, their left hand looks very relaxed. My left hands feels and looks tense while doing block chords especially when a chord last one or two whole measures---am I supposed to use the pedal even though not indicated since the chord would have faded without a pedal before the end of the bar anyway?

Curled fingers and long duration of the chords seem to be some major causes for the sore hand. Any advice/tips how to keep the left hand relaxed?

  • an example of a particularly problematic chord or two, especially if you can include a picture (or two), might yield some very specific and helpful answers. – Aaron Jul 20 at 7:55
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That sustain pedal is there for a reason. Sometimes it's impossible to hold certain keys down to sustain, so it's there to do that job for you.

The proviso in cases like this is that the harmony you prolong is appropriate from beginning to end of pedalling that part. If the music is static harmony-wise, then there's no problem. With two bars of a held (tied) chord, use of pedal is fine. Bear in mind, though, that there are passing notes which may mess up the harmony. But there's often compromises, and this is one.

Unless there's a sostenuto pedal - common on the left of the Atlantic, far less common on the right. That pedal will hold only the notes playing when it is pressed - thus obviating the above scenario. Problem solved!

So, basic premise: often pedalling marks are not included - pedalling is down to the discretion of the player. Use when necessary, as long as things don't sound muddy.

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Tips for keeping your left (or right) hand relaxed:

  • Drop your hands to your sides and let them hang loosely. This is the ideal position (that is, shape) for your hands when playing the piano: a gentle curve to the hand and a neutral wrist. (If your hand retains its "eagle talon" shape even when relaxed, you may need some assistance in learning how to further relax, because that level of tension may be normal for you.)

Arm at side Arm and hand position at keyboard

  • Don't play with the tips of your fingers; play with the pad just below the tip. You get more cushion and better control, in part because the bone is pointy at the tip of your finger, but flatter at the pad.

Fingertip on keyFinger pad on key

  • Regardless your hand position, keep your upper arm relaxed, as though your arm is just hanging at your side.
  • Keep your elbow in alignment with your forearm and wrist.
  • Keep your wrist (mostly) neutral, neither arched nor flexed, and not rigid. There will be some natural vertical movement in your wrist, but nothing you need to do by intention.
  • Adjust your hand toward and away from the fallboard rather than twisting. C7 chord with wrist twistedC7 chord with good alignment
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