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I've noticed over the years that when pracitcing my scales (or just playing in very high registers) that it is noticeably more difficult to play at the very high or very low registers of the piano. I feel like this is due to having to rock your body so far to the left or right that you sort of lose balance (or, if you don't move your body, then your arms are strained and "winged" out).

Does anyone else experience this? If so, what have you done to correct it or deal with it?

Thanks.

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    Yes, and I think the angle for your arm, hand, and fingers gets steeper too even if you lean. As far as I know practice is the universal treatment for all difficulties but maybe there are some tricks I don't know. – Todd Wilcox Apr 13 '15 at 16:58
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Sliding as Tim suggests is definitely a possibility, but my teachers always discouraged it. As you noted in the comments it can be difficult to move while pedalling, and it is generally a somewhat awkward and inaccurate movement regardless (especially if the bench is leather or something and you must lift off it to slide down).

I think a combination of leaning and "winging out" as you put it is the best method, so that you don't have to lean too far. As long as you're pushing out your elbows enough, this shouldn't strain you — that comes from twisting your wrists to compensate instead. It may be more tiring to hold your arms out, but I think building up the strength and endurance to do that is important.

Anecdotally, this is the method that Volodos (arguably the best living pianist) uses when he plays:

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    I'm marking this as the right answer. Excellent video demonstrating what you described. I will experiement using a combination of both leaning AND "winging" out while trying to maintain my lower arm perpendicular to the length of the keyboard. – lobi Apr 13 '15 at 19:59
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    I'm not an accomplished pianists, but have to agree with Matthew for two reasons: Bending wrists would be bad, and yet you need the instant physical feedback of what notes you are playing, which gets lost if you scoot over. Playing like Dracula addresses both. – Kristal McKinstry Apr 14 '15 at 3:48
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The simplest is to slide along the seat so that there isn't a great reach any more. With scales, unless they're contrary, make sure your body is central to the central part of whichever scale you play. You may need to start an octave lower, or higher, to compensate. Most people will be able to play to 5 octaves apart, but not very often will the need to stretch more happen.

Given that an 88 note piano measures about 4 ft., and a normal finger span is maybe 5'7" or more, there has to be an angle of around 45 degrees with each hand to the keys. Can't be helped...

  • How would you slide along the seat (rather than tilting your body left/right) when your feet are busy using the pedals? I may be overthinking this... – lobi Apr 13 '15 at 17:42
  • Why would your feet be on the pedals when you're playing scales? If you need the una corda pedal to play quietly, you'll have to jam it down! Damper pedal shouldn't be used for scales. I'm suggesting moving only a foot or so. Legs are generally longer than arms! – Tim Apr 13 '15 at 17:47
  • But the thing is, what happens when I must reach those high or low registers when playing an actual piece? – lobi Apr 13 '15 at 17:58
  • @lobi You may be able to use the pedalling foot to push off with as you pedal. – Matthew Read Apr 13 '15 at 18:35
  • I never practice scales and I play lots of things that stretch my arms out. Another point regarding sliding is when you have to hit both the low and high ends of the piano at once sliding won't help. But again, for me it's just been a matter of practice. – Todd Wilcox Apr 13 '15 at 18:40
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My teachers have likewise discouraged sliding on the bench. You should stay in the same position on the bench and shift your hip position (you'll be primarily leaning on one side) so that your back is still perpendicular to the bench, BUT you will be able to reach further up/down the keyboard. It requires some practice to get the balance right.

It seems like a pain now, but when you're playing really fast passages that require using most of the keyboard, you don't have time to physically slide up and down the piano bench. I've not seen any concert pianist who actually slides. Even for instruments like organ and carillon, which have a lot of footwork and it's more natural to move up-and-down the bench, it's still highly encouraged to pivot your hips/feet and stretch instead. It's hard to reorient yourself and establish an accurate center if you're always shifting.

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