Piano posture isn’t the most exciting topic to explore, but it’s a really important one. Many pianists can relate with experiencing pain or discomfort from playing the piano. 

If anything hurts while playing the piano, it’s a sign that it’s time to stop and troubleshoot what is causing the problem.

If you’d like to explore piano posture more, be sure to check out this post.

Here are six common habits that can lead to pain or injury at the piano:

1. Slumped Back

Sitting at a piano bench with no back support can get really tiring. When you spend a lot of time at the piano, it can be easy to let your back slump. This might feel good in the moment when your back feels tired or achy, but it can cause a lot of long-term problems.

It might seem like playing the piano mostly involves movement of only your 10 fingers. But, to play the piano well, you need to keep your entire body engaged. This means that your back and spine need to be able to support your whole body while you are playing so that your arms, hands and fingers can move freely.

If we disengage our spine and core, it becomes harder to control our hands. Without good control over our hands, our technique becomes messy, tension builds up and pain will set in.

Plus, a rounded back can create a lot of long-term pain and discomfort in your back, neck and shoulders.

2. Dropped Wrists

It’s SO important to hold your wrists up while you play!

Carpal tunnel is a common issue among pianists. When you place your hands on the keys, you want your wrists to stay level or slightly raised. If your wrists dip down, you greatly increase your risk of carpal tunnel, which will prohibit you from playing the piano and may require surgery. 

But don’t hold your wrists in a way that feels unnatural or that creates tension. Keep your wrists loose and fluid so that they easily move as you play the piano.

3. Sitting Too Close To The Piano

A lot of people think that they should scoot the piano bench under the piano as if they are sitting at a table or desk. 

However, this is not at all the case. Pianists actually sit a good distance away from the piano. With the bench a little ways away from the piano, you want to sit on the front half of the bench and lean slightly forward towards the keys. In order to do this comfortably, the bench will probably have to be further back than you would expect.

You’ll know you are at the right distance from the piano if your arms extended out can reach all ranges of the piano keys. You may have to lean to the left or right to reach each end of the piano, but you should maintain a good range of motion from this position.

However, if you are too close to the piano keys, your arms will likely feel stuck in one position and it will be very difficult to move outside of the middle range of the piano.

When you are too close to the piano, it also becomes very difficult to use the pedal. Your leg will feel cramped under the piano and your foot will not move easily.

While sitting a little further away from the piano, you can extend your leg slightly towards the pedal, keep your heel planted on the floor and pedal with ease.

4. Tight Or Raised Shoulders

Shoulders are one of the most common places for pianists to hold tension. Almost every pianist has likely played with their shoulders creeping up towards their ears. A lot of times, we don’t even notice that this is happening. 

But, when our shoulders are tight, you can see how that could create a domino effect down your arms, into your hands and into your fingers. It’s another scenario where you lose control of your form and technique as you are playing due to all of the tension. It can also create a lot of pain and discomfort.

It’s a good idea to check in on your body periodically during practice sessions and release your shoulders if you notice they are tight or raised.

5. Holding Tension In Your Hands

Playing the piano with tight, tense hands can lead to a lot of problems. When your hands are tightened, repetitious movement such as playing piano keys creates a big risk for injury. Not only will you feel pain in individual fingers, you will also feel it in your wrists, and up your arms.

To avoid holding tension in your hand, drop your hand to your side and let your arm hang naturally from your body. Your hand will be in a soft, naturally curved position. Bring your hand to the piano in this exact position, maintaining the softness of it. Your goal is to help your hand stay in this soft, rounded position as you play. It’s ok if your hand feels too loose like this. You can gain strength and control over time. And it will ensure that you are practicing without added tension.

6. Playing Through Pain Or Discomfort

One of the biggest mistakes that pianists make is to ignore pain or discomfort as they are playing. Playing the piano shouldn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable. If something does hurt, it’s a sign that something in your body is off. 

Make it a habit to regularly check in on your body and assess how everything feels. If something feels uncomfortable, make adjustments until it feels better. Seek help from a professional if your pain is ongoing. 


This post was written by Megan, piano teacher and author of Pianissimo: A Very Piano Blog. Visit her website for more piano related blogs for teachers, parents, students, and all things piano.

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