This post talks about piano posture, what to consider when buying a piano bench & where the Indian student can find piano benches to suit different budgets. Plus an easy low-budget solution for a low piano bench.
Practising on a basic keyboard during the early years of piano class
Many Indian students buy basic 5-octave keyboards when they begin piano class, planning to save up and buy digital or acoustic pianos later. It’s not the best option, but this makes piano class possible for many families.
Many students find playing the piano difficult due to wrong posture, resulting in crabby, badly shaped hands (image above). Sitting at the wrong height is the most likely cause because many new piano families don’t have a suitable piano bench at home. They sometimes think that the student can ‘manage’ until the family sees enough commitment and feels it’s worth getting a piano bench.
The Indian family sees a piano exam as a measure of success. Sadly, doing well in an exam or otherwise, is very unlikely with poor posture and badly shaped hands.
It’s important for beginner piano students to rely on the guidance of their piano teacher as regards posture and aim for nicely shaped hands as shown in the second image.
How to sit at the piano
Every beginner piano book has a diagram explaining good piano posture.
- The correct height to sit at.
- Sitting straight, forearm roughly parallel to the floor, with a nicely curved hand.
- Sitting the right distance from the piano.
- Using using only a part of the piano bench, leaving the back part of the bench free, so the thighs are not supported.
- Arms and shoulders relaxed so the arms hand without any tension. The elbows will generally be below the shoulders, but slightly in front. Elbows behind the level of the shoulders are a sign that something needs fixing.
- An adjustable foot rest for feet that don’t reach the floor – adjusted so it supports the feet where they lie in their natural position when seated at the piano. A foot rest too high will raise the knees and affect the way body weight is balanced. It’s better to have no foot rest, than one that does this.
Your piano teacher will explain why this is important.
Buying a suitable piano bench
Learning good playing technique starts at beginner level, with using a suitable piano bench.
- Sitting too low is often the root cause of a lot of hand and arm tension in beginner level students. They tend to bang on the piano and this can injure their hands.
- Sitting at the wrong height – too high or too low can cause back, arm, wrist or hand pain.
Here’s what you need to look for when buying a piano bench :
- Adjustable height. I like a bench that has a minimum height of about 20 inches, as this works for adults as well as children.
- A firm cushion which is broad and wide enough.
- A steady base that will not rock when the pianist reaches for keys at the ends of the piano keyboard.
Here’s an easy solution to a slightly low piano bench
Layer on a couple of floor mats to increase the height of a piano bench that’s slightly low. I do this in class, with very young students, rather than have to keep adjusting the height of the bench for them. Thick rubber based synthetic floor mats, or yoga mats work well.
Using a soft pillow or a cushion that sinks with pressure is a poor substitute and often is the reason why many students struggle with learning playing technique that helps them play with ease.
I hope this post helps you understand the value of posture and the importance of having a suitable piano bench. It’s best to start right as it will help you learn better with ease.