Piano Technique Concerns with Beginner Students

Many beginner level piano students struggle to learn. They find easy playing difficult, because they play the piano with poor technique.

Beginner level piano students need to have some basic understanding of the purpose of good piano technique. This helps them understand when it’s time to take their difficulties to their piano teacher.

Here’s a post that, I hope, explains all of this, in brief.


Piano Technique

Piano playing technique refers to the manner in which a pianist uses his/her fingers, hands, arms and posture to produce sounds and effects at the piano, with minimal effort and with ease. It’s what helps pianists play music that is really complex and demanding, and make it look effortless.

 

Pain – a sign of poor technique

Playing with the wrong piano technique can cause pain or discomfort. If this continues over a long period of time, it can cause injury.

Unfortunately, students can sometimes make the mistake of ignoring pain during piano practise. There can (very rarely, but it happens) be families new to music who think that practising to the point of pain is a sign of passion for the subject!

It’s NOT! Rather, pain is a very clear sign that the student is doing something wrong. Beginner level piano students can experience pain in their fingers, wrist, forearm, shoulder or upper/lower back, if they play in the wrong way. This mostly is due to the following reasons :

  1. Poor posture at the piano – a very common issue, as many beginner families don’t listen and implement changes needed when teachers guide them about posture. More on this in A guide to buying a suitable piano bench.
  2. Poor hand shape.
  3. Excessive use of the fingers, unsupported with good hand shape.
  4. Tense tight shoulders.
  5. Banging too hard on the piano keys.

The last 2 in particular, are very common problems with students who practise at home on non-weighted keyboards. Ask your piano teacher to explain the reasons for this, so you understand.

 

What you should do if you experience pain when practising at home

  1. STOP Playing.
  2. Make a note of what you were doing when you experienced pain, and also of the times you didn’t have pain.
  3. Call up your piano teacher as soon as possible, even if it’s between lessons and rely on your teachers advice.
  4. Discuss the problem with your teacher during your piano lesson, so your teacher can help you out.

 

Some of us need to be more careful about injury than others :

  1. Students with Vitamin D or B, or Calcium deficiencies, or certain medication or medical problems that affect the nerves, bones and muscles will be more prone to injury.
  2. Those who use their hands excessively for other daily activities will be prone to injury if they overuse their hands. For example :
    • Students who do needlework, tailoring or crochet as a hobby.
    • Students who have tired hands and fingers after a lot of writing work at school or after a long drawing or painting session.
  3. A students who has an injury to the hand, arm or shoulder.

Pianists, even at beginner level, need to understand their abilities. And listen when they have done too much and their bodies signal that they’re tired and need rest, with a little discomfort or mild pain. Students often don’t listen unfortunately, coming to the teacher after practising through pain has aggravated a small injury.

Remember always, that hands that are tired and in discomfort (due to overuse in any non-piano activity or due to over-practise at the piano) often won’t play with good technique. 

 

How your teacher will help

Effective piano teaching covers good posture and good playing technique. But students who are prone to injury need to be more careful, and teachers take extra care to work around difficulties, when they know there’s a higher risk of injury.  It’s very important that students talk to their piano teacher if there is some reason they could be more at risk of injury than the average student.

The piano teacher will help these students set reasonable goals, that work with their physical ability. Find interesting repertoire that can challenge them on other levels. And guide them to schedule their piano practise carefully, so they don’t over practise.

To summarise, good piano playing technique helps pianists play challenging pieces with ease. If you have pain when playing, you’re doing something wrong. Stop, and communicate with your piano teacher IMMEDIATELY if you experience any pain or discomfort when playing the piano. 


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