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Learn how to play piano without pain!
Do you get back pain while playing the piano? Back pain when playing an instrument is unfortunately relatively common. But you are not supposed to have pain when you play!
I used to struggle with terrible neck pain when playing. I was taught to push my elbows outwards when playing, and this became a pain so bad I couldn't practice without painkillers.
After learning about how to sit correctly and balance my body, I have learned that practicing can and should be pain-free.
Are you teaching yourself how to play piano?
Here is a piano resource for adult beginners, where you can learn to play piano chords and more at your own pace, at home: Piano For All
Learn How to Play Piano The Right Way
There are several reasons for back/neck pain when playing the piano. Some of the most common are:
Sitting at the wrong height. It is essential to have a comfortable piano chair. The length of your upper arms decides how high or low you need to sit, not your height. Your upper and lower arms should form an approximate 90-degree angle when holding your hands in a cupped position on the keys. The best is to have an adjustable piano bench to avoid any neck or back pain.
Tense shoulders. Your shoulders should be relaxed, and your arms should hang freely from the shoulders. Never, ever push your elbows outwards or press them against your body.
Balancing the body weight in the wrong way. Your body should have three places where the weight is balanced; your bottom, feet, and fingertips. The rest of your body should feel elastic, free, and light. You should sit at half of the bench with your feet firmly on the floor by the pedals.
Make sure not to sit too close to the piano; you need space to use your torso to lean forward and sideways as you learn how to play piano.
Craning your neck. Videotape yourself to see if you are craning your neck when playing. Reasons could be poor eyesight, not enough light, and where the notes are placed in front of you. The note stand is positioned higher on a grand piano than on an upright piano; it is also adjustable. If you are practicing at an upright piano and constantly have to tilt your head forward to read the notes, this might cause you pain. One remedy could be to put something under the sheet music books so that they are lifted up more in front of your eyes.
Too low or too high wrists. This breaks the “balance” points, as I wrote above, and puts strain on the wrists. This strain usually gets “transferred” as pain up your arms and shoulders. Your wrists should be elastic and free, unifying the arm and hand in an unbroken line.
Not taking regular breaks. Make sure to take short and frequent breaks while you stretch softly. It can be so easy to ignore the dull aches and play just a bit more... But, this may build up to repetitive strain injury (RSI) and can be really hard to heal.
There are special piano pads that are made not to put pressure on your spine. This is great if you have suffered from an injury or have a lot of back pain. Sometimes an orthopedic ”Tush-Cush” can help. Both to reach the correct height and because it enables you to sit with a slight angle forward, which helps balance your weight forward.
Correct Seat Height
The Taubman-Golansky Institute is helping professional pianists who experience different forms of RSI (Repetitive Strain Injuries)to re learn how to play piano.
I find this video about how to sit at the correct height at the piano is very helpful:
Potentially Harmful Technical Habits
"Freeing the Caged Bird" is a great video (you can find it online) where you will learn how to play piano with correct posture.
Barbara Lister-Sink's technique for injury prevention is founded in the Alexander Technique, a great awareness technique not just for musicians.
Get a Comfortable Piano Bench
An adjustable and comfortable piano bench is essential for sitting with a correct posture when you learn how to the piano.
Your local piano store probably has a range of quality piano benches. You can also check out my recommendations of Adjustable Piano Benches for the best piano chairs.