piano, piano pedagogy

Piano posture, keyboard transit, floating arms and more

Our Bodies and the Piano might be a Millennial companion to Our Bodies, Ourselves. It can take the subject of our physical relationship to the pianoforte out of closeted neglect.

If we turn back the clock to our earliest lessons, perhaps few of us can recall specific directions or advice about how to sit at the piano; how to “lean” in either direction toward the highest and lowest keyboard range while maintaining “balance;” how to direct our eyes when playing scales in contrary motion. These very basic fundamentals of playing may have been inadvertently overlooked, given short shrift, or blended into a blissfully ignorant environment.

Sadly, we didn’t know what we were missing.

With a congenial neighborhood teacher taking on a stream of beginners, it may have been ample for little Johnny or Jane to climb onto a bench, landing left or right of center, and with bundled energy caper in the direction of notes out of reach at either keyboard extreme. The “dance” along the bench was even considered cute at student recitals, where a fledgling barely escaped a plunge downward as the piece faded off into the highest octave. Yet, in a child-like spotlight, draped in unconditional love, a pupil surviving 3 minutes of playing on a tightrope was to be commended!

***

Disclaimer: I’m reassured that in most Russian music schools, where very gifted children have been singled out for training in preparation for competitions and concert careers, that a beginner is well indoctrinated from the start with directives related to posture, body movement/alignment, relaxation techniques, floating arms, supple wrists and much more. It’s a tribute to this teaching culture, that a ravishingly produced “singing tone” is a blend of beautiful choreography and attentive listening.

In the USA, many prep schools such as those under the auspices of Juilliard, the New England Conservatory, etc. as well as dual public/private sponsored institutions such as the Special Music School/Kaufman Center in NYC, will likely instruct students at all levels of comportment, placing the very foundation of musical art in the forefront of early pedagogical exposure.

Still, many of us who have progressed from lessons with our neighborhood teacher to more advanced studies with mentors affiliated with local music schools and Conservatories, can attest to a void that followed us for far too long.

Therefore, it was with nudging from a You Tube subscriber in the Comments section, that I felt compelled to fill in gaps during my studies that might assist others with some very basic relationship issues to our beloved instrument. And the advice I was imparting to myself, mirrored to others via the Internet, clarified my own evolution on the very subject of posture, bench setting and sitting, keyboard transit, eye focus, floating arms, supple wrists, and more.

While I set out to disclose what has worked for me in a continued learning and teaching process, I know full well, that pianists of different sizes, with hands and fingers of varying lengths, might adopt varied bench distances from the keyboard, and through their experimentation, come to an individual conclusion about what works best in transit from octave to octave. At least a serious consideration of these matters is a step in the right direction. (no pun intended)

7 thoughts on “Piano posture, keyboard transit, floating arms and more”

  1. I’m thankful for your videos. I too have been away from the piano. There is much I have not learned from the beginning of my piano venture, age 12 at local Catholic school. But the basics were instilled. The only scale I know is the C scale. I’ve purchased the Hannon book. I get the feeling that neighborhood teachers of old, were merely collecting money without the heart of teaching piano to the fullest at every lesson. I have a teacher now,(I’m 66)and she lets me play what I like with small corrections. What do I like? I’ve graduated from the songs of my past teen years, i.e. Yesterday, Lara’s Theme, Mercy Mercy Mercy, etc. to Classical pieces (I no longer say “songs”) which has given me a vast ability of the keyboard. Learning ornaments, trills, and keys that were in the past, far out of my reach or concern to play.
    Chopin’s Mazurka No. 17, Prelude in e minor, and I love Erik Satie’s pieces which I can play nicely. Albeit I can not name the notes, but I know where they are on the piano. I clearly lack knowledge but am content to play my pieces feeling a sense of personal accomplishment in doing so. Again, I am glad you are on YouTube and am learning many things not yet taught. I have a recital coming up June 2 and am terrified.
    Any tips on confidence and calm? How to block audience and emerge into my piece only?
    P.S. I JUST saw Evgeny Kissin here in Chicago, May 12th. My Mother’s Day treat. He is magNIFIcent! and more. Please do continue.
    Patricia

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your heartfelt sharing and kind comments. I always enjoying hearing from piano lovers of all ages and levels.. And just so you know I have an adult student in Europe who braves the universe of playing for piano friends each month. In baby steps, one learns by each such experience, and there are numerous ways to psychologically and physically self-condition in this environment that includes being aware of the breath and its natural course. In this regard, I strongly recommend Just Being at the Piano by Mildred Portney Chase that one can purchase on Alibris or one of those comparable sites. Like you, I heard Kissin, and was quite moved by his artistry.. Shirley

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so very much. I will definitely avail myself of Just Being as you suggested.
        I suppose it is very hard to find a piano teacher who sees potential and invests herself into a student. I can see you pour your knowledge out to anyone who seriously wants to perform at one’s very best. Thank you again and I will let you know how my performance goes, June 2nd. As it is, I played for someone over the telephone last nite and my heart rate was simply racing hoping I wouldn’t make a mistake. I didn’t, it went well.
        I sincerely hope I can conquer this phobia! Thanks again! Patricia

        Like

  2. Good afternoon,Mrs. thank you i learnt a lot through your instruction concerning postures and too from video lesson related to Burgmuller.

    Like

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