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#1450254 - 06/04/10 03:49 PM Piano Sitting Posture
jesseoffy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/16/10
Posts: 240
I was watching some videos of Horowitz and was comparing his posture to myself and thought something was really odd. Then I realized he seems to sit very close to the piano, with his elbows tucked in right next to his ribs. Is this the correct way to sit (and the slight leaning towards the piano)? I think I sit too far away, with my arms reaching a bit (not near straightened though).

I love Horowitz's style and everything, but I need to make sure that's correct and not just one of his perks. Thanks
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Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov

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#1450264 - 06/04/10 04:01 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: JesseOffy
.....Is this the correct way to sit....

There's no "correct" way. But there are incorrect ways -- and some great pianists have used those. ha

I say do your thing, and if it hurts or if you play lousy smile then look to change it.

Whatever you do, don't copy Horowitz. It doesn't work.
I know.
I tried. smile

And in general, many or most very advanced players do all kinds of things that they developed only after they became advanced. I don't think beginners or intermediate players can get much from looking at what great pianists do.

Do your thing. smile
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1450265 - 06/04/10 04:02 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Mark_C]
jesseoffy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/16/10
Posts: 240
Well, what are these "incorrect" ways. At least I'll know to avoid those or correct them if I'm doing them already.
_________________________
Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov

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#1450273 - 06/04/10 04:12 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Incorrect:




Also incorrect:



And this too:



I wouldn't say that too much else is flat-out incorrect.
Do your thing. smile

But I'm sure people would have a lot to say about Horowitz's posture.......
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1450297 - 06/04/10 04:51 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Mark_C]
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Having your arms naturally hanging by your side rather than sticking them out is OK.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1450307 - 06/04/10 05:18 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: keyboardklutz]
BruceD Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
It's often been observed that sitting too far back on the bench is not conducive to good playing. One should sit, I'm told, on the front third of the bench/seat. This enables the pianist, naturally, to transfer back, shoulder and arm weight to the keyboard by leaning slightly forward. Sitting too far back on the bench means that your thighs are bearing most of your weight, and it's difficult - if not impossible - to transfer back, shoulder and arm weight - effectively - from that position.

For most people, distance from the keyboard should be such that your upper arms can hang almost straight down when your hands are at the centre of the keyboard.

You should not be so close to the keyboard that you have to push your upper arm backwards from a vertical position when your hands are at the centre of the keyboard. You should not be so close to the keyboard that crossing hands forces you to lean back out of the way of the elbow of your crossed arm. You should not be so close to the keyboard that, when both hands are playing at the same end, you are in an uncomfortable position.

You should not be so far from the keyboard that you cannot reach both ends, easily, at the same time, perhaps leaning slightly forward while doing so.

For most people, the height of the bench should be such that there is a slight downward slope from your elbow to your hand when it is on the keyboard. It is generally recommended that your wrist should not be lower than your hand when playing.

Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor for support, particularly when playing requires you to lean to one side or the other. Some people play with one foot slightly ahead of the other. Many people play with their feet positioned on the una corda and damper pedals. Your feet should not be curled around each other under the bench, even if you are not using the pedals.

Above all, your body should be in a controlled, relaxed, upright and comfortable position. Be careful that you don't inadvertently hunch your shoulders, clench your jaw; both signs of tension.

All of these guidelines are not necessarily applicable to every person's stature, but should be considered, I think, reasonable starting points.

The most important criterion should be a position that is comfortable and is conducive to as much absence of tension as possible.

What have I missed?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#1450330 - 06/04/10 05:53 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
Ludwig van Bilge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/13/09
Posts: 204
They say it's good to be relaxed.


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#1450342 - 06/04/10 06:25 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Ludwig van Bilge]
jesseoffy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/16/10
Posts: 240
Ludwig van Bildge: That picture helped more than all the other explanations - from now on, no more sitting - just laying on the stool! wink

BruceD, thanks for the advice. One question though - you said there should be a "downward slope from your elbow to your hand" - I assume you meant that the elbow should be lower than the hand, as I have not seen a professional pianist the other way around.
_________________________
Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov

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#1450344 - 06/04/10 06:28 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
BruceD Online   content
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: JesseOffy
Ludwig van Bildge: That picture helped more than all the other explanations - from now on, no more sitting - just laying on the stool! wink

BruceD, thanks for the advice. One question though - you said there should be a "downward slope from your elbow to your hand" - I assume you meant that the elbow should be lower than the hand, as I have not seen a professional pianist the other way around.


I've been told that the slope should be downward from the elbow to the wrist, but not excessively so; in other words the wrist should be (slightly) lower than the elbow. Of course, if you have a long upper arm, this may not be practical.

Regards,
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BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1450383 - 06/04/10 07:22 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: BruceD]
dolce sfogato Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 2667
Loc: Netherlands
straight back, horizontal arms (that follow the hands where ever they go), firm sitting-position (feel the contact with the stool/floor/planet), free space for both feet, and don't keep on your readingspecs...This is no rule, apart from those glasses, but if it doesn't suit you, vary slightly to adjust, but keep your back straight, it poses the most problems.
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Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!

Mussorgski tableaux d'une exposition/Ravel miroirs

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#1450400 - 06/04/10 07:41 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1178
Originally Posted By: JesseOffy
Ludwig van Bildge: That picture helped more than all the other explanations - from now on, no more sitting - just laying on the stool! wink

BruceD, thanks for the advice. One question though - you said there should be a "downward slope from your elbow to your hand" - I assume you meant that the elbow should be lower than the hand, as I have not seen a professional pianist the other way around.


I also have read that the hand should be lower than the elbow. If you watch Rubinstein you will see he does this, although his case looks to be a little more extreme than most of the recommendations I've read. This position is supposed to be more healthy, and from my experience it is easier to play this way.

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#1450434 - 06/04/10 08:23 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Arghhh]
jesseoffy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/16/10
Posts: 240
Yup, never-mind. Just sat at my piano and realize my elbow is higher than my wrist... for some reason I thought it was the other way around... thanks anyway.
_________________________
Chopin, Brahms, Schubert, Rachmaninov

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#1450483 - 06/04/10 09:44 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: jesseoffy]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
I think you'd have to work at it to get your hand/wrist higher than your elbow. It would require working against gravity and using a lot of exertion to achieve that position. It would be effortful and unnatural.

But if somehow it actually were a person's natural position, then I'd say go for it.

IMO most basic principles about position are either obvious and almost inevitable (like this thing about having the hand lower than the elbow), or not very valid and therefore not worth having as a principle.

Edit: I take it all back. smile
Or at least some of it.
While I was just playing, I noticed that at least one hand often is above the elbow, and often it's opposite on the 2 hands -- one above the elbow, the other below.
I'm sure it depends on something logical, but I'm afraid I'll screw myself up if I try to see what exactly that is. smile

I don't think setting down a rule or guideline on hands-and-elbows is any better than telling people just to do what seems comfortable and natural. I think it varies according to the person, and the moment -- like, exactly what we're trying to do at the moment.


Edited by Mark_C (06/05/10 01:22 AM)
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#1450577 - 06/05/10 01:31 AM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Mark_C]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Elbows level or below is more common these days (last 100 years) than elbows higher, also block up the back legs of your stool. I start students on standing posture first - it's more useful and easily modified for sitting well.
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snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1450736 - 06/05/10 10:53 AM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: keyboardklutz]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...I think you'd have to work at it to get your hand/wrist higher than your elbow. It would require working against gravity..."

Well, I don't know, Mark. A young performer submitted a video just a few weeks ago with his elbows way down, the hands tightly curled, and whomping on that keyboard... not to mention that he was twisted around so he could face the audience and sing into the mike. I've seen quite a few still shots of Gould, "reaching up" for the keys, with that very low seat his dad built for him.

Ergonomically, it puts a crushing stress on the processes through which the tendons travel from the fingers to the muscles in the arm and can irritate them, eventually causing inflammation and scarring. Gould suffered terribly from arm and shoulder pain.

Sitting at too low a seat is a very common way of assuming this 'reaching up' position.

From my personal experience, I'd have to agree with Bruce. You'd like to have the hand, wrist, and arm in a fairly straight line; that is the safest and most efficient. Some like dead level, I like the elbows just a bit higher (which means a higher seat; I have long arms).

Sitting about one-third on the bench with the legs either at the pedal or feet apart, bracing the upper body when playing at the extremes of the keyboard, is about right, too. I find myself letting the feet curl under the bench sometimes if I'm playing without pedal, but that just reminds me that I've let my posture get lazy up on top. Ultimately, that puts a stress on the spine and shoulders and actually makes it harder and more tiring.

That's the whole point of the good posture; in the end, it's the easiest way.

It's possible to sit comfortably erect, with the lower curve of the spine allowing the butt to stick out a bit and give a firmer base for the seat, without chocking the legs of the bench so it tilts forward. Many people try to flatten out the spine--- but it's trouble; it makes the vertebrae sit on their edges instead of flat on the discs. The spine has four curves for a good reason.
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Clef


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#1450741 - 06/05/10 10:58 AM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Jeff Clef]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef

It's possible to sit comfortably erect, with the lower curve of the spine allowing the butt to stick out a bit and give a firmer base for the seat, without chocking the legs of the bench so it tilts forward. Many people try to flatten out the spine--- but it's trouble; it makes the vertebrae sit on their edges instead of flat on the discs. The spine has four curves for a good reason.
Blocking up the back legs preserves the healthy natural lumbar curve rather than the usual flattening out.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1450796 - 06/05/10 01:04 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Jeff Clef]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
Well, I don't know, Mark.....

Looks like you didn't see the lower portion of my post.

I took it back. smile

But I'm still with the main point that telling someone all these supposed principles is no better than just telling him to do what's comfortable and natural. I think it's actually worse.

Do y'all really think it's better to tell someone to follow such principles? I have more confidence in people's natural instincts.
_________________________
"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1450817 - 06/05/10 01:30 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Mark_C]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18292
Loc: Victoria, BC
Speaking of reading what's at the end of posts - perhaps mine was too long to read in its entirety, I do go on so. I did say :

Above all, your body should be in a [...] comfortable position. Be careful that you don't inadvertently hunch your shoulders, clench your jaw; both signs of tension.

All of these guidelines are not necessarily applicable to every person's stature, but should be considered, I think, reasonable starting points.

The most important criterion should be a position that is comfortable and is conducive to as much absence of tension as possible.


In answer to Mark C's last question: if someone asks about piano playing posture as the OP did, I think that some of these suggestions might be good places to start, but I don't think that they should be insisted upon.

Regards,


Edited by BruceD (06/05/10 01:32 PM)
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BruceD
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Estonia 190

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#1450844 - 06/05/10 02:21 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: BruceD]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: BruceD
....In answer to Mark C's last question: if someone asks about piano playing posture as the OP did, I think that some of these suggestions might be good places to start.....

That's how I figured people have been approaching it -- and IMO that's misguided.

Let's take this to the extreme (admittedly a controversial rhetorical technique): smile
Suppose someone asks, "How do I throw my piano out the window? BTW I live on the 20th floor."

You wouldn't tell him how, would you? You'd tell him that's not a great thing to do, nor a good question to ask.

If someone asks a question to which the best answer is "don't worry about it," shouldn't that be what we say?

Obviously a big part of this is also, how much do we believe in the usual "principles," as opposed to someone just using his instincts. I guess most of you believe in that quite a bit.....
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"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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#1450889 - 06/05/10 03:32 PM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Mark_C]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
Didn't see your edit, Mark. Guess I should have known better than to move into the line of fire on this one. I still remember the recording engineer scolding me, "Never do anything to inhibit an artist." Of the many sins, maybe that is the worst in the end.

My former teacher was a dragon about this posture stuff, and more than a bit obnoxious as a control freak--- not an example I would want to follow. My present teacher is more gentle. He points stuff out; it's up to me to try it and see if it works for me, and a lot of the time it does. My early teachers--- years of them--- not a word about this stuff.

When I was a young fellow, I could get away with more. Now that I'm old and wore out, I have to guard the back, guard the hand and wrist. I see quite a few performers who hunch over the keyboard or show other infelicities of posture (the Cliburn contest vids showed up quite a few), and feel like I'm watching a stopwatch ticking away the time left until the pain catches up with them. And some of them are such great players--- you just love them, and hope it doesn't happen...

I would have no issue with chocking up the back legs of the bench a bit, if it helps. Some people find that the edge of the bench restricts circulation in their legs, and it might help with that. Or getting up and walking the dog around the block might help...
_________________________
Clef


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#1451155 - 06/06/10 12:16 AM Re: Piano Sitting Posture [Re: Jeff Clef]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19873
Loc: New York
^^ There's a post I like! ^^ smile

BTW......I wouldn't have lasted a full lesson with your former teacher.
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"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)

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