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#1909310 - 06/06/12 10:59 AM Pain and gain
Brahms4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 11
Loc: Europe
I'm trying to get my left hand as agile as my right hand but I'm not sure what is the best way to go about it. I'm playing scales and have access to lots of exercises - finding something to practise isn't the problem. The problem is that when I put my left hand through its paces playing quickly (with metronome) after a few minutes my arm begins to ache. Does this mean that I'm doing something good or something bad, and should I stop as soon as I feel the ache starting or try to play through it? I tend to stop, wiggle my arm a bit then carry on when it's feeling better, but I can't say I'm seeing any improvement in stamina/speed/smoothness! Thanks
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#1909331 - 06/06/12 11:21 AM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
samasap Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/10
Posts: 607
Loc: UK
It sounds like your posture may be wrong? Have you checked the height of your chair you are sitting on, and how close you are to the keyboard?

You should be positioned in the centre of your piano, so use Middle C as a guide for this, your arms/wrists/fingers should all be relaxed your fingers should be curled as if you are picking up a tennis ball as an example.

Look at how close you are to the keyboard. You should be an arms length away approximately, and almost at a right angle!

Also make sure your shoulders are relaxed as this can cause you pain if you are tense. Sometimes you don't even realise it!

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#1909350 - 06/06/12 11:53 AM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 320
If your left arm begins to ache usually it means there is tension. try to relax more. If you are playing scales try this. Divide the scales into groups of four notes. Using left hand only, Play the first four notes, then hold that last note and relax your arm, play the next four notes, then relax, dont continue the next four notes until you are completely relaxed, and repeat until you have completed the scales, repeat a few times and hopefully you can play the scales normally without any undue tension.

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#1909356 - 06/06/12 12:00 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Brahms4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 11
Loc: Europe
So are you saying that I shouldn't experience any discomfort at all, even though I'm deliberately doing exercises that are pushing me? Doesn't everyone get aches when playing more quickly than you can manage comfortably? I'm not sure that my posture is perfect by any means, but when I play with my right hand I can play for longer and faster comfortably. So I'm playing single hand scales of 4 octaves and with my right I can do 12 scales consecutively at 4 notes per click on 132. I can do that with no real problem and without any tensing. I want to be able to do the same with my left, but at the moment I'm on 120 and after about 4 scales the aches start. If it doesn't happen with the right, can it be posture related? Or perhaps I am more tense when I play with my left! Should I start doing them more slowly or do fewer at a time?
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#1909372 - 06/06/12 12:10 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
albynism Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 320
Ideally it is not normal, but is is a common problem for the left hand to get tired first because it is the non-dominant hand for many of us. I'm still learning how to control the tension myself (with the help of a teacher of course).

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#1909423 - 06/06/12 01:31 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
NWL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 83
I believe it should never hurt to play the piano. If something is causing you pain, there is likely a healthier movement you could be using.

Do you always play scales ascending first, then descending? I find that all of my students play ascending scales more naturally with the right hand, and descending scales more naturally with the left hand. If you can discover whether it's ascending or descending that gives you trouble, you may be able to hone in on a solution.

In any case, I hope that you are under that guidance of a teacher who can help you work this out. I would advise you to never practice "for stamina;" instead, work to achieve better coordination and simplicity of movement. Videotape yourself and watch for strange or uncoordinated movements. Brainstorm alternatives.

Good luck!

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#1909443 - 06/06/12 02:01 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Praeludium Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/11
Posts: 90
Loc: Besançon, France
Pain = no gain

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#1909448 - 06/06/12 02:07 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Brahms4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 11
Loc: Europe
Thanks! Unfortunately no I don't have a teacher and yes I always play my scales ascending first - I will do as you suggested. I'm working on Chopin Nocturne op.9 no.3 in B minor and I have video-ed myself but I couldn't pinpoint anything that is wrong (except notes :haha:), other than that my hands/movements don't look like professional pianists hands lol! When I play the agitato middle section my left hand (arm) gets tired by the end and I was looking for a way to "beef it up" a bit. Perhaps I should just carry the shopping with my left hand more often....

FWIW I had lessons up to the age of 18/19 (and then did a degree in music but the clarinet was my first instrument) and got to grade 8 without anyone saying much about my posture or hand position or anything like that really. I'm nearly 40 now so it might be a case of old dog new tricks frown
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#1909450 - 06/06/12 02:08 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Brahms4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 11
Loc: Europe
* B major :dohh:
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#1909647 - 06/06/12 07:38 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
jdw Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 806
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
Originally Posted By: Brahms4
Perhaps I should just carry the shopping with my left hand more often....:(


I know this is a joke. But seriously, carrying weight or looking for ways to "strengthen" the hands will not help and could actually make things worse. Your hands don't need to be stronger, they just need to move correctly to avoid causing discomfort.
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#1909667 - 06/06/12 08:26 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Orange Soda King Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/25/09
Posts: 6035
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky, United S...
1. You need to make sure your hand position and fundamental technique for playing is correct.

2. You need pay attention to all of this constantly when practicing.

3. You need to practice SLOWER until you can play it PERFECTLY at that tempo (not just technically perfectly, but be able to make the music EXACTLY how you want it performance-time, but at the slow tempo), and then speed it up one tiny bit at a time. Use a metronome.

BTW regarding posture and hand position, I'm a piano performance major in university, and I still have very basic issues that need fixing and checking up on and things like that. It's okay if they need fixing; they just need to be fixed!


Edited by Orange Soda King (06/06/12 08:27 PM)

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#1909712 - 06/06/12 10:19 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
RonaldSteinway Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1454
Several reasons:

1. By feeling ache, it means your LH does not have enough strength to play as fast as you want. Therefore, you should not force it, you need to be patient. Eventually, it will be better.

2. People always say relax...relax...blah blah. Easy to say, but not easy to do it if you do not have somebody (teacher or friend) who knows how to do it so that he or she can show you what relax is. Many teacher cannot show this too. However, once you know how to do it, you can really improve your speed dramatically, but still usually not as fast as your right hand.

3. You need to practice slowly for the passages that you are not familiar, then speed up once you are comfortable.

Bottom line, if you feel ache, you basically forcing yourself to play beyond capability.

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#1909718 - 06/06/12 10:36 PM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Skorpius Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/17/08
Posts: 751
Originally Posted By: Brahms4
I'm trying to get my left hand as agile as my right hand but I'm not sure what is the best way to go about it. I'm playing scales and have access to lots of exercises - finding something to practise isn't the problem. The problem is that when I put my left hand through its paces playing quickly (with metronome) after a few minutes my arm begins to ache. Does this mean that I'm doing something good or something bad, and should I stop as soon as I feel the ache starting or try to play through it? I tend to stop, wiggle my arm a bit then carry on when it's feeling better, but I can't say I'm seeing any improvement in stamina/speed/smoothness! Thanks


It means your developing tension which is the worst thing, technique-wise you can do. Make sure your posture is good (back straight, chest up), then slowly play it with no effort at all. I takes some adjusting, as I've learned, but it's totally worth it
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#1910460 - 06/08/12 10:56 AM Re: Pain and gain [Re: Brahms4]
Brahms4 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/05/09
Posts: 11
Loc: Europe
Thanks for all the comments. So basically then I need to slow down in order to speed up! I suppose I am just frustrated that my left hand seems so clunky compared to my right.

Is a straight back really important? I do have a straight back and find it comfortable but I've noticed that a lot of excellent pianists hunch themselves over the piano quite a lot - like in this pic of Lara Omeroglu http://i.radikal.com.tr/644x385/2010/05/17/fft5_mf436881.Jpeg

would that be considered "bad" posture?
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