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#2286480 - 06/06/14 07:58 AM Are all tensions bad?
kaanguner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/13
Posts: 87
I mean tension when you're playing the piece for the first or second time bad but let's say you've been practicing with little breaks for about, say, 1 hour and you feel the top side of your hand stressed... Is this normal? Or even this had to go and is a sign of fault?

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#2286482 - 06/06/14 08:01 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: kaanguner
I mean tension when you're playing the piece for the first or second time bad but let's say you've been practicing with little breaks for about, say, 1 hour and you feel the top side of your hand stressed... Is this normal? Or even this had to go and is a sign of fault?


This is not normal. What are you playing? Can you narrow it down to a specific passage in the piece of music that causes this feeling?
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#2286485 - 06/06/14 08:13 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Morodiene]
BrianDX Offline
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Registered: 04/14/14
Posts: 664
Loc: Lewes DE
This actually happens to me all of the time. The longer I play the more "tensed up" my hands feel.

Now my teacher has worked very hard with me to learn the proper posture, distance from the piano, wrist action, arm position, etc.

I've noticed that after 10 months of lessons this trait is slowly diminishing. However, it is not corrected itself yet to the point where I will be able to start playing more complicated passage in the next 6 months or so.
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#2286491 - 06/06/14 08:37 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
kaanguner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/13
Posts: 87
I've just became aware of it. I mean thought it 'might' be a bad thing. I can't say a specific passage unfortunately since I was just doing everything I've learned one time then practising some new things maybe. I'll try to analyze from now on.

Anyhow, knowing this isn't normal big help. By the way Morodiene, as a teacher are you able to say you can play the piano around 2-3 hours with little breaks without any tension building up?

Thanks Brian for sharing your experience. Now I'm going to have to relearn the pieces that causes it. First ones I have learned although a tad easy probably has some bad fingering. And this guy here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEbp4AetAJA is next to impossible for me to play at the right tempo without any tension.

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#2286503 - 06/06/14 09:01 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: kaanguner
I've just became aware of it. I mean thought it 'might' be a bad thing. I can't say a specific passage unfortunately since I was just doing everything I've learned one time then practising some new things maybe. I'll try to analyze from now on.

Anyhow, knowing this isn't normal big help. By the way Morodiene, as a teacher are you able to say you can play the piano around 2-3 hours with little breaks without any tension building up?


Not at all. But I know my limits and try not to exceed them. Usually I play for an hour to 1.5 hours at a time without breaks. During that time, I assess what I'm playing that is causing tension and work on getting rid of that. That's what my practicing is for, partially.

So I recommend trying to split up your practice time. Maybe try playing for just one hour, take a break of at least 15 minutes if not longer where you get up and do something else, then come back for another hour at the piano. Maybe just try for 2 hours.

While you are practicing, pay attention to how it feels. Once you are attuned to your body you can feel when and where the tension is building. Then work on getting rid of that tension through various practicing methods (slow practice, practice in rhythms, etc.). You may want to get some technical help from a teacher if the pain persists, however.

Quote:
Thanks Brian for sharing your experience. Now I'm going to have to relearn the pieces that causes it. First ones I have learned although a tad easy probably has some bad fingering. And this guy here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEbp4AetAJA is next to impossible for me to play at the right tempo without any tension.
Poor fingering can certainly cause issues, but more than that, it's usually how you are playing - poor posture, not using arm weight, tensing up your neck, shoulders or arms while playing, tension in the non-playing fingers - can all contribute to the tension.

If you can post a video of yourself playing, perhaps we can help you determine what the problem is, but usually lessons with a good teacher that can help with technique is best.
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#2286509 - 06/06/14 09:10 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
wouter79 Offline
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Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3532
The TOP of your hand? There are no muscles there I think, so that sounds not good.

But I can imagine muscles getting tired if you would practice them hard for an hour. Or even shorter. I have a piece with a few seconds that need a big stretch of my hand. Well maybe I could change it, but I like it that way. It's fine to practice that part for a few minutes but not longer.
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#2286520 - 06/06/14 09:56 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Ben Boule Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/14
Posts: 33
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
I have this piece of music in the book I'm working through (I'm in "level 1" method book) that involves 8th notes that require pressing fingers 2, 3, 5 as a chord.. (It is A + B + D IIRC) that motion I find pretty unnatural and it was definitely causing tension as it was hard to keep finger 4 from hitting the C...

It seems to be going away after a few days of practicing though, I don't recall ever using that combination before.

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#2286522 - 06/06/14 10:01 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Derulux Offline
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Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5314
Loc: Philadelphia
All forced tension (in piano technique) is bad. You have to use your muscles, or your hand will just flop around. But you also have to use them correctly. And yes, this should happen from the very first read; otherwise, you are immediately starting by practicing something wrong.
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#2286524 - 06/06/14 10:04 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
noobpianist90 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/23/13
Posts: 383
Loc: India
Tension is necessary in playing piano. The trick is in eliminating unnecessary tension.

The problem is, if you use unnecessary tension while playing the right notes, you might keep practising it that way and you tend to practice and reinforce the bad tension.

I find taking videos of yourself from both left and right side to be very useful in finding the tension if you're unable to feel it. It was pointed out to me that my pinky gets stiff and it bends unnecessarily and now I'm working on getting over that.

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#2286531 - 06/06/14 10:20 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Ben Boule]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
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Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Ben Boule
I have this piece of music in the book I'm working through (I'm in "level 1" method book) that involves 8th notes that require pressing fingers 2, 3, 5 as a chord.. (It is A + B + D IIRC) that motion I find pretty unnatural and it was definitely causing tension as it was hard to keep finger 4 from hitting the C...

It seems to be going away after a few days of practicing though, I don't recall ever using that combination before.


That seems really awkward and I'd only use it if I absolutely had to (meaning, if my thumb was otherwise occupied). Otherwise, I'd change the fingering to use the thumb and 2&3 or 3&4. Seems odd that would be in a Level 1 method book. Which book?
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#2286555 - 06/06/14 11:17 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Morodiene]
Ben Boule Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/14
Posts: 33
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
It is this Bastien Book:

Bastien Piano for Adults Book 1

This is the piece (video is not me and they are skipping the dynamics and some of the pedaling):

Parisian Street Scene

It happens in measures 1 and 5, and then first 8 measures are repeated at the end of piece. This "chord" (It is not a real chord right?) doesn't hurt after practicing the piece for a couple days but it still feels pretty hard to control the dynamics with that fingering.

I'll try another fingering.. it may be that someone at a more advanced level would just move their hand to use a more comfortable fingering, but at the beginning level they are trying to reduce the amount of hand movement up and down the piano. But this piece has several movements anyway.

There has been one other awkward fingering in the book in "Take me out to the ballgame". You can play the piece without moving your hands at all and for some reason they put in a movement that is a little weird, but that one was not uncomfortable.

I like this book overall.. some of the "original" pieces like this one are not so great but the progression seems good for me. I went through the Alfred all in one book years ago and I think that one had just as many awkward fingerings, but I had a teacher at that point and she would just change stuff if it looked strange. (I need to find a teacher again)


Edited by Ben Boule (06/06/14 11:20 AM)

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#2286566 - 06/06/14 11:58 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Ben Boule]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Ben Boule
It is this Bastien Book:

Bastien Piano for Adults Book 1

This is the piece (video is not me and they are skipping the dynamics and some of the pedaling):

Parisian Street Scene

It happens in measures 1 and 5, and then first 8 measures are repeated at the end of piece. This "chord" (It is not a real chord right?) doesn't hurt after practicing the piece for a couple days but it still feels pretty hard to control the dynamics with that fingering.

I'll try another fingering.. it may be that someone at a more advanced level would just move their hand to use a more comfortable fingering, but at the beginning level they are trying to reduce the amount of hand movement up and down the piano. But this piece has several movements anyway.

There has been one other awkward fingering in the book in "Take me out to the ballgame". You can play the piece without moving your hands at all and for some reason they put in a movement that is a little weird, but that one was not uncomfortable.

I like this book overall.. some of the "original" pieces like this one are not so great but the progression seems good for me. I went through the Alfred all in one book years ago and I think that one had just as many awkward fingerings, but I had a teacher at that point and she would just change stuff if it looked strange. (I need to find a teacher again)


I would change the fingering to 1-2-3 on that chord (ya, it's a chord smile ). It does mean shifting a bit outside of the 5-finger pattern, but you are anyways with the subsequent chords. After that you just shift down to the 1-4 (I believe) on the next figure.

Even if the book says to use a certain fingering, sometimes the suggestions don't work well for a person. Fingering is a very individual thing, so you can try to suggestions if you don't know any better and see if it works, but always be willing to try something else if it's causing you (unnecessary) tension.
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#2286576 - 06/06/14 12:17 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Ben Boule Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/20/14
Posts: 33
Loc: Massachusetts, USA
Thanks for the advice.. I'll try it out tonight.

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#2286583 - 06/06/14 12:30 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
scorpio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/12
Posts: 521
Loc: Connecticut, USA
I have experienced the same issue. I do have small hands and when I have to stretch a bit more than usual (on a newer piece) I can feel it on the top of the hand. The pain is from the tendons that run down on top of the fingers that allow the fingers to extend (extensor muscles). If I ever experience this, I stop and slowly do some stretching exercises... Typically the pain/feeling goes away with proper stretching; and warming of the hands.
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#2286601 - 06/06/14 01:18 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: scorpio]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: scorpio
I have experienced the same issue. I do have small hands and when I have to stretch a bit more than usual (on a newer piece) I can feel it on the top of the hand. The pain is from the tendons that run down on top of the fingers that allow the fingers to extend (extensor muscles). If I ever experience this, I stop and slowly do some stretching exercises... Typically the pain/feeling goes away with proper stretching; and warming of the hands.


Yes, being warmed up is important (although I generally warm up by playing a bit easier stuff at first). The best way to deal with with (I often have this problem when I have to play a lot of big chords or octaves) is to play one chord, then lit off the keys and allow my hand to go back to completely relaxed before playing the next chord and repeating. Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.
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#2286715 - 06/06/14 06:03 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Morodiene]
woodog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 394
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
Originally Posted By: Morodiene


Yes, being warmed up is important (although I generally warm up by playing a bit easier stuff at first). The best way to deal with (tension while playing large chords) is to play one chord, then lift off the keys and allow my hand to go back to a completely relaxed (state) before playing the next chord and repeating (the process). Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.


This is excellent advice!

(Morodiene, please excuse the edits. I wanted to retain the spirit of your suggestion without including the mammoth quote prior, and the edits helped it make sense)

Again, really excellent advice!

Forrest
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#2286723 - 06/06/14 06:23 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Morodiene]
hreichgott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 994
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
The best way to deal with with (I often have this problem when I have to play a lot of big chords or octaves) is to play one chord, then lit off the keys and allow my hand to go back to completely relaxed before playing the next chord and repeating. Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.

This is one of the techniques I learned from my teacher in college, when I was being rehabilitated from injury caused by poor technique plus overuse. It works extremely well.

There needs to be some tension but it needs to be in the right places. And like others, I'd prefer to say "support" or "use of muscles" instead of tension -- tension implies that muscles are being held in a tense state, instead of briefly engaged when necessary for movement. Tension on the top of the hand is not good and not useful. It means you are lifting your fingers with a lot of force, which is unnecessary. (Lifting your fingers at all is unnecessary most of the time.)

I routinely practice longer than 2-3 hours and whenever I feel tension setting in I stop immediately and fix it. My teacher says I should be able to practice 10 hours without tension. Next time I have 10 hours free without work or family needs I might just try that... when it would occur is another subject entirely wink
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#2286748 - 06/06/14 07:35 PM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: hreichgott]
8 Octaves Offline

Gold Supporter until July 22 2015


Registered: 04/20/14
Posts: 318
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: hreichgott
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
The best way to deal with with (I often have this problem when I have to play a lot of big chords or octaves) is to play one chord, then lit off the keys and allow my hand to go back to completely relaxed before playing the next chord and repeating. Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.


There needs to be some tension but it needs to be in the right places.


+1. This is exactly my teacher says as well.

About 2-3 years ago, my right arm started hurting pretty badly from tension. It took a lot of focus on relaxing to fix it. Plus one thing my teacher corrected me on was that I was sitting just far enough to not be able to use my body for forte, also adjusted my chair height slightly higher, and now the problem went away.

It is surprising how small ergonomic adjustments, an inch here and there, makes a lot of difference.
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#2286936 - 06/07/14 10:31 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: Morodiene]
kaanguner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/13
Posts: 87
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: scorpio
I have experienced the same issue. I do have small hands and when I have to stretch a bit more than usual (on a newer piece) I can feel it on the top of the hand. The pain is from the tendons that run down on top of the fingers that allow the fingers to extend (extensor muscles). If I ever experience this, I stop and slowly do some stretching exercises... Typically the pain/feeling goes away with proper stretching; and warming of the hands.


Yes, being warmed up is important (although I generally warm up by playing a bit easier stuff at first). The best way to deal with with (I often have this problem when I have to play a lot of big chords or octaves) is to play one chord, then lit off the keys and allow my hand to go back to completely relaxed before playing the next chord and repeating. Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wynLcUWNENk

What do you think about this persons's fingering in the video? I've been playing it basically the same. Don't have fixed fingering on this one and I generally play it to warm up just as you do.

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#2286946 - 06/07/14 11:06 AM Re: Are all tensions bad? [Re: kaanguner]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11900
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: kaanguner
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: scorpio
I have experienced the same issue. I do have small hands and when I have to stretch a bit more than usual (on a newer piece) I can feel it on the top of the hand. The pain is from the tendons that run down on top of the fingers that allow the fingers to extend (extensor muscles). If I ever experience this, I stop and slowly do some stretching exercises... Typically the pain/feeling goes away with proper stretching; and warming of the hands.


Yes, being warmed up is important (although I generally warm up by playing a bit easier stuff at first). The best way to deal with with (I often have this problem when I have to play a lot of big chords or octaves) is to play one chord, then lit off the keys and allow my hand to go back to completely relaxed before playing the next chord and repeating. Building in the release of tension in between the notes is extremely important.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wynLcUWNENk

What do you think about this persons's fingering in the video? I've been playing it basically the same. Don't have fixed fingering on this one and I generally play it to warm up just as you do.


Fingering seems fine as long as it doesn't cause pain - and since there are big stretches you are pretty much limited to certain fingering, not many options. I would not warm up on this piece, however, because of the big stretches. Warm up with something that is slow and more scale passages, or play a scale slowly to warm up.

If this is one of the pieces that is causing you pain, make sure you are warmed up before trying to play it, and also work on relaxing in between each note played per my note above.
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