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#451183 - 04/12/06 01:47 AM Bad posture / slouching at the bench
KJC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/06
Posts: 74
Loc: Vancouver, BC
I've never liked piano benches (even though I have a nice artist's bench) and have always wondered why no one has invented a reasonable chair with adjustable back support for pianists.

Anyway, I'm only 34 and am in pretty good shape. I ride my bike 25 mins. each way to work and back every day and do stretching and weight training exercises almost every day as well. My wife and I eat lots of veggies, and I take my vitamins, etc. But, I find myself slouching, playing hunched over all of the time unless I make a conscious effort to sit up straight. Is better posture simply a matter of effort and habit, or is there something else I should be doing????
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#451184 - 04/12/06 01:58 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Some people will tell you to sit up straight without any arch in your back, and others will tell you to slouch.

Whatever works for you.

Sviatoslav Richter sat straight as a board. Glenn Gould hunched over so much that his nose almost touched the keyboard. Both were excellent pianists.


There is no one correct way to sit at the piano.
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Sam

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#451185 - 04/12/06 02:09 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
KJC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/06
Posts: 74
Loc: Vancouver, BC
In terms of music-making, I suppose you may be right, but in terms of one's overall health I'm not convinced that sitting for hours on end every week slouched over is good. Some physical therapists / personal trainers I know place a great deal of emphasis on posture and its profound effect on our health.
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#451186 - 04/12/06 04:11 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Ted2 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 790
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I have tried playing in chairs with supporting backs off and on. It doesn't work for me but it's hard to describe why. I think it's because if my back is resting against a support it takes the flexibility of posture away, the continual bending and adapting, however slight, which seems to be necessary for me to play fluently. I tend toward the straight back brigade rather than the slouchers, but it has nothing to do with rigidity. Side to side movements in particular, even small ones, appear to be necessary to me, and I cannot easily perform them if I am sinking back against a support, however comfortable it might be.

The only postural fault I have is a tendency to use the left leg as a sort of partial pivot of body weight, the other leg usually being occupied at the pedal. This bad habit sometimes results in soreness after a long session, but I am gradually weaning myself out of it.
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#451187 - 04/12/06 05:37 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
KJC,
I am a Classical Pianist AND a Physical Therapist who specializes in Spinal and Extremity Orthopedics. You are completely correct in your assertion that posture has profound effects, both pro and con, on one's health. When one slouches, they do so in order to avoid having to fire and contract the musculature of the torso that holds the body upright against the force of gravity. It is much easier to let the weight of the trunk and upper limbs hang on the inert support of the ligaments that tie the bony joints together. These excessive stresses on the connective tissues ultimately create deformities in their length and shape as well as pain as the sensory nerves that feed them are caused to fire constantly. What results is the malalignment of the joints, the shortening on muscles on one side of a joint, and the excessive stretching and weakening of the muscles on the opposite side. I would estimate that 98% of all the back and neck pain I treat is driven by poor posture and body mechanics, which ultimately progresses to osteoarthritic changes in the joints and muscles being overworked in an improper range of motion. The answer to your question is that one must make a conscious effort, at least initially, to maintain an inward, "lordotic" curve in their lumbar spine during all activities. Bending forward from the hips, rather than from the back, helps one to achieve this. Eventually, moving and sitting in this "Functional Neutral Posture" will become second nature. That is what you should strive for. Also take frequent breaks from the keyboard, stand up and bend backward from the waist, with your hands on your buttocks 10 to 15 times. Exhale as you go back and try to increase the range of motion with each subsequent repitition. Look for a CERTIFIED McKenzie Spinal Therapist in your area. They can help you greatly. Google McKenzie Institute. Hope this helps.
Dan
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#451188 - 04/12/06 10:18 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Agilita Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/03/06
Posts: 476
Loc: Missouri
Pianojerome: Didn't Glenn Gould sit in a special chair? Seems I remember reading that he would rock back and forth.

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#451189 - 04/12/06 10:29 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
KJC,

I've seen posts from a couple of people who have bought drummers' chairs (thrones?) for the piano and say they work well.

As for posture, a couple of months ago I went through a course of physical therapy to treat chronic headaches I was having. I was told that my posture was very bad, and that in fact my shoulders were already slightly and irreversibly rounded because I hunched over too much. I was given a bunch of exercises to work on that would strengthen my back and shoulder muscles and correct the imbalance and hopefully prevent any worsening of my shoulders. I also changed my seating position on the piano bench, namely to locate the bench further back, and place my rear end toward the front 1/3 of the bench, and curve my spine inward the way CC2 described. This change eliminated a shoulder pain I had developed while playing. My headaches improved as well, although I have not been as diligent about the strengthening exercises as I should be.

Now, if you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort while playing, and you're not developing rounded shoulders, perhaps there is no need for you to make any changes. I will say though that I wish I had paid more attention to my posture before it was too late.
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#451190 - 04/12/06 10:41 AM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Monica,
Whoever told you that it was "too late" to beneficially alter your "Forward Head/Rounded Shoulder" posture, as we call it in "PT speak", was mistaken. While it is, admittedly, a difficult and prolonged process to do so, a consistent program of stretching short/tight tissues while strengthening weak/stretched muscles, and regaining the correct proprioceptive awareness of where your joints are in space in relation to other body parts, will ultimately restore proper curvature to the spinal components. If it was truly "too late" for you, you would not have been able to realize your stated improvements in shoulder and headache pain. You do, however, need to be consistent and persistent in your postural exercise program.
All the best,
Dan
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#451191 - 04/12/06 12:59 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
maybe take a few ballet (not necessarily formal) or jazz entry level dance lessons, where they would focus on posture and basic movements or positions, to learn what exactly the correct posture is in dancing or at piano. it's all related, and it would be benefitial tremendously if you would have had such training. i pretty much taught myself playing piano from the beginning, and haven't had any posture related problems or injuries of any kind on piano. i contribut such as the result of some dance classes i had before.

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#451192 - 04/12/06 01:10 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
Monica,
Whoever told you that it was "too late" to beneficially alter your "Forward Head/Rounded Shoulder" posture, as we call it in "PT speak", was mistaken...You do, however, need to be consistent and persistent in your postural exercise program.
[/b]
Thanks for the info, CC2. That's very encouraging to hear. Your last statement, of course, is the clincher. I know there is much I SHOULD be doing to improve and maintain my health (those exercises, jogging more, etc.) that I am not.
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#451193 - 04/12/06 01:29 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
KJC Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/06
Posts: 74
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Thanks for all the info CC2andChopin Lover, Monica, etc.

I am not feeling any pain or discomfort but still would like to improve my posture so as to avoid any long-term difficulties. I also feel that it is aestheticlly displeasing to slouch, both for myself and anyone who may be watching me play. I might try to find a McKenzie specialist as you suggest.

I have a couple more questions if you would be so kind.

First, do you consider bicycling a detrimental activity in terms of the spine? As I mentioned, I spend about 50 mins per day, during the week at least, bicycling to work and back. Since I live in such a beautiful area (west Vancouver near the Univeristy of British Columbia), this is very enjoyable. It is also the cheapest commuting option and takes care of my aerobic exercise for the day.

Second, I do a variety of stretches and one or two weight training exercises every day. I've started to do one or two yoga stretches simply because they feel good, especially for my back. I don't have the time or interest to get into yoga in a big way, but do you have any opinions about it or Tai Chi, or any other type of stretching / meditation regimen??

Thanks again,
Kevin
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#451194 - 04/12/06 02:05 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Contrapunctus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/05
Posts: 808
Loc: Whittier, California
You should sit up very straight becasue it helps you to put weight into the piano. Slouching does not allow you to lean into the piano.
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#451195 - 04/12/06 02:16 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
The main stengthening exercise I was told to do is called a W-T-V. You lie on your tummy, and tuck a rolled towel under your forehead you don't squash your nose and you can breathe. Then place your arms to your sides so that they make the shape of a "W" (that is, your hands will be at about the level of your shoulders, and your elbows at the level of your waist). Lift them behind you in the air as high as you can and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Then extend your arms straight out from your shoulders in the shape of a T. Do the same thing (10 reps of holding for 5 seconds.) Then put them over your head in the shape of a V, another 10 reps. This last one is the KILLER for me and I can never get them more than a couple of inches up in the air.

These will strengthen the muscles in your upper back and help you keep your back straight rather than hunched over.
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#451196 - 04/12/06 02:16 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Shosti Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/06
Posts: 433
Loc: Boston
 Quote:
Some people will tell you to sit up straight without any arch in your back, and others will tell you to slouch.

Whatever works for you.

Sviatoslav Richter sat straight as a board. Glenn Gould hunched over so much that his nose almost touched the keyboard. Both were excellent pianists.


There is no one correct way to sit at the piano.
For once I disagree with PJ. Yes, Richter and Gould were both unbelievably good pianists. But that doesn't change the fact that the way Gould sat was probably horrible for his back. Many great pianists have struggled with tension and other playing-related problems; Rachmaninoff, for one.

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#451197 - 04/12/06 02:24 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Gill the Piano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/20/06
Posts: 298
Loc: Marlow, Buckinghamshire, Engla...
I was told in a masterclass that the pianist shouldn't use the back half of the piano stool at all, just the front half. Also, if you sit too high, you have to slouch. One teacher wound the piano stool down and pulled it away from the piano so that I felt my arms were waving in the air over my head like an ape!! (Exaggerate? Moi?) But when I got used to it, I realised that I had more control, my forearm was level, rather than sloping down to the keyboard, and the niggly backache at bra-strap level from which I'd suffered intermittently had disappeared. I can't sit on a high piano stool without feeling uncomfortable now!
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#451198 - 04/12/06 03:02 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Anima Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/03
Posts: 206
Loc: Belgium
Speaking of bench height, isn't it bad for you to sit too low?


I've been a low sitter for the past year or so, and have recently gotten extreme amounts of pain in my wrists.
Sitting higher usually makes my shoulders and upper back ache faster, but sitting lower makes me "use" my wrists more to use my fingers. I like feel the pulling from my wrist towards my fingers into the keys. I like playing like this, because it gives me a firm touch and blabla, but I haven't been able to play for about 2 weeks because of it...

Playing piano is just unhealthy..

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#451199 - 04/12/06 03:12 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
zorrodepiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/04
Posts: 24
Loc: Encinitas Ca
I have a very weak back, bad posture not only affects my playing...
I find if my feet are in front of me, flat on the floor and together, the rest of my posture seems to follow, and I can play for a good set's worth of rep.

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#451200 - 04/12/06 03:45 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
kcoul058 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/27/04
Posts: 972
Loc: UBC, Vancouver, Canada
I slouch because I have problems with my back muscles... slowly physio is correcting it, but it'll be awhile yet. I really should tell my prof about this, he keeps telling me to keep my back straight, which I can't for longer than 5-10 mins.

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#451201 - 04/12/06 04:12 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
 Quote:
First, do you consider bicycling a detrimental activity in terms of the spine? As I mentioned, I spend about 50 mins per day, during the week at least, bicycling to work and back. Since I live in such a beautiful area (west Vancouver near the Univeristy of British Columbia), this is very enjoyable. It is also the cheapest commuting option and takes care of my aerobic exercise for the day. [/b]
OK, KJC, here goes: Yes, bicycling in the position that MOST people assume when riding IS detrimental to the spine. Also, unless you are pedaling CONSTANTLY, against a good bit of resistance, and not coasting or shifting into higher gears, you are not getting the aerobic benefit you might think you are. This will only be attained if you take the formula 220-your age and multiply that by 65 and 80%. This is the general range that your heartrate has to fall into AND REMAIN for at least 20 to 30 minutes three to five times per week in order to get significant aerobic and cardiac benefits from an activity. A less conditioned person would start at 60 to 65% of their "maximum heart rate", (220-your age). A better conditioned person would work at a heart rate level closer to 80 or 85% of max. As far as yoga and Tai Chi, many yoga positions are conducive to spinal health and posture, while others are detrimental. What I have against it is that no one is completing an Orthopedic assessment of the participant in advance of their participation to determine what they should and shouldn't be doing based on their Orthopedic status. Tai Chi is much safer, and contributes to good posture, improved balance annd muscular control. I think that covers all your questions. If not, I will be happy to answer additionally.
Dan
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#451202 - 04/12/06 04:22 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
tenuki Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 669
Loc: Seattle, Wa
does anyone have any web links to improving posture? CC2?
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#451203 - 04/12/06 06:40 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
Most web links will refer you to a practitioner for evaluation prior to recommending a specific treatment or therapeuitic exercise protocol, since there is no way of knowing what your personal physical situation entails and requires. There is no "one size fits all" approach, unfortunately. The best bet is to google the McKenzie Institute and search for a Certified Specialist in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Spine. They will give you a thorough mechanical assessment of your posture, and determine your most likely source of pain, decreased Range of Motion and dysfunction. From there, they will give you a set of specialized exercises to address those sources of pain or dysfunction. The whole idea is to teach the patient to treat themself, and to be proactive thereafter. Monica, the "T", "Y" and "W" exercises you describe are specifically designed to strengthen the muscles originating in or attaching to the scapulae, or shoulder blades. The "Y" is most difficult because it targets the Lower Trapezius muscles, which are typically weak in just about everyone.
Dan
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#451204 - 04/12/06 07:20 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
Laurens Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 193
Loc: The Netherland
This forum is really interesting. Apart from piano playing I slouch at the computer, tv, bicycle (hey I live in holland), and the piano. If anyone has tips and websites to read I would really appreciate. I would like to get a better posture, not just for my piano playing.

CC2, do you think the Monica's exercises would help me too ?

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#451205 - 04/12/06 07:26 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
mmmmaestro007 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 420
Loc: australia
 Quote:
Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
Most web links will refer you to a practitioner for evaluation prior to recommending a specific treatment or therapeuitic exercise protocol, since there is no way of knowing what your personal physical situation entails and requires. There is no "one size fits all" approach, unfortunately. The best bet is to google the McKenzie Institute and search for a Certified Specialist in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy of the Spine. They will give you a thorough mechanical assessment of your posture, and determine your most likely source of pain, decreased Range of Motion and dysfunction. From there, they will give you a set of specialized exercises to address those sources of pain or dysfunction. The whole idea is to teach the patient to treat themself, and to be proactive thereafter. Monica, the "T", "Y" and "W" exercises you describe are specifically designed to strengthen the muscles originating in or attaching to the scapulae, or shoulder blades. The "Y" is most difficult because it targets the Lower Trapezius muscles, which are typically weak in just about everyone.
Dan [/b]
i haven't read all these posts but i have a good exercise to strenghthen (what feels like at least!) almost every muscle in your body
i think it may a Pilates exercise

laying on your side,raise your torso resting on your lower arm from the elbow(perpendicular to your torso)
now raise the lower half of your body so your only contact with the floor is your foot and your lower arm(both perpendicular to your torso)

now comes the good bit- raise the arm(fully extended) closest to the ceiling as high as you can and hold

now raise the leg(fully extended) closest to the ceiling as high as you can

hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side

it this is not clear, picture it as almost fully extended star jump rotated 90 degrees

you may need to build up to the final position in steps

it works for me anyway! \:\)
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#451206 - 04/12/06 07:49 PM Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
CC2 and Chopin lover Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/06
Posts: 1981
mmmmmmmaestro,
what you are describing is a trunk stabilization exercise. While I laud your apparent trunk musculature's fortitude, I do agree that it would be a little to advanced for 90% per cent of the folks just starting out.
Laurens,
The exercises that Monica is doing have potential benefit for everyone, since they target muscles that are typically weak in 99.9% of the population, yet are critical to proper upper quarter postural alignment. But they are not all that are needed. If you allow your lumbar spine to lose its inward curve, properly called lordosis,, no amount of upper body exercise will keep your shoulders from rolling forward and your head from jutting out into what is called protraction. Try this experiment: sit at the edge of a bed, or your piano bench and let your lower back slouch and round so that you are, in essence, creating a "C" shaped curve with it. Now, note how your shoulders have hunched and rounded forward and your head and jaw is jutting out. Now, lift your chest up, curve your lumbar spine in and place your torso perpendicular to the surface you are sitting on. Notice how your upper body, shoulders and neck follow and automatically line up properly!!!! The key is what is going on in your lumbar spine that drives everything else!!!! You should make it a practice to use a lumbar roll, or rolled up towel, at your beltline, behind your back whenever you sit on a seat that has a back to it. Move your butt all the way back in the seat and don't let it slide forward. Allow the roll or towel to cue you into sitting with your lordosis maintained. When lifting, bending or stooping, ALWAYS LOCK your back into lordosis first, then bend forward from you HIPS, NOT your Back!!!! These are tips I give all my patients that help them to cure and avoid their back pain for life. Strengthening the postural muscles of the torso, as well as increasing their endurance, will help keep you upright and in proper form when you don't have a roll to help you, such as when playing the piano.
Dan
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