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#546306 - 11/11/07 09:51 AM Stretching to prevent injury...
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Hey everybody...

I've been meaning to post something about this for a while now. Last month I went to a day-long piano festival where there were several events (2 masterclasses, a concert by professionals, an improv class that the students went to, and a posture and hand injury class that the parents and teachers went to while we were at the improv workshop). It was a great experience altogether and I'm definatly going back next year.

Anyway, a good friend of mine went to the posture workshop while I was at the improv workshop and told me that the biggest thing that pianists overlook is that they don't consider themselves athletes. WE ARE ATHLETES. We sit in an uncomfortable position for more than 3 hours a day everyday. It takes endurance, strength, and patience. The doctor who was giving this lecture said that when she treats musicians, mostly pianists, they have had posture problems that started around my age ( ) and finally caught up with them.

She suggested 10 minutes of stretching out the chest, upper and lower back, hands, and arms before AND after practicing. She also recomended 50 sit-ups aswell.

Do any of you stretch as part of your daily practice routine?

Matt

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#546307 - 11/11/07 10:06 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yoga is the best - and don't neglect the extensors.

Most lessons I have to remind pupils they are athletes. Try this - 'freeze' as if you are just about to score a goal in soccer. Notice how your breastbone (and I DID mention that to you before) is up. Your body naturally knows how to coordinate ALL your muscles for an effective strike. Once seated at the piano though, the chest collapses!?
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546308 - 11/11/07 10:38 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
haha yes you did mention that... was that from my avatar you said that?

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#546309 - 11/11/07 10:54 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yes, and I'd been hoping you'd re-shoot it!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546310 - 11/11/07 10:56 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Actually, raising the chest is not correct posture. Correct posture relies on the *bones* in balance to support the body, and not muscle. If you raise your chest, you are engaging the lower back muscles, and will result in fatigue.

There is no need to "stretch" before and after playing, if one is using the body as it was designed. The skeleton is the support structure, not the muscles. The muscles are there to move the skeleton.

There is an excellent book that describes balanced posture for standing and sitting in general called "Ageless Spine, Lasting Health: The Open Secret to Pain-Free Living and Comfortable Aging" by Kathleen Porter. I highly recommend it.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#546311 - 11/11/07 11:02 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Try telling that to an athlete. Better yet try the soccer test yourself. If it is any reassurance, the breastbone thing comes from one of the greatest and most well known teachers around. She's just been given an award by your Music Teachers National Association.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546312 - 11/11/07 11:13 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Steve Chandler Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 2758
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Actually, raising the chest is not correct posture. Correct posture relies on the *bones* in balance to support the body, and not muscle. If you raise your chest, you are engaging the lower back muscles, and will result in fatigue.

There is no need to "stretch" before and after playing, if one is using the body as it was designed. The skeleton is the support structure, not the muscles. The muscles are there to move the skeleton.
[/b]
I would agree that the "correct posture" of being upright and able to balance a book on your head is unnecessary. I would agree that truly correct posture is a balance of body parts that allows a pianist to play with relative freedom, speed and power without undue effort.

I disagree with the implication that stretching is not a good thing. Stretching accomplishes something very important by allowing blood to flow more freely to the muscles which support the core. The idea of doing 50 sit-ups a day is I believe also an excellent idea, there's nothing wrong with building strength. I personally do much more than that in my workouts.

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#546313 - 11/11/07 11:20 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I should have said - breastbone up is very different from chest up or out.

Morodienne, you can't hold the skeleton together without muscles. They do your 'balancing'. It's called muscle tone.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546314 - 11/11/07 11:28 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
playadom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/06
Posts: 1366
Loc: New Jersey
 Quote:
Originally posted by Debussy20:
We sit in an uncomfortable position for more than 3 hours a day everyday.
[/b]
Well, more like 30 min in my case...

I never stretch before or after playing the piano. It just seems unneeded, although it's certainly a good idea. I do stretch every day though, mostly in a form a warming up before my run(which sometimes is longer than my piano practice, shame shame...)
_________________________
Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.

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#546315 - 11/11/07 12:14 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, then I disagree with whomever said that, keyboardklutz. I have no problems with that. The concept that sit ups help one's posture is absurd. I have seen people who are not physically fit have excellent posture, and those with six-pack abs have terrible posture. The muscle is designed ot move the bones, the bones is designed to suppor the muscle. Not the other way around!

At any rate, as far as stretching goes, I'm not saying it's harmful, especially beforehand. I agree that playing piano, or any instrument, is a highly atheletic activity. However, a lot of the posture issues are resulting from a poor concept of how the body works, and not due to failing to stretch.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#546316 - 11/11/07 12:33 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
Well, then I disagree with whomever said that, keyboardklutz. I have no problems with that. The concept that sit ups help one's posture is absurd. I have seen people who are not physically fit have excellent posture, and those with six-pack abs have terrible posture. The muscle is designed ot move the bones, the bones is designed to suppor the muscle. Not the other way around!
[/b]
1) said what?
2) I'm not sure what definition of 'physically fit' you subscribe to but just standing up well takes a deal of fitness.
3) as well as moving bones 'muscle tone' balances the body structure. Would you like a reference?
4) I feel sorry for Matt having to watch adults squabble like this (and piano teachers to boot!). Not much of an example, still - C'est la vie!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546317 - 11/11/07 01:57 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Haha, All because of my avatar too... \:D

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#546318 - 11/11/07 02:07 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Here is Gail Berenson's (president of NMTA) take on physical fitness:
 Quote:
Beneficial to musicians of all ages and skill levels, fitness is an important key to unlocking the potential of all pianists. The greater the fitness level, the better equipped they are to handle stress, to focus concentration, to enjoy increased stamina, and to avoid injury...As with any kind of strenuous physical activity, a period of warm-up and cool-down is important...A wide variety of books and videotapes that recommend and demonstrate stretching exercises are available, with some specifically designed for musicians.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546319 - 11/11/07 04:27 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
Thanks for the quote, Klutz

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#546320 - 11/11/07 06:16 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
jello_g Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 214
Loc: Toronto, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
..The concept that sit ups help one's posture is absurd... [/b]
False. Sit-ups, when done with proper form, combined with exercise for the lower back, is critical in maintaining a strong core. A strong core is absolutely necessary for good posture.

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#546321 - 11/11/07 07:13 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
If it is any reassurance, the breastbone thing comes from one of the greatest and most well known teachers around. She's just been given an award by your Music Teachers National Association. [/b]
Just out of curiosity, who?
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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#546322 - 11/11/07 07:58 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by jello_g:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Morodiene:
..The concept that sit ups help one's posture is absurd... [/b]
False. Sit-ups, when done with proper form, combined with exercise for the lower back, is critical in maintaining a strong core. A strong core is absolutely necessary for good posture. [/b]
I respectfully disagree. This is a common misconception in this and many industrialized countries, who, by the way, also have terrible back problems in general. Lesser devleoped countries do not have the same concepts of posture and thus they retain the posture from their childhood which relies upon balance and using the skeleton and not muscles. When in balance, once can stand for great lengths of time without fatigue. Anyone who is curious about this, please check out that book.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#546323 - 11/11/07 08:02 PM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
jello_g Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/19/02
Posts: 214
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Morodiene, to each their own. I'm sure glad you're not my teacher.

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#546324 - 11/12/07 02:40 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yes Morodienne, BALANCE. And how do you think these bones are brought into alignment and kept there? (for the third time - muscle tone)

Loki - Carola Grindea - Founder of EPTA (European Piano Teachers Association) and ISSTIP (International Society for the Study of Tension in Performance).
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#546325 - 11/12/07 05:32 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Matt, I agree that one of the most important things a teacher can get across to a student is the fact that training to become an accomplished pianist is analog to training to become a successful athlete. I wish my teacher would have (realized that) and said that to me when I was young and pliable...

In my case, facing up to the fact that playing the piano well is truly a physical act, versus an intellectual "in my head" activity, has been transformational. This has meant getting better body awareness, learning to use my body correctly with the help of an Alexander Technique teacher, getting into good physical shape again through swimming and jogging, developing strength and muscle tone throughout my body, working with a Peter Feuchtwanger trained teacher to re-program some very bad habits at the keyboard, and gradually building up stamina and endurance to tackle longer, more challenging repertoire.

Before playing I focus on getting myself in a restful, alert state, feeling my core getting long and wide. I usually do some slower warmup to get the mechanism going. Also, after practicing I find it is valuable to have a routine to wind down and focus the mind-body connection on key things that might have been learned in the session. "Stretching " for me is then to play in slow motion, from memory the key learnings of a session to give my unconscious motor system something to mull over that night in my sleep.

One valuable lesson from the Alexander Technique is that focusing on "posture" can be a negative approach as it tends to lead to a static pose and unneeded tension. Better is to remember that our standing, sitting and movement are all dynamic, ever changing states. More effective for me then is to think in terms of really sitting on my sit bones able to move flexibly and keeping my neck free of tension with my head up and successfully opposing gravity. Where the head goes freely, the skeleton follows. Here I agree with keyboardklutz that muscle tone is needed. Otherwise those skeletons in biology class could stand in front of class on their own....

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#546326 - 11/12/07 09:39 AM Re: Stretching to prevent injury...
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10385
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Sorry Morodiene, but I'm gonna pile on as well! \:D

I was actually at the talk that Deb 20 mentioned. The physical therapist said nothing at all that struck me as controversial. Actually it was all refined common sense. She made two main points and then gave us lots of specific things to do (with explanations for each).

The first point, as mentioned, was that musicians need a strong upper quarter ....not a bulky one, a strong one. This is the 'athlete' point. She recommended physical training that stressed endurance over strength (when someone asked about weight training as an option). Perfectly sensible. She did recommend sit-ups as part of a reasonable fitness program, and she was very clear about HOW to do them properly for good effect (not throwing yourself forward, and good form over high reps). She also recommended that musicians have one aerobic activity as a regular part of their lives. I can't really argue much with that.

Second point: many repetitive motion injuries can be avoided or mitigated by properly preparing for practice by stretching. She gave a bunch of stretching exercises that would be useful. I just don't find this particularly controversial. Every activity with the body that I know of seems easier to me if I prepare this way. What helped me were the particular stretches she suggested and the rationale for why these stretches would aid a pianist.

The muscles of the spine are quite important, as are the forearms, lats, etc. She gave a simple stretching regimen for each important muscle group. She then gave examples in her practice of musicians who complained of pain in their hands or wrists, yet upon physical examination there was no pain in the specific location. The pain was actually a referred pain triggered by knotted and damaged muscles elsewhere (in the pectorals, for instance). These are sort of things most musicians (and people in general) never think about. Her presentation did not strike me as some Zen form of medicine, but as a sensible and moderate approach to posture issues and repetitive motion.
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