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#961544 - 12/06/06 12:24 PM Questions about tight wrists/arms
VA mom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 6
Hi All,

I am new to this forum. I am not a piano teacher, but I am a piano player myself and am a Mom who is very involved with my 7-year-old son's piano learning. My son has taken piano lesson for 2 years. He has always had this tightness in his wrists and arms, for some reasons he is unable to relax. Also, his hand position aren't great either, it tends to be flat. My son works very hard and generally plays his repoertoires very well, but his techniques are really holding him back from advancing. It's really hard and very frustrating to feel kind of stuck.

I am seeking your advices if you have recommendations/experiences on any curriculum/exercises that will be helpful in correcting his hand position, strengthening the fingers, and helping him learn how to relax?

Thanks!!

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#961545 - 12/06/06 01:00 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
You have noticed this problem, so I presume his teachers have given this issue some thought as well. What have THEY said and what have they suggested? Knowing what has been tried will help in determining a possible plan of action.

Like you, I'm a player with a son who studies piano. I'm not a teacher in any formal sense. On the other hand, I've worked a lot with my son on relaxation and on finger technique, especially in his first couple of years when he was laying down basic technical skills. I found that technical exercises to develop dexterity needed to be coupled with constant guidance to keep his forearm and wrist tension free. The one went with the other. Excercises without relaxed posture would seem to be a deadly combination.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#961546 - 12/06/06 01:06 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
Imagine yourself in complete darkness. Every step you make could be wrong and hurt you. This is exactly how you son is feeling during piano practice! No wonder, he is tensed and under a lot of stress!
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961547 - 12/06/06 01:18 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Isn't that kind of overdramatic, Olenka?
_________________________
Registered Private Piano and Flute Teacher

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#961548 - 12/06/06 01:39 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
VA mom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 6
My son's the first teacher didn't emphsize much about techniques, so I think that probably contribute to the problem now. Recently we switched teacher in the hope to focus more on techniques and correcting his postures. The teacher is still getting to know him and trying to figure out what to do to work with his hands. Does it just take constant reminder that he needs to maintain good postures and relax (I remind him all the time but I don't know if that's working well), or is there a better way to go about this?

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#961549 - 12/06/06 01:43 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
Isn't that kind of overdramatic, Olenka?

Of cause, Stephany! I am just exaggerating! We live in perfect world, where mothers play live music for their babies, where in day care centers any teacher can sing and play songs for kids, where kids can read fluently any music sheet instead of listening to rap and taking drugs and alchogol!
Here is an article of Finland scientists about vision and muscles development. Unfortunately, it is in Russian.
Any way, the main idea is – blind people fall behind in muscles development. We teach blind people and when we except the truth, we would help ourselves and our students to create musically literate world.
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961550 - 12/06/06 01:44 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961551 - 12/06/06 01:48 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
'and relax (I remind him all the time but I don't know if that's working well '

Good point! To be relaxed – IS NOT A SKILL AND CAN NOT BE TRAINED! Many piano teachers have no idea about physiology!
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961552 - 12/06/06 01:53 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
This student does not like to play the
piano, which is the root cause of the
problem. In such a situation the only
way to get him to play well is to "make it
worth his while." For example, pay him
to play. If this suggestion repels you,
then look at it this way. You're playing
his teacher, so why not play him too?

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#961553 - 12/06/06 01:53 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Once again, I'm not a professional teacher, so I'm willing to stand corrected. Here's what I did (and still do) with my own son.

You can only get so far, especially with a seven year old, by using adult language to urge proper physical techniques in playing. I think you need to demonstrate relaxation by taking the forearm, wrist, tendons of the hand, shoulder ....all the relevant tension points..... and physically showing the student the difference between tensed and relaxed posture. Shake the wrist to show relaxation. Physically demonstrate how to use the weight of the hand/arm as the primary force in striking the keys (as opposed to tensing the tendons of the hand). Push on that trapezius muscle if it is all tensed up. Have the student stand up and do a rag doll to loosen up. All of this is physical training.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#961554 - 12/06/06 01:55 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Geez Gyro, why the heck do you jump to the strongest possible conclusions based on absolutely no information. Relax! Gather more information before making such hard edged pronouncements.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#961555 - 12/06/06 01:56 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by olenka:

Good point! To be relaxed – IS NOT A SKILL AND CAN NOT BE TRAINED! Many piano teachers have no idea about physiology! [/b]
I'm not sure what you meant by that, Olenka, but I would disagree that relaxation cannot be trained. Psychologists do that all the time when using behavior modification techniques and systematic desensitization.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#961556 - 12/06/06 02:00 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
I'm not sure what you meant by that, Olenka, but I would disagree that relaxation cannot be trained. Psychologists do that all the time when using behavior modification techniques and systematic desensitization.

Let's take an example with ballet dancer. If to take a perfect dancer and turn the light off or put him/her on slippery floor, how their muscles would feel?
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961557 - 12/06/06 02:08 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Let's take an example with ballet dancer. If to take a perfect dancer and turn the light off or put him/her on slippery floor, how their muscles would feel?
huh? how might this compare to a young boy learning piano?
_________________________
It's the journey not the destination..

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#961558 - 12/06/06 02:09 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
A "perfect" dancer would probably do fine in such a context, as dancers have excellent control over their bodies. Now if it were me, I'd fall on my butt. \:D

...but I was talking about playing piano, which is a more conscious and deliberate activity than being confronted with a slippery floor or suddenly dark room. I believe it is possible to (a) train people to recognize when their arms/hands are tensed; (b) train people to recognize what a relaxed hand/arm position feels like instead; and (c) train people to substitute the relaxed position for the tensed position.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#961559 - 12/06/06 02:30 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
huh? how might this compare to a young boy learning piano?

Pretty simple! Young boy afraid to hit the wrong key and he can't see notation either. He is in 'dark room' when he is trying to play piano
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961560 - 12/06/06 02:30 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Bingo, Monica. Repeated physical interaction with the student to reward relaxed technique and change tense technique can often pay big dividends.

[Edit: Olenka, why do you assume something about the boy's attitudes when the original poster has given you no such information]
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#961561 - 12/06/06 02:38 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
'...but I was talking about playing piano, which is a more conscious and deliberate activity than being confronted with a slippery floor or suddenly dark room. I believe it is possible to (a) train people to recognize when their arms/hands are tensed; (b) train people to recognize what a relaxed hand/arm position feels like instead; and (c) train people to substitute the relaxed position for the tensed position.'

Dear Monica, do you know where the standard of 'piano technique' came from? It came from the most talented players. They SEE piano keys and music notation within due to the ability to hear, recognize and make connections between keys and music notes instantly. They know exactly where their fingers are and where they are planning to be. This is why they have relaxed muscles and natural flexibility.

Music pedagogy went the wrong way trying to copy relaxation without providing opportunity to relax. By thoughtlessly mocking 'relaxed hands' we won't go anywhere. We need to give students opportunity to SEE where they are and where they are planning to be , like prodigies by involving their vision in the process. This way they would have completely relaxed hands and never would have problems with neck, shoulders and clamps.
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961562 - 12/06/06 09:32 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I'm not a piano teacher; you apparently are. I'm quite prepared to admit that you may know more about piano pedagogy than I do.

...but I DO know psychology and I stand by my statement that people can be trained to be relaxed.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#961563 - 12/07/06 12:07 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
someone should be able to 'show' him.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#961564 - 12/07/06 09:50 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I would recommend getting a copy of Faber and Faber's Technique and Artistry book 1 and go through it at home even if your teacher doesn't use it. It has one of the best descriptions and good exercises and ways to think about it geared just for that age. For example, the first page starts showing to rest your hand over your knee and notice the shape of your hand and how that feels. The next half of the page talks about pretending there are balloons tied to your wrist and practice letting the balloon "float" your arm and wrist. The next segment has one tapping fingers on the fallboard in a certain way. The book makes use of good word pictures geared for kids.

Another simple exercise I was taught is to sit at the piano or stand, let one's arms hang loosely at one's side. Take note of the way one's hands look and are shaped and try to carry that over to the keys. Also, one things I've found to help me is set my hands on the keys and just let them rest there thinking about how it feels in my hands, arms, wrists, and shoulders while my hands are just sitting, resting on the keys then I try to "memorize" or remember that resting hand and arm feeling while playing.

I think word pictures especially having your child come up with his own word pictures that make him think of what relaxed shoulders, arms, wrists feels like are really helpful. Everyone's different so what one word picture sounds like a relaxed way to think about it might make another person think incorrectly. One example on posture I use with my students is think of yourself as a tree growing toward the sun with your arms as branches wanting to grow outward. I like to use word pictures that depict movement rather than stiff, stationary word pictures. Another example, might be while sitting at the piano, think about being a hot air balloon getting ready to take off into the sky. I think those sorts of pictures depict posture but in a relaxed movement sort of way.

Another thing I noticed that helps me that sounds crazy but it helped is to take a walk or have a child walk around the room with arms and hands hanging relaxed and swinging in the natural relaxed way that happens when one is walking and take note of what one's shoulders, wrists, hands, and arms feels like while swinging naturally at one's side and try to remember that feeling when playing at the piano.

I've heard said that a lot of tension starts in the shoulders and that if one relaxes the shoulders, everything else should follow. - food for thought.

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#961565 - 12/07/06 09:55 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
p.s. I think also to de-emphasize every single note needing to be correct until one learns first to relax. Trying too hard and worrying about not making one single mistake or one single wrong note is a recipe for tension. A person should give oneself permission to hit a few wrong notes here and there. Priorities get turned around. The priority should be relaxing first, correct notes second.

Also, concentrating on the sound one is trying to produce rather than what one's hands are doing might help. I fell into a lot of problems when in beginning lessons from thinking about and trying way too hard to hold my hands and fingers in an exact certain way thus in the process locking up my wrists and arms concentrationg so hard on keeping my fingers held just so. It might help to have the student put the focus on something else than what the student is trying so hard to do. For example, if the student is trying way too hard for correct notes or correct hand position, or holding fingers a certain way, have them put the focus elsewhere such as shoulders, arms, or wrists or on the sound rather than the notes.

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#961566 - 12/07/06 10:08 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
mr. teacher suggests i play a song slowly, and with every note make a arm/shoulder/wrist circle.. elbows going out and up first.. keeping the fingers in contact with the keys at all times.

helps alot.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

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#961567 - 12/07/06 10:54 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
VA mom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 6
Thank you all so much for the helpful advices. I will be going out to get the Faber and Faber book, and trying out some of the techniques and exercises that you mentioned. I think the hardest thing for my son on this issue is for him to understand and picture what relaxed hands look like. I think the word pictures will help him to experience and practice that.

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#961568 - 12/07/06 11:04 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
The other thing to consider is that your son has played for 2 years in this way and probably can't see any problem. You might have difficulty persuading him to make changes to his technique so don't be surprised if he gets frustrated. You can of course teach relaxation and good technique. Demonstration is one of the most effective teaching tools. At the end of the day your son will make the changes only when he is ready. When playing the exercises, focus not only on the movement but the sound. In general if the sound is right then the technique is also right. He needs to concentrate on listening when he plays as bad technique will always show up in the sound.

This might be a silly question but does your son play on a decent well maintained instrument? So many people overlook this.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#961569 - 12/07/06 11:39 AM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
It is hard to be heard, when you try to explain something absolutely new for people, but I will try again.

Currently I am training a lot of piano teachers with Soft Mozart. Many of these teachers are also performers. I never had this experience before in my entire life, because one thing – is to know that there are many other piano teachers in the world. Another – to become their mentor. During out training, when they experience the program, and see what the program does for students , piano teachers usually open up a lot. I thought that to feel what I feel, when I perform or learn new staff is only my problem. As a child I was so afraid to push the wrong key, I still have this sensation on my back, shoulders and neck, like you on foggy road.

Apparently, many of piano teachers feel tension, when they learn new songs, some of them constantly working on 'relaxation' if they need to perform or even practice.. One of the concert pianist told me, that once on stage anxiety was so great, that she completely forgot her piece. Guys,'it is running in our family' – I mean, it is common problems and the problem is for teachers, too.

You may copy 'free movements' as much as you want, but without vision involvement in development of muscles in blind mode nobody ever feel free and relaxed. The worst thing what happens – these tensions and cramps are going to hide very deeply into people's subconsciousness.

Faber and Faber, as well as other method books would do nothing to combat this issue! Hands would feel relaxed and muscles would develop properly only with one condition: when player will SEE every key and every note on the score with no any doubt or second thought. When they SEE where they are and where they are planning to be – it is NORMAL, NATURAL WAY of coordination development. No books, no explanations would be able to replace that.

Imagine yourself driving in foggy road trying to find a certain address in a limited amount of time, if someone took the streets signs off and demand from you to remember the order. How many relaxation exercises and 'method books' should you read in order to avoid stress and tension?
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961570 - 12/07/06 01:21 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
 Quote:
The priority should be relaxing first, correct notes second.
Very true .....until you find yourself sitting at the bench in the middle of a competition. \:D
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#961571 - 12/07/06 01:53 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
VA mom Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/06/06
Posts: 6
Thanks, I will keep these things in mind. We do have a decent Kawai RX-2 which I tune every 6 months. So it's probably not the instrument that's causing him problem. Although I have been wondering if I upgrade to a Steinway with a better and lighter action whether it might help him loosening up a little.

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#961572 - 12/07/06 01:58 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
olenka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/06
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston
I didn't assume anything about the boy's attitude.
This is a rule of thumb in psychology of human perception: our vision just gives up to determine more then 5-7 similar looking objects at the same time.
I remember, when I was a student of music elementary school, how one of the keys of my piano was little scratched. It helped me so much! It was like a leading light for me!
People have to know and see, not to look and wonder, when they develop motor skills!
_________________________
Co-creator of 'Soft Way to Mozart' system of teaching music and piano.

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#961573 - 12/07/06 01:58 PM Re: Questions about tight wrists/arms
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Buy a Steinway for other reasons, not because it might have some tiny effect on arm tension. Many a student has progressed from Faber to the Concerto in F on lesser instruments than a Kawai RX-2.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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