Piano

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craigfisher256
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Piano

I'm looking to get into piano. I plan on finding a real-life teacher, and I'd prefer to trust her judgment as much as possible (not be a posture know-it-all), but I also want to keep my practice as posturally-informed as possible. So here's some questions for all you Gokhale pianists out there....

About a year ago before my pain got underway, I bought a traditional-ish piano bench with adjustable height. Is the traditional piano bench really the ideal seating arrangement? Would any chair that you can stacksit in work?

I'm concerned about the 'wedge' I might need to keep my pelvis anteverted. If you have to move right and left, might the wedge get all scrunched or messed up? When playing piano, is it normal to move right and left reach all the keys (or do you sort of stay in the middle and reach with your torso as necessary)?

What about the neck? If you have to look at the keys, should you be bending your neck downward? If you don't bend your neck but instead hinge from the pelvis, might that compromise your arm-and-shoulder-positioning at the keys and throw off your technique?

Is it always good to keep your shoulders rolled back when playing? Are there situations where you have no choice but to reach?

And just for fun: Doesn't Glenn Gould look crazier now?

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Dear Craig,

Thank you for your inspired post and for sharing your enthusiasm for cultivating healthy posture right from the start of your piano lessons. Good for you! A number of our teachers contributed to the richness of this response. Enjoy!

Very illuminating article (with video too!) from the NY Times about playing piano the way Mozart did:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/science/playing-mozart-piano-pieces-as-mozart-did.html?_r=0

Here's a good quote from the article: "While modern players tend to hunch over the keys and hold their forearms nearly perpendicular to the keyboard, 19th-century style dictated that pianists sit bolt upright. The posture prevented players from bringing their weight to bear on the keyboard, instead forcing them to rely on smaller finger movements. The elbows were held firmly against the body, with forearms sloping down and hands askew."

Cynthia Rose, Gokhale Method teacher in NYC, says that for her, playing piano is all about the seated hip hinge. When moving to different areas of the keyboard you don't move around the bench (left and right) but hinge from the hips allowing the shoulders to stay in place, as in a shoulder roll. All the movment and reaching is done courtesy of the ball and socket joint of the hips so that the posture isn't compromised.

She says the bench on a concert grand is padded and it is easy to stack sit on the from edge as it rounds down. This is more difficult with a wooden bench because it could cut into the back of the thighs. Some kind of padding would be helpful just like we teach with the folding chairs.

Artur Rubinstein illustrates very beautifully what Cynthia is talking about, even in his advanced years. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFUlvEilmJo as one example. In this clip, one also gets to see the padded bench that seems to settle in a conducive wedge shape. There are examples of him playing more vigorous pieces, all the while emoting from a base of excellent posture.

Regarding your neck, you want to keep it in alignment with rest of your spine, using your eyes more than the tilt of your head, in order to look downward. If you hip hinge from your stack-seated position you want to keep your head in alignment with the rest of your spine as you move forward and back, and not lead with the head.

Doreen Giles, Gokhale Method teacher in Madison, WI, contributed this photo of a baby playing piano with a perfect, effortless, stacksit.

I hope this helps, Craig! And please, don't take postural guidance from Glenn Gould! :)

--Natasha Dedrick, Gokhale Method teacher in San Francisco

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craigfisher256
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I couldn't have asked for a more thorough and inspired response!  Very interesting video as well.  I'm hoping I can find piano teachers that take this style of playing seriously.  

Not sure how much emphasis piano teacher's place on posture or how fine-grained their instructions are (will they have different ideas about hands-and-elbows than in the video?), but I'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, thank you so very much!  

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