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shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists and fingers. If you play by moving only the fingers,
the rest of your arm will be tensed, which will lead to pain and discomfort, not to
mention the hammering percussion sound.
4. Incorrect posture. A correct piano posture harmonizes the anatomical
particularities of the human body with the particularities of the instrument. If your
posture is incorrect (slouching, raising your shoulders, positioning the elbows too
close or too far from the body, straining your wrist or lowering your knuckles below
the wrist level), then youre dramatically increasing your chances of developing a hand
injury.
5. Too much enthusiasm in your finger stretching exercises. Did you hear
or read about what happened to Robert Schumann? He was a brilliant pianist, but he
was seeking perfection in his piano technique, so he invented a device that helped
him stretch his fingers. Maybe the idea itself was not so bad, but unfortunately
Schumann exaggerated with these exercises and he developed an irreversible hand
injury. After that, he could never perform in public his own virtuosity pieces, which
started to be promoted by his talented wife, Clara Schumann.
Be careful when you do your finger stretching exercises! Your whole body should be
relaxed and each stretch should be performed at exhalation just like in yoga. This
way youll avoid an accidental strain that could cause a more complicated trauma.
6. Psychological tension, stress and a negative attitude. Even if you practice
regularly, even if your posture is correct and you play relaxed, by using the weight of
your entire hand behind each note, you still risk getting a muscle pain if your attitude
is incorrect. Our state of mind is the fundamental cause of all our problems. A
negative attitude will amplify and worsen all our dysfunctions, while a positive one
will accelerate the healing process of the most severe traumas.
Now lets see which are the main symptoms of muscle strain and other ailments
related to repetitive motion and constant stress.
1. Hand pain and/or wrist pain
2. Numbness and weakness in your fingers and arms
3. Diffuse pain radiating towards the forearms
4. Poor blood circulation and cold hands
5. Sore shoulders and/or neck
If you feel any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it means that you have to take
urgent measures in order to stop the destructive process before it makes even more
damages. The good news is that even the most severe injuries manifest their first
symptoms long before the condition becomes irreversible.
Now lets see what exactly we should do in order to deal with a hand injury
effectively.
1. Stop practicing for at least one or two days. Rest and relaxation are the best
remedies for tired sore hands. Take your time even if it affects your school schedule,
your exams and your concerts. After all, your health is much more important! If youll
not protect your hands when the first symptoms appear, it will be much harder to heal
your injury in the future.
2. Resume your practice routine gradually. After a few days of rest (in a severe
case the break should be longer weeks or even months), begin your practice with
several easy exercises. Play slowly some scales or a piece from your repertoire by using
the weight of your arm behind each note. Dont play pp or ff; mf is your main dynamic
for the time being. Monitor your wrist, your elbows and your shoulders they should
be relaxed and heavy. Dont hurry to play fast, the more time you dedicate to this
thorough detailed practice method, the better your hands will heal.
3. Practice regularly. Its better and healthier to practice 1 hour per day EACH DAY
than 5 hours per day twice or thrice a week. Regular practice will always keep your
arms, your wrists, your hands and your fingers in good shape. When your muscles are
trained and prepared for their daily work, its impossible to overwork them.
Ive seen many pianists wearing hand or wrist bandages when they get a muscle strain.
I dont recommend such measures. A tight bandage will decrease the blood
circulation, slowing down the healing process. The blood has powerful healing
capacities, thats why we have to allow it to circulate freely, bringing fresh energy
where its required and washing away the toxins. However, you have to be careful not
to expose your hands to a cold environment. Wear something warm and gloves
(especially during the cold season).
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And lets not forget that prevention is better than any treatment. No matter how
difficult your repertoire is and how little time you have at your disposal for learning it,
try to avoid the causes of hand injuries mentioned above. Keep your hands and your
mind relaxed while playing, try to enjoy the beauty of the music, to explore its
mysteries and understand its message. Dont play only with your fingers, use your
arms like a bird is using its wings this is the only way to fly and conquer new peaks!
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75 Responses to How to Deal with Piano Practice Related Hand Injuries
and Muscle Pain?
Read below or add a comment...
Pal R. says:
June 2, 2010 at 3:32 am
Hi, Ilinca,
I have been following your interesting musings for some time now.
In one of your earlier blogs you wrote that you were trained by a Russian teacher, and
above you said: I dont think there is a professional pianist in this world who had not
suffered from a certain hand injury at least once in his/her life.
I am curious to learn how much have Russian pianists been affected by the playing-
related disorders. What you said sounds like they are no exception. Would you be able to
share anything about that?
Cheers
Reply
Chris says:
August 14, 2012 at 8:32 am
Two of the most prominent figures associated with the Russian school
of piano-playing, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, both apparently suffered from piano-
related hand injuries (you can read anywhere about the former, this site claims the
latter: http://www.pianomap.com/quality.html).
Reply
Ilinca says:
August 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm
Hi Chris!
How about Richter? Gilels? Horowitz? Heinrich and Stanislav Neuhaus? Valentina
Lisitsa? and the list can go on!
There is no such thing as an ideal piano school.
The Russian piano school is a very complex system. It is focused on developing
simultaneously and harmoniously all the musical skills of a future pianist
hearing and imagination, feeling and expression, rational understanding and in-
depth theoretical knowledge, sense of rhythm, brilliant technical abilities and so
on. Its recommendations are always focused on meaning, artistic concept, freedom
of expression, relaxation, whole-arm action and comfort.
3
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These are the official principles. How we apply them depends entirely on us
because every pianist is different!
To every rule there is an exception. This doesnt make the rule less useful or the
ergonomic playing principles of the Russian piano school less efficient!
By the way, which piano school do you prefer? Could you share with us your main
ideas about how (approximately) a pianist should play for avoiding hand injuries?
Thanks and have a wonderful day!
Ilinca
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 3, 2010 at 5:38 am
Hi Paul!
Thank you for your comment!
As I wrote before, the piano school from my country is mainly based on the principles of
the Russian piano traditions. The teaching methods of this school are especially complex,
combining on a high level expression and technique, phrasing and flexibility, hearing and
imagination to mention just a few aspects.
But no matter how wise and efficient a certain piano school is, people are still people and
they often make mistakes. Teachers may forget to remind their students about the
importance of a correct posture, about relaxation and piano-related health issues.
Students, overwhelmed by the difficulty of the repertoire, can overwork their hands by
practicing too much or by practicing irregularly. Most of them, however, experience hand
injuries because of stress and extenuating psychological tension.
I could also mention the case of the famous Russian pianist and composer Alexander
Scriabin, whose right hand got injured as a result of his ferocious practice.
However, there is a big difference between minor muscle pain which can happen to
most of us at least once when we practice incorrectly and severe hand injuries that
force a person to abandon their musical career. The first is a warning symptom
beware, youre doing something wrong! and is absolutely reversible. The second,
being a chronic degeneration of the first (youre doing something wrong for a very long
period), can be regarded as a severe dysfunction that in some cases may be hard or
impossible to treat.
As a conclusion, I could say that even if youre applying in your practice the most
progressive principles of a certain piano school, youre still risking to develop a hand
injury or muscle strain if youre not following the basic rules of balance and common
sense: psychological and physical relaxation, regular practice and, of course, knowledge
of your individual work potential.
Reply
Pal R. says:
June 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm
Thank you for responding, Ilinca.
I agree with many things you said, but I am certain that theres one more, deeper and
more direct, reason for pianists disorders, something inside the physical act of playing
that has been causing 9 out of each 10 piano hopefuls to experience playing-related pain
in the first years of learning (2009 research), even though theyve been constantly
reminded of good posture, good hand position, need for relaxation, taking mini-breaks,
etc.
Anyway, what I asked was if you knew of the rate/cases of playing-related disorders
among Russian students and pianists.
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 4, 2010 at 9:56 am
Thank you for your interesting ideas! Now I am very curious about this other
physical cause of hand injuries that you mentioned! Can you tell me what exactly do you
mean?
About rate/cases of playing-related disorders among Russian pianists: I am unaware of
exact numbers and statistics. As a performing pianist and a piano teacher, I have the
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chance to observe directly and correct different playing-related injuries and disorders
that young pianists experience. In our country (Moldova) the rate of hand injures is
much lower that the one that you mentioned (9 out of 10 beginners). Usually here (and in
Russia as well) muscle pain and other disorders occur first of all as a result of irregular,
incorrect and stressful practice (as I wrote in my article).
If the beginner has a professional teacher who will show him/her from the first lesson
the correct posture and hand position, will teach him how to breathe with the wrist, how
to manage his performance anxiety and practice regularly, then he has practically no
chances of developing an injury .
This is what usually happens in my country. However, I will say again that people are
different teachers and students are all unique and sometimes not only their
achievements are individual, but also their mistakes.
Are you a performing pianist? Could you share your own experience related to this
subject?
Thanks!
Reply
Pal R. says:
June 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm
Hello, Illinca, Thank you for responding.
> about this other physical cause of hand injuries
It needs quite a space to explain it well, so I will only say that I see a number of, thus far,
unrealized and, because of that, unexamined reasons and causes for tension in playing
(e.g. arm suspension). I see how they became incorporated into playing, long time ago,
and today we see them as natural, even axiomatic, part of this act. And they became
cemented in mainstream pedagogy with (whats practiced in most of the world as) good
hand position in the sense of even, straight, unmoving wrist and economized motion.
The whole act of hand-use in playing is founded on these tensions, so its only a matter of
time for ones discomfort to turn into pain and a disorder. Hence these appalling
incidence rates.
You mentioned breathing with the wrist and thats what I see as essential factor; the
question is if its possible to teach it (and I know pianists who talk a lot about having a
breathing wrist who do not have it at all; I mention that to show the existing, serious
differences in comprehension of these matters).
As for myself, I am a teacher and occasional performer interested in researching the
physical aspects of playing.
Cheers!
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm
Hello Paul!
Thank you for your reply! I agree with you 100% many pianists make unconsciously
the mistake of playing with unmoving wrists and arms, especially when their teachers
forget (or are unaware of) the dangers involved. I usually attach this mistake to the
second category from my post playing only with your fingers.
Its sad that this mistake is still a reality. Almost two centuries passed since Liszt and
Chopin revolutionized the piano posture and technique, proving that its impossible to
fully explore all the potential of the new hammerklavier by using only the movement of
the fingers and holding the arms and wrists in an immobile position. It seems that today
there are many people who dont want to let go of the old limited harpsichord technique
.
Breathing with your wrists is essential. I had the luck of learning this technique from
childhood (thanks to my teachers), and I teach it to my students from their first lesson.
Ive discovered that its much easier to teach a beginner to breathe with his/her wrist
than to correct the habits of a professional pianist. As the eastern sages say how can
you pour fresh water in a full glass?
Thank you for your insights!
Reply
Pal R. says:
June 9, 2010 at 3:44 am
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OK Ilinca, here comes the heavy stuff..:).
Basically, I agree with everything you said, only that after several years of research, I
look at it from a totally opposite perspective.
The way I see it is that MOST (the definite majority) teaches and plays with unmoving
wrists and arms. And its not because their teachers forget the dangers involved, but
because [1] it always seemed to them to be easier to teach that way; [2] most teachers
have definitely been unable to see/perceive the dangers involved.
In other words, what you described as hasnt really happened. (Yes, many young teacher
heard that line from their teachers, but, to put it bluntly, this words are just wishful
thinking, arent true). Even in todays world, *definite majority* of students are being
taught to keep their wrists unmoving (and to adhere to the economization of
movement principle which brings the same and even more of the same).
And, being the definite majority, they cant be suspected of occasional of the sad
outcome of their teaching, cant they?
In other words, its not that there are many people who dont want to let go of the old
limited harpsichord technique, but its that the *definite majority* of teachers still
teaches this technique, and has been specifically instructed to do so by the
*mainstream piano pedagogy*.
And what say you to that?
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 9, 2010 at 11:28 am
This is all very strange and makes me think that by piano students you
mean all the people who are studying how to play a little piano (for one purpose or
another), not only those who plan to become professionals.
In my country we have two levels of musical teaching:
1. The musical schools where children and young people can go on their free time and
learn the basics of music theory and a little bit of instrumental performance. I agree that
in this kind of elementary schools some teachers may be totally unaware of all the
aspects of a true piano mastery (or they dont want to complicate their lives by giving
professional advice to people who only want to learn how to play a pop song, for
example). But I consider this a mistake. Even if a person wants to learn only the basics of
piano playing, he/she should be still given the elementary knowledge about a correct
posture. Unfortunately, the reality is far from our wishful thinking, as you say.
2. The professional musical lyceums and the Music Academy. Here the situation is totally
different. We have 2 professional musical lyceums in our country. Children come to these
institutions at the age of 6 with the purpose of becoming professional musicians. The
instrument (piano, violin, cello, wind or percussion instruments) is their main class, and
they also study here all the other necessary subjects: grammar and literature, natural
sciences, math, as well as all the subjects on musical theory: solfeggio, harmony, history
of music, polyphony etc. After 12 years of lyceum they go to the musical Academy where
they study 4 years and then they can do 2 more years of master.
The professional field is totally different from the amateur one. During my 23 years of
experience I saw many amateurs playing with unmoving hands and wrists, but I cant
remember seeing a professional piano student making such a severe mistake. Those who
make such mistakes (due to their laziness or their teachers carelessness) cant survive
the tough competition and quit their musical career before graduating the lyceum.
But I agree with you in one aspect: everybody (professional or not) deserves to learn how
to play piano correctly, even if they only want to learn how to play My heart will go on
.
Maybe in your country (I will not reveal it to the readers without your approval) things
are different. I know that in Western Europe and America the musical education works
differently than in the post-soviet space which leads to different problems and
challenges. Maybe thats why you say that the mainstream piano pedagogy still teaches
the economization of movement principle. To be honest, its the first time I hear that
somebody can teach on purpose (on a professional level!) such an obsolete harmful
technique.
Thank you for your opinion and for the new information. It inspires me to write in the
near future a post about the wrist breathing technique and its importance (and maybe
also record a video tutorial). Even if its hard (for many reasons) to implement the
correct playing technique in all the little provincial schools, the internet has a bigger
power of making a difference for those who really need it .
Reply
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Pal R. says:
June 10, 2010 at 3:32 am
Hi again, Ilinca,
Right down to business
> makes me think that by piano students you mean all the people who are studying how
to play a little piano
Actually, the differences between approaches are considerable. I guess, it will be up to
you to seek and notice them yourself.
> some teachers may be totally unaware or they dont want to complicate their lives by
giving professional advice I consider this a mistake.
On that, I agree with you totally.
> playing with unmoving hands and wrists I cant remember seeing a professional
piano student making such a severe mistake.
I would naturally agree that one needs to (even must) keep the wrists moving in order to
perform the more advanced repertoire; and so everyone tries to do that, and so comes
your observation. The not-so-obvious thing is that most of these pianists *learn* to play
with wrist unmoving.
Since you said that in your country every serious hopeful learns to play with the wrists
moving, let me ask you this: would you believe that someone who learned to play with
stiff/unmoving wrist could *later* acquire the same freedom in there (and acquire it by
mainly-verbal instruction, cause thats how it happens)?
If you want, you could explore the element called rotation; could be a huge eye-opener
on the differences in teaching!
> It inspires me to write in the near future a post about the wrist breathing technique
The first post of yours I read was about freedom in hand-moving, and I thought: Ilinca
needs a reality check! Many people are reading your post, thinking: oh, yes, I know
what shes talking about whereas, in fact, they will be playing with what to you would be
*unmoving (or not-sufficiently-moving which would be the same thing)* wrists and
exactly as they were taught.
By the way, part of this not-the-best teaching I described includes taking care of correct
posture, and, since you are also using this term, it helps all these readers believe that
you talk about the same things that they learned
I am writing from Canada, and I have been teaching piano students from all over the
world.
Cheers!
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 20, 2010 at 6:55 am
Hi Paul!
Here are my opinions regarding your questions:
would you believe that someone who learned to play with stiff/unmoving wrist could
*later* acquire the same freedom in there (and acquire it by mainly-verbal instruction,
cause thats how it happens)?
Its extremely hard to learn to play correctly if the posture and the wrist technique are
already damaged from detrimental teaching. However, its not impossible. It requires
lots of patience and dedication, not to mention the time period it could take up to 1 or 2
years. Im not imagining these numbers Ive seen in my experience such successful
posture change cases. Of course, for a better result, the instruction has to be direct
meaning the teacher has to have a contact with the student show him how to play,
rearrange his hand when necessary and so on. If the instruction is mainly verbal and
visual (as in case of internet teaching) the goal is harder to achieve, but still not
impossible. In the end, it all depends on the determination of the student. If he doesnt
give up because of the first frustrations and challenges, than he has a real big chance of
success.
Thats why Im planning to record a series of video lessons in the near future it wont be
the same as having your teacher next to you, but it will still be much better than plain
text.
Regarding the misunderstanding about the freedom of performance and the breathing
wrist, I just answered your question above. In order to avoid such misunderstandings, I
plan to record on video the technique so pianists could see for themselves what the
moving wrist looks like what is correct and what is detrimental.
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On the long run, this is the purpose of this site even if its very hard and challenging
to provide professional advice to everyone interested professional or not, and to change
(as much as possible) the old perspective on piano playing.
As you say, the reality is often sad and there are many problems. But instead of
complaining about all these difficulties, we should try to change things little step by
little step .
Reply
Richard says:
July 4, 2010 at 1:46 am
Hi Ilinca and Paul,
First, sorry my bad english. This is not my primary language.
I read your post with very interesting. Im writing not how a professional or teacher
people like you, but Im exactly in the other side of room. Im a beginer piano student
and Im here like a case of study.
For some time Im looking for information about posture during the study period. Thats
because I have felling some pain fingers during the study period and a great discomfort
in the shoulders and arms. At first believed was natural and possibly caused by the short
time that had began their studies. Though the time and went beyond the problem
persists, Im having problems when accomplishment arpeggios or phrase which has long
ranges. The muscle simply does not respond to the brain.
Unfortunately I have not achieved with my teachers a solution, because I believe that
there is no preparation or maybe they do not give much importance to discuss and work
on the posture of the student.
In this phrase (on the Ilinca post) If the beginner has a professional teacher who will
show him/her from the first lesson the correct posture and hand position, will teach him
how to breathe with the wrist, how to manage his performance anxiety and practice
regularly, then he has practically no chances of developing an injury, I agree in 100%.
But I add this is not for first lesson only, but this should be during all the learning
process.
Well finally, do you know a good literature who talk about of posture and other things
for help the perform of the student?
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 4, 2010 at 9:52 am
Hello Richard!
Thank you for your comment!
First of all, let me recommend you Heinrich Neuhauss book The Art of piano Playing
its a must read for every pianist! Youll find many useful insights there that will help
you a lot!
Regarding the problem that youre experiencing Im sure that you feel pain and
discomfort in your arms and shoulders (especially when playing arpeggios and long
phrases) because you are tensed when you play. You are right it is not natural it is a
result of incorrect practice!
In order to improve and correct your practice, try to follow the advices from my post.
Learn how to play ALWAYS with relaxed hands and wrists. Feel the weight of your
entire hand behind each note dont keep your hands tensed, fixed, suspended in the
air allow them to dive in the depth of the keyboard, let them have a support point
the pressed keys. You wrist should never be immobile it should always be in a
continual flowing movement imagine the softness and flexibility of a cats paw! This
comparison is usually very useful for my students!
Practice arpeggios and complicated passages slowly at first so youll have time to
analyze your each movement and youll be able to control your hands, not allowing them
to get tensed. Dont let your fingers get ahead of your brain. Never play mechanically!
You can also read my post The piano sound and the technical trap Im describing some
of these things there as well.
I also plan to record some videos in the future where Ill explain step-by-step which are
the elements of a correct posture and a relaxed practice.
Good luck in your piano practice and I hope to hear from you soon!
Ilinca
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Reply
James Frushon says:
August 8, 2010 at 1:30 am
Ilinca,
Playing 28 hours a week in a restaurant in Savannah for about three years has improved
my skill to the point I began feeling pain in a few knuckles of my right hand. Treating
them with hot bion packs (a bag of sea sand boiled and frozen a few times begins
releasing bions) helped a lot and also readjusting my technique on the black keys as well
as keeping sets to forty five on, fifteen off.
if you ever come to Saavannah, stop in Vics On The River,
James
Reply
Ilinca says:
August 8, 2010 at 6:53 am
Hi James!
Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
The use of bionic packs in the treatment of hand injuries seems interesting and original
to me! Natural remedies should always be given priority after all, they usually dont
have any negative side-effects.
However, after dealing with the pain and returning to your usual practice, make sure the
injury does not return by avoiding the things that caused it in the first place!
Good luck and all the best!
Ilinca
Reply
Elexis says:
March 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm
Hi Ilinca!
1st I want to apologize for my English because is not my primary language. Anyway Im a
Chinese n Im in my teen years,so Im not a professional or studying in music school.Im
going to sit for my piano exam soon but to maintain my grades in school,I always
practice irregularly.which Is something like 2-3hours twice a week.I found that my left
pinky very painful after stretching some chords or even playing fast tremolos.somehow
the pain will radiate from the pinky to my elbow muscle den the whole left arm,making
me have to stop playing my piece because unable to resist the pain.I been seeking advices
from various teachers but didnt get much help, but one of them found that if I stretch
my left pinky,it will automatically straighten the whole finger,which produce a massive
pain if I play too much octaves n beyond.the left pinky would not curve back unless I stop
playing.Im in a worry now as the exam draws nearer n I cant continue all my pieces
fluently.I hope u dont mind helping a normal student like me.
Sincerely,
Elexis
Reply
Ilinca says:
March 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm
Hello Elexis!
Thank you for your question!
As I wrote in my article, irregular practice usually results in pain. Its better to play 1
hour every day than 2-3 hours twice a week. If you dont have one hour, you can play for
30-45 minutes per day its still better than not playing at all.
Regular practice is good. However, it should always be combined with CORRECT
practice. Without seeing how you play, I cannot determine if you have a correct, relaxed
posture or not. If you are playing with a tensed left hand and a tensed pinkie, then this is
the cause of your pain. Straightening the pinkie is ok tensing it is not!!!
Then, its also important to choose appropriate pieces. For example, if you have small
hands, its not advisable to play pieces with many octaves and chords that require lots of
finger stretching!!! You have to progress gradually!
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When you play these uncomfortable fragments, make sure your wrist, your elbow and
your shoulder are totally relaxed! Relaxation of your entire arm is the most important
principle in piano playing!!!
One more thing: if your hands are small, its impossible to play octaves without
straightening your fifth fingers (the pinkies). So the straightening itself cannot be the
cause of your pain. But if youre doing it in an incorrect, tensed way, then youve found
your cause! Play the complicated passages slowly, with awareness! In playing each octave
or chord, make sure that your wrist is totally relaxed! And in the future choose (or ask
your teacher to choose) pieces that are more appropriate for your level.
One more thing tremollo (especially in octaves) is also not suitable for beginners,
because it makes your wrists stiff and tensed! Choose your repertoire wisely!
If you have time, read my article about Hand Injuries again and try to follow, step by
step, all the advices you find there.
If you have more questions, feel free to ask!
Good luck!
Ilinca
Reply
Elexis says:
March 17, 2011 at 6:47 am
ThanksI should be more aware when choosing my pieces when I start
playing but I know It too late to change any of them now. About the left pinky, we have
two joints on the finger.For some reason, while stretching it(even not playing anything),
the lower joint will automatically straighten n become stiff , leaving only the upper joint
bend down(the finger nails part) n I cnt bend the lower joint. If I did a tak sound will be
made between de joints n of course doing it I have to stop playing.last year I did met a
pianist, I think u know him (Nicholas Ong)..I did ask him for advices but I need more
from other experienced pianists like you.Did any of your students encounter this?
Reply
Ilinca says:
April 3, 2011 at 9:33 am
Your situation is quite unusual! Im curious: did you ever have a trauma of
the left pinky? Maybe something that affected the lower joint? I begin to think that your
problem is not only piano-related
I often correct the finger position of my students (many of them like to play with
stretched, immobile fingers). However, these problems appear only as a result of
incorrect and irregular practice. After explaining the correct principles of finger
positioning to the student, he or she starts gradually correcting the problem. Generally,
there are no physical impediments (like in your case) only negative habits.
Thats why its hard for me to correctly assess your problem without seeing you play.
Maybe you should consult a doctor (not only a pianist) and see if your finger joint is not
dislocated?
Best wishes,
Ilinca
Reply
Elexis says:
June 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Sorry for the late reply. Well, i did a lot of practice on my left hand.The pinky
still occur the same problem but recently I didnt take much notice of it because after
those practice it kinda listen to me now. You might want to know what song Im playing
which this problem occurred, is the Sonate Pathetique by Beethoven. Just to let you
know Im sitting my ATCL exam this Thursday(30th) & I am so nervous. Anyway, I have
another problem which is hand freezing. For some reason I cant play in too cold
atmosphere. My hand are like cramping & I cant feel my fingers or even control my
strength on each note properly like I used to. Any suggestions to avoid this?
Reply
Ilinca says:
June 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm
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Hello Elexis!
First of all, I want to wish you good luck on tomorrows exam!
Beethovens Sonata Nr. 8 op. 13 (Pathetique) is a real challenge, and not only technically.
I imagine that your left pinkie problem may be connected to the octaves in the left hand
in the beginning of Allegro maybe you were playing those measures with a tensed
hand? Anyway, Im glad that in the meantime you noticed some improvements as a
result of your practice.
The freezing hands is a problem that is affecting most pianists. Actually, your question
gave me the idea to develop this important topic in a future article. Unfortunately, its not
possible to get rid of cold hands permanently in a day or two.
Why does this happen? There are several reasons. The most important ones are
psychological tension (anxiety before the exam) which in turn causes energy blocks;
and low blood circulation (which affects people for various reasons, being mostly a
consequence of a static lifestyle).
There are many ways of dealing with this problem: from relaxing meditation that will
remove all the unconscious tension from your muscles and blood vessels, allowing blood
and energy to circulate freely; to contrast showers and regular exercising. Personally, I
use these methods for several years with significant progress .
In my future article on hand freezing I will write more about dealing with this annoying
problem, also describing several effective exercises.
As an emergency solution, during my studying years (back then I didnt practice various
holistic trainings) I used to put my hands alternatively in cold and hot (but not too hot!!!)
water it is a good exercise for the blood capillaries. I also used to wear gloves and keep
my hands warm, but I discovered afterward that these temporary measures cannot solve
the problem itself they only remove the symptoms for a while.
For solving the problem, we need to improve our lifestyle and become healthier, and this
is a process that requires time, patience and dedication (more details in my future
article!).
Good luck!
Ilinca
Reply
Helen says:
August 31, 2011 at 1:02 am
Hi, Ilinca,
First off, I want to thank you for writing this article, and for creating this website. I was
absolutely delighted when I found both!
I found this article after feeling discomfort in my hands after playing piano and decided
to search it up on the web. I took your advice and stopped playing the piano for a few
days, and then started to play a simpler piece with less octavesmy hands can be
considered smaller than most. I noticed that after starting to play again, my hands felt
much better, but my wrist still had some discomfort.
I know, after some reading from your website, that ones wrist should breath when
playing. I also read from your article that ones knuckles should be above ones wrists. I
was wondering, when breathing, should/can ones wrist rise above the knuckles, or
would that be incorrect posture as well?
Thank you, I look forward to any comments or videos you may post. And thank you for
your time.
-Helen
Reply
Ilinca says:
August 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm
Hi Helen!
Thank you for your comment and your appreciation! Im glad that your hands feel
better after applying my advice!
You still feel some discomfort in your wrists because they are not totally relaxed (and
youre probably still feeling the consequences of the past tension and maybe of the
other causes Im mentioning in my article). Playing with tensed, immobile
wrists (or tensing them during difficult passages, large intervals or fast tempos) is a
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negative practice habit: besides causing us hand injuries and pain, it also affects the
quality of our sound, which becomes brutal, lacking depth and expressiveness.
The flexibility of our relaxed wrist is one of the most important technical secrets
of piano playing. Metaphorically, this relaxed mobility is called breathing because
the effects it has on the quality of our sound, on our technique and our overall well-
being while performing are indeed equivalent to the benefits of deep breathing .
Every time we relax our wrist, its like were taking a deep breath all the tension
from our mind and our arms goes away. When theres no tension, theres no
pain its as simple as that!
I just took some pictures to illustrate the answer to your second question about
either we should rise our wrist above the knuckles or not.
This is the correct piano playing hand position:
When I say that we should not rise the wrist above the knuckles, here is what I mean
this is an incorrect position:
When the dome of the hand is collapsed inward or flattened, tension appears
inevitably. We can raise the wrist above the knuckles only when our hand is
rounded and there is no tension, like in this picture:
Another case when we have to raise the wrist above the knuckles is when we lift
our hand from the keyboard or when we breathe - during rests or while playing
portamento. In such cases, the flexible wrist goes up first, followed by the relaxed
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weight of the entire hand:
So yes, when breathing (either we lift the hand from the keyboard or keep in on
the keys during legato), our wrist should definitely rise above the knuckles
with the condition that the knuckles are relaxed and the hand forms a rounded
dome!
One more tip: when playing octaves, follow the same principle and make sure that
your knuckles do not collapse. I have small hands as well, but my teachers always
insisted I keep the dome even when playing large intervals. This way, pain-causing
tension is avoided and the wrist is free to be flexible all the time, no matter what you
play!
Incorrect hand position while playing octaves:
Correct hand position while playing octaves:
I hope this helps!
Ilinca
Reply
Helen. says:
September 5, 2011 at 5:03 am
Wow, thank you for the clarification and advice. I will try to apply
them and follow the advices in the article.
Reply
Ilinca says:
September 5, 2011 at 1:32 pm
Glad I could help !
Reply
Joanne says:
September 16, 2011 at 2:11 am
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omg, i had all the symptoms for stressed and tired hands but i cant possibly
rest for at least a day my exam is in 2 hours and my hands are still sore oh no..pray
for me guys.
Reply
Ilinca says:
September 16, 2011 at 7:32 am
Hi Joanne!
Thanks for your comment! I hope your exam goes well!
After that, youll definitely need to rest for at least 2-3 days and then resume your
practice slowly, with relaxed arms and wrists!
Try to follow the advice from my article and soon your hands will feel much better!
If you have questions about your hand discomfort and your practice, dont hesitate to
ask! Also, check our my questions and answers page: Ask Me a Piano Question!
Good luck!
Ilinca
Reply
Ruby says:
November 25, 2011 at 10:18 pm
Hi Ilinca,
I had injury due to an accident three years ago which caused a hairline fracture at the
base of my right hand, where it meets the wrist. Although, the fracture itself has healed,
theres an extra bone fragment which causes me pain when I use my hand too much.
Doctors dont understand exactly how terrible it is because most of them think only the
fingers are used in piano playing. Surgery is an option but I risk damaging some nerves
which would then render me incapable of playing altogether. Inspite of the injury, I
managed to give the DipLCM and the Associate of London College of Music exams in the
past two years. However, the pain has just made me lose hope and I am extremely
frustrated when I try to play and I havent touched the piano in six months. I spend my
time teaching but Im dying to play myself! Is there anything that you can tell me which
would perhaps help me a bit? Perhaps if youve heard of other pianists with similar
injuries and how theyve dealt with them? Id really appreciate it!
Thanks
Reply
Ilinca says:
November 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm
Hi Ruby!
Thank you for your question and welcome to PianoCareer.com!
Im sorry to hear about your injury! The wrist is the most important part of our arms
when it comes to piano playing and sadly, the doctors treating you do not seem to
know that pianists play with their entire arms (including the wrists), and not only
with their fingers.
Of course, Im not qualified to give you medical advice and I cant know how
dangerous and painful that bone fragment in your wrist is. On the other hand, I know
one thing: the healing powers of our body are limitless! They are much more
powerful than what the modern medicine believes!
You asked me if I heard about pianists with similar injuries. As a matter of fact, I did!
My second piano teacher is about 85 years old now. When she was very young, the
world war II began. She was already a good pianist by that time (she was about 16)
and their family had to be evacuated because of the bombings. When climbing on the
platform of the train which was supposed to take them out of the city, she felt a sharp
pain in her right wrist: it was a stray bullet! She, along with her parents, had to go
back to the city and find a doctor who treated her wound. Then they left the city with
another train and they spent several years in exile.
My teacher was very passionate about piano playing. The doctors told her that she will
never be able to play again after all, she had a hole in her wrist! It was healing, of
course, but the damage to the bones, nerves and ligaments was too severe. Even now,
she has an ugly scar from that bullet wound!
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What do you think my teacher did? She never gave up she simply loved piano too
much! She stopped playing for about a year until the pain diminished and the injury
healed (at least on the outside). In the meantime, she was practicing only with her left
hand (on the window sill she didnt have a piano in exile) she told me that she was
studying at the time Chopins Concert in e-minor .
Then, she started to bring her wounded wrist back to life. At first, she couldnt play
more than a few notes per day. The fingers were not listening to her and it was a very
frustrating experience. However, she made little steps day by day in her recovery and
in several years she felt that she could play as good as before the war .
When the war was over, she began a brilliant career as a piano soloist and teacher.
Now, regardless of her age, shes still teaching and being an inspiration for us all.
Shes an amazing woman brave, determined and strong!
Her recovery proves that everything is possible! I will say again that I dont have the
right of giving you medical advice, but, as a pianist, I will give you several suggestions
(which will hopefully help you):
1. Resume your practice gradually. Our body has an amazing power to adapt.
Play only a few notes with the right hand the first day! Slowly increase the practice
time, but take only very small steps, allowing your wrist to adapt to your commands.
In time, the structure of your wrist will change because it will have to adapt to your
daily practice! Small side-note: did you ever notice that everyone who uses the
computer mouse on a daily basis has a bigger bone where the wrist touches the table?
Our activities inevitably change the structure of our body! Activities which are
performed incorrectly can cause injuries, while activities which are performed in a
correct, mindful and relaxed manner can even heal injuries!
2. ALWAYS keep your wrist relaxed. When playing, you have to feel that all the
weight of your relaxed arm goes into the fingertips, without affecting the wrist. The
wrist is simply channeling this weight, being free, flexible and relaxed all the time.
Generally, pain comes from tension. Your case is an exception, of course, but Im sure
that tension amplifies your pain. Correct relaxation, on the other hand, will diminish
it!
3. Start with easy pieces. Dont start with Chopins Concert in e-minor . My
teacher played it only with the left hand during her recovery, while for the right hand
she used easy exercises that gradually restored the functionality of her wrist. Take
some pieces for beginners and play them in a very relaxed manner, paying attention
on how your wrist behaves. Notice when the pain intensifies, and immediately relax
your wrist. Dont tolerate sharp pain and dont torture yourself! Stop playing when
the pain begins to bother you or at least switch to an easier piece and play it slowly!
4. Be patient and determined. You may not feel any progress during the first
days/weeks. Do not get discouraged! If you are insistent and careful at the same time,
youll teach your wrist that it has to heal that it simply has no other choice!
5. Our thoughts always materialize. Always have a positive attitude and believe
that your wrist will get better! Each day, visualize your goal and see how your wrist is
healing, how that bone fragment finds its place and how your wrist is healthy and
flexible again. Each time you practice, keep this goal before your eyes. It may take
some time (maybe even a few years), but Im certain that your injury will heal 100%
and youll be able to play as well as before your accident and even better!
With correct training, our body can gradually change its structure. The same can be
said about healing an injury. Did you know that every couple of years all the cells in
our body are replaced by new ones? Well, its up for us to decide which kind of cells
will replace the old ones!
One extra tip: Passion can move mountains! If you really love to play piano,
youll certainly overcome your current problem just as my teacher did!
Almost forgot: I agree that surgery should be our last option. In emergency situations,
surgery can save lives (nobody can deny it), but in cases like yours, we have to do
everything possible to avoid the irreversible damage that surgery could cause! I will
say again that our body has amazing healing powers we just have to know how to
use them!
Good luck, I hope to hear from you soon and I hope to hear good news!
Ilinca
Reply
Pauline says:
December 6, 2011 at 12:31 am
Hi Ilinca
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Ive just read your wonderful story of your remarkable piano teacher. She is an
inspiration and a true ambassador of the piano to be able to overcome adversity
like that. What an extraordinary achievement.
I knew a lady who had a stroke on her right side. Before she had the stroke she was
able to play piano to diploma level. After her stroke, she couldnt read music at all
it was just like dots on a page. One day a friend brought her a little keyboard
while she was in hospital, small enough to put on her lap while lying in bed. With
much perseverance and courage, she battled through the pain to gradually be able
to move her right hand and fingers. Like your teacher, she loved piano so much
that after a year of intense hard work of starting from the beginning, she worked
her way up to being able to play at Grade 8 level again.
Youre so right in that we have an extraordinary ability to overcome adversity if
were passionate enough. Not everything can be overcome though and your
teachers and the lady I knew were fortunate to be able to do so.
I hope Ruby is able to overcome her difficulties and I wish her well.
Take care Ilinca.
Pauline
Reply
Ilinca says:
December 6, 2011 at 10:48 am
Hi Pauline!
Yes, my teacher is a remarkable woman! Now, despite of her age, shes still
considered the best piano professor in our country! During her almost 70 years
of teaching experience, she had hundreds of students, inspiring them to be
faithful to their musical passion and never give up in spite of all the problems
they may encounter.
The story you shared with us is inspiring as well! Recovering after a stroke and
being able to play Grade 8 pieces is certainly a wonderful accomplishment. It
proves once again that we are indeed extremely powerful of course, if we are
determined and passionate enough!
Thank you for your comment and for your get well wishes to Ruby!
Ilinca
Reply
Ruby says:
November 29, 2011 at 8:43 pm
Dear Ilinca,
Thank you so much for your reply! Thank you for giving me such a detailed response. I
was amazed by the story of your teacher and I really admire her strength and
perseverance. I will certainly take your advice and begin practising slowly Ill let you
know of my progress soon!
Ruby
Reply
Ilinca says:
November 29, 2011 at 9:20 pm
Youre welcome, Ruby!
Talk to you soon!
Ilinca
Reply
harry says:
December 19, 2011 at 5:37 pm
dear Ilinca
i have just immensly enjoyed reading your blog it has left me i guess with a sense of
validation that its ok and alright to take a bit of a break when encountering difficulties,
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and i guess reminding me to work up to large amounts of practice. I started playing when
i was 15 and got grade 8 in three years with very little practice at all and no teaching.
now, 10 years later and having not really ever played consistently, sometimes with a full
year or more break, i suddenly jumped straight back into scales, Bach inventions,
preludes and fuges, and various exercises for 6+ hours a day as i`ve completely fallen in
love with piano again and have an interview with the royal college of music in a few
monthsand then got confused as hell when my arms and wrists started hurting and
getting tight after a week or so its nice to be reminded to take things more slowly and
i`m grateful to you for giving me this reminder!xx
Reply
Ilinca says:
December 20, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Hi Harry!
Thank you for your comment! Its very nice to meet you!
Your piano journey sounds really interesting! 8 grades in 3 years thats more than
impressive! Then, practicing for more than 6 hours per day after a long break its
natural that your arms started to disagree with you!
Im glad that you found my articles helpful! Feel free to explore all the information on my
site, including my recent video tutorials and youre certainly welcome to join our
Questions and Answers page!
Talk soon,
Ilinca
Reply
Wilson says:
January 22, 2012 at 9:18 am
Hi Ilinca,
I want to thank you for your very generous teaching materials. It is very helpful for
someone like me who doesnt have the flexibility for a full time teacher because of my
current work situation.
Question,
Ive been playing piano about 1.5 months now. Im playing a lot and playing songs much
further than my experience level would dictate, but I am effectively learning them. (part
of my impatience is that Ive mastered the guitar and want to get caught up with piano). I
know this may seem like a bad idea but
I am being smart about injury prevention. Whenever my hands/wrists starts to feel
stressed I call it quits for the day. Interestingly the only stress I ever feel is on the outside
of my wrist and generally occurs if Im learning a song which requires the wrist to be bent
at an angle. For examplea song where you must be playing a rhythm on the left hand
around the middle C position and then with the right hand hit a very low note on the
piano, making your body twist a little bit to reach that low note. And thusthe left wrist
has to twist a bit with the body to continue playing the rhythm on the left hand but still
hit an octave with the right hand down low on the left side of the piano.
I think the stress I sometimes feel on the outside of my wrist is due to playing this way
over and over. Repetitive Strain I suppose.
I know that since Ive just started out I should probably expect a few aches and pains as
my wrists/hands are adjusting and getting stronger, so Im not really surprised or
alarmed at this outside wrist stress (which only occurs after several hours of playing). By
the way this stress is located right above the large outer wrist bone, where the wrist and
the hand connect. *And also I definitely play with relaxed wrists (thanks to your advice).
Though perhaps I need to concentrate even more on keeping that area of my wrist
relaxed
My question really is.is this type of strain somewhat common? And, is it something
that simply goes away over time as one gets more used to playing the piano? Or, is ANY
wrist stress merely a cause of bad form?
Thank you so much,
-Wilson
Reply
Ilinca says:
January 22, 2012 at 10:23 pm
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Hi Wilson!
Im always happy to help thank you for appreciating my tutorials!
First of all, I want to tell you that I really admire your enthusiasm and your
determination to make a fast progress in your piano playing!
Its also good that youre aware of the dangers of tensed practice and that youre trying
to keep your wrists relaxed!
After reading your question, I went immediately to the piano and I tried to play what
you described: playing something with the left hand near the middle C and
simultaneously playing a low note with the right hand. Here is what I noticed: if you
keep your elbows too close to your body (this happens when you sit too close to the
instrument), then there will be an uncomfortable angle between your forearm and
your hand and this angle will make your wrist to bend! On the other hand, if you sit
at a comfortable distance (the elbows are forming an obtuse angle instead of a sharp
one), then there will be no uncomfortable angle at the wrist!
Of course, I cannot diagnose your problem with a 100% accuracy without seeing how
you play, but from your description I got the feeling that its first of all a posture
problem(and not simply a Repetitive Strain): youre probably sitting too close to the
instrument (or your piano bench is too low). Otherwise its very difficult to bend your
wrist while playing such a type of technique!
You can take a look at the pictures from my article The Piano Posture and The Energy
of the Sound. In the first picture, please notice that the elbows are in front of the body
between the body and the instrument. In such case, if youre playing something in
the middle of the keyboard (no matter what hand youre using), youll have to keep
your arm almost straight, without bending it at the elbow too much. In such a case,
just as I already mentioned, it will be impossible to bend your wrist!
In the second picture from this article, Im demonstrating an incorrect posture
where the elbows are too close to the body and they form an uncomfortable sharp
angle. In such a case its very easy to twist your wrist, especially when playing a
fragment like the one you described.
Now Ill quote some of your questions and write my answer below.
You said: Im learning a song which requires the wrist to be bent at an angle.
Instead of bending the wrist, its better to avoid doing it! My impression is that its
possible to play this song without bending the wrist by keeping your posture correct
as I explain above . If for some reason this is not possible, then could you please
send me the score or tell me which song youre learning? This way it would be easier
for me to tell you what to do. You could also film yourself while playing this
uncomfortable place and send me the video.
By the way, now Im working on a new project: a Piano Community forumwhere
it will be very easy and fun to post your questions (according to certain categories)
and also share your recordings! I will answer each question in a very detailed manner
(sometimes I will make video answers!) The forum will be launched in a week or two
and there will be a special category dedicated to posture problems, and another one
dedicated to correct practice! You can subscribe to my email newsletter to stay
updated!
*And also I definitely play with relaxed wrists (thanks to your advice). Though
perhaps I need to concentrate even more on keeping that area of my wrist relaxed
First of all make sure that your posture is 100% correct (you can also watch my recent
tutorial The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture). Then, even if youre already
trying to play with relaxed wrists, theres always room for improvement! Practice the
uncomfortable place in a very slow tempo first, making sure that when you play the
rhythm in the left hand (by the way, is it a fast tempo?) your wrist is totally relaxed!
When you begin to feel totally comfortable in a slow tempo and there is no pain and
discomfort in your wrist, you can gradually increase the tempo (without losing the
feeling of comfort, flexibility and relaxation!).
You also said: I am being smart about injury prevention. Whenever my
hands/wrists starts to feel stressed I call it quits for the day.
This is a good strategy! However, its even better to try to make sure that no matter
how long you play, theres still no tension in your arms/wrists!
I know that since Ive just started out I should probably expect a few aches and pains
as my wrists/hands are adjusting and getting stronger, so Im not really surprised
or alarmed at this outside wrist stress (which only occurs after several hours of
playing).
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Yes, all beginners need time to adjust to the new sensations involved in piano playing,
and also to strengthen their arms and fingers. However, feeling pain in your wrist is
not normal not even for beginners. So try to follow my advice from above and avoid
such unpleasant symptoms!
My question really is.is this type of strain somewhat common?
No, its very rare!
And, is it something that simply goes away over time as one gets more used to
playing the piano?
As I already explained, you have to correct your posture and wrist relaxation, and
then the strain will go away .
Or, is ANY wrist stress merely a cause of bad form?
Yes, I think it is!
Good luck with your practice!!! Good posture and wrist relaxation are very important,
of course. However, the most important thing remains our passion for what we do
and youre definitely on the right path!
Ilinca
Reply
Wilson says:
January 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm
Ilinca,
Thank you so much for the very detailed explanation. I think you solved the issue
I need to be more conscious of keeping my wrist straight/relaxed and not bent,
regardless of what is required for the song.
Thank you!
Reply
Ilinca says:
January 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm
Youre welcome! Glad I could help!!!
Reply
Erin says:
January 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm
Hi Ilinca
I have had pain in my neck and shoulders for about 9 months now. It started to come on
a couple of months before that, but I didnt take any notice, kept practising hard and
ended up making it lots worse. I am 19 and Ive been playing for about 10 years now,
when I got the injury I was practising about 2 hours a day, I was playing Beethovens
sonata pathetica. What basicaly caused the problem I think was the octaves in the left
hand in the first movement (although I have probably been bringing it on for a long time
with bad posture, stiff rists and bad studying habits).
Also had quite a lot of pressure because I was preparing for exams (to get into
conservatoire), playing lots of concerts etc.
Ive been to phisiotherapists which helped a bit, read lots of stuff about how to play
without tension and have learned a lot about my body and trying to correct what I have
been doing wrong. I am now trying acupunture. But it still is not getting any better.
I am now studying in the conservatoire, and have quite a lot of pressure to play well with
my new teacher who is also not very helpfull with the whole problem.
To make things worse I am now starting to get pain in my right forearm, it is normally
when I am playing studies (moskovsky op. 72 1, 6) and things with a stretched hand.
I know (more or less) how to play without cause excessive strain on the muscles but Im
not sure what to do to prevent this new pain to turn into another injury (exercises
maybe?).
I know I have written a lot of information, but I think that may be helpfull for you to give
me some advise.
If you can help me that would be great! Thanks
Reply
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Ilinca says:
January 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm
Hi Erin!
Thank you for your question and welcome to PianoCareer.com!
Being a professional piano student and studying in the conservatoire is certainly a
challenging experience! I remember my own conservatoire years thats when I
learned how important it is to know how to deal with pressure, how to compensate
the long hours of piano practice and how to practice mindfully, which means being
relaxed and concentrated at the same time.
Now Im going to quote your questions and reply to each one below.
I have had pain in my neck and shoulders for about 9 months now. It started to
come on a couple of months before that, but I didnt take any notice, kept practising
hard and ended up making it lots worse.
Usually, pianists who are practicing in an incorrect, tensed manner are suffering from
wrist pain or forearm pain. Its extremely rare to hear that someone is experiencing
neck and shoulder pain as a result of hard piano practice!
My question is: are you sure that your neck pain is connected to your piano
practice? Maybe its a result of an injury or its a symptom of a spinal deformation,
disc dislocation etc. You said that youve been seeing physiotherapists did the
doctors confirm that your neck pain was caused by piano practice? Its a very rare
case!
I am 19 and Ive been playing for about 10 years now, when I got the injury I was
practising about 2 hours a day, I was playing Beethovens sonata pathetica.
2 hours per day is certainly not much! In fact, if we practice correctly, we can
practice 5-7 hours per day without any risks for our health.
What basicaly caused the problem I think was the octaves in the left hand in the first
movement (although I have probably been bringing it on for a long time with bad
posture, stiff rists and bad studying habits).
Yes, those octaves in the beginning of Allegro di molto are very uncomfortable and
they can cause tension and pain if practiced incorrectly. However, I agree with you:
they are not the primary cause of your problem!
If we assume that your neck and shoulder pain was caused by piano practice, then the
answer is obvious: just as you said its a problem of bad posture and incorrect
practice! Its a very good thing that you are aware of this because awareness is the
first step towards correcting your playing habits!
The neck pain could be caused by the fact that youre slouching and bending your
neck forward, breaking the line between the spine and the neck. We have to keep our
neck straight all the time including when we practice piano! For verifying the
straightness of your spine, do a simple exercise: go to a wall and put your back against
the wall. Your ankles, your hips, your back and the back of your head (not the
crown!!!) have to be connected with the wall! Now remember this posture (especially
the straight neck and the upward pointing crown!) and try to be aware of it as often as
possible especially when you practice.
Also, make sure that you sleep on a straight, relatively hard bed. Soft beds with a
deformed surface are extremely dangerous for our spine! Your doctors probably told
you that a straight spine is the most important thing when it comes to our
health!!!
Shoulder pain can happen because youre raising the shoulders and keeping your
arms and wrists tensed when you play. When you sit at the piano, take a good breath
and relax your entire body. Your spine should be straight but in rest all the muscles
(especially in the shoulders and arms) should be totally relaxed. Now place your arms
(which are heavy and flexible) on the keyboard and remember this feeling allow
your body to get used to playing with relaxed, lowered shoulders. Start your practice
with something easy, in a slow tempo. Keep your focus on your posture and on your
relaxation.
Relaxation is your main priority now and the quality of your playing should
be subordinated to this priority! When you practice, fist aim to achieve freedom and
relaxation in a slow, comfortable tempo, and then gradually increase the tempo
WITHOUT losing the feeling of comfort and relaxation.
This practice method is extremely beneficial but in order to feel positive changes,
you need patience and determination! It may take you months to correct a bad
playing habit but its entirely possible! As a matter of fact, I had posture problems
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myself, and I corrected them thanks to my conservatoire teacher, who was patient and
determined enough to teach me how to play correctly . For this, Im forever grateful
to her!
You can also watch my video tutorial The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture
where I explain and demonstrate the main elements of a correct, comfortable piano
posture.
Also had quite a lot of pressure because I was preparing for exams (to get into
conservatoire), playing lots of concerts etc.
Stress, anxiety and a negative attitude (which often happen during exam preparation)
are another major cause of pain and injuries. In fact, stress is the MAIN cause of all
our problems and learning how to control our emotions and keep calm in difficult
situations is the most important thing a musician should learn!
In the Piano Community Forumwhich Im currently designing (you can learn
more about this project by reading this article), there will be a special board dedicated
to performance anxiety there I will post tutorials and answer your questions
about dealing with stress and learning how to change our attitude and our habits so
that each performance will become a pleasant, liberating experience!
On the forum, there will also be a board dedicated to correct practice where Ill
give all the members detailed personalized advice on how to practice certain pieces in
an enjoyable, productive and pain-free way!
Ive been to phisiotherapists which helped a bit, read lots of stuff about how to play
without tension and have learned a lot about my body and trying to correct what I
have been doing wrong. I am now trying acupunture. But it still is not getting any
better.
Its great that youre learning how to correct your playing habits. Tension is the
main cause of any pain but you should understand that it took you many years
to form these incorrect habits. For this reason, it may take a while before they go
away.
However, as I already said, incorrect practice may not be the only cause of your
problem. A spine deformation or a neck injury could make everything worse so I
suggest making sure that youre not suffering from such a condition!
To make things worse I am now starting to get pain in my right forearm, it is
normally when I am playing studies (moskovsky op. 72 1, 6) and things with a
stretched hand.
This happens because you keep your elbows and wrists tensed when playing
complicated passages and stretching your hand. Initially, it may seem that this way
you can control your technique better but its an illusion! I will repeat again:
relaxation is the foundation! First, learn to play in a relaxed manner, slowly, with
flexible elbows and wrists; then, gradually, learn how to keep this feeling of relaxation
and flexibility while increasing the tempo. If you notice that in a faster tempo you get
tensed again go back to the slower tempo!
Also are you familiar with the whole arm action principle? It means playing
with your entire heavy relaxed arms and not only from your fingers! Its
impossible to play in a relaxed manner, to achieve a beautiful sound and a good
technique without mastering this playing principle!
I know (more or less) how to play without cause excessive strain on the muscles but
Im not sure what to do to prevent this new pain to turn into another injury
(exercises maybe?).
There are several useful exercises for our arms and wrists that can increase their
mobility and strength. I will make a few video tutorials on this subject first thing after
I launch the forum! However, when youre in pain you dont have to exercise. You
have to rest and to relax first just as I explain in the article above and only when
the pain fades you can proceed to slow correct practice and a few exercises).
So, relaxation (mental and physical), correct mindful practice, correct
posture and playing with your entire arms these are the main things you have
to focus on. I have many articles on these topics on my site feel free to browse them
(go to Archives for the full list)!
At the same time, dont forget that exams and good marks are all irrelevant if
they make you feel bad and jeopardize your health. Learn how to change your attitude
and your priorities! Health and an enjoyable practice should always come first! If you
love what you do, if you practice with a positive attitude, in a relaxed and calm
manner then youll progress extremely fast! On the other hand, if you practice with
fear, with negative thoughts and in a tensed manner youre only sabotaging your
practice and it will be very hard to see some progress!
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So, instead of practicing 2-3 hours in a tensed state, its better to practice 1 hour in a
relaxed, mindful manner, and then go out for a walk, do some physical exercises or
simply have some sleep!
Keeping all your activities in balance is extremely important for a productive
practice!!! This is the essence of my holistic approach on life, music and piano playing
(you can read more about it in my article Reaching Harmony: The Power of a Holistic
Approach in Piano Playing).
I know I have written a lot of information, but I think that may be helpfull for you to
give me some advise.
Its ok Im happy to help! If you have more questions, feel free to ask!
Ilinca
P.S. I will launch the Piano Community forum in the middle of February! You can
subscribe to my email newsletter to stay updated (and receive a complimentary copy
of my report A New Perspective on Piano Phrasing)!
Reply
Angela says:
January 28, 2012 at 4:43 am
Hi illinka.
I played a little as a child but studied more seriously from grade 5 and up when I was 26
and a fulltime mum. I developed neck problems (including prolapses) within a couple of
years, which have become chronic for 25 years. About 10 years later I developed
ganglions and tendonitis as well. I manage my pain issues with rest, relaxation,
meditation, and small amounts of mindful practise and reduced my goals. My teacher
was trained in Belgrade Uni and taught me a lot of the techniques that you mention but
not the breathing wrist, which I will look into. She did not think my neck problems were
due to piano and you seem to confirm this, so possibly it was just overwork and stress
generally we were also renovating ourselves.
I have a small teaching studio in Australia, and where playing with a still hand had been
presented as the normthough awareness is gradually changing. Thanks for your
insights.
Reply
Ilinca says:
January 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm
Hi Angela!
Thank you for your comment!
Actually, Im amazed by the fact that within 2 days, two persons are writing in their
comments to this article that they have neck problems which they believe are
associated with their piano practice!
Its amazing how things happen in all my 25 years of piano experience I dont
remember coming across such problems and now I hear about 2 different cases of
neck pain in two days!!!
Just like I told Erin in my reply above, and just as your teacher believed I dont
think that this kind of neck problems are caused by piano practice. Yes, they may be
aggravated by incorrect practice habits, but you should look for the real cause!
Usually an incorrect lifestyle, stress, too much work (just like you said), a poor diet
and lack of physical exercise are the real causes of all our illnesses.
Of course, its great that youre dealing with your problem by using natural remedies
such as meditation, relaxation and rest.
At the same time, its extremely important to be aware of the correct playing
principles: playing from your entire arms; keeping your arms relaxed all the time;
keeping your wrist flexible (or, as your mention, breathing with the wrist); making
sure that theres never tension in your shoulders, elbows and wrists.
In my articles and video tutorials, I always mention the importance of these playing
principles, which are the foundation of the Russian piano school.
Besides helping us to achieve a beautiful sound, a good expression and a brilliant
technique, these secrets also allow us to feel comfortable and relaxed at the
instrument, protecting us from spine deformation and hand injuries!
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So I encourage you to study these playing basics and slowly begin to apply them in
your daily practice! Its impossible to change your posture and your habits overnight,
but with a little patience, with tiny little changes youll notice one day that youve
made considerable improvements!
When you begin to play, imagine that your arms are like the relaxed wings of a bird,
or the paws of a cat: youre using their entire relaxed weight for creating the sound
and not the separate movement of your fingers.
This way, its impossible to be tensed and therefore its impossible to aggravate your
pain and your condition.
I describe the correct piano playing principles in most of my articles (including in my
replies on Ask Me a Piano Question) and especially in my video tutorials The 5
Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture and The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key
Attack. I hope that youll find them helpful!
Im also working on a new project an Online Piano Community where well be
able to discuss these topics in detail!
I know that in many piano schools playing with a still hand (only from the fingers) is
still considered ok. As I often mention this playing principle is actually the old
harpsichord technique and its totally not suitable for the modern piano, which has
heavier keys and a different mechanism!
Good luck in your practice, take good care of your health and I hope to see you soon
on PianoCareer.com!
Ilinca
Reply
Rick says:
February 7, 2012 at 10:32 am
Hello Ilinca,
I wish to thank you along with the others for the effort you are putting in here. I actually
found your site when I searched youtube for pedaling instructions as Im getting ready to
dive into that section of my piano education but after watching the video I also saw the
one on relaxing the body.
I must say it was very helpful and I could see a difference in my recordings of my practice
right away. Long way to go of course but now I add the mantra Relax, Relax, be the cat
to my routine. The rise in confidence and loss of tension is so advantageous to my
playing, my teacher is always telling me to relax but it is harder when I am trying to focus
on so many things at once and the tension always creeps back in unawares. Adding the
relaxing mantra to my at home practice should allow me to be that much more at ease
during my lessons. Thanks again. Oh and I just love the way a relaxed pianists hands
float around the keys, watching you do that during the pedaling video got me to look for
more on how to get better at that.
Rick
Reply
Ilinca says:
February 7, 2012 at 9:51 pm
Hi Rick!
Welcome and thank you for your comment!
Im really happy that my tutorials helped you to improve your relaxation! Your mantra is
great (including the be the cat part super!) Youll see that after a while it will become
easier and easier to play in a relaxed state naturally, without trying too much.
Relaxation is a habit that we build day by day, by taking small steps (just like you do now
with your mantra).
This is also the foundation that allows us to develop all our pianistic skills including a
quality sound, a brilliant technique and an amazing expressiveness!
Thanks again for sharing your experience and your progress!
Good luck and I hope to see you on PianoCareer.com soon!
Ilinca
P.S. Have you heard the news? On 15th of February Im launching a unique Piano
Community & Coaching Program(you can read a short description of this project
here). Yesterday evening I opened the pre-registration, and now its possible to register
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for free, reserve a spot (spots are limited!) and also receive a lifetime 50% discount
membership coupon by visiting PianoCareerAcademy.com.
For daily updates, you can subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on Facebook!
Reply
prasana kumar says:
March 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm
how to reduce psychological problems while playing piano
Reply
Ilinca says:
March 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm
You can begin by reading my articles Studying Piano How to Cope With
Exams? 7 Basic Steps, How to Compensate Your Daily Piano Practice Routine?,
Reaching Harmony: The Power of a Holistic Approach in Piano Playing, Work Smart!
Tips for a Productive and Enjoyable Piano Practice and How to Handle Failures in
Piano Playing? 16 Perspective-Changing Steps.
If you want to learn more about the art of coping with stress and having an enjoyable,
relaxed piano experience there are many exclusive tutorials on this subject in my
Piano Coaching Program at PianoCareerAcademy.com.
Have a wonderful day and enjoy your practice!
Ilinca
Reply
Rebekah says:
July 9, 2012 at 4:47 am
So glad I came across this today. I played for church this morning, and my
right wrist and forearm are killing me! This has been an on-going battle since a wrist
injury last March, so off to research I went. I had no idea I was guilty of so many
incorrect techniques. I am sure these will help me. Thanks for such an insightful and
helpful post.
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 9, 2012 at 5:35 am
Hi Rebekah!
Youre welcome! Its nice to meet you!
Im glad to hear that my article helped you to find out what was the cause of your
wrist injury!
Correct posture, relaxation and comfort, elbow and wrist flexibility, playing from your
entire arms, slow practice these are the most important pillars of an enjoyable,
tension-free practice!
Have a productive week and an inspired practice
Ilinca
Reply
Tamara says:
July 21, 2012 at 2:57 am
Hello Ilinca, Its EmbraceWithin from youtube! thank you for your kind
answer over there, this was my original question on youtube:
Hi, I have problem with my right hand, doctor said I? have inflammation on the
tendons, currently practicing only left hand Also have pain on my lower back and the
area were shoulder and neck meet when practicing.. Could this be related? Any tips? I
dont wanna say bye to piano becuase of this
My biggest issue is I guess bad posture overall, maybe neck included, I dont know If is
the fact that Im short (Im about 158cm) or that I dont have a piano bench (office chair
instead), what can I do Ilinca?, this is kiling me, I know it must be really, really hard to
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do consultation over the internet, but I trust you and Ill play by your rules and listen to
your advise carefully. So what do I do next?
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm
Hi Tamara!
My intuition (and experience) are telling me that your hand, shoulder and neck pain
are caused by incorrect posture and tensed piano practice. However, I am not a doctor
and I cannot rule out other medical causes (for example, arthritis or another similar
condition).
If your problem is piano related, here is what you have to do:
1. Learn the Basics of a Correct Posture by watching my video The 5 Basic
Elements of a Correct Piano Posture. In this video, I also explain how exactly you have
to adjust your bench and how to keep your back, neck, elbows and wrists for
avoiding tension and pain! The fact that youre not very tall is definitely NOT a
problem. The important thing is to adjust your bench so that your elbows will be
aligned with the keyboard (like I show in the video).
The lower back pain can be a consequence of BOTH incorrect posture AND
lordosis. If you have (or suspect that you have) lordosis (a deformation of the lower
back), you have to consult a doctor and begin exercising! I recently posted a new
video workout tutorial on PianoCareerAcademy.com(you already watched the short
preview ) the exercises presented in the full 19-minute video will help you to
improve your posture and straighten your spine gradually also improving your
overall well-being!
If you have neck pain, it means that youre not aligning your cervical area correctly.
As I explain in the workout video, you have to make sure that the crown of your head
forms a straight line with the spine. In other words, dont point your chin forward and
dont bend your neck downwards! Maybe you have some eye-sights problems?
Myopia can be the cause of too much forward leaning which can result in neck and
back pain.
2. Learn the correct, relaxed key attack (The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key
Attack). Wrist and hand pain are caused by incorrect, tensed practice. The main cause
of an incorrect piano playing habit is the old harpsichord technique playing only
from your fingers instead of using the professional whole arm action principle.
When you try to overcome the resistance of the heavy keys with your fingers alone, by
applying separate finger effort, your forearm muscles get tired very fast, causing
pain! Instead, you have to offer your fingers a backup the natural heaviness of your
arms. Playing from our entire arms allows us to depress the keys without effort, in a
very relaxed manner also being the main cause of a beautiful, deep, professional
sound.
Piano playing is not a finger activity. Its a whole-arm (and even whole-body)
activity, where our fingers are simply pivoting points that hold the weight of our
arms. This is a very smart application of the lever principle!
Plus, you have to make sure that your wrist is relaxed loose and supple all the
time! A flexible wrist is another pillar of the correct piano playing technique and its
impossible to play well and avoid pain if your keep your wrists immobile!
3. Follow the tips I share in the article above!
4. Join my Piano Coaching Programat PianoCareerAcademy.com. There you can
find countless other piano playing tutorials many of them focused on overcoming
problems similar to the ones youre currently experiencing.
Thats all for now! Youre right, its not easy to explain in written form all the little
details involved in a correct, relaxed, painless and enjoyable piano playing. I hope I
didnt miss anything and that I estimated the cause of your pain correctly!
Take it easy, follow the advice above (especially the tips shared in the article) and
play in a relaxed manner ALL THE TIME! If your pain is piano-related, you should
feel major improvements shortly!
Good luck and keep me posted on your progress!
Best wishes,
Ilinca
Reply
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Ilinca says:
July 23, 2012 at 6:53 am
Youre welcome, Tamara!!!
Im really happy to help!
By the way, poor eye-sight can be corrected with exercises and relaxation so that one
day you wont need glasses anymore. Contacts can be a good solution but they are not
the healthiest alternative for your eyes. Have you considered buying a pair of glasses with
larger lenses (only for practice) so that when youll look down youll still see well?
Keep positive, stay relaxed, enjoy your practice, take it one step at a time and I
certainly hope to see you on PianoCareerAcademy.com soon!
Have a wonderful week,
Ilinca
Reply
Tamara says:
July 24, 2012 at 3:52 am
Thank you so much Ilinca! Ive been making progress so far my wrist
still hurts a bit when playing but doing better, my bench was too high, my posture
terrible and with my right hand I dont play from my shoulder, oh and hand was
wrong position when playing and playing octaves
Its really interesting that you mention exercises and relaxation for curing eyesight, I
did my little research into this and have been practicing since december last year,
started with Bates method that didnt work that well for me but gave the foundation
and explanations needed.
Until one day I found this! http://eorama.com/en/3_point_exercise.html This
exercise has worked wonders for me (I went from having 2 of myopia to 0.75 but my
astigmatisms still the same at 4) thanks to this I was able to get contacts, before I
couldnt, so that was definately progress, after a couple of days doing this exercises I
was able to get flashes of clear vision! I couldnt believe it now they last about 7
seconds top but like the author said it takes years, so I was very lucky to see progress
so quickly. I will definately buy some glasses with larger lenses for practicing
Thanks for the advice.
I think you were able to figure me out very well, through piano practice I had come to
realize myself that Im not relaxed at all, nor my mind, my spirit or my body is
relaxed, instead they are very strained, even the muscles in my abdominal area I find
myself contracting them through out the day and this is the way Ive been living since
I was a kid, its stiffness in the mind, my ideas, social situations, everything Oh boy!
I do really have a lot to work on. I dont really know what made me this way
Have a wonderful week too
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 25, 2012 at 12:36 pm
Hi again Tamara!
Youll be surprised to know that about 80% of musicians are struggling with the
same problems that youre mentioning: physical and mental tension, incorrect
posture and playing habit, poor eyesight (because of unilateral lifestyle and too
much reading/looking at the screen) etc.
The good news is that its never too late to change things for the better! You just
have to start believing in yourself and take it one little step at a time! Smile,
keep positive, try to remember about relaxation as often as possible and apply it
to your practice!
Youll gradually improve your posture, your playing habit, youll get rid of pain
and your self-confidence will improve as well!
Also, for overcoming the stiffness youre mentioning, I strongly recommend
physical exercises! They have the power of liberating our mind, increasing our
energy levels, making us more relaxed, flexible and self-confident both physically
and mentally!
By the way, thank you so much for the link to the eye exercises! Ive used the Bates
method myself, it got me from -4 myopia to -2, but now I definitely feel the need to
try something new that will help me to cover the remaining distance to perfect
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vision. I gave up glasses and contacts 3 years ago and now Im allowing my eyes to
slowly recover on their own its not easy, but Im not giving up!
As you can see Ive been through many of your current problems, so I KNOW
that things can and WILL get better!
Enjoy your practice, keep making small improvements on a regular basis and
keep me posted with your progress!
Warmest,
Ilinca
Reply
Janine De Lorenzo says:
July 27, 2012 at 6:31 am
Hi Ilinca,
So glad I found your website today, full of insightful, interesting and very informative
information.
Much of it, as a professional piano player I have utilized on a daily
( or nightly basis over the past 30 years.
I have been working as a musician with Cirque Du Soleil on one of their resident shows
in Las Vegas for the last 8 years, so on a 10 shows a week schedule, my main focus has
been on playing in a relaxed state, both mentally and physically. I also found that playing
each night was my form of meditationsomething I could get lost in and be in that
wonderful state of connecting, where the music flowed through me rather than from me.
It has only been recently that I have been forced to reconnect conciously with the basics,
the fundamentals that I have instinctively used throughout my career and many years of
piano playing, due to an injuryone which is the nightmare of injuries for a pianist.
Breaking both of my wrists in an accident 7 months ago forced me to stop altogether, and
I have now experienced the longest time NOT playing in my life.
I have to admit that I learned how much the mental side of an injury plays its part in
recovery. There were weeks when I was saying that I didnt even feel like I wanted to play
again.can you imagine? This came out of sheer frustration and anger at what had
happened, and pure sadness when I sat at the piano and realized that something that
once brought me such happiness and joy, was now causing me painboth physically and
emotionally. It was quite devastating.
I have begun again to play as much as the sharp pain caused by ligament damage will
allow, and am trying to build up my strength and general endurance. I have been blessed
to have received some lessons from my first piano teacher, who shared some exercises
she did when she was forced by sickness to rest for a year from the piano. We wre
working on strengening the individual fingers. I am playing 5 note arpeggios very slowly
but taking one finger for each note and reaching from 1-3-5-8-10-8-5-3-1. eg. In C major
using C-E-G-C-E-C-G-E-C
The second time changing the chord to the minor by lowering the third C minor
then the third time, changing the chord to the first inversion of the flattened 6th note A
flat major
The only way to do these is slowly, and over the past few weeks I am now able to get
through about 30 minutes of practice.
It is really about retraining the brain, and reminding my body that it is possible.
I have found these exercises so helpful and wanted to share them with you and your
readers today.
Maybe they can help someone else who needs to literally start again.
All the best,
Janine
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm
Hi Janine!
Im very happy to meet you and welcome to PianoCareer.com!
Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story! You worked with Cirque du
Soleil thats impressive! Yes, performing on a regular basis is a wonderful way of
training our mental and physical relaxation I learned this during my collaboration
with our countrys National Radio Orchestra (we used to have many concerts, lots of
tours, lots of playing too!).
Im sorry to hear about your injury youre right, its every pianists worst nightmare!
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Your story is really inspirational because you didnt give up piano despite the pain, the
frustration and the anger! Overcoming big challenges is never easy but what doesnt
kill us (or our dreams) definitely makes us stronger! I admire your determination to
go on and rebuild your pianistic endurance and Im sure youre going to do great!
Yes, recovery is first of all a mental process: faith, patience, perseverance and a
positive attitude can do miracles!
Thank you for sharing with us these interesting exercises! By the way, how exactly do
you play them: on legato or portamento? Do you use wrist navigation (moving the
flexible wrist in the direction of the arpeggio) or not? Im asking this because playing 5
note arpeggio requires lots of stretching (especially when you play a 4th with the 3-4
fingers, as in G-C in C Major), which can cause discomfort and tension if performed
incorrectly.
Thanks again for sharing your experience and good luck with your recovery!
Ilinca
Reply
Janine De Lorenzo says:
July 30, 2012 at 3:59 am
Hi Ilinca,
Great to hear back from you.
Thank you for the response to my message.
I wasnt specific about how I play them, but most definitely ith a flexible wrist motion in
the direction of the arpeggio.
So it is like a big semi circular motion, as I play in each direction.
I dont understand how anyone could play them without this technique, mainly because
of the bigger stretches involved.
The intention is to play them slowly, and to be mindful of the motion of the wrist, the
depth of weight on each finger, and of course, to play in a relaxed state.
And I have already started composing some melodies in my mind, as I play through the
chord progressionI cant wait to implement them when I get my piano handsback!
It has brought back some of that meditative experience again, which I am happy about.
Have a great day
Janine
Reply
Ilinca says:
July 30, 2012 at 6:42 am
Hi again Janine!
Yes, this is exactly how we play arpeggios in the Russian piano school (with a flexible
wrist motion that anticipates the layout of the arpeggio) even if we usually dont
play 5 notes arpeggios as a part of our daily technical warm-up.
By the way, youd be surprised to know how many beginners (and even experienced
students) play passages with big stretches without wrist flexibility! This is why I
usually emphasize this technique so much in all my tutorials .
Thank you again for sharing this exercise and have a wonderful week!
Ilinca
Reply
Alexis says:
August 5, 2012 at 4:17 am
Hi Ilinca!
Im playing La Campanella by Liszt, but at the last page there are a lot of octaves, and I
have trouble reaching the speed without having tensions in my wrists because my hands
are small. Ive been practicing slow with good technique for a while, but I havent been
able to speed up for two weeks. Any suggestions on how I should practice?
Thanks!
Alexis
Reply
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Ilinca says:
August 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm
Hi Alexis!
Sorry for replying with such a delay!
This is a complex question, and it will take me a while to write a detailed, useful
answer. Now Im very busy with my work (the Private Members Forum at
PianoCareerAcademy.com) but Ill do my best to get back to you when I find a little
free time!
In the meantime, you can try a higher wrist position (the wrist is slightly above
the knuckle level continuing to be very relaxed), also guiding your hands and
fingers with your relaxed arms and forearms. Playing La Campanella is definitely not
easy for pianists with small hands and it usually takes a while to master this
technique. But dont worry daily little steps make a BIG difference!
Have a wonderful day and talk soon,
Ilinca
Reply
Alexis says:
August 17, 2012 at 7:28 am
Hi Ilinca,
Thank you so much for telling me about that technique! Now I can play the octaves
a little faster!
I have a question regarding the technique. When Im playing the octaves, should
my wrists be tight? Ive seen the technique used by some pianists, and their wrists
look rather tight to me.
Also, do you think it would be okay if I gradually leaned in forward a little as the
octaves head close to the ends of the keyboard?
Thank you so much for the help and have a spectacular day,
Alexis
Reply
Ilinca says:
August 26, 2012 at 5:31 am
Hi Alexis!
Youre welcome!
Sorry for not replying sooner again, my work has kept me very busy.
Please remember one important thing, no matter what type of piano technique
youre playing (octaves, fast runs, intervals, trills etc.):
Your wrist should ALWAYS be relaxed and flexible!!! A tensed wrist is
the shortest path to pain not to mention that tension will not allow you to play
in a fast tempo.
The fingertips are the only part of a pianists arms that have to be crisp and
precise. All the other joints wrists, elbows, shoulders should be entirely
loose and elastic.
Great pianists never play with tight wrists. They are very relaxed but you cant
always see it, because they dont perform special relaxing movements when
they play in a fast tempo they are simply NOT tensed.
Also, dont lean forward too much! Make sure that your elbows are not
aligned with your sides (or, even worse, pointing backwards)! Your elbows
should be positioned slightly in front of your body this way you will avoid
sharp angles in your joints and the resulting tension and pain.
Its difficult to describe this position in words. On the Private Members
Forumat PianoCareerAcademy.comyou can find many detailed video tutorials
where I demonstrate how and when we should lean forward and how to keep
our arms when we do it!
Have a wonderful weekend, enjoy your practice and dont forget to play with
relaxed wrists, from the entire weight of your arms!
Ilinca
P.S. One more thing: if you keep a higher wrist position, make sure that your
knuckles do not collapse below the level of the fingers and that you maintain a
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rounded hand dome!!! You can check out my article The Piano Posture and The
Energy of the Sound to understand better what hand and elbow positions you
have to avoid!
Reply
Alexis says:
September 5, 2012 at 7:19 am
Hi Ilinca!
Thanks for the advice; it really is helping
At the beginning, I had a tough time relaxing my wrists because its a stretch
for me to open my hands wide for a long time to reach the octaves, but I
learned that the only way to surmount that problem was to play extremely
slow, so that my wrists were relaxed, until I was very familiar with the notes.
Once I was familiar with the notes, I could focus on speed and reaching
octaves that were near the ends of the keyboard.
The tip you gave me about raising my wrists really helped! Raising my wrists
allows me to go faster than if I had my wrists leveled.
Thanks again and have a nice day!
Alexis
Reply
Ilinca says:
September 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm
Youre welcome, Alexis!
Yes, slow relaxed practice is always the first step no matter what type of
piano technique we want to improve (octaves and not only).
In a slow tempo we have enough time to be mindful of our arm/wrist
relaxation, wrist position, finger accuracy, comfort and so on.
Also, dont forget: always keep a rounded hand shape! Your
knuckles have to form a rounded dome even when you play octaves or
chords!
Good luck and enjoy your practice!
Ilinca
Reply
Valentina says:
August 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm
Hello Ilinca!
I wanted to thank you for sharing this information. Actually I play the keyboard, not the
piano. But I had some pain in my right hand, so I decided to read this article although its
for another instrument. Ill definitely take your recommendations.
All the best,
Valentina.
Reply
Ilinca says:
August 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm
Hi Valentina!
Thank you for your comment!
Even if most keyboards have lighter keys than the acoustic piano the basic playing
principles are still the same!
Im a classically-trained pianist, but Ive played the keyboard a lot during my
collaboration with our countrys Radio Orchestra and my piano experience has
helped me tremendously!
So my tutorials are not for classical pianists only .
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Good luck and I hope that your hand pain will go away soon!
Ilinca
Reply
Marina Guerra says:
October 27, 2012 at 2:19 am
Dear teacher Ilinca, I just want to say thank you so much and I hope you
know how thankful I am for everything that Ive read, listened and learned in your
website.
Kisses,
Marina
Reply
Ilinca says:
October 27, 2012 at 4:05 am
Hi Marina!
Thank you for your comment Im happy that you enjoyed my tutorials!
Warmest,
Ilinca
Reply
Donna O'Malley says:
November 7, 2012 at 1:16 am
I have severe basal joint disease from piano playing. If I have surgery with
complete removal of the trapezium bone with tendon replacement, will I be able to play
piano as well as I play now with severe basal joint arthritis? Or will I lose my ability to
play and earn a living as I do as a church organist/pianist? Im not confident that my Dr.
understands that piano is not just my career, its my passion
Reply
Ilinca says:
November 13, 2012 at 4:51 am
Hi Donna!
Its very nice to meet you and welcome to PianoCareer.com!
Im sorry to hear that youre suffering from basal joint disease! Are you sure that your
problem is caused by piano playing? If it is, then you could probably get rid of it
gradually, naturally, without surgery by learning how to play correctly, in a relaxed
manner.
Unfortunately, I dont know how the surgery will affect your playing skills (because I
am not a doctor).
But I can certainly help you to learn more about correct practice, relaxation and whole
-arm action (the technical pianistic foundation used in the Russian piano school that
allows us to play with ease, without any tension or pain). You can find hundreds of
video and written tutorials on these topics on my Piano Coaching Programat
PianoCareerAcademy.com!
The registration is closed now but it will open again in a day or two. You can
subscribe to receive a notification by filling the form on the home page of
PianoCareerAcademy.com and youll also receive a special discount coupon code
As a member of my Piano Coaching Program, besides having instant access to
hundreds of exclusive videos/articles that share the secrets of the Russian piano
school, youll also be able to ask questions and receive personalized answers, post
your own recordings, share your progress and enjoy the support of an awesome
community of piano enthusiasts!
Good luck and I hope that everything will be great no matter if you choose to have the
surgery or not .
Best wishes,
Ilinca
Reply
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NickGeo says:
December 8, 2012 at 8:26 am
Hi Ilinca!!!
I am 20 years old last year I started playing the piano. I already have learn Toccata and
Fugue in D minor (Bach not Bussoni) and some simple piano pieces, this year I spent 3-5
hours per day practising toccata and fugue and never felt a pain. I am not practising
Hanon although I know it is extremely important. On September I began The Pathetique
Sonata 1st movement. I am on the third page and I cant play the tr. ( dont now how they
called in English) I cant play the 3-4-3 fingers on them I dont know why. Last month I
started moonlight 1st movement and I finished it in 2 weeks. I have big hands so I can
play at once the 10 notes A-B distance simply by stretching a little bit ( I can also play 11
notes C-E distance). My issue is that the last 2 weeks Im cant rest my hands. What ever
I do I feel like a burning even writing on the iPhone, my physiotherapist said that its
nothing and I need to take a brake and use ice. I took a break and still nothing, still both
of my hand burn. I even changed the way I sleep because I dont want to push them. I
play 10-20 minutes every day and some days I dont play at all. I always try to maintain
my body and hands position the way my teacher showed me. I am also going to the gym
but Im doing only aerobic exercises, feet and main body. I dont lift any weight because
my teacher said I shouldnt work out my hands. I study scales and I play 3 scales at 4
octaves. I have done all the 1st part of Hanon in the past. Im seeking an other opinion
because I ve tried what my teacher said. What am I doing wrong??? (Except from
choosing difficult pieces)
Yours faithfully
Nick
Reply
NickGeo says:
December 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm
Ps sorry for the miscalculation of the notes in the distances. Its 9 and 10
notes. I can also catch distance C-F but with difficulty. And sorry for my English.
Reply
Ilinca says:
December 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm
Hi Nick!
Its very nice to meet you!
Im writing this short reply to let you know that your question is on my to-do list and
Ill try to write a reply as soon as possible hopefully next week . I dedicate 99% of
my time to my Piano Coaching Programat PianoCareerAcademy.com and in
the remaining time I do my best to reply to all the emails and questions I receive in
chronological order.
Have a wonderful weekend and talk soon,
Ilinca
Reply
NickGeo says:
December 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm
Thank you very much!!!
Reply
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