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 Post subject: Wrist pain - Video examples
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 1:26 pm 
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I have a problem with pain in my right hand's wrist. It is not a new phenomena and I first encountered this problem many years ago but during the last couple of months, it has increased to a state where I feel I must do something about it. My piano teacher, who I have of course spoken to about this dilemma, sees the problem as a result of several technical issues in my playing as a) that I play with a rather stiff wrist b) that I play with tension overall and never give my hands and arms any time to rest.

But while my wrist look stiff, it is not really but rather it is just located in a very similar position all the time. I phase look it during trills but otherwise, it is not that stiff.

He adviced me to video tape myself to see the action which I have done and I thought that I might as well could get a second opinion as I know there are a lot of very good pianist who probably also knows a lot about technique on this forum.

I choosed three examples which I know the pain increases in and they are:

1. Fast scales as in the in of this Chopin Nocturne.
2. Bach as I never get to rest there (also check my wrist during the long trills).
3. Chromatic ascending scale (luckily, they seldom appear in music).

Any ideas folk?

Thanks for taking the time.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:40 pm 
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Allow me to give some opinions although I for sure don't belong to the group of "very good pianists who probably also know alot about technique" you addressed.

From what I see, your right hand wrist may be not be the loosest under the sun, but it does not look that stiff to me either. Your left hand wrist is stiffer and the left hand fingers also straighter.

Instead, your right hand looks well curved to me. Also that your fingers don't get straight during runs and the long trills - great!

So I have unfortunately nothing or less to say what addresses the current problem with the right hand wrists.

Some other observations however, but really - forget them if you find them useless. I don't like to be smart aleck.

Your fingers don't rest on the keys most of the time, instead they are above the keys. I think one has better tone control if the fingers remain on the keys, also for Bach. Sometimes a harsh tone comes out if the fingers have a long way down to the keys, this would not happen if they remain on the keys beside exceptions. If it should be all the way staccato, maybe this is such an exeption (maybe even for staccato try to remain on the keys? I don't know - other opinions on that?).

Indeed your wrists could look a bit more flexible, especially however the left wrist. I have seen some professionals in a concert, if they raise an arm their hand will hang down loosely, completely, almost 90 degree down. As I was a child, my old piano teacher often took my wrist and moved it up and down while I should play a phrase. Believe it or not, this helps to release tension. If someone moves the wrist while one plays, the wrist must be loose and gets looser and looser. I did the same on my son, he affirmed that he sensed a difference after loosening the wrist this way. One only needs to remember the great feeling tension free muscles create afterwards.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:19 pm 
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At last we get to see these golden hands :wink:

I am no expert on technical stuff like this (in fact totally disregard any physical aspects of playing) but I see little unusual here. As Olaf said your LH is generally rather flat compared to the RH, seems like you had good instructions how to properly bend and lift the fingers. It seems to me (but can't really see it from sideways so maybe wrong) that you have very little of no lateral wrist movement. Whether that good or bad, I dunno. Also surprises me how consistenly you RH thumb is trying to point upwards, until such time is it gets something to do. Could that be the problem ? No idea.

Good job on the scales ! Shame they don't occur more often :P

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 7:16 pm 
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MindenBlues wrote:
Allow me to give some opinions although I for sure don't belong to the group of "very good pianists who probably also know alot about technique" you addressed.

Badly chosen sentence. Anyone are welcome to comment as one do not have to be a teacher, studied teachnique in detail etc. to understand problems like this.
MindenBlues wrote:
From what I see, your right hand wrist may be not be the loosest under the sun, but it does not look that stiff to me either. Your left hand wrist is stiffer and the left hand fingers also straighter.

Instead, your right hand looks well curved to me. Also that your fingers don't get straight during runs and the long trills - great!

So I have unfortunately nothing or less to say what addresses the current problem with the right hand wrists.

Some other observations however, but really - forget them if you find them useless. I don't like to be smart aleck.

Your fingers don't rest on the keys most of the time, instead they are above the keys. I think one has better tone control if the fingers remain on the keys, also for Bach. Sometimes a harsh tone comes out if the fingers have a long way down to the keys, this would not happen if they remain on the keys beside exceptions. If it should be all the way staccato, maybe this is such an exeption (maybe even for staccato try to remain on the keys? I don't know - other opinions on that?).

Not resting on the keys is one of my problems. Probably originating from playing keyboard with sloppy keys for 7-8 years in various bands. If you just touch such a key, there will be a sound and to not risk this, you must keep your fingers off the keyboard. I practise this as soon as I can with slow scale exercises.
MindenBlues wrote:
Indeed your wrists could look a bit more flexible, especially however the left wrist. I have seen some professionals in a concert, if they raise an arm their hand will hang down loosely, completely, almost 90 degree down. As I was a child, my old piano teacher often took my wrist and moved it up and down while I should play a phrase. Believe it or not, this helps to release tension. If someone moves the wrist while one plays, the wrist must be loose and gets looser and looser. I did the same on my son, he affirmed that he sensed a difference after loosening the wrist this way. One only needs to remember the great feeling tension free muscles create afterwards.

I understand what you mean ans very often, I am not flexible enough which probably is one of the problems. My teacher pushing my arms and also my wrists sometimes when I play but as soon as I forget to feel relaxed, I fall back into bad habits.

What he ordered me from last session is to start every practise playing the Chopin Impromptu which I recently learnt and play it slow, really slow and never harder than mp to relax. Kind of boring but if it works, it is definitely worth it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 7:30 pm 
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techneut wrote:
At last we get to see these golden hands :wink:

Hehe. Golden...hm.
techneut wrote:
I am no expert on technical stuff like this (in fact totally disregard any physical aspects of playing) but I see little unusual here. As Olaf said your LH is generally rather flat compared to the RH, seems like you had good instructions how to properly bend and lift the fingers. It seems to me (but can't really see it from sideways so maybe wrong) that you have very little of no lateral wrist movement. Whether that good or bad, I dunno.

Probably bad and I play a lot using my fingers only. I should involve more of the wrist and arm.

The difference between the hands is much more obvious when filmed. But it is rather left hand that is doing wrong and is not in position. Should work on that too.

techneut wrote:
Also surprises me how consistenly you RH thumb is trying to point upwards, until such time is it gets something to do. Could that be the problem ? No idea.

Yeah I know, looking silly and it could be that too. Damn, can be a lot ;).
techneut wrote:
Good job on the scales ! Shame they don't occur more often :P

Perhaps I should begin submitting Czerny's op.821 (160 eight measure exercises)? ;)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 8:24 pm 
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Have you noticed how tense your jaw is? I'm willing to bet the source of the problem is all in your head, literally. Your facial muscles are clenched. Relax your jaw.

Your neck is very tense. Try stretching your anterior deltoids and strengthening your posterior deltoids.

How about your eardrums? It is very easy to almost subconsciously contract the tiny bits that make up and surround the ears.

The muscles on the tops and outsides of your forearms are overactive. Using those long flexors make for very tight wrists.

From the fingers' point of view...I think I'm seeing a lack of transfer of leverage (therefore a lack of legato, maybe?). With each note, it seems that your fingers are trying to initiate a new direction of motion, instead of carrying the mass of your arm smoothly across the keys. (I know from your recordings, you know how to attain this smoothness, you've just acquired some mal-adaptive coordinations. You can break those habits.) Let the keys push your fingers up, instead of lifting them individually. I think you might be activating opposing sets of muscles simultaneously. This creates enormous friction. (Do your forearms get hot to the touch after playing, this is a sign of friction.)

Tension may also be caused by relying on the pedal to create legato, instead of actually making sure that two fingers are always in contact with the keys to play the legato smoothly.

The timing of the keystroke and the actual sounding of the tone differs significantly between an acoustic and a digital piano. This makes a huge difference in the fine tuning (pun intended) of your playing mechanism. Stop playing on the digital piano!!! I've screwed up my technique more than once on those diabolical gadgets.

That's just some random ideas... :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:19 pm 
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Robert, I think it's great you did this. I think we all should video tape ourselves playing to get objective opinions. And this problem you have with wrist pain is something I have also. To make a long story short, I have tendonitis. When I was first diagnosed, the doctor said it was incurable, which made me very sad. But lately I've learned that it can be cured, so I am hopeful. Just yesterday, I had my first piano lesson. My last one was twenty years ago.
The very first thing my teacher noticed was that I keep my right hand wrist up too high when I play. He said this is pinching the nerve on the underside which obviously is not good. Pete probably knows the technical terms for this. Anyway, my teacher said in order to play fast, I have to learn to hold my wrist straighter and use my fingers more in a way like Allan Fraser suggests. Also, my teacher suggested sitting at a different height on the bench.
If in this video you are indeed playing on a digital piano, then I agree with Pete. Don't do it. Before I bought my grand, I played all the time on a Clavinova and think this screwed up my wrists. One more thing, apply a heat pad to your wrist for 10 minutes, then a cold pack for another 10 minutes, then back to the heat pad, cold pad, ending with the heat pad. This brings blood rushing to the hurting area and helps heal any tendonitis.
Oh, yeah, one more thing. My teacher says you must warm up before you practice. I'm very impatient and hate to do this, although I see the wisdom in doing so. Practice scales, arpeggios, slowly, then maybe a slow piece - all together warming up for 15 minutes before you dig into your regular pieces.
Hope any of this helps.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:28 pm 
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Tendonitis - I wish all the best to you to overcome this, Monica!

And also, that it would be a great idea with that video taping to get other opinions about the own playing and posture style. I never have seen a video of myself playing, but it seems to be a good thing, to get other opinions on how to improve and to have a mirror itself. Probably I will be frightened about the own posture.

Regarding digital piano, beside the grand I play sometimes on a digital piano Kawai MP9500. The keys are much heavier and my hands start to hurt too on this piano after some time. On my grand I can play for hours without experience a bad feeling in the hands. So in my case there IS a difference regarding real and digital piano here.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:08 pm 
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PJF wrote:
Have you noticed how tense your jaw is? I'm willing to bet the source of the problem is all in your head, literally. Your facial muscles are clenched. Relax your jaw.

And druel on the keyboard? ;) Had a friend in the youth who did that from time to time. Not nice looking.

But I understand what you mean. I sometimes also bite my teeth together but I usually discover that. But even though I do not change face a lot, it do not think this is my problem. I just see very few reasons to move around my head or change face.
PJF wrote:
Your neck is very tense. Try stretching your anterior deltoids and strengthening your posterior deltoids.

I guess that is from scale as it is not possible to see in the other videos? When I must do something that is technically demanding as this 2-hand 4 octave chromatic scale, I tend to become tensed in my entire body. But if I try to relax, I immediately play wrong. Is not this the case for you? Can you play something in full speed relaxed? Creating the focus is how I raise the speed the extra 20% but I cannot keep it for very long. Just a few seconds.
PJF wrote:
How about your eardrums? It is very easy to almost subconsciously contract the tiny bits that make up and surround the ears.

I don't follow here. How can you control your eardrums?
PJF wrote:
The muscles on the tops and outsides of your forearms are overactive. Using those long flexors make for very tight wrists.

Arn't you supposed to use these muscles rather than just playing with your fingers (which I have always heard is wrong)?
PJF wrote:
From the fingers' point of view...I think I'm seeing a lack of transfer of leverage (therefore a lack of legato, maybe?). With each note, it seems that your fingers are trying to initiate a new direction of motion, instead of carrying the mass of your arm smoothly across the keys. (I know from your recordings, you know how to attain this smoothness, you've just acquired some mal-adaptive coordinations. You can break those habits.) Let the keys push your fingers up, instead of lifting them individually. I think you might be activating opposing sets of muscles simultaneously. This creates enormous friction. (Do your forearms get hot to the touch after playing, this is a sign of friction.)

Here, I really think you have a point. I lift one finger while pushing next finger down simultaneously instead of just moving the wrist in the aquired direction and let the key mechanics lift the finger. Is this what you mean?
PJF wrote:
Tension may also be caused by relying on the pedal to create legato, instead of actually making sure that two fingers are always in contact with the keys to play the legato smoothly.

The timing of the keystroke and the actual sounding of the tone differs significantly between an acoustic and a digital piano. This makes a huge difference in the fine tuning (pun intended) of your playing mechanism. Stop playing on the digital piano!!! I've screwed up my technique more than once on those diabolical gadgets.

That's just some random ideas... :wink:

Well, when it comes to digital versus acustic piano, you cannot jus easily say that this differs significantly as it really depends on the instrument. I actually gain more pain from my Schimmel than my digital while my Nylund feels better. Also, several new digital models just rip out the mechanics of the acoustics and digitalize the sound so the action is the same. For example Yamaha GT2 which has the same keys and mechanics as their concert grand and then they use optic sensors to read the key action, converts it to midi and play it back using samples. But with cheap digitals, yes. You need to spend $4,000 or more on a digital to get a good one.

But I went to the local piano shop and played on a Yamaha piano of the silent serie today and this was not bad at all. Here you get a real piano which can be converted to digital and played at in head phones when the family is sleeping. But not cheap at all :(. About $8,000. Silent grands cost about $25,000.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:15 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Robert, I think it's great you did this. I think we all should video tape ourselves playing to get objective opinions. And this problem you have with wrist pain is something I have also. To make a long story short, I have tendonitis. When I was first diagnosed, the doctor said it was incurable, which made me very sad. But lately I've learned that it can be cured, so I am hopeful. Just yesterday, I had my first piano lesson. My last one was twenty years ago.
The very first thing my teacher noticed was that I keep my right hand wrist up too high when I play. He said this is pinching the nerve on the underside which obviously is not good. Pete probably knows the technical terms for this. Anyway, my teacher said in order to play fast, I have to learn to hold my wrist straighter and use my fingers more in a way like Allan Fraser suggests. Also, my teacher suggested sitting at a different height on the bench.

Sorry to hear but you seem to be doing fine as your recordings are great. :)

Holding wrist straighter and playing more with my fingers is quite the opposite from what I have learnt but if it keeps the pain away, it is of course worth it. I sit pretty low (always changing it to the lowest position) but that does not show on the video (probably because of the camera angle).
pianolady wrote:
If in this video you are indeed playing on a digital piano, then I agree with Pete. Don't do it. Before I bought my grand, I played all the time on a Clavinova and think this screwed up my wrists.

I am not sure (of you read the reply to Pete) that this is the problem. And in my case, that would reduce my practise time to about zero and as everyone shouts at me when playing loud and I am about never alone in the house.
pianolady wrote:
One more thing, apply a heat pad to your wrist for 10 minutes, then a cold pack for another 10 minutes, then back to the heat pad, cold pad, ending with the heat pad. This brings blood rushing to the hurting area and helps heal any tendonitis.
Oh, yeah, one more thing. My teacher says you must warm up before you practice. I'm very impatient and hate to do this, although I see the wisdom in doing so. Practice scales, arpeggios, slowly, then maybe a slow piece - all together warming up for 15 minutes before you dig into your regular pieces.
Hope any of this helps.

I tend to skip the warm up but these things might work. My teacher says that I should play the Chopin Impromptu third of the speed (killing me ;)) and very soft and use this as warm up. Lets see if it works.

And to you all. Thanks for all the ideas and taking the time with my troubles. I really appreciate it!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:14 pm 
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I really hope you can resolve this problem before it develops into a permanent injury. I've been down this route twice already. You have my prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Teacher hat on...

The muscles on the tops of your forearms are overactive in the sense that you're using them to actively lift one finger, while simultaneously activating the opposing muscles to push another finger down. Opposing muscles are contracting at the same time, creating alot of friction. In legato passages, let the keys push your fingers up instead of actually lifting them (this is facilitated by a properly regulated grand piano. I'm not sure it's possible on an upright.) It's a gentle 'easing up' of the wrist, via the musles of the upper arm and shoulder, that balances the weight of your playing mechanism with the resistance and/or rebound of the keys. This could be the most difficult thing to achieve in piano technique, IMO.

About relaxing, the word 'relax' is a bit of a misnomer in piano playing. However, there should never be any excess tension or unnecessary muscle activations going on while at the keyboard, ever. (So, by that definition, yes, I do play 'relaxed' all the time. I spent five years on it, at least, sorry.) I submit that the root of your tension is above your shoulders. Your jaw shouldn't be contracing like that. You don't have to keep your mouth open, just don't clench it, please. Drooling is optional. :lol: When you first do the correct 'relaxing', you can expect to feel like Samson post-haircut. It's like riding a unicycle or ice skating, very slippery and insecure, but once you get the hang of it, balance is automatic.

Contracting the eardrums is somewhat like wiggling the ears; some can do it voluntarily and some can't. If you were doing that, you would likely not be aware of it, so I'm not sure what to suggest here.

Do you ever get tension headaches or pain in your shoulders?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 7:54 am 
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robert wrote:
I sometimes also bite my teeth together but I usually discover that.

I guess we all have something special we do... I tend to pull my lips inward when something difficult is going on. I'm usually aware of it, and trying to break the habit.

Sometimes I have some shoulder and back discomfort after a several-hours recording session but it always quickly subsides. Apart from that, never a problem but then I don't practice for hours on taxing stuff like you guys do.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:31 am 
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techneut wrote:
Apart from that, never a problem but then I don't practice for hours on taxing stuff like you guys do.


Your stuff is very taxing, to me anyway, so I think I'm feeling kind of bad again.

Robert, I thought of another thing my teacher told me. Don't do pushups. At least with your hands flat on the floor. It puts a lot of strain on the wrists. You can grip a bar, like one of those bracket-shaped bars or heavy dumbells to do pushups and then your wrists are straight.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:41 am 
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pianolady wrote:
Your stuff is very taxing, to me anyway, so I think I'm feeling kind of bad again.

Don't... With taxing I meant the real virtuoso stuff like Chopin or Liszt Etudes. If I were to practice one particular Chopin Etude four hours a day I'm sure I would get some kind of problem too.

pianolady wrote:
Robert, I thought of another thing my teacher told me. Don't do pushups. At least with your hands flat on the floor. It puts a lot of strain on the wrists. You can grip a bar, like one of those bracket-shaped bars or heavy dumbells to do pushups and then your wrists are straight.

Hm, I do 20-30 pushups every evening, and on thursdays usually another couple of dozen during fitness. My wrists are none the worse for it, and seem in fact stronger than they used to be. I was however told to place the hands pointing inwards instead of straight ahead, not sure why, but I thought I'd better follow that advice even though it seems to be harder that way.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:48 am 
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Since you never screwed up your wrists, you probably don't have to worry about it. Maybe people with wrist problems shouldn't do them. Who knows, everybody's different.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 10:53 am 
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pianolady wrote:
Since you never screwed up your wrists, you probably don't have to worry about it. Maybe people with wrist problems shouldn't do them. Who knows, everybody's different.

Yes, very true. Probably should not be recommended to anyone having some kind of wrist trouble.
Come to think of it, I did have some persistent nagging wrist pain many years ago, not sure if it was piano related or not, but luckily it went away. I find many of these sort of ailments will go away on their own after a while but that may not be so in all cases.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 2:36 pm 
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pianolady wrote:
Robert, I thought of another thing my teacher told me. Don't do pushups. At least with your hands flat on the floor. It puts a lot of strain on the wrists. You can grip a bar, like one of those bracket-shaped bars or heavy dumbells to do pushups and then your wrists are straight.

:shock: I began doing this a couple of weeks ago to keep fit. Perhaps this built up the pain and started it this time. I will make this in a different as you suggested.

Pete. No I very seldom have headache. I can get pain in shoulders but that is always from sitting by the computer too long.

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Last edited by robert on Mon Jan 15, 2007 2:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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To summarize I will:

- Make sure I do not lift a finger with the finger but rather have the key push it up as I release the power to hold the key down.
- Make sure that my thumb does not point upwards here and there as it creates tension.
- Make sure I do not bite my teeth and keep the entire body relaxed while playing.
- Keep my RH wrist slightly lower (and perhaps LH sligthly higher).
- Rest my fingers on the keys.
- Warm up properly.
- Buy a silent piano/grand.

Should not be too hard to remember when I play ;). I think I compile a list and put it above the piano. Thanks all.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:40 am 
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I had the same problems with pain in my wrist and it does have to do with relaxation. For years I was taught to prepare but never to relex. Perhaps looser wrists? A tense wrist will cause tension to wrise from the wrist to the arm and all the way to the shoulder. I once injured myself terribly because of tension.

My father (not a pianist or any kind of musician) would always say the following about playing piano: "It is all in the wrists."

And you know, I think he may be right. :D :D :D :D

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:07 am 
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It's all in the head, really :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:08 am 
PJF wrote:
It's all in the head, really :lol:

Pete


Mmm I actually really agree. I used to have this sorta problem (though only very mild) and cos I was taught the wrong technique-not made aware of how damaging wrist pain is. Now, with my new teacher (for the past 3 years or so), I’ve learnt how to fix it. Okay, admittedly I didn’t really read ALL of what everyone wrote *blushes* cos I’m impatient so this might already be said. Well, I started off with simple excercises and consciously told my wrists to relax. When noticing wrist fatigue, I was told to immediately stop, rest a bit then continue and then consciously relaxing my wrists again. It’s sorta hard but really important to actually tell yourself to drop your wrists and relax. Okay, here’s one of the exercises I did:
<div> (in triplets)
(in triplets)
rh 4 5 4 5 4 5 etc
... 1 2 1 2 1 2 etc
(1-c, 4-f, 2-d, 5-g)
</div>
dropping wrist on the first beat, playing slowly, lifting individual fingers high and doing it heavily. Repeat lots.
Yep, that’s just one of them I did…sorta hard to tell you without physical guidance, aye…:D


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not that I am one to give feed back on this, but it looks like your are sitting just a bit too close to the piano? If you move your elbows together they should just miss your body. I think this would transission a little more weight from your wrists onto your shoulders. I think you might need to be just half an inch higher. Your elbows look like they might be just below the keys, when they should be at the height of the keys or maybe just a bit higher. If you sit to high or too far away, you will start to get back pains.

b.t.w I think you are an amazing pianist (better then me.) and your web site is amazing so if my comments are inappropriate I appologize. I battle with the same problems some times. You will also have the same problems if you sit on the computer keyboard inappropriately...

Stan


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:30 pm 
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s_winitsky wrote:
You will also have the same problems if you sit on the computer keyboard inappropriately...

Plus that it can't be very good for the keyboard either :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:51 pm 
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:lol: :lol: :lol:
(sorry, but that is funny)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:30 pm 
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:mrgreen:

But I understand what you mean. A proper position to the keyboard of any sort is a must. I think the angle in the video camera makes things a bit strange. It looks like I sit too close and also too high but in other videos I've made with a angle right from the side, it looks better.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 12:15 am 
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ok, I found you,
Tip for the day. every ones hands and lengths are different. So the palm and finger lengths ratio is different.

So its pretty hard to say. From my experiences, the knockle height SHOULD be higher than the wrist. Try to keep the wrist flat or levelled to the key but maitained a buffer relaxed position......Does this make sense??


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 7:00 pm 
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Here's an old trick which can tell a lot. Even though it can appear difficult to understand clearly without actually being there. And not to mention my mother tongue is french. But I'll try anyway. :)

Ask someone like your teacher to flip your hand/wrist/arm away while you're playing. All of a sudden. Without warning (that's the tricky part).

If your hand/wrist/arm fly away from the keyboard, your technique is OK.

If your hand/wrist/arm stay locked on the keyboard, you're too tense and/or not using the right set of muscles. For example, if you play too much from the hand, your hand/wrist will be locked to the keyboard when the flyaway wrist test is applied.

If you feel tension or pain in the top forearm muscle, chances are you're playing too much from the hand and/or fingers alone and/or using too much effort.

For example, in Chopin's Fantaisie Impromptu, a pianist will feel exhausted playing the score at the written tempo before the finale, if he/she plays too much from the fingers. You need to release the tension in the fingers by using the available weight in your arms. In other words, use your fingers more as pivots/fulcrums (not sure how you say that in english) with your whole forearm and arm weight being the available power source to help you play with minimum effort.

I'm sure you already know that, but this test can remind any pianist if he/she is too tense. Good to use before a concert.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:09 am 
Hi all,

I have all of Robert's problems too, most of which surfaced since working on Chopin's Grande Valse Brilliante (esp the last bit with the full octave chords) + Liszt's La Campanella.

I've been with my teacher for almost a decade and she taught me to keep everything but my fingers stiff. After reading all of the stuff in these forums I realised (albeit too late) that my technique is completely wrong. How long does it take to switch to this proper technique?? I must state that my piano is quite rubbish (it never fails to crack up my tuner) -- its an Indonesian made Barrett & Robinson which has different feel in the upper range than in its lower range (almost like its on the soft pedal permanently), and I can't seem to let its keys push my fingers back up (but it could probably be just me).

Quick question: do you all hunch or sit straight at the piano? I find it incredibly tiring to sit straight, and when I couple this with the proper technique I end up with a terrible upper body ache after going through the piece about ten times.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:05 pm 
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Hi audiophile,
In my opinion, one should sit straight at the piano, but loose at the same time so that you are free to move with the music. Maybe since you are used to sitting hunched, your back isn't used to being straight and you need to work up to it. And as I am another one with problems in arms and wrists, I think it is very good that you have found this forum, which has made you aware of these things. The past years, I have known about keeping loose and playing without too much tension, but didn't realize I was doing it so much. Having someone point it out (these discussions and my teacher) has helped immensley.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2007 9:30 pm 
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Hello Robert,

I just saw the videos. I agree with your teacher. There is to much tension.

Instead of lifting your arms into the right position, like a conductors, you seem to hold them in position with force, more like an acrobat does. The acrobat has to be able to use force in any direction, whereas the conductor has only gravity to overcome.

I think this is the key to solving your problem. Never use force to move in an upward direction. Not with your arms, not with your hand, not with your finger. You only have gravitiy to overcome! Once you've learned this, you will see that your wrist will start to exhibit subtle upd and down movemenst as well.

Greetings from Peter


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:07 am 
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Thanks for all feedback.

Lately, I have noticed that I always bend a little forwards and hold back my weight (so that I do not fall forward) with the use of my hands against the piano and/or my feet. But when I use pedal or play mp or lighter, I compensate by using muscles in my back (and that is at about 50% of all time I play). My back get tired after 30 minutes or so at the piano and I have to take several pauses to no gain pain in my back and I can seldom practise more than 1,5 hours during an entire day. I assume that I leaning forward is what causes this? Do you have an idea? This is not obvious from the video.

Pianolady mentions to sit straight and perhaps I do not achieve the correct gravity drop from sitting like that as pepasch mention.

BTW, I have almost got rid of all pain in my wrist which really is a good thing. Not sure if that is the new piano or that I have focused to relax better the recent time.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:22 am 
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Robert, I think someone may have mentioned that you are sitting too close, but maybe you are sitting too far back and that is why you are leaning forward? If you are close enough, you can't lean forward or you will hit your head, therefore you sit straight and let the arms hang loose so you move them the way you want.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 1:29 pm 
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Hi Robert,

Sitting to close is consistent with a high tension. Sitting close will bring your elbow in a sharper angle, producing more tension (at relaxation) in your upper arm muscles (triceps lengthened and biceps shortened). Bending forward will bring the elbow in an even sharper angle.

The reason for doing this is, is normaly that an extra muscle tension creates a "sensation" of stability, readiness and assuredness. Loss of that extra muscle tension initialy leads to an actual loss of precision in finger activity (so in micro motoric activity). So the student has to be prepared to go through a phase in which he makes more mistakes, in order to overcome this tension.

But be aware that none of the advices about bodily posture that you will follow will bring you a step nearer to your goal. Adjusting your posture will not by itself lessen your muscle tension. So there is no easy trick for you. The posture will follow a relaxation and not lead to it. ( Mind over matter, relaxation over posture.)

There are some practise techniques that can help you to focus on relaxation and on the optimal use of gravity. Your teacher should be able to help you with that.

Greetings from Peter Schuttevaar


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 1:46 pm 
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Quote:
Sitting to close is consistent with a high tension. Sitting close will bring your elbow in a sharper angle, producing more tension (at relaxation) in your upper arm muscles (triceps lengthened and biceps shortened). Bending forward will bring the elbow in an even sharper angle.


I kind of disagree with you. To me, sitting farther back means more tension because then not only do you have to hold up your hands, but you also have to reach your arms out more. I have recently been to several piano recitals and performance where I was surprised at how close the performers are actually sitting. I have recently started sitting closer, and I think (although it could be just my imagination) that I am playing better. But as you said, everybody's different and we all have to find what is comfortable.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 4:30 pm 
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I have same opinion as Monica (Pianolady). I also now try to sit closer to the piano. Because the upper arm should hang down loosely. I used to sit that far away that my knees were before the keyboard. The result was, that the upper arm did not hang down, instead force is needed to get it to another angle instead naturally hanging down.
The right distance seems to be, that the upper arm hangs down relaxed but that the body can move if necessary in order that the elbow has freedom before the body if the hands need to move beside the body in very high or low registers.
So, I for myself try to sit closer now.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2007 7:31 pm 
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Dear responders,

I did not mean to hammer on the closeness towards the piano being good or not. I meant to comment on the use of gravity. If the angle of the elbow is either to sharp and if the elbow is to close to the body, relaxation is virtualy impossible (both the case with Robert). Since you will then not be able to either stretch you arm or move your elbow upward in an efficent manner. Either one (or preferably both) of these movements is necesary in order to use gravity when playing for example a chord.

Of course if you sit close, you can also sit very high (like for example Daniel Tiempo) in order to obtain a more relaxed angle of the elbow. Or if you have a very flexible wrist, you can also bring up you elbows more to the side and upwards (like Glenn Gould) in order to obtain more freedom of movemenst for the arm. And thus there are several ways to obtain relaxation.

But apart from the dynamics of piano playing, i can assure you, that a dangling arm will place the fingers in a position, diagonal to the keyboard. Not a good measure for enabling your fingers to perform at an optimum. And that, in turn, is the most important goal to achieve with a bodily posture for a pianist.

Greetings from Peter Schuttevaar


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:04 am 
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Jennifer wrote:
I had the same problems with pain in my wrist and it does have to do with relaxation. For years I was taught to prepare but never to relex. Perhaps looser wrists? A tense wrist will cause tension to wrise from the wrist to the arm and all the way to the shoulder. I once injured myself terribly because of tension.

My father (not a pianist or any kind of musician) would always say the following about playing piano: "It is all in the wrists."

And you know, I think he may be right. :D :D :D :D


I think your father's right to a point; loose wrists (or more correctly the ability to loosen them instantly as needed) are essential for a healthy piano technique. I've always had loose wrists, shoulder tension was my issue; it didn't injure or cripple me but it certainly hindered my technical command and ability. The other day I found an old videotape of myself playing jazz in a club 16 years ago; I played well, but how? My shoulders were jacked up to heaven. But after some time of experimentation without a teacher I arrived at a technique that works for me and I believe can work for anyone.

Robert, your tension seems centered in your forearms more than your wrists, although they are so close together that it's hard to tell which is first, like the chicken and the egg. Either way you should remedy this situation as it will lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. You are particularly prone to injury imo because of your highly developed and fluent finger technique. Your fingers are doing most of the the work in your playing, and your tense wrists are literally choking your hand and finger tendons; this will inevitably lead to CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome). Glad that you're already making progress with this. I would do the gravity drops that Chang and many teachers reccomend, that will make you start your playing from a relaxed state as opposed to a tense one. Cydonia's trick is familiar to me, I do that to my students to make sure they are relaxed; without warning I will move in and check their wrists and/or shoulders to make sure there is no extraneous tension. It's the only way to really know what's going on there.

I don't think the cure will be difficult for you, Robert. You are a good pianist and a sensitive musician and are working to correct the problem. There may be a nessacary period of adjustment as your technique changes from angular to fluid (or actualy a combination of the two). Pick your repertoire carefully and with a mind for working these problems out and obtaining the relaxed state that you desire.


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 Post subject: relax
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:54 pm 
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When I was playing a difficult passage at a lesson many years ago, the teacher stopped me and told me to relax my lips and mouth. Believe it or not, it helped me with the passage. I've tried it since, but it doesn't always work.

No three pianists will ever completely agree on proper technique. One teacher told me to relax my elbows, not move my wrists, and lift my curved fingers very high while I practice very slowly.

Now I don't agree with holding my wrists still. They should just be as relaxed as possible and naturally move with the arms and hands. Does that make sense?

I shouldn't give advice because I sometimes have the same problem you are describing.

At least I'm typing with curved fingers and relaxed wrists.


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