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Avoiding injury....

Discussion in 'Technique' started by Anonymous, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I'm a music student at university, majoring in piano of course, and as I am now taking my playing more seriously the threat of injury while playing the piano is something that more and more I find myself worrying about. We pianists are different from most other musicians in that the characteristics of our instrument allows us to spend a great deal more time practicing it than you would be able to with almost any other type of instrument, or even for voice. But if we're not careful there are many problems that can arise from many long hours of practice, and in the end we might be doing far more harm than good by practicing!

    My personal view is that one should approach playing the piano like it's an athletic sport. Just as in sports you would spend time prior to actually playing to warm-up and stretch your muscles, so should you before you start flogging the scales at the piano. My warm up includes a number of Hanon exercises, as well as some of Dohnanyi's. I start off easily and not too enthusiastically, and then gradually as I feel things starting to lossen and become more relaxed and flexible, I'll speed things up. I might even play some old pieces or do a bit of sight-reading if I'm so inclined. It usually doesn't take very long, and then I find myself ready to actually start practicing repertoire or technique. Recently I've even thought about even doing stretches for my wrists, simply by using one hand to gently pull on the other. I also find that if I regularly practice every day for a good amount of time, then the less I need to rely on warming up to get ready to play. However, even not touching the piano for a day or two can cause me to stiffen up again and I'll need to spend more time warming up and getting back into the groove of things.

    So, what you do to ensure that you get the most out of your practice and avoid causing injuries? Any tips or tricks to help loosen up stiff fingers? Are there specific exercises that you use that you find particularly effective? Are there any Dos and Don'ts that people know for certain about?

    Thanks in advance for any input.
     
  2. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Warm-up is one thing to do to avoid injuries but also very important is that you are always aware of what your hands are doing. If that awareness goes away, you might end up crashing into the keys or play in a strained way. Try to feel relaxed and just for very short moments push away over that limit (some say you should never) as for ff chords or very fast passages.
    My warm-up is a short process of playing scales slowly with specific tasks for each day. Like accenting certian keys, playing different legato types, playing crescendo etc.
     
  3. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I find this problem especially on cold days. My hands are stiff, and it's hard to do complex passages, or even fast scales. The way I remedy this is by playing a Jazz balad or two. It's slow, so my hands can start to warm up and the chords help me stretch my hands, which is a good warm-up excercise. This really helps me get back to 'normal' on cold days and then I can start playing Beethoven again :D
     
  4. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Fundamentals of Piano Practice

    Hello DarthDidius,

    Familiarize yourself with this online book: "Fundamentals of Piano Practice" - Chuan C. Chang. This is the only work I know of that addresses specific issues of how one should practice -- from warmup, scales and arpeggios, repeated notes, injury avoidance, etc., etc.

    You will find invaluable information in over 800 pages of this free publication. Copy and paste it into a MS Word document for your own use -- in this manner, you can highlight, italicise, underline, to your heart's content those sections that are most important to you at any phase in your piano career.

    Highly, highly recommended, not just for university students. I wish I knew this information thirty years ago.

    members.aol.com/cc88m/PianoBook.html

    Cheers,

    Joe
     
  5. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Thank you very much for that info jcfeli! I will certainly look up that book, and from the sounds of it it is exactly what I am looking for.

    Thanks again.
     
  6. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    how in the heck can you injure yourself playing the piano...besides the fallboard collapsing on your hands :lol: :wink:
     
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    injured pianists

    Ask Leon Fleischer or Gary Graffman how their concert careers were cut short by repetitive stress hand injuries.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, you can basically injure yourself with anything if you grossly overdo it.
     
  9. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I thought Fleisher had some kind of disease of muscles (or was it nerves)?
     
  10. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I thought so too. There's a name for it but I can't remember. His fingers on the left hand (?) curl inward.
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I think it was the right hand as he was confied to LH repertoire for a long time.
    Amazingly, it was finally cured using Botox, an he's back playing both hands now !
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Wow. I didn't know that. What great relief to him, I imagine.
     
  13. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    When you practice more advanced level repertoire and technique, trust me, its very easy to practice badly and cause serious damage in the long run.
     
  14. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Leon Fleischer

    A quick Google search on Leon Fleischer revealed that he lost motor control of the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand, in a condition called focal dystonia. In his case, his two fingers had cramped into a position that he could not release them. Further internet searches on focal dystonia reveals there is a hazard called occupational cramps in musicians who over work their hands.

    Recent news has shown that Fleischer has received Botox treatments to help relieve the condition that had plagued him for ~40 years.

    Joe
     
  15. juufa72

    juufa72 New Member Piano Society Artist

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    ah yes have to love Botox :lol: So I guess it was not a disease, but a self sustained injury :x
     
  16. rachmaninoff

    rachmaninoff New Member Piano Society Artist

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    I thought scriabin had an injury of his hand when he practiced the liszt sonata

    is that true?
     
  17. robert

    robert New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes it is true (but for that it was the Don Juan Fantasie) and we have this information on our site under "Publications" in the extensive biography of Scriabin.
    http://pianosociety.com/cms/index.php?section=634
     
  18. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    I usually warm up with a quick run through of a few Rachmaninoff concertos, perhaps some of Liszt's hungarian rhapsodies.

    :lol:
     
  19. PJF

    PJF New Member Piano Society Artist

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    At the very instant pain is detected, stop playing completely for three days; this is not up for argument. Never practice (physically) more than three days in a row. Every third or fourth day, rest or practice mentally, away from the piano. As in any sport, overtraining is not a viable option.

    If it hurts, you're doing it wrong!

    Pete
     
  20. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    8)
    I always warm up with a few quick runs through the Opus Clavicembalisticum. Then proceeed to practice the difficult stuff :lol:
     

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