When sitting down at your piano, practicing scales, arpeggios, or working through trouble spots, you can lose track of time. But when you’re done playing, the clock – and possibly your muscles, as well – will tell you how long you’ve been sitting there.
Your arms, back, hands, and fingers can all end up sore or achy from bad posture or tension while playing. And not only can it be downright painful, it can also affect your playing. For example, by tensing up, your playing may be stilted. Piano lessons for beginners can be especially tough, because you may feel self-conscious about making mistakes.
The key is relaxation. This isn’t just letting go or becoming “floppy.” It means that the muscles you are not using are relaxed while the ones that you are using are kept flexible. This prevents wasted energy and enables easier piano playing.
How do you keep yourself relaxed while practicing? You may start out relaxed, but as you sink into your playing, you can easily forget about relaxing and gradually tense up as you reach tough passages. You need to learn how to relax and periodically assess your body, and then take the necessary measures to return to that state of relaxation. In addition to learning to relax through piano lessons for beginners, here are some techniques you can try:
- After you practice or go to a piano lesson, analyze your body. What is sore and what hurts? You may have several affected areas, such as your wrist and fingers, or only one part, such as your back.
- Spend part of your practice time focusing on hand and finger exercises. Practice with a few notes or one scale at a time.
- Physical stretches and exercises can also help you relax. For example, some people perform wrist circles to loosen their wrists before and after playing, while others run their fingers under hot water before and after a practice to relax their muscles. By taking piano lessons for beginners, your teacher can show you some simple exercises to get you started.
- Monitor your body during practice. Every 5 or 10 minutes, stop your playing and see if you can detect any tense areas. Stretch out those areas, or get up and move around to encourage blood flow.
- Watch your breathing. When playing difficult passages, part of tensing up includes minimal or awkward breathing. The body can do strange things! By staying aware of these issues and trying to breathe and swallow normally, you can encourage your body to stay relaxed even during more stressful sections.
- Ask your teacher for advice. He or she can point out any problems with your posture, fingering, or hand position, and teach you training exercises that will help alleviate trouble spots.
- Be forgiving. You won’t be relaxed 100% of the time; who is? When learning new techniques or dealing with difficult areas, it’s natural to tense up. What you want to avoid is an automatic tensing as soon as you play.
Tensing up while playing the piano is like fighting a losing battle – you are wasting energy, hurting your muscles, and reducing your ability to play effectively. Bad habits can also lead to injuries. In addition to learning your scales and other techniques, dedicate some time every practice to concentrate on relaxing while playing. Not only will your playing become better, but you may find yourself enjoying your practice time much more, too!
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