Mastering the proper hand position while playing the piano is one of the most important steps for your success on the keys. Here, St. Augustine, FL teacher Heather L. shares a few exercises to keep your hands relaxed and agile…
Are you interested in learning how to exercise your fingers to relax your hands before you start playing the piano? Believe it or not, this is an integral component of becoming a skilled pianist.
I happen to know from experience that playing the piano can be a real pain in the hands. I’ve struggled with hand and forearm pain, caused by several factors including piano, for about 10 years. Each hand has 35 muscles, not to mention all those connected muscles in the forearm. Poor technique, failing to stretch before playing, and simple nerves can cause a ton of tension and discomfort in those 35 muscles, and in turn, a ton of frustration.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It was true when Benjamin Franklin said it, and it’s still true today. A commitment to exercising your hands before playing the piano every time means longer, uninterrupted, and easier practice sessions and lessons, and may prevent serious conditions and medical treatment. Here’s a list of five exercises for relaxing your hands at the piano.
Is it Difficult to Learn Piano? Tips to Play the Piano
Is learning the piano difficult? It can be – but playing the piano is easier if you do piano exercises before you start practicing. Some of the best piano finger exercises and hand exercises include:
- Wrist bend
- Make a fist
- Finger lift
- Wrist rotation
- Thumb to palm touch
Of course, when you’re trying to master the art of playing the piano, piano exercises for beginners will only get you so far. You also need to practice, practice, practice – and to learn from the best.
Consider signing up for private piano lessons. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make!
How Do I Start Playing the Piano? Master These 5 Piano Exercises First
The best way to start playing the piano is to make sure you have the right form and posture. Like any endeavor, whether it’s playing a musical instrument or practicing some sort of sport, having the right form is key! These piano exercises will make playing the piano much easier and more comfortable.
So before you start working on chords, mastering notes, finding songs to play on the piano, and reading sheet music, make sure you’ve done these warm-up exercises first.
1. Wrist Bend
Extend your right arm out in front of you. Place your left hand underneath your right hand’s fingers and gently pull them back. Breathe deeply, and hold for five seconds. Release, then push those same fingers down and toward you. Breathe deeply again, and hold for five seconds. Repeat this exercise exactly the same way with the left arm.
2. Make a Fist
Make a fist with your hand, wrapping your thumb around your other fingers. Squeeze until you feel tightness, not pain. Hold for five seconds, breathing deeply. Release the fist, stretching your fingers outward, apart from each other. Hold the stretch for five seconds, breathing deeply. Repeat this exercise exactly the same way with your other hand.
3. Finger Lift
Place your hand flat, palm down, on a table or other even surface. Gently lift each finger, one at a time, for five seconds before lowering it back down. Then, lift all fingers at the same time for five seconds, keeping the palm flat, for five seconds before releasing. Repeat this exercise exactly the same way with your other hand.
4. Wrist Rotation
Rest your forearms on the arms of a chair so that your wrists are supported by the ends of the chair’s arms and your fingers hang free. Bend your wrists back, lifting your hands up toward you, and then lower your hands back down. Repeat the lifting and lowering five to 10 times. Next, try some rotations. Keep your elbows in place, and rotate your forearms so your palms are facing upward. Hold for five seconds, and then rotate again, turning your palms back over.
5. Thumb to Palm Touch
Touch the tip of your thumb to the base of your index finger, and hold for five seconds. Release and stretch all fingers outward. Then, touch the tip of your thumb to the base of your pinky finger, and hold for five seconds. Release completely and gently stretch all of the fingers wide.
Can You Teach Yourself to Play Piano?
A common question that many beginners ask when first learning how to play the piano is whether they can be self-taught. Yes! While the best way is to learn from an instructor, you can also teach yourself.
Break your goal of playing the piano into manageable chunks. For example, you might make your first goal to master the notes of the instrument. Then, you can get used to the different piano octaves and move on to playing chords. You’ll be able to learn how to read sheet music and read certain patterns as you play with both hands at the same time.
Once you get a bit better, you’ll be able to get the hang of playing the piano while improvising, playing by ear, or mastering different genres. It may take some time, but eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and be able to master basic piano songs. Just look at the video below to give you some motivation as you learn how to play simple songs!
Again, teaching yourself these basic piano exercises for beginners before you move on to anything else is key. You can repeat them before you sit down to play each time. When you first start playing the piano, your goal should be to build dexterity. Playing the piano can feel awkward at first – but over time, you’ll learn to relax and go with the flow.
Please follow these rules when practicing these exercises: breathe evenly, stop when there’s pain, and be gentle. Otherwise, you risk injuring your hand, and that means even more pain than you were trying to prevent in the first place. Remember, your goals are more flexibility, injury prevention, and establishing a firm foundation for building your technique.
Why is Playing the Piano Good For You?
Taking piano lessons with a skilled instructor should help to show you all the techniques you need for a comfortable experience while playing the piano. Plus, they’ll probably be able to tell you about some good songs to play on the piano, too!
Ultimately and long-term, I believe that practicing daily with a proven method, such as Hanon’s exercises, is the best way to achieve those goals. These five exercises for relaxing your hands before you begin playing the piano are a great start and a continuing bonus.
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!
Photo by doyle.j.smith