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…
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.
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.
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. 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