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Topic: Wrist pain - technique problem  (Read 2459 times)

Offline dalek3

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Wrist pain - technique problem
on: March 01, 2006, 02:06:24 AM
I've been experiencing discomfort in my left hand and wrist.. and now I'm noticing a slight pain in my left wrist when I move it to its extremeties. I'm going to go see a doctor if this doesn't get better (I'm going to not practice for a few days.)

My piano teacher says that I'm playing with too much tension.. She's recommended that I go to take alexander technique classes which I just signed up for..

I've noticed I definately don't have the same technique in my left hand that I do in my right. She always tells me to lift my fingers nice and high to prepare them before I play the note to get good tone and I find that easy to do in my right hand but awkward in my left.

It doesn't help that her upright has a very heavy key action.. I can play something beautifully on my young chang upright piano or yamaha digital piano at home and I go sit at her kawai and rather than my playing being natural I have to exert a fair amount of force to play. I get tense when I'm playing there, but not at home - not sure if it's becuase she's inspecting my playing or because of the key action.

My difficulties playing her piano have led me to practice schmitt 5-finger exercises to help strenthen my fingers so that I can play her piano. I know you guys don't recommend them but I've been focused on playing them with my arms as relaxed free of tension as possible.. preparing my fingers for every note by lifting them as per my teachers instructions. I've been making sure that my forearm is aligned with the finger I'm playing and that my wrist is loose.

I've asked her about the key action before but she says that my problem with playing is due to bad technique and that with good technique that I should have no problems playing a piano with a heavy key action, that a heavy key action is better because you get more control over dynamics, etc.

I just had a lesson on her piano yesterday and today is when I first noticed actual pain in my left wrist.

Anybody have any suggestions / recommendations for how to fix this?? Can / should I get a tuner to adjust my Young Chang to make the key action heavier like her piano??

Offline rc

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #1 on: March 01, 2006, 06:09:51 AM
My piano teacher says that I'm playing with too much tension.. She's recommended that I go to take alexander technique classes which I just signed up for..

I've noticed I definately don't have the same technique in my left hand that I do in my right. She always tells me to lift my fingers nice and high to prepare them before I play the note to get good tone and I find that easy to do in my right hand but awkward in my left.

A good strategy is to have the RH 'teach' the LH... Have the LH imitate what the RH does with such ease. Slow everything down, carefully observe and feel what the two hands are doing differently, notice everything from fingertipss to shoulders. You'll probably find the LH is doing things quite a bit differently... Make it do as the RH does, slowly and carefully. Feel for the difference.

Quote
It doesn't help that her upright has a very heavy key action.. I can play something beautifully on my young chang upright piano or yamaha digital piano at home and I go sit at her kawai and rather than my playing being natural I have to exert a fair amount of force to play. I get tense when I'm playing there, but not at home - not sure if it's becuase she's inspecting my playing or because of the key action.

My difficulties playing her piano have led me to practice schmitt 5-finger exercises to help strenthen my fingers so that I can play her piano. I know you guys don't recommend them but I've been focused on playing them with my arms as relaxed free of tension as possible.. preparing my fingers for every note by lifting them as per my teachers instructions. I've been making sure that my forearm is aligned with the finger I'm playing and that my wrist is loose.

I've asked her about the key action before but she says that my problem with playing is due to bad technique and that with good technique that I should have no problems playing a piano with a heavy key action, that a heavy key action is better because you get more control over dynamics, etc.

I just had a lesson on her piano yesterday and today is when I first noticed actual pain in my left wrist.

Anybody have any suggestions / recommendations for how to fix this?? Can / should I get a tuner to adjust my Young Chang to make the key action heavier like her piano??

I really couldn't see the difference in action being that extreme, especially since only your LH is suffering. I'm guessing that you basically are being too tense, as your teacher says. Another hint is when you say you aren't sure whether it's because you're being watched, do you get performance anxiety in front of your teacher? That in itself would be something worth learning to overcome, but may also be the reason you have troubles, and would explain why your teacher says you play too tense ;).

You also mentioned the pain is when you move your hand to its extremities. So I have to ask, do you often play with your wrist bent in its extremities? Because that is a problem. Extremities are permitted occasionally when needed, but the hand should be in a fairly neutral position for the most part.

Absolutely do not have your piano adjusted! That can't help anything.

Offline rc

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #2 on: March 01, 2006, 06:15:00 AM
While we're at it, I would recommend the book - 'What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body' by Thomas Mark. Which by my understanding is basically Alexander technique applied to pianists.

I found it very useful in establishing good motion habits.

Offline nick

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #3 on: March 03, 2006, 12:12:49 AM
I would say if your technique is correct on your piano and you can play well without pain, then on a harder action you will need to slow down some to compensate, but don't change the technique, or how you play. Forcing is noooo good. So the question of is your technique allowing you to play as you would like on your piano needs to be answered and then you can go from there.

Nick

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #4 on: March 03, 2006, 02:23:42 AM
When I was a child I use to have an opposite problem. The piano I practiced on at home, the keys where terribly hard to press down but when I went to my piano teachers home, the Yamaha had the lightest piano key action I had every played! This meant that I played everything LOUDER than normally and she would constantly abuse my aggressive control of volume.

The reason why I was playing so loudly was because on a heavy action piano you use the weight of your entire hand to play a lot more than you would something with a much lighter touch. The weight of the hand compensates for the stiffness in the keys. But when we practice on light weighted keys we tend to use more isolated finger actions simply because we can get away with it.

I taught a little girl for 1 year on a small unweighted keyboard, when we finally went to the real thing I had to re-teach her using the weight of her entire hand to play notes, not using individual finger movements and try to poke at the notes which she could do when she practiced by herself on the unweighted keyboard.  She had to test how to use the hand to give energy to individual fingers so that pressing the keys down isn't isolated finger strikes. There is such a subtle difference between striking notes on a keyboard with just the fingers, and striking ntoes on a keyboard with the fingers as well as the palm, entire arm, body. Even a scale run requires the weight of the entire palm while playing, if we try to excecute it with just the fingers our hands will get very tired, we must feel the entire palm controlling the run and giving weight to the fingers. People who neglect or do not know the difference set themselves up for pain.

Playing with too much tension can highlight the fact that you are trying to use finger strength to play individual notes instead of the entire hand to play a group of notes. It also may highlight that you waste energy, holding notes down you have already played with too much strength thus making the next note you play feel overall tense. It could mean 1000 other things I would ask your teacher to elaborate.
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Offline bearzinthehood

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #5 on: March 03, 2006, 09:43:04 AM
She always tells me to lift my fingers nice and high to prepare them before I play the note to get good tone

If this is what she always tells you I would say get a new teacher...

Offline gonzalo

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #6 on: March 03, 2006, 12:54:18 PM
If this is what she always tells you I would say get a new teacher...

That is what my teacher said is GOOD TECHNIQUE at the conservatory...
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Offline instromp

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #7 on: March 03, 2006, 11:50:58 PM
I am having the same problem, but in right hand.My wrist is starting to have pain. I am in a high school piano class.And my teacher doesnt really teach how to use the whole "hand weight" and "finger weight" thing. but i have a one-touch keyboard at home not a real piano,maybe thats one of my problems also.And it is not at the same level as my forearms are. Maybe i need some private lessons to fix my problem,but im not sure.Im not trying to develop carpletone syndrome (i think thats correct spelling ;D).
I need help also with this.My hands tend to get tired quickly also :(
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Offline nick

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #8 on: March 04, 2006, 01:12:48 PM
When I was a child I use to have an opposite problem. The piano I practiced on at home, the keys where terribly hard to press down but when I went to my piano teachers home, the Yamaha had the lightest piano key action I had every played! This meant that I played everything LOUDER than normally and she would constantly abuse my aggressive control of volume.

The reason why I was playing so loudly was because on a heavy action piano you use the weight of your entire hand to play a lot more than you would something with a much lighter touch. The weight of the hand compensates for the stiffness in the keys. But when we practice on light weighted keys we tend to use more isolated finger actions simply because we can get away with it.

I taught a little girl for 1 year on a small unweighted keyboard, when we finally went to the real thing I had to re-teach her using the weight of her entire hand to play notes, not using individual finger movements and try to poke at the notes which she could do when she practiced by herself on the unweighted keyboard.  She had to test how to use the hand to give energy to individual fingers so that pressing the keys down isn't isolated finger strikes. There is such a subtle difference between striking notes on a keyboard with just the fingers, and striking ntoes on a keyboard with the fingers as well as the palm, entire arm, body. Even a scale run requires the weight of the entire palm while playing, if we try to excecute it with just the fingers our hands will get very tired, we must feel the entire palm controlling the run and giving weight to the fingers. People who neglect or do not know the difference set themselves up for pain.

Playing with too much tension can highlight the fact that you are trying to use finger strength to play individual notes instead of the entire hand to play a group of notes. It also may highlight that you waste energy, holding notes down you have already played with too much strength thus making the next note you play feel overall tense. It could mean 1000 other things I would ask your teacher to elaborate.

I have found the opposite to be true, that using arm and hand weight on the fingers tends to make the hand work so much more. Overtime one gets accustomed to it and can build up endurance to play for a long time, but at least for me it did not produce a great technique- speed with clarity. To be sure, when using mostly finger swing to produce the tone, you cannot be tense, or raise fingers too high or faster than your ability at a given time. But I found that by far, the hand is at it's most relaxed after the key is struck by using just fingers. I know of many weight enthusiasts that swear by using weight to produce the sound, the pianist Alexander Peskanov to name one, but for me it did not work. Let me know your thoughts on this great subject.

Nick

Offline bearzinthehood

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #9 on: March 04, 2006, 02:36:50 PM
When you say you only use your fingers, are you absolutely positive about this?  Consider this:  The weights of the fingers alone are not enough to depress the keys, basic physics dictates there must be some force preventing your hand from moving up when your fingers press the keys downward.  If no arm weight is transferred to the keybed that means that your shoulders are supporting your arm completely throughout the entire stroke.  So where is force coming from?  If it's not gravity then it must be muscles in your arms and shoulders, which basically means you are tense.

What you are describing is not tension, so perhaps what you mean is, active fingers and relaxed arms and shoulders, which is not the same thing as using no weight.

Offline nick

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #10 on: March 06, 2006, 12:52:13 AM
When you say you only use your fingers, are you absolutely positive about this?  Consider this:  The weights of the fingers alone are not enough to depress the keys, basic physics dictates there must be some force preventing your hand from moving up when your fingers press the keys downward.  If no arm weight is transferred to the keybed that means that your shoulders are supporting your arm completely throughout the entire stroke.  So where is force coming from?  If it's not gravity then it must be muscles in your arms and shoulders, which basically means you are tense.

What you are describing is not tension, so perhaps what you mean is, active fingers and relaxed arms and shoulders, which is not the same thing as using no weight.

The tone is produced by the force of a swing of the finger. As soon as the finger strikes the key, there is only enough pressure to keep the key down, no more. Sometimes the key may rise up just a tad, but not enough to stop the sound. Very different from weight technique which I have used for extended periods in my practicing. With just fingers ( I'm not into technical accuracy with regard to what muscles are involved elsewhere) the fingers are by far much more ready to "get off the keys" to move to the next ones. Such a free feeling as compared with any other methods I've tried, weight being one of them. The speed is gradually climbing to my satisfaction which was my main goal, with clarity of course. I just don't get how the weight proponents, and I guess you are included, can expect the finger to get off the key at it's quickest with gravity going downward. I've even heard the description of using the weight to depress the key, but once depressed only enough pressure to keep the key down. This seems impossible. Is it like weight, no weight, weight, no weight. Don't get it. Maybe you could shed some light on this as it is interesting.

Nick 

Offline bearzinthehood

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #11 on: March 07, 2006, 09:01:42 AM
I only have two principles that I try to follow

- Move as little as possible
- Relax whatever muscles I can afford to relax

The swinging fingers into the keyboard technique IMO violates the first principle, in that you're not moving as little as possible.

Offline nick

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Re: Wrist pain - technique problem
Reply #12 on: March 08, 2006, 01:44:56 AM
I only have two principles that I try to follow

- Move as little as possible
- Relax whatever muscles I can afford to relax

The swinging fingers into the keyboard technique IMO violates the first principle, in that you're not moving as little as possible.

I only have one: do whatever works, regardless of prior principles.

Nick
 

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