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Correcting Seating Posture (Read 295 times)

Offline spammy

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Correcting Seating Posture
« on: June 15, 2020, 09:53:21 PM »
I have been learning to play the piano for 3-4 years now, and attend a weekly 1-1 class (or at least was while we were allowed to). I often get a strained muscle pain around my right shoulder blade and so I have a feeling that my seating position is suspect. I've lived with it so far (thinking I just need a stronger back) but that isn't sustainable and so and am asking for help on a "better late than never" basis. I suspect this is a frequent question and yet I can't find much that I found useful.

I understand that everyone is different and so there is no "one size fits all" guide to a correct seating position, but I can't seem to get my head around the usual web-advice on seating position. Sources I have used so far are:

https://www.musicradar.com/how-to/how-to-sit-correctly-at-the-piano

https://www.yamaha.com/en/musical_instrument_guide/piano/play/play002.html

https://wellbalancedpianist.com/proper-seating/

But they all seem so woolly and ambiguous I'm not sure I'm getting the positive benefit I'm looking for in heeding their advice. For instance my bench is now at the maximum height in my effort to keep my shoulders down but my forearms parallel to the floor, which intuitively seems a bit strange for someone close to 6ft tall.

Another example - they talk about forearms being parallel to the floor /before/ talking about hands arcing etc. When should I calibrate my forearms?

I'm looking for a step by step (and importantly detailed and precise) guide to correctly find a good posture. Can anyone point me to one?

Offline dogperson

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #1 on: June 15, 2020, 11:24:19 PM »
I have a lot of respect for John Mortensen.  Here is his intro to other tutorials
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i6gRfn5XrW8

Structure of hand
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7s4V98-lElk&list=PL753730BB176690A0&index=4&t=0s 

Centering
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Te9P0cYjf_w




Offline keypeg

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #2 on: June 16, 2020, 12:15:56 PM »
Spammy, I've been there.  I've learned a lot and it's been quite a journey!  There are a number of paradigm shifts in order.

First: "posture", "position" - all these diagrams are static - fine if you're posing for a painting.  But playing is dynamic: we literally move as we play.

You want to be at a height and distance so as to be comfortable (which is not that easy to find!).  There is no absolute.  A concert pianist revealed that while there may be a default, he may sit a bit closer or further, lean in more or less, depending on the kind of music he plays. So these things are general guidelines, with deviations possible.

Often in early years we are given music that stays in the middle of the piano, a range a bit more than two octaves, using all white keys, no use of pedal.  So you be static, back ramrod straight, feet flat on the floor, a perfect statue except from arms that move out from this rigid rod of a body stuck to a bench.  If you try to stand perfectly straight for an hour, you'll get stiff!  In a line-up, you'll probably shift your weight, change stances.  We are designed to move

Posture itself is the act of not falling, with small micro-movements if you are standing.  Unless you clamp up to be rigidly upright (and even then).

How is the music you are playing?  Is it middle-of-piano, white keys, no pedal?  Or broader?

There is the distribution of weight in your seat and feet: there is "one buttock playing" (look it up) meaning a shifting of weight in the hips.  What happens if you have both hands up in the high registers of the piano, so that you're off-center?  Do you strain to reach up there, or do you shift your body's angle, and if so, how?  You'll see things happening in the legs as counterbalance.  The feet, meanwhile, you'll be using the right pedal, especially, as you advance.  In what way do you press, with what part of foot or angle, and how does this affect this overall picture?  I mean this for exploration - get to know how your body works.

Do you play sports of any kind?  Any kind of sport or dance, where you've had to work with balance, form, movement?  Piano is also an athletic activity, wanting efficiency leading to ease without wasted motion.  (Warning: trying to prevent wasted motion by clamping up on unnecessary motion can mean expending tons of energy in fighting yourself.)

A very very basic first exploration is put out by PianoOlogist.  It is a thing to work through, rather than listen to.  There are others.  I am working through a CD + book I bought 10 years ago and am finally using, by Seymour Fink.   https://www.amazon.ca/Mastering-Piano-Technique-Students-Performers/dp/0931340462  It's rather tedious which is why it took me a decade to get to it.

Masicotte as one on the larger body movement.


John Mortenson recommended by dogperson, is excellent.  I haven't seen anything about the body, seating etc. though.  That said, what one does with the hands and even fingers can affect what is going on in the shoulders and back, and vice versa.

Anyway, that hornet's nest you're in, is not unique to you.

Does your teacher help or advise at all in this area?

Offline keypeg

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #3 on: June 16, 2020, 12:18:19 PM »
Here's PianoOlogist.  Look for "how your body works". The site has had a revamp since I visited it a few years ago.

https://piano-ology.com/piano-technique/

Offline keypeg

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #4 on: June 18, 2020, 01:10:33 PM »
Spammy, you've asked the same question on three sites, and got responses in all three of them.  Nobody has heard back from you anywhere.  Did anything anyone wrote help?  Are there questions or observations?

Offline spammy

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #5 on: June 18, 2020, 02:11:10 PM »
@keypeg I've actually been (trying to!) going through all the material hoping to get an insight before replying with a more comprehensive response. Unfortunately it's been so interesting I kept putting off coming back until I watch that one... last... video. But you're right, I should have at least shown some gratitude earlier.

I found the John Mortensen videos really helpful, even though I couldn't find anything specific about seating position in the 8 videos about technique. But it was useful anyway, just to see what he looked like while playing.

I'm leaning toward the idea that the technicalities of seating position and posture isn't as important as comfort and ease. I'm not sure if that's a recipe for disaster or not (I'm a victim of slouching), but it's more of a direction than I've had so far.

The first thing I'm playing with is the distance between my bench and keyboard. I've pulled back around 3 inches and I think it's made a difference. I still have the same isolated muscle strain at my shoulder blade but it feels less painful, and my playing seems to be easier. Another (possible obvious) thing I did was to centre my music on the C note where I sit, and not in the middle of the stand. I've also started moving much more, some of it feels "fake" but it does introduce some relief.

Those are the first things I've tried - I'll report back with more as I learn and watch more videos and material. I'm sure its a work in progress.

Thanks again for all the replies!

Offline keypeg

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #6 on: June 18, 2020, 08:19:34 PM »
Spammy - It's not a matter of gratitude, but knowing whether anything is helping, and sometimes feedback leads to new ideas.
I read your post in both places, and I have some ideas, because some of what you're working with, I'm also working on.
For the shoulders, crossover, etc. (other section)  I'm thinking of what I'm doing with Seymour Fink's videos which addresses this part directly.  I needed this specifically.  I'll send a PM (personal message) because it can get too complicated here.

Offline dorihunt

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Re: Correcting Seating Posture
«Reply #7 on: June 29, 2020, 04:24:35 AM »
Spammy— If you don’t get relief, you may consider seeing an orthopedic doctor for an xray.  Also, a deep tissue massage therapist may help.  It may have nothing to do with your posture.  There is a condition called notalgia paresthetica that can produce pain or itching.  It is nearly always unilateral.  If it was your posture, I would think it would be more likely to be low back pain or even discomfort in both shoulder blades.  Hope you are feeling better.