Piano Forum



Remembering the great Maurizio Pollini
Legendary pianist Maurizio Pollini defined modern piano playing through a combination of virtuosity of the highest degree, a complete sense of musical purpose and commitment that works in complete control of the virtuosity. His passing was announced by Milanís La Scala opera house on March 23. Read more >>

Topic: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)  (Read 2371 times)

Offline Daniel_piano

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 486
Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
on: April 22, 2005, 01:13:02 AM
I'm trying to sort out my confusion about the proper alignment of the arm and the correct height of the bench.

First of all I read again an old reply of Bernhard where he said:
Quote
"As for elbows being below the keyboard, I prefer them to be level with the keyboard. My image is this: If you drop water in your forearms, the water would run in the direction of the keyboard. That is I do not recommend a low elbow position where the forearms slant down towards the elbows (water would run away from the keyboard), but just a bit higher than parallel (where water would not run at all)."

This confuses me though.
Bernhard says that the elbows should be level with the keyboard so that if you drop water on the forearm the water remains there.
But actually if you try this you will see that if your elbows are level with the keyboard the forearm is not straight but slant toward the keyboard so the water would run in the direction of the keyboard.
If you want water not to run at all and the forearm a bit higher than parallel then the albow must necessarily be below the keyboard level.

Anyway I asked Barbara what she thought was the correct bench eight and elbow position. I would like to know if you agree with her explanation and if not why and also I would really appreciate it if you could help me understand what she really means (as ensligh is not my native language)

1) While sitting at the piano, first let your arm hang by your side first and notice the natural arch of the hand as well as the flat plane alignment from elbow to knuckles on the top of the arm

2) Raise the forearm only, bring it toward the keyboard and, if need
be, rotate the forearm so that the finger tips of the naturally arched hand is resting lightly on the keys (the width of a fifth)

3) Look in a mirror to your side and notice whether, the upper level of your forearm is flat and parallel to the ground from the elbow to the knuckles.
This will probably place your elbow on a plane slightly below the white keys.
Make sure that your wrist it neither forming a valley or a hill, but is in a straight line.

4) Adjust the height of the bench until you see the "arch span bridge" shape--top of the bridge from elbow to knuckles flat (like a flat road bed) and the slight arch, with the apex at the wrist, underneath the arm (like the arch span of a bridge).

This is the alignment you will have upon landing.
If you are very tall or if your arms are unusually long or your torso
unusually long in relation to your upper arms, you may have to compromise this a bit to accommodate extra long legs, torso, etc.

It is so frustrating to write this because it is very open to distortion.


Does anybody have or can make a photo of a proper bench heigh, elbows level and arm alignment showing what's the best position to maintain the "arch of the arm" and its weight supporting and delivering mechanism?

Thanks
Dany
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline Bacfokievrahms

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 162
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #1 on: April 22, 2005, 01:22:23 AM
elbows below the white keys purportedly leads to tricep/ outer foerarm soreness and stress injury.

I find myself that elbows level with the white keys and elbows slightly above the white keys is very good for weight delivery and I'm unsure of what the natural arch of the arm is but I find that top of the wrist level with or higher than knuckles is comfortable and you sohuld be able to rest your arm and hand on any finger without any sensation of straining upward.

Offline xvimbi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2439
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #2 on: April 22, 2005, 02:21:07 AM
Bernhard says that the elbows should be level with the keyboard so that if you drop water on the forearm the water remains there.
But actually if you try this you will see that if your elbows are level with the keyboard the forearm is not straight but slant toward the keyboard so the water would run in the direction of the keyboard.
If you want water not to run at all and the forearm a bit higher than parallel then the albow must necessarily be below the keyboard level.

It is very difficult to see this correctly at the piano. It is better to go to a table. Sit by the side of a table and put your arm on it in a posture similar to what you are doing at the piano, i.e. form the arch as you think it should be. Because you are doing this on a table top, your elbow and your fingertips end up in the same plane, i.e. at the same height, which is very difficult to get right at the piano, even with a mirror. You should observe that your forearm is practically level.

Keep in mind that this posture is very general. You can safely deviate from it to fit your own physiognomy, but don't deviate too much.

Offline Daniel_piano

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 486
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #3 on: April 22, 2005, 11:59:29 AM
I'm unsure of what the natural arch of the arm is ...



Dany
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline Daniel_piano

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 486
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #4 on: April 22, 2005, 02:46:21 PM
Here's the "proper" posture, arm alignment, arch of the arm, elbow level and bench height as showed by Barbara Lister-Sink

Do you think this is a correct elbow level and arm alignment or it isn't ?





Dany
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline eins

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 76
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #5 on: April 25, 2005, 06:12:36 AM
Could you take this picture once more,  ;) this time with camera at key level? Then we could study the elbow/key level relationship.  ;D

Offline Daniel_piano

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 486
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #6 on: April 25, 2005, 09:06:40 PM
Could you take this picture once more,  ;) this time with camera at key level? Then we could study the elbow/key level relationship.  ;D

Wait, are you saying that the perspective of those pics can't be used to judge if the elbow level is correct?
I don't know how stupid this may sound but I've never thought about the fact that the elbow may seem at a lower level compared to the white key level but could appear at the correct level from a different perspective?

Thanks
Dany
"Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask "Why me?" Then a voice answers "Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.""

Offline xvimbi

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2439
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #7 on: April 25, 2005, 09:33:54 PM
Wait, are you saying that the perspective of those pics can't be used to judge if the elbow level is correct?
I don't know how stupid this may sound but I've never thought about the fact that the elbow may seem at a lower level compared to the white key level but could appear at the correct level from a different perspective?

It's generally very difficult to judge from pictures that have not been taken at the same height. It sure looks like that lady's elbow is way below the keys.

The easiest is to take a measuring stick, measure the height of the keys and compare that to the height of the elbow. Best is to have someone else do that while you are sitting in a natural pose at the piano.

Offline CC

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 185
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #8 on: April 30, 2005, 05:30:38 AM
I don't think that the exact position, couple inches this way or that, is that important -- the proof is in the pudding; play and see which is most comfortable for you. The mistake a lot of pianists make is that they never experiment with different levels.  For those who have, my few statistics indicate that their teachers almost always sit them too high (this means forearm parallel to ground).  Mechanically, this seems best for most efficient transfer of vertical motion (tangent of circular motion of hand around elbow is perpendicular to keyboard). However, this also tends to force the pianist to play with the firgertips instead of the fleshy part opposite the nail. Thus the optimal position may be elbows slightly below level of keyboard.  Bench height is adjusted so that this position is attained. The idea is to encourage the use of the fleshy part of the fingertip for sensitive playing and feeling the keys, and more use of FFP positions. These are the keys (sorry) to expression, pianissimo, and being able to adapt quickly to different pianos with different actions.

Some might object that it is easier to play FF by pushing down from above, but this small change in height makes no difference in FF; the real difference comes from whether you are playing FF from your shoulders, using the entire weight of your body (correct way), or just using your arms and smashing down (wrong way) which gives a nasty FF.
C.C.Chang; my home page:

 https://www.pianopractice.org/

Offline CC

  • PS Silver Member
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 185
Re: Arch of the arm (and bench height - again?!)
Reply #9 on: May 02, 2005, 08:31:59 PM
Forgot to add that sitting too low has the disadvantage that you can end up unable to play with the tip of the thumb.  So you need to adjust the wrist height, and choose a bench height that will allow sensitive play, but at the same time allow using the tip of the thumb (and not the first joint).
C.C.Chang; my home page:

 https://www.pianopractice.org/
For more information about this topic, click search below!
 

Logo light pianostreet.com - the website for classical pianists, piano teachers, students and piano music enthusiasts.

Subscribe for unlimited access

Sign up

Follow us

Piano Street Digicert