Announcements, Technique

Tension and Piano Playing

Just recently, I’ve realized that when I play piano, I hold a “knot” of tension in my back, in the space between my shoulder blades.  Upon this realization, I have begun making a conscious effort to release this tension while I am practicing – which I have to do constantly.  It’s obviously a bad habit that I’ve been unaware for a long time!

Interestingly enough, it seems to be related to another issue which I’ve been aware of since my freshman year of college: I tend to raise my right shoulder when I play, especially in anticipation of difficult passages in a piece.  Raising my shoulder, however, actually hinders my arms/fingers in those difficult passages rather than helping.  I have to remind myself not to “freak out” in anticipation of those upcoming passages so that I keep my shoulder comfortably in place.

Now that I am focusing on releasing the newly-discovered tension in my back, however, I have found that the shoulder problem is occurring less.  It seems that I may have found the root of the issue!  My back feels better, which means my shoulders are feeling better, which in turn means my arms and wrists are feeling better.  And difficult passages are going much better than ever before, which is amazing to me!

Do you deal with tension when you play?  Have you been able to identify the root of the problem?  I am very interested in hearing more about how to prevent/deal with tension!

Photo Credit: Phineas H | CC 2.0

2 thoughts on “Tension and Piano Playing”

  1. There are, as you can imagine, hundreds of possible causes of tension. I also have/had the problem of raising both my shoulders when playing anything. I discovered, after working with Edna Golandsky, that the problem was not simply raising my shoulders; I was relaxing my fingers to the point of “flopping”, and also trying to put “weight” on the keys in order to be more in control. Because my fingers were not supporting anything, whenever I would push “weight” down with my forearm, i would have to lift with my shoulders to keep from pulling off the keyboard completely. I did all this unconsciously: my body had to make changes to compensate for “bad” motions. So, it was a mess. But now, I am aware of it, and since I know the true cause, I am fixing it and coming to a more controlled, effective, and pain free technique!! I am just starting with the Taubman approach, so i will update my progress in a year :)

  2. I have lots of tension as well and I would love to hear some more ideas of how to deal with it correctly. I am also writing piano teacher exams that give you the scenario of “what would you do if your grade 5 student plays with considerable tension?” Any suggestions?

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