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Tension, Pain, Injury, Limitations: When Things Go Wrong at the Piano

According to the research, 86% of all professional musicians complain of some playing related problems and countless piano students and professionals suffer from many of the following symptoms:

* Tension

* Pain​

Ganglion - nerve cyst in the wrist


* Ganglia

* Carpal tunnel syndrome

* Technical Limitations

* Musical limitations

There is help available, but first, why does this happen?

There are three main issues:

* The student is sitting at the wrong height (an easy fix)

* The student has too much tension (maybe from overcurling, twisting or from stretching too much)

* The fingers, hands and arms are not coordinated and there may be one or several breaks in the alignment.


Of the myriad of students that come along to take lessons with me, hardly any of them sit at the right height. The right height is the height where the finger, hand and arms are aligned in one piece and is parallel to the floor. The elbow will be roughly in line with the top of the white keys. For children who are growing, this will constantly change.

Interestingly, the correct seat height is not only dependent upon the height of the student. It is also based on the ratio of the length of the arm to the length of the torso. So a student who has a long upper arm (coming right down to their pelvis) for instance, will sit relatively high. Shorter students who have short upper arms but a relatively longer torso will sit low.

Sometimes a thousand words is more easily summarised with a short video. Here is a video of Edna Golandsky explaining how to find the correct seat height:


Anything that causes tension is going to slow down the playing. Try it out for yourself. Curl your fingers and see how fast your fingers move compared to allowing your fingers to have their natural shape (i.e., relaxed).

Now stretch your fingers out as far as they will go and try and move them quickly. Again, they won't move as quickly as if they are not stretched.


We are told, often from the first lesson, that we need to curl our fingers and that we need to stretch our hands into a five finger position.

Curled and twisted

This student's fingers are extremely overcurled - he's probably doing this to keep his fingers out of the black key area.