Lesson 5, Part 1

Piano Posture & D Journey

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Hello and welcome back. I'm Joseph Hoffman.
Today we're learning about piano posture.
Posture is a word that means the shape of your body for doing a certain task.
For example, let's pretend I'm going to eat a bowl of cereal.
Would this be a good posture? Nah. How about this? probably not.
How about this? Yeah, that would be a comfortable, good posture.
Well, it's the same with piano. There are some good ways and bad ways
you can shape your body for playing piano,
and if you learn the right posture, your playing will be more comfortable,
and we'll be able to progress faster and play better.
Please remember that the whole point of good posture
is to be comfortable and play better. It should feel good.

So today, let's learn the four steps for awesome piano posture.
Number one is bench position. It's more important than you might realize.
You see, it's very common for new students to sit too close to the piano.
Maybe they don't realize that it's okay to move the bench.
Sometimes I have a student come in and try to squeeze in.
Looks really awkward. If you sit too close to the piano,
you're going to have what I call Tyrannosaurus Rex arms.
Your elbows should not be jammed up against your body.
That will limit your arm motion as you play, and add tension.
On the other hand, if your bench is too far away from your piano,
then you're going to have Frankenstein arms.
You want the bench to be positioned just right, and you want to sit
about right smack in the middle, not all the way back and not on the front edge,
where you might fall into the piano pit of doom. Waaaaow! Help, please?
If you've got the bench just right, your elbows will be slightly but comfortably
in front of your torso when your fingers rest on the keys.

Then we need to deal with bench height.
The most common problem is having a bench or chair which is too low.
In fact, a regular chair is almost always going to be too low,
which is why I recommend using an actual piano bench. For most students
I recommend a bench height of about twenty or twenty-one inches.
You'll know if you're too low because your elbow to wrist,
which is called your forearm, will be sloped like this.
That's bad, because it can add tension to your wrist.
It's also bad to be too high. That will cause a slope the other way,
also adding tension to your wrist. The perfect bench height
is one that causes your forearm to knuckles to align with the floor,
and just in a flat smooth shape. Once you're at the right height,
if you find that your feet are dangling in the air,
which is pretty much always going to happen for young students,
you'll want to solve that problem with either a footstool of some kind,
or even a stack of old college textbooks. So please take a moment
and assess your own bench situation where you play the piano.
Is your bench too close to the keys or just right? Are you at the right height?
If your bench is too low and it's not the adjustable kind,
you can raise yourself up by folding some blankets or towels to sit on.
Cushions could work too, but they can be a little bit wobbly.
Pause the video if you need to, and figure out how to get your bench set up
so you can have awesome piano posture every time you sit down to play.

Okay, step two for awesome piano posture is tall back.
This is sometimes a hard one for me because I slouch.
I'm trying to break that habit though. There's so many benefits
to having a tall, flexible back. It's not supposed to be tall and stiff like a soldier,
but tall and flexible. The problem with slouching is, it puts your torso
out of alignment, which can add tension to your neck and shoulders.
To feel a tall back, try this with me and reach way up high
like you want to grab something off the ceiling. Come on, try it with me.
Reach, then let your arms and shoulders relax while your back stays tall.
Remember, tall back doesn't mean tall shoulders.
Shoulders should comfortably drop. Go ahead and lift your shoulders with me,
hold, then drop. Tall back but relaxed shoulders.

Great, now on to step three. Arm weight.
Good pianists use the natural weight of their arm to help them play.
Basically, the concept is that instead of relying purely on finger motion
to play each key, you're letting gravity help.
It's a very important concept to get in touch with the natural weight of your arm.
I want you to pretend your arms are heavy, but also floppy,
like big floppy octopus legs, but only two of them.
Try this with me and just kind of wobble your arms around really loosely,
very relaxed. Now this next part works best
if you have a friend or a parent who can help you, so just pause the video
if you need to get someone.

Now let your arm be completely floppy and dead,
and then have your friend, or you can do it yourself too,
like I'm doing, pick up one of your arms. Let your arm be completely lifeless
and floppy, whatever your friend wants to do with it.
Wherever they want to move it, you just follow along.
Let them control it, not you. Then, to test if your arm is really relaxed and floppy,
your friend, without warning, is just going to drop your arm
and your arm will fall naturally on your lap or to your side,
and they can pick up your arm and try it again.
Now what you don't want to see is, when they let go, it's stuck there.
That tells me you're holding some tension in your shoulder or your arm.
You want to just completely give it over to them like a puppet,
but when they let go, it falls. Okay go ahead and pause the video,
and just briefly practice this a few times with a friend, or you can do it yourself,
and just get that feeling of gravity taking over,
and your arm is falling loosely to your lap.
Then press play when you're ready to go on.

Now, in a moment, we're going to learn how to actually apply arm weight
when playing the piano, but first let's finish up with step four:
hand and finger shape. Real quick, will you do the dead octopus legs
with your arms one more time? Wobble them around and get really relaxed,
then stop and just let your arms rest heavy and relaxed.
Without moving your arm, glance down at your hand
and notice what shape your hand is in.
Look at the natural shape of your hand and fingers when they're relaxed.
You'll probably notice your thumb is loose and straight,
but your other fingers have a gentle natural curve shape.
This relaxed shape is actually just about the perfect shape for playing the piano.
As you play, you want your fingers to stay in this relaxed, naturally curved shape,
with your thumb mostly straight and kind of floppy.
You can have a friend come and test that for you. Then, as you play,
you want your fingers to stay close to the keys in that relaxed, curved shape.
Sometimes you might see your finger stick up as you play.
If you see that, just take a moment to relax them back down
into their proper shape, just resting on the keys.
So, one more time, let's make your hands floppy and shake them out,
then rest, relax. Look at the natural curve shape of your fingers,
then bring your hands up to the piano keys and rest them on the keys.
Don't worry about what keys you're touching,
just laying them anywhere comfortably on the keys, thumb loose but straight,
and the other fingers naturally curved.
Remember that every hand has a slightly different shape.
My hand is going to certainly look a little different from yours.
The important thing is to find a resting position that feels good to you.
By the way, here's one more trick you can try to find the right finger shape.
Go ahead and place your hands on your thighs, then let your hands slide forward.
If your fingers stay relaxed, notice how they're naturally curved
around your knee cap. That also makes a great shape for playing piano.

Now you know the four steps to awesome piano posture,
so let's play a game to test your knowledge. I'll demonstrate piano posture,
but I'm going to do something wrong. You tell me what I'm doing wrong,
and how to fix it. Ok, how's my posture? What's wrong with this?
Yeah, if you said I'm too close, you're right.
I've got Tyrannosaurus Rex arms right now. I need to scoot my bench back,
and you are always in charge of where you put your bench.
I need my elbows to be slightly in front of my body to have the best posture.
Now what's wrong with my posture? You said that my back isn't tall.
You're right, this is my slouching posture. I need to make my back nice and tall,
flexible for good posture. What's wrong with my posture now?
Yeah, this time it's shoulders. Shoulders always comfortably down,
and what's wrong with my posture this time?
You might notice this kind of funny shape,
and this is kind of the wrong way to curve. You don't want your knuckles to be flat.
I don't think you'd walk around like this. That's not a natural, relaxed position.
When you're hand's relaxed, there's a natural curve to your knuckles
and your finger joint, so this would be a more correct hand position.

Let's take a song we've already learned, "Hot Cross Buns."
You already should have your bench in the right position,
but just double check that it is. Your back should be tall,
with shoulders relaxed enough to feel arm weight.
I'm going to show you a slightly different way to play it,
just to train the feeling of arm weight.
Take your fingers and put them all kind of in a cluster like this,
and then just let the weight of your arm naturally fall on the keys
as we play hot cross buns. Ok, so again, it doesn't take much arm weight
to get a key to go down. You're just kind of gently dropping on those notes.
Can you play "Hot Cross Buns" with me, just the first few notes? Go:
Hot cross buns. See how easy it is to make the keys go down?
We just let the weight of your arm just naturally fall. Now, take that same feeling,
and now we're going to use the three individual fingers.
Remember this: the forearm should be level to the floor,
all the way up to your knuckles where that natural curve starts.
Your fingers should rest on the keys in a curved position,
then you're just going to let gravity let your fingers fall into the keys.
You don't have to work very hard with your fingers when you use arm weight.
See how easy that is? One a penny. See, I just kind of let my hand and arm bounce,
and drop the weight of my arm into that key.
One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns. Should feel really easy and natural.
I'd like you to press pause and try playing "Hot Cross Buns"
with a great finger shape and a nice use of arm weight,
then press play when you're ready to go on.

Nice work learning about piano posture today.
You know, I would love to see how you are doing
with your awesome piano posture, so try this for me:
have someone take a picture of yourself in your very best
piano posture at the piano. you don't have to actually be playing something,
just kind of pose with your best posture with your fingers on the keys,
like you're ready to play. Share the picture with me on Facebook
or Instagram so I can see how you're doing.
If I can, I'll even write you a reply back.
So from now on, now that you know about excellent piano posture,
I'd like you to go through the piano posture checklist of those four things
every day before you play, and then continue to think about the shape of your hand
and arm weight as you play your songs.
Have lots of fun practicing. See you next time.

Let's practice piano posture like Mr. Hoffman said.


Remember, don't put your bench too close, or you'll have tyrannosaurus rex arms.

Did anyone say my name?


What? I can have good piano posture too. Watch! Hot cross buns. See?