Hoffman Academy Blog

Top Ten Tips for Good Piano Posture


Playing the piano is so much more than just picking out notes on the keys. Sound, look, and feel your best by following these tips for good piano posture. Click here for a pdf of this handy piano posture chart that you can print out and keep with your lesson materials.

1. Find the Right Finger Shape

To find the right finger shape for playing the piano, try putting your relaxed hand on your thigh and sliding it forward over your knee. Notice how your fingers naturally curve around your knee cap. Keep your fingers in that position as you lift your hand, and set it on the keyboard to play. Another trick is to cup both hands together as if you were holding a small, delicate baby chick. Now, keeping that finger shape, rotate your hands so they are palm down, and you’re ready to play the piano.

2. Watch Your Thumbs

Unlike the other fingers, the thumb should not be curved when it plays the piano. Keep it straight but loose. When using the thumb to play the piano, just drop it downward. Only the side edge of the thumb, near the tip, should contact the piano key.

3. Balance

If your head is not aligned over your body, that’s a lot of weight your back and shoulders have to be holding up! To find the center balance point for your head, gently touch your fingers inside each ear and nod your head up and down, like you are saying, “yes”. This will help you feel where the center point of your head is. That center point should be in line with your shoulders over your hips.

4. Use a Foot Rest

It’s very common for kids to slide forward on the piano bench and sit too close to the keys. To keep this from happening, use a foot stool, a crate, or even a pile of books as a foot rest. Kids will be more comfortable and exhibit better posture at the piano if their feet can rest firmly on something instead of dangling.

5. Firm Fingers

Sometimes the end joint of the finger buckles the wrong direction when pressing down on a piano key. This joint should always curve out, not in. One way to practice keeping this joint firm is to place one hand in a curved finger position on a flat surface. Using the pointer finger of the other hand, push gently in on one end joint until it buckles inward. Now try it again, this time resisting the pressure so the curved finger stays rounded out. Remember that these are little muscles we’re dealing with here, so, please, go easy on yourself! Just a little bit of pressure is plenty. I would recommend only doing this exercise with fingers 2, 3, and 4. As you play the piano, make sure your fingers stay nicely curved and don’t buckle.

6. Use Gravity

Rather than relying only on finger strength to play a note on the piano, use the whole weight of your arm. To learn how to do this, try pushing the piano bench back a little ways from the piano. Practice holding your arm as if you had the keyboard in front of you, then letting your arm drop into your lap. Feel the natural weight of your arm as it falls limply into your lap. It may help to imagine you are a puppet with just a couple of strings holding your arm up. Someone cuts the strings, and the arm falls heavily and without resistance. After you have tried this with both arms, move the bench back up to the keyboard and, with fingers in curved position, feel your arm fall on each note. The weight of your arm will transfer through your fingers into each key.

7. Wrist Action

A flexible, supple wrist will help transfer the weight of your arm into your fingers when you play. With curved fingers already in contact with the keys, allow the wrist to comfortably drop, slightly, as you play a key. After you play the key, then allow the wrist to gently rebound back up, in preparation for the next down stroke. Fingers should stay in contact with the keys as you do this. Sometimes I tell my students to think of the wrist as a trampoline. It starts off level, then you bounce down, and whenever a trampoline goes down, it always rebounds back up! Above all, remember that the wrist should always feel comfortable and relaxed. Don’t force these motions—as I mentioned in the last tip, the trick is to let gravity do the work for you. Think of simply “falling” into each key.

8. Arm Alignment

When playing the piano, the pinky finger, the wrist, and the elbow should line up in a mostly straight line. Sometimes, especially when playing with both thumbs on Middle C, kids will rotate their hands so their wrists are bent. Try instead to keep the wrists straighter and let the hands turn in toward each other. Keeping the wrist locked at an angle creates tension, which interferes with playing your best.

9. Use Your Pinky Tip

The pinky (finger 5) is your shortest and perhaps least muscularly developed finger, so sometimes I see finger 5 “cheating” by lying flat on the key when it plays. The problem with a flat finger 5 is that it collapses your hand position, and it will fail to develop muscular independence and agility in finger 5. Finger 5 should have some curve like all the rest, and only the tip of the pinky should be touching the keys. It’s true that since finger 5 is shorter than your other fingers, it does not necessarily need to curve as much to find a comfortable playing position on the keys. It is important to not tightly “over-curve” the fingers. Remember, the whole point of curved fingers is to find a relaxed, efficient, and comfortable playing posture.

10. Sit and Lean

Kids seem to love to slide around on the bench when they play, but this isn’t really a good use of energy. It is better if they sit in one spot and lean if they need to. If an entire piece is played low on the piano, start out sitting to the left on the bench, or if the piece is high, start out on the right. If a piece goes low and high, sit in the middle and lean to reach all the keys. A foot rest can be a big help with this, providing balance and something to push off when leaning.

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9 Comments

  1. Hand-drawn avatar
    Bassem

    please if you can help me
    my wrists in the two hands always up and i don’t know what to do
    i got good fingers but i can’t use this any further because of the high wrists this video will tell more please i need help as soon as possible

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtAH5rVtXRU

    • Hoffman Academy logo
      Hoffman Academy

      Thanks for your question! I watched your video and you play very well! Congratulations! I have a few suggestions for your technique that I hope will be useful. I agree with you that your wrist seems high, which I think is coming from some tension. Try this activity and see if it helps. Stand up and just shake out your arms, with floppy wrists, hands, and fingers. Then stop shaking and simply let your arms and hands dangle down by your side. With hands and arms completely relaxed, glance down at the natural shape of your hand. You should see that your wrist in a “neutral” position, level with your forearm and hand. Also, you should see a gentle, natural curve in your fingers. This relaxed, neutral shape is what you always want to come back to as you play. It seems you may be “holding” your wrist and fingers in a certain shape as you play, rather than just letting them “fall” on the keys. You want to think of your arm and hands as a kind of “dead weight”. Gravity does most of the work. At the piano, try imagining yourself being really sloppy (don’t worry about playing the correct notes for a while) and just let your hands and fingers flop around limply on the keys. The trick is to just barely do enough work to make the keys play. I think you are relying too much on finger motion and not enough on arm weight. See if you can retrain yourself to play from a more neutral, relaxed position. It will probably feel very strange, and unnatural, and out of control at first. But I think the results will be worth the effort! I hope that helps. Good luck and happy playing!

  2. Hand-drawn avatar
    Amanda Turner

    I usually encourage my students to “make sure your fingernails can touch the keys.. that way you know you’re playing with the finger tip.” It also automatically raises their wrists and usually keeps their hands loose and relaxed. I have noticed usually when they are playing with their wrists down, it’s because they’re using the pads. This infographic is great though!

    • Hoffman Academy logo
      Joseph Hoffman

      Hello, and thanks for your comment! My only concern with asking students to “make sure your fingernails touch the keys” is that it could cause students to “over curve” their fingers (especially if they keep their fingernails closely trimmed!), which can lead to tension. I advocate for a more natural curve, which you can discover by simply letting your arms and hands dangle limply from your side. Observe the naturally curved shape of your fingers when your hand is dangling and at rest. This is very close to the shape that I advocate for playing piano. My goal is always to find the most natural and tension-free posture and technique for playing. Thanks again for your comment, and let’s keep the conversation going! ~Joseph Hoffman

  3. Hand-drawn avatar
    sali

    Dear Hoffman
    my 4 years old loves music so i purchased http://www.thomann.de/gb/thomann_dp_26_digital_piano_bundle.htm

    we started with your lessons witch she loves and in my surprise even understand the theory. she is in lesson 9 now but we have problem with curved fingers. the fingers keep flying off the keys specially the little one . she says it is too hard to play with fingers on the key.
    this piano has an option of removing the weighted key effect so they sound and feel like keyboard should i do that and give her option of getting the sound out of piano easier or keep it weighted and work more on posture . she gets upset when i keep telling her to keep fingers on piano or stay in one lesson too long.
    sorry for long post

    thank you

    • Hoffman Academy logo
      Hoffman Academy

      It is wonderful that your daughter is showing an interest in piano at such a young age! That being said, the first thing to consider is whether her hands are large enough to begin actual lessons. A child who is taking piano lessons should be comfortable placing five fingers on five adjacent white keys. If that is too big a stretch for her right now, I would recommend that you allow her time to play however she wishes on the piano and also spend extra time singing, dancing, listening to recorded music, and playing practice games. If she loves the lesson videos, let her enjoy them without focusing on finger posture quite yet. You can find out more about gauging when your child is ready for lessons here: The Best Age to Begin Piano Lessons

      If her hands ARE large enough, you may want to try using some practice games to help her work on finger posture in a fun way. Another thing to remember is that having little fingers “fly up” is usually a symptom of tension, so try replacing the phrase “curved fingers” with “relaxed” or “soft” fingers. Here are a couple of articles that might help you: Piano Practice Games and Tips for Keeping Fingers Relaxed at the Keyboard

      In either case, I would not recommend turning off the weighted key effect. It may make playing a little easier in the short term, but it will limit the development of her finger muscles in the long term. I hope that helps! …and sorry for MY long post! 🙂 – Mr. Hoffman

  4. Hand-drawn avatar
    Daniel

    My son’s problem with his fingers is exactly as you said that finger 5 “cheating” by lying flat on the key when it plays…. I will read your advice to him.
    Is the root of the problem due to the week muscle of the pinky finger, or due to the poor finger postuer?
    Thank you very much!
    Jing
    P.S., I am very glad we can still stick to learning piano owing to your great teaching, though we also are struggling with learning problems. Especially, when I heard that my son’s friend is quiting her piano lesson because she has a very skilled but tough teacher….

  5. Hand-drawn avatar
    brandi surratt

    you are the BEST piano teacher! I wish I could meet you and play piano with you in person. I also play the clarinet and hopefully the piano soon!