Many aspects of playing the piano such as note reading and ear training are intuitive. They just make sense. There are, however, important aspects of piano which are not intuitive. In fact they are counter-intuitive to most of us. That’s why a good piano teacher is so important.
Students imagine playing in a way that makes sense to them and “feels" comfortable. You can call this your “default" setting, what you do naturally out of habit. Ever try to change a habit? It’s difficult. It takes conscious effort over time, because the mind-body connection is un-conscious and powerful. If you’re a piano student who wants to improve your playing, the best way to do this is to change your habits so that they reflect your goals. In this way you’ll be playing with self awareness, rather than out of habit. And that’s a good thing!
Here are some simple steps to begin developing a powerful good piano habit that will go a long way toward helping you reach your goals.
To see how you can improve your playing, sit up straight on the edge of the piano bench, with an arch in your lower back, (move the bench way back from the piano for now. ) Put the palms of your hands together in front of you. Now separate your hands so that your forearms are parallel, but your palms are still facing each other. Now lift your forearms arms and then drop them, like they are asleep, from the elbow with your palms still facing. If your arms are completely relaxed, they should have fallen so that the tips of your fingers are pointing to the floor and your arms are completely extended, because there is no way to catch the weight of your arms with your elbows when you drop them.
To improve your posture, try this again. Only instead of allowing your palms to face each other, turn them flat so your palms are horizontal, facing the floor. Bend your arms a little so that the tips of your elbows are pointing more toward the “walls, " and not toward the floor. Now lift your forearms toward the ceiling and then drop them from the elbows again. This time the weight of your forearms should catch in your elbows. Move your piano bench closer to the piano, but not too close (your elbows should be in front of your tummy. ) Practice lifting and dropping your arms, catching the weight in your elbows, as you play one note, repeatedly. Lift and drop; lift and drop.
Now practice this technique while playing octaves. Do this hands separately. With finger three, bounce from one key to the next, between octaves, lifting and catching the weight of your forearms from the elbows. Bounce and land; bounce and land, lifting your hand high over the keyboard. Now keep practicing this until it feels comfortable. Keep this posture as you play your pieces and remember to hold your hands “flat" with elbows out-turned to add buoyancy, spring and flexibility to your playing.
Now you know a powerful piano habit to dramatically improve your playing and help you your musical dreams – So keep doing it. Soon it will feel so natural you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it!
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