Tendonitis problems - Can I still play?

All topics musical, not specifically piano-related

Postby be-sharp » Thu Oct 21, 2004 6:25 am

??? Does height at the keyboard have anything to do with this? I use an artists bench set to it's lowest possible height. This way I don't tower over the keyboard. When away from home I put the piano bench aside and use a lower, folding chair. What are your thoughts?
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Oct 21, 2004 11:25 am

I was once a "trapezial spasm" patient myself; luckily it was caught early and physical therapy, plus learning how to sit properly, took care of it. Wild Rose's post is excellent, with some valuable references. Here are a few things of my own which might be helpful:

1. Height: start neither high nor low, but positioned so that the back of the hand is level and the wrist does not have to bend either way. Then, over time, adjust slightly up or down to find where playing--especially fortissimo--is most comfortable.

2. Posture: back firm and straight at the waist so that the shoulders can hang and move freely without being pulled forward out of position (that's what happened to me).

3. Tension: monitor yourself almost constantly to check whether you are tightening the shoulder, neck and facial muscles, or keeping tense the wrists and hands instead of letting the muscles recoil after each appropriate movement.
It's most common for tension to increase with speed and volume, but we must learn not to do this. "To play fast you must think fast" (Josef Hofmann)--not try to force the muscles with tension!

Dr. Bill.

[quote]"The Arts are not a kindergarden; there is no A for effort, only for excellence."
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby 81-1074658942 » Thu Oct 21, 2004 10:58 pm

I'm thinking that my problems are probably tension related. My teachers are always telling me to relax. When I'm very relaxed I have no problems, but if I sit and sight read or play thinks that make my brain hurt my neck and shoulder tense up too. Usually for me a long time is 45 minutes to an hour. I never practice more than an hour at a time. My grandpa used to say the the mind can only absorb what the seat can endure. Totally agree.
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Postby be-sharp » Fri Oct 22, 2004 8:17 am

I love your Grandfathers note.
I usually run my hands under hot water before I start to warm up with Hanon exercises. This limbers and warms my hands and fingers. The tension in the wrists is a totally different story. If you all agree that just by being aware and then relaxing is the answer, then I shall try. I invested in a rather expensive massage chair that I use after practice which comes in handy for my neck and back. Who'd-a-thought that playing the piano was so dangerous to our physical being?
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Postby 109-1089922742 » Mon Oct 25, 2004 5:41 pm

I would definitely not recommend trying to sit lower than the piano bench. That breaks the natural fulcrum of your elbow, and does not allow gravity to do its job in pushing the keys down. I am 6'5" and often sit with a phonebook on top of the piano bench just so I can have the right angle of attack so to speak. The elbow is the joint that allows the hand to come to the keys, if you are sitting low your wrist is probably higher than your elbow and a simple analysis of that situation will show that the natural lever your arm makes is broken in that position. The wrist also should not be a big shock absorber, obviously it naturally has some give to it, but it should not be really flexing an absurd amount. Try this exercise:

Sit on the piano bench and let your fingers rest on the keys. Take your other hand and lift the hand that is on the keys, and let it fall back down completely free of force-no effort on your part, just let gravity do its thing. Don't worry about hitting a "right" note, if you completely miss, or hit 2 notes, or whatever that is fine, just trying to let you feel how much power you have in your arm without you even realizing it. You need to find a position where the elbow is above the key level so the lever/fulcrum combination works.

Also when letting your hand fall, don't let your wrist or fingers flex too much, that is creating a new fulcrum and nullifying the force of gravity on your arm. People have a tremendous amount of power when they do that exercise, how loud the sound can be is surprising sometimes.
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Postby 109-1089922742 » Mon Oct 25, 2004 5:44 pm

One more thing:

This business of relaxing is really bad news. Try getting up out of a chair while you are relaxed. It won't happen, you have to be ready for it. Same with piano. RElaxed is not the right word to use. You shouldn't be tense but at the same time you must be ready for action. SAying you need to relax more is like saying you telling someone to run and not move. Can't happen both ways.
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