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Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451183 04/12/06 01:47 AM
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I've never liked piano benches (even though I have a nice artist's bench) and have always wondered why no one has invented a reasonable chair with adjustable back support for pianists.

Anyway, I'm only 34 and am in pretty good shape. I ride my bike 25 mins. each way to work and back every day and do stretching and weight training exercises almost every day as well. My wife and I eat lots of veggies, and I take my vitamins, etc. But, I find myself slouching, playing hunched over all of the time unless I make a conscious effort to sit up straight. Is better posture simply a matter of effort and habit, or is there something else I should be doing????


"Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking" - Goethe
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451184 04/12/06 01:58 AM
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Some people will tell you to sit up straight without any arch in your back, and others will tell you to slouch.

Whatever works for you.

Sviatoslav Richter sat straight as a board. Glenn Gould hunched over so much that his nose almost touched the keyboard. Both were excellent pianists.


There is no one correct way to sit at the piano.


Sam
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451185 04/12/06 02:09 AM
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In terms of music-making, I suppose you may be right, but in terms of one's overall health I'm not convinced that sitting for hours on end every week slouched over is good. Some physical therapists / personal trainers I know place a great deal of emphasis on posture and its profound effect on our health.


"Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking" - Goethe
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451186 04/12/06 04:11 AM
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I have tried playing in chairs with supporting backs off and on. It doesn't work for me but it's hard to describe why. I think it's because if my back is resting against a support it takes the flexibility of posture away, the continual bending and adapting, however slight, which seems to be necessary for me to play fluently. I tend toward the straight back brigade rather than the slouchers, but it has nothing to do with rigidity. Side to side movements in particular, even small ones, appear to be necessary to me, and I cannot easily perform them if I am sinking back against a support, however comfortable it might be.

The only postural fault I have is a tendency to use the left leg as a sort of partial pivot of body weight, the other leg usually being occupied at the pedal. This bad habit sometimes results in soreness after a long session, but I am gradually weaning myself out of it.


"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451187 04/12/06 05:37 AM
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KJC,
I am a Classical Pianist AND a Physical Therapist who specializes in Spinal and Extremity Orthopedics. You are completely correct in your assertion that posture has profound effects, both pro and con, on one's health. When one slouches, they do so in order to avoid having to fire and contract the musculature of the torso that holds the body upright against the force of gravity. It is much easier to let the weight of the trunk and upper limbs hang on the inert support of the ligaments that tie the bony joints together. These excessive stresses on the connective tissues ultimately create deformities in their length and shape as well as pain as the sensory nerves that feed them are caused to fire constantly. What results is the malalignment of the joints, the shortening on muscles on one side of a joint, and the excessive stretching and weakening of the muscles on the opposite side. I would estimate that 98% of all the back and neck pain I treat is driven by poor posture and body mechanics, which ultimately progresses to osteoarthritic changes in the joints and muscles being overworked in an improper range of motion. The answer to your question is that one must make a conscious effort, at least initially, to maintain an inward, "lordotic" curve in their lumbar spine during all activities. Bending forward from the hips, rather than from the back, helps one to achieve this. Eventually, moving and sitting in this "Functional Neutral Posture" will become second nature. That is what you should strive for. Also take frequent breaks from the keyboard, stand up and bend backward from the waist, with your hands on your buttocks 10 to 15 times. Exhale as you go back and try to increase the range of motion with each subsequent repitition. Look for a CERTIFIED McKenzie Spinal Therapist in your area. They can help you greatly. Google McKenzie Institute. Hope this helps.
Dan


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Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451188 04/12/06 10:18 AM
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Pianojerome: Didn't Glenn Gould sit in a special chair? Seems I remember reading that he would rock back and forth.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451189 04/12/06 10:29 AM
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KJC,

I've seen posts from a couple of people who have bought drummers' chairs (thrones?) for the piano and say they work well.

As for posture, a couple of months ago I went through a course of physical therapy to treat chronic headaches I was having. I was told that my posture was very bad, and that in fact my shoulders were already slightly and irreversibly rounded because I hunched over too much. I was given a bunch of exercises to work on that would strengthen my back and shoulder muscles and correct the imbalance and hopefully prevent any worsening of my shoulders. I also changed my seating position on the piano bench, namely to locate the bench further back, and place my rear end toward the front 1/3 of the bench, and curve my spine inward the way CC2 described. This change eliminated a shoulder pain I had developed while playing. My headaches improved as well, although I have not been as diligent about the strengthening exercises as I should be.

Now, if you are not experiencing any pain or discomfort while playing, and you're not developing rounded shoulders, perhaps there is no need for you to make any changes. I will say though that I wish I had paid more attention to my posture before it was too late.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451190 04/12/06 10:41 AM
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Monica,
Whoever told you that it was "too late" to beneficially alter your "Forward Head/Rounded Shoulder" posture, as we call it in "PT speak", was mistaken. While it is, admittedly, a difficult and prolonged process to do so, a consistent program of stretching short/tight tissues while strengthening weak/stretched muscles, and regaining the correct proprioceptive awareness of where your joints are in space in relation to other body parts, will ultimately restore proper curvature to the spinal components. If it was truly "too late" for you, you would not have been able to realize your stated improvements in shoulder and headache pain. You do, however, need to be consistent and persistent in your postural exercise program.
All the best,
Dan


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Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451191 04/12/06 12:59 PM
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maybe take a few ballet (not necessarily formal) or jazz entry level dance lessons, where they would focus on posture and basic movements or positions, to learn what exactly the correct posture is in dancing or at piano. it's all related, and it would be benefitial tremendously if you would have had such training. i pretty much taught myself playing piano from the beginning, and haven't had any posture related problems or injuries of any kind on piano. i contribut such as the result of some dance classes i had before.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451192 04/12/06 01:10 PM
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Originally posted by CC2 and Chopin lover:
Monica,
Whoever told you that it was "too late" to beneficially alter your "Forward Head/Rounded Shoulder" posture, as we call it in "PT speak", was mistaken...You do, however, need to be consistent and persistent in your postural exercise program.
Thanks for the info, CC2. That's very encouraging to hear. Your last statement, of course, is the clincher. I know there is much I SHOULD be doing to improve and maintain my health (those exercises, jogging more, etc.) that I am not.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451193 04/12/06 01:29 PM
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Thanks for all the info CC2andChopin Lover, Monica, etc.

I am not feeling any pain or discomfort but still would like to improve my posture so as to avoid any long-term difficulties. I also feel that it is aestheticlly displeasing to slouch, both for myself and anyone who may be watching me play. I might try to find a McKenzie specialist as you suggest.

I have a couple more questions if you would be so kind.

First, do you consider bicycling a detrimental activity in terms of the spine? As I mentioned, I spend about 50 mins per day, during the week at least, bicycling to work and back. Since I live in such a beautiful area (west Vancouver near the Univeristy of British Columbia), this is very enjoyable. It is also the cheapest commuting option and takes care of my aerobic exercise for the day.

Second, I do a variety of stretches and one or two weight training exercises every day. I've started to do one or two yoga stretches simply because they feel good, especially for my back. I don't have the time or interest to get into yoga in a big way, but do you have any opinions about it or Tai Chi, or any other type of stretching / meditation regimen??

Thanks again,
Kevin


"Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking" - Goethe
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451194 04/12/06 02:05 PM
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You should sit up very straight becasue it helps you to put weight into the piano. Slouching does not allow you to lean into the piano.


I don't know what the meaning of life is- I'm too busy to figure it out.
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451195 04/12/06 02:16 PM
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The main stengthening exercise I was told to do is called a W-T-V. You lie on your tummy, and tuck a rolled towel under your forehead you don't squash your nose and you can breathe. Then place your arms to your sides so that they make the shape of a "W" (that is, your hands will be at about the level of your shoulders, and your elbows at the level of your waist). Lift them behind you in the air as high as you can and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Then extend your arms straight out from your shoulders in the shape of a T. Do the same thing (10 reps of holding for 5 seconds.) Then put them over your head in the shape of a V, another 10 reps. This last one is the KILLER for me and I can never get them more than a couple of inches up in the air.

These will strengthen the muscles in your upper back and help you keep your back straight rather than hunched over.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451196 04/12/06 02:16 PM
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Quote
Some people will tell you to sit up straight without any arch in your back, and others will tell you to slouch.

Whatever works for you.

Sviatoslav Richter sat straight as a board. Glenn Gould hunched over so much that his nose almost touched the keyboard. Both were excellent pianists.


There is no one correct way to sit at the piano.
For once I disagree with PJ. Yes, Richter and Gould were both unbelievably good pianists. But that doesn't change the fact that the way Gould sat was probably horrible for his back. Many great pianists have struggled with tension and other playing-related problems; Rachmaninoff, for one.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451197 04/12/06 02:24 PM
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I was told in a masterclass that the pianist shouldn't use the back half of the piano stool at all, just the front half. Also, if you sit too high, you have to slouch. One teacher wound the piano stool down and pulled it away from the piano so that I felt my arms were waving in the air over my head like an ape!! (Exaggerate? Moi?) But when I got used to it, I realised that I had more control, my forearm was level, rather than sloping down to the keyboard, and the niggly backache at bra-strap level from which I'd suffered intermittently had disappeared. I can't sit on a high piano stool without feeling uncomfortable now!


Piano tuner 23 years.
Musica lux in tenebris...
Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451198 04/12/06 03:02 PM
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Speaking of bench height, isn't it bad for you to sit too low?


I've been a low sitter for the past year or so, and have recently gotten extreme amounts of pain in my wrists.
Sitting higher usually makes my shoulders and upper back ache faster, but sitting lower makes me "use" my wrists more to use my fingers. I like feel the pulling from my wrist towards my fingers into the keys. I like playing like this, because it gives me a firm touch and blabla, but I haven't been able to play for about 2 weeks because of it...

Playing piano is just unhealthy..

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451199 04/12/06 03:12 PM
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I have a very weak back, bad posture not only affects my playing...
I find if my feet are in front of me, flat on the floor and together, the rest of my posture seems to follow, and I can play for a good set's worth of rep.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451200 04/12/06 03:45 PM
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I slouch because I have problems with my back muscles... slowly physio is correcting it, but it'll be awhile yet. I really should tell my prof about this, he keeps telling me to keep my back straight, which I can't for longer than 5-10 mins.

Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451201 04/12/06 04:12 PM
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First, do you consider bicycling a detrimental activity in terms of the spine? As I mentioned, I spend about 50 mins per day, during the week at least, bicycling to work and back. Since I live in such a beautiful area (west Vancouver near the Univeristy of British Columbia), this is very enjoyable. It is also the cheapest commuting option and takes care of my aerobic exercise for the day.
OK, KJC, here goes: Yes, bicycling in the position that MOST people assume when riding IS detrimental to the spine. Also, unless you are pedaling CONSTANTLY, against a good bit of resistance, and not coasting or shifting into higher gears, you are not getting the aerobic benefit you might think you are. This will only be attained if you take the formula 220-your age and multiply that by 65 and 80%. This is the general range that your heartrate has to fall into AND REMAIN for at least 20 to 30 minutes three to five times per week in order to get significant aerobic and cardiac benefits from an activity. A less conditioned person would start at 60 to 65% of their "maximum heart rate", (220-your age). A better conditioned person would work at a heart rate level closer to 80 or 85% of max. As far as yoga and Tai Chi, many yoga positions are conducive to spinal health and posture, while others are detrimental. What I have against it is that no one is completing an Orthopedic assessment of the participant in advance of their participation to determine what they should and shouldn't be doing based on their Orthopedic status. Tai Chi is much safer, and contributes to good posture, improved balance annd muscular control. I think that covers all your questions. If not, I will be happy to answer additionally.
Dan


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Re: Bad posture / slouching at the bench
#451202 04/12/06 04:22 PM
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does anyone have any web links to improving posture? CC2?


Only the humble improve.
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