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Pain in my back when practicing
#477334 11/08/08 11:28 PM
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ThomasF Offline OP
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I need some advice!

When I practice, the muscles near my upper shoulder blades (behind my shoulders)begin KILLING. I have tried to relax like you wouldn't believe, and I do! Yet I still get pain that leads to spasms.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477335 11/09/08 12:18 AM
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Have you tried splitting up your practice session to no more than 20-30 minutes at a time?

Do you raise your shoulders or wrists excessively when you play or do any other things that could be painful like playing a lot of heavy chords without a break?

Could anything you've done recently be the cause of it? (For example, maybe you got tackled yesterday or something)

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477336 11/09/08 01:15 AM
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ThomasF Offline OP
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I keep my shoulders low - they're relaxed.

Even just sitting at the bench can make me ache.

And no I didn't get tackled - no sports here.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477337 11/09/08 01:20 AM
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I have this problem too. It happens right above my left shoulder blade. When it happens, I just have to get up and walk around or do something else for a little bit before resuming practice.


Once during a concert at Carnegie Hall, the violinist Rachmaninoff was playing with lost his place in the music and whispered to Rachmaninoff, "Where are we?" Rachmaninoff replied, in all seriousness, "Carnegie Hall".
Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477338 11/09/08 03:40 AM
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First try standing in shizentai - 1) feet shoulder length apart 2) unlock your knees by 1mm 3) tuck your tail in by 1mm 4) pull your shoulders blades together (don't lever them back with your upper arms) 5) straighten the back of your neck by tucking your chin in. Get used to standing like that.

Sit at the piano in shizentai with the back legs of the stool blocked up by approx. an inch. Use only the biceps to place your hands on the keyboard - allow them to hold the back of your hand in roughly a straight line with your forearm. I never mind if the pinky side is lower. Any pain yet?

This may be helpful: http://www.kendo-guide.com/shizentai.html

or this: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc5RQz506cw

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477339 11/09/08 09:40 AM
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Quote
1) feet shoulder length apart 2) unlock your knees by 1mm 3) tuck your tail in by 1mm 4) pull your shoulders blades together (don't lever them back with your upper arms) 5) straighten the back of your neck by tucking your chin in. Get used to standing like that.
If at all possible, may I suggest working on posture with a competent guide?

Keyboardklutz, thank you for the wonderful links.
Grindea is awesome! smile

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477340 11/09/08 11:17 AM
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ThomasF Offline OP
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Keyboardklutz that helps so much! thank you!

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477341 11/09/08 02:33 PM
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Experienced players who've had yrs.
of classical lessons often complain of
problems like this. When people have had
many yrs. of lessons from good teachers,
they feel that they've learned properly
and are playing the right way, and so
they never consider that everything they're
doing is not right for them.

The problems originate like this: a player
starts lessons at a young age and learns
in the "right" way from reputable teachers;
the player then continues playing in
this way for the rest of his life,
because he feels that he's playing
correctly, since he was taught by
good teachers. But this is where the
problem comes from. When you take
formal lessons, you're essentially taught
to play the teacher's way. In particular,
the fingering you're taught is the
one printed on the score, fingering
that was developed in the early 1900's
by some hack editor based on his
hand and philosophy of playing. Moreover,
you're taught "correct" posture and
established ways of playing.

None of the above, however, is going
to fit you individually. The teacher's
way of playing is not going to fit you
as an individual. The one-size-fits-all
fingering developed by some hack editor
is not going to be custom-tailored to
your hand. And how can there be a
correct posture or correct technique
when everyone's physiology and psychology
is different? Thus, the player ends
up playing in a way that is not suited
to him, even though he might advance
to fairly high levels of playing like
this, through sheer willpower. But,
eventually, forcing your being to do
something that is not right for it
is going to catch up with you, and the
result is a variety of problems such
as those described here.

Yet the player never for a moment
considers that he has to change the
way the plays, because he was taught
in the "right" way. Thus, he digs himself
deeper and deeper into a hole by
continuing to play in a way that
is not suited to him individually.

What needs to be done is to chuck
everything you've learned out the
window and start playing in a way that
suits your individual physiology
and psychology.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477342 11/09/08 02:37 PM
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it's always back to the point of posture. check that, and be aware of how your body moves when you playing. there's always a right way to play, and right way to sit and so on, and if you don't you'd suffer from that.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477343 11/09/08 02:41 PM
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What kind of bench do you have?

If you do not have an artist bench, get one. Your back & shoulders will thank you. Quality artist benches are expensive, but they are absolutely worth it.

Proper posture is important, but I personally find proper posture to be difficult to achieve for long periods of playing on one of those hard benches.


Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.
Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477344 11/09/08 10:50 PM
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also try out sitting lower or higher, then closer or further.

i get quite tense sometimes.. sitting very low for a week or two straightens me out. I don't particularly care for it.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477345 11/10/08 08:33 AM
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I get pain in the lower back.The best thing for me is to take a break as soon as it starts hurting.So on average I may do one hour practice followed by one hour off then another hour on.This not only prevents pain but also allows me to mentally digest what I've learnt in the first hour and makes the second hour more productive.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477346 11/10/08 10:55 AM
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I had the same problems for a long time. I read a book called "What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body," it really helped. Everyone says that posture is most important and to "check it again." If you don't know what you're doing wrong than you can't fix it!

This book basically helps one understand the correct positions for movement in playing the piano, it is based very largely on the Alexander Technique.

On youtube there are a few videos on the Alexander technique that really helped me out, maybe you should check them out.

Head neck pattern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2afyiQQepM&feature=related

Using the arms with ease and effectiveness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya0SBZfSGVY&feature=related

Sitting comfortable erect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0tGBnpMt2U&feature=related

Bending without strain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU3mAArKoL8&feature=related

These aren't specifically about pianists but about moving correctly which should be applied to the piano. I've really tried to use what I've learned the last couple months and have found the pain I had in my back and shoulders is gone.

You can relax all you want but if you go back to the piano after a long break and use painful movements again then the pain is just going to come back. The solution is to move/sit in such a way that doesn't cause pain. You may think you are "relaxed" or sitting correctly but what I understand is that unless you have some disease (unlikely), you are just using movements that are unhealthy.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477347 11/10/08 12:10 PM
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Thanks for the mention of "What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Body" - I've just looked it up online and ordered a copy. It looks very interesting.


Yamaha U3 | Currently working on:
Various Haydn Sonatas/Caténaires by Elliott Carter/Lots of Feldman
Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477348 11/10/08 02:05 PM
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I have that book, too. It IS helpful.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477349 11/11/08 08:03 AM
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keyboardklutz, I tried standing in shizentai and it helped my back pain that I was getting from practicing. I'm amazed that this Kendo technique is that effective!!!! Thanks for sharing this wonderful posture exercise.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477350 11/11/08 12:43 PM
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Glad to oblige. Now if you stay in shizentai and lever your leg round with the hip you can have John Wayne's walk: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=jjPdKY3egRs
Notice the shoulders do their own thing.

Re: Pain in my back when practicing
#477351 11/11/08 01:49 PM
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While I've never had upper back problems while practicing, I used to often get lower back muscle stiffness. Recently though, I got a piano chair at a yard sale (I didn't know such a thing existed) and it helps immensely. It has just enough of a back to it that if I make sure to push into it it gives me a fair bit of lumbar support and I can practice MUCH longer without fatigue.


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