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Usually, I sit at around the 'regular' piano height, where the forearms are approximately parallel to the ground and at the height of the keys. For some reason I decided to see what it would be like sitting higher, and plopped a big 3 inch book on the bench. It was clearly at a much higher height than I've seen most people sitting at. Yet to my amazement, the touch of the keys and playing felt completely different. It took so much less effort, and everything was so much more smooth and comfortable. Not to mention that since my head was 3 inches closer to the opening of the piano(I play an upright), the sound I was hearing sounded more 'pure'.

So my question is, how come noone sits higher at the piano? And would it be dangerous for me to play like that for extended periods of time? It doesn't feel like it would cause any problems, but that may be something I won't notice until it's too late. It was great though.. really.
I use the adjustable bench at its top height. I'm 5'7". I have carpal tunnel syndrome.

I find that with my bifocals I can read music easier.

I find that there is less stress on my hands.
I'm not exactly Glenn Gould but I can't seem to get my bench low enough (and I'm only 5'6"). I actually took the tiny metal taps off the bottoms of the legs.
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Originally posted by -Frycek:
I'm not exactly Glenn Gould but I can't seem to get my bench low enough (and I'm only 5'6"). I actually took the tiny metal taps off the bottoms of the legs.
Have you put your piano on castors yet?
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Originally posted by lilylady:
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Originally posted by -Frycek:
[b] I'm not exactly Glenn Gould but I can't seem to get my bench low enough (and I'm only 5'6"). I actually took the tiny metal taps off the bottoms of the legs.
Have you put your piano on castors yet? [/b]
They are both already on castors. Add castor cups maybe?
yup, castor cups were meant!

(she knocks herself upside her head)
Erroll Garner sat high. Legend has it that Liszt sat high and away from the piano.
Sitting high and slightly away gives you more leverage for arm and upper back strenght. I experimented with this a little when i was learning chopin op 10 no 1. Helped a little bit i guess, but every little bit counts when you're playing op 10 no 1.
I use an adjustable rolling office chair...benches are too hard on the sit-bones...
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Originally posted by MDes:
So my question is, how come noone sits higher at the piano? And would it be dangerous for me to play like that for extended periods of time? It doesn't feel like it would cause any problems, but that may be something I won't notice until it's too late. It was great though.. really.
Actually, plenty of people sit very high at the piano. Most adjustable artist benches do not go high enough. My artist bench at its maximum height is just right for me, but for my piano students I have to add a cushion or phonebook for them to sit on. I insist on having my students sitting at the correct height.

I prefer to have my elbows slightly above the keys, and I play with level-to-high wrists. My professor in college spent the entire first lesson explaining why I am sitting too low and how sitting higher can liberate your arms and wrists to play more difficult pieces. She's right!!
Each person have to sit a different height not matter their height or body weight. The height of the bench is determined by the ratio between the lenght of the upper arm, forearm and torso.
So you might take 20 people of the same height, age and body type but their upper arm lenght, forearm length and torso lenght will vary.

As a rule those with a short torso and long upper arms have to sit higher. Those with a long torso and short upper arms have to sit lower.

This also means that for some people the correct height which leaves the forearm parallel to the ground will place the elbow above keys level while for others the exact same position of the forearm will place the elbow below keys level.

Still you should sight within a range in which your forearm is parallel to the ground and the upper arm are free to hang freely.

If you're sitting too high the forearm will be at an angle sloping down to reach the key and you will force the shoulders and shoulder blades down.

If you're sitting too low your forearm will be at an angle sloping upwards and you will raise and keep the shoulders and shoulder blades raised.
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
Those with a long torso and short upper arms have to sit lower.
That's me. I have a hard time getting shirts that aren't bobtailed on me and then have to roll up the sleeves.
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My artist bench at its maximum height is just right for me, but for my piano students I have to add a cushion or phonebook for them to sit on.
Concert halls usually have small wooden platforms to put the bench on when someone wants a taller bench. This gives more secure seating than cushions or such.
I have a short torso (= longer legs than average for my height), but shorter arms (sleeves of formal shirts tend to be 2-3 cm too long).

What would be best for me in this prospective?
I do something that has the same effect for digital pianos. I use gig style pianos, which need a separate keyboard stand. Every keyboard stand I've had or tried (except for one very cheap off-brand I found on ebay), at its lower setting, is still about 2 or 4 inches higher then I would like. So I resorted to either using a file to cut an extra notch in the height adjustment mechanism, for X-stands, or, with table style stands, using a pipe cuter to cut a few inches off the legs (which also cuts of the height adjustment mechanism, but as long as I can get to height I want, I don't care.) Why the stand manufacturers make their stands so their lowest setting is so high, I don't know. Fine if you play standing up, but if you play sitting down, the lowest height is way too high.
I always have the bench as high as possible.

I find it a bit exasperating when the bench has been left really low by the previous person, and I have to twist and twist the knobs - twisting at that angle seems to stress my wrists. Does anyone else have the same problem?

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Originally posted by Innominato:
I have a short torso (= longer legs than average for my height), but shorter arms (sleeves of formal shirts tend to be 2-3 cm too long).

What would be best for me in this prospective?
Clarinet? smile
"Clarinet? smile "

smile smile wink
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Originally posted by whippen boy:
I always have the bench as high as possible.

I find it a bit exasperating when the bench has been left really low by the previous person, and I have to twist and twist the knobs - twisting at that angle seems to stress my wrists. Does anyone else have the same problem?
YES!

Have carpal tunnel syndrome and twisting those knobs drives me nuts. Luckily being a blonde, some nice male usually comes to my rescue!

Recent visit to a home saw a plug in auto adjuster. We just hit the button and away she went!
I couldn't resist a reply to this post. I teach the Alexander Technique to Musicians (and I am a pianist as well) and seat height for EVERY musician is a challenge. While everyone has an opinion about the height of the bench in relation to hands and arms, I look at hip joints. Yes-really. If there is a slight slope down to your thigh i.e. your leg slopes down toward the floor, then it is easier to keep the hips free which allows your back to lengthen fully which adds to the freedom of your arms. It also contributes to a free pedal leg. I usually raise people up. The amount depends on their height. Too high is when your heels are no longer supporting you well.
MDes

In regards to the height you have your stool its completely a personal decision. Using the philosophy ' what works '. Music Teachers will go to great lengths to discuss and illustrat ehand positions sitting positiong etc. In the end you are the person playing and you adopt the posture and height that suite you.

On top of the line grands there is an adjustible bench. You adjust it to the height that suits yourself. If you can traverse easily from the one end of the keys to the other and feel comfortable then the stool is at the right height for you.

Some concert artists create a whole performance spectacle re adjusting the height of the stool.

When you are playing a piece of a long duration ( e.g. a Beethoven Sonate ) you need to set up in advance to ensure your own personal comfort.

If you are comfortable in posture at the piano this quickly shows in the piece.

Enjoy your playing and the height of the bench is all a matter of personal preference
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Originally posted by piumosso:
I couldn't resist a reply to this post. I teach the Alexander Technique to Musicians (and I am a pianist as well) and seat height for EVERY musician is a challenge. While everyone has an opinion about the height of the bench in relation to hands and arms, I look at hip joints. Yes-really. If there is a slight slope down to your thigh i.e. your leg slopes down toward the floor, then it is easier to keep the hips free which allows your back to lengthen fully which adds to the freedom of your arms.
Piumosso can you tell us more about Alexander Technique and posture at the piano. An actual Alenxader Teacher Pianist ... you are my new hero !! I hope you can share your knowledge with us.
I tend to sit pretty high-I carry seat cushions with me around the practice rooms and even to my lessons. People may laugh at me, but I just can't get the bench to go high enough. I feel less grounded in the keys when I sit higher.
The fact is, with some degree of variation depending on length of torso versus legs, most people should sit with forearms parallel to the floor with elbows at the same height as the keyboard and wrists extended neutrally. By sitting lower, one obtains a richer sound through use of natural arm weight on the keys. The offset to that is that when playing velocity, you then have to fight gravity. By sitting high, one can play velocity a bit more easily, but the downside is that the tone becomes "gray sound"--not much color to it, and not very pleasing to the listener. The gray sound results from the keys receiving too light a touch, thus not being fully depressed past the escapement point all the way to the key bed.

At home I use a Jansen artist bench which is adjustable. I don't believe that a standard fixed-height wooden bench can be suitable for everyone.

I've attended seminars in ergonomics covering body mechanics, alignment of body to task, causes of repetitive motion soft tissue injuries, etc. It's readily apparent to me now that the principles of sitting in front of the piano keyboard are actually no different from sitting in front of a PC keyboard. Proved ergonomic principles must be taken into account to prevent things like carpel tunnel syndrome. Ignoring them invites unnecessary risk.
I study and play at the same height Glenn Gould did, except in several occasions that I play much lower than him, actually, just a little over the floor.
I've been getting this pain in my back. I don't think the piano stool the salesguy gave me matches the piano. He actually gave me another since he couldn't find the one that came with the piano.

I recently changed benches. I think the pain is starting to disappear.
I actually sit extremely low. I used to sit extremely high though and really had problems with leaning into the piano and not maintaining good posture. My whole back, shoulders and arms would get sore after practicing. I also have an abnormally longer torso and perhaps thats what caused all the strain sitting so high
The optimal sitting height is very personal and it also becomes a habit. Your can easily adapt to a bad habit, i. e sitting too high or too low. I believe in the general recommendations as a starting point.

And once you get used to something, it is a question of centimeters - not inches (a very obsolete measure, by the way) Cannot understand that there are non-adjustable stools.

Phone books and cushions - apart from other draw-backs there is aestetical point of view.

Beside the sitting height, the distance from the keys to your position and how deep you sit on the stool is important. IMO you should sit more on the edge of the stool - it gives more freedom to your back and pedal-using legs.

Sitting height has nothing to do with produced sound quality (rich, warm, broad, hard, mellow, or brilliant). The sound is determined by the piano and its voicing. But of course sitting height affects how your ear percieve the sound and the psycho-physiolocigal feed back from playing on various height may also play some role.
The opposite question can be posed: Do people lower their bench excessively (like Glenn Gould)? Or, why aren't kids sitting higher?

I've seen little kids sitting at the very edge of the bench, almost standing, so they can reach the pedals. They end up "sitting" really close to the piano and thus can't stretch their arms out fully. Their sound is as cramped as their posture.
Amazing! I thought I was the only one who liked sitting higher.

I do carry phone books around in the car so that I can get myself elevated.
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Originally posted by piumosso:
I couldn't resist a reply to this post. I teach the Alexander Technique to Musicians (and I am a pianist as well) and seat height for EVERY musician is a challenge. While everyone has an opinion about the height of the bench in relation to hands and arms, I look at hip joints. Yes-really. If there is a slight slope down to your thigh i.e. your leg slopes down toward the floor, then it is easier to keep the hips free which allows your back to lengthen fully which adds to the freedom of your arms. It also contributes to a free pedal leg. I usually raise people up. The amount depends on their height. Too high is when your heels are no longer supporting you well.
That's interesting. I'm 5'3" and after years of excruciating upper back muscle pain, I finally got an artist's bench (and Steinway) and the pain is gone. I have the bench as high as it will go; I sit on the edge of the bench so my thighs are slighly at a down angle and I sit well away from the piano.

Short people have all kinds of problems with chair height. Too high: feet don't touch the ground, arms of the chair are too high so shoulders are scrunched. Too deep: we can't get comfortable. Too low, results in upper back pain when trying to reach a computer keyboard. I finally bought a computer desk that fits me but everyone else complains it is too low. I also use a kneeling chair at the computer.
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