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Originally Posted by ADWyatt
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
High wrist and curved fingers is a "default", conventional position for learning to play piano. It's absolutely ok.

Playing notes in-between black keys is not recommended. Instead you need to learn to move your hand forward to the lid and backward when playing.

I find this to be excellent advice, and I am very grateful for your input.
But the parts I excerpted are not so good IMO. How high should the wrist be and how curved should fingers be in the "default" position? Certainly not curved the way Estrin demonstrates in the video posted on this thread and often not curved when the fingers are stretched to play large chords. IOW the advice seems too vague to be maximally useful although I think it's reasonable for a beginner whose is shown the position by a teacher.

As far as moving one's hand in and out to avoid having to play in between the black keys, that is not always possible. And what if one is playing a chord like F#,A, C#? I think all good pianists sometimes play in between the black keys sometimes.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/10/21 07:55 PM.
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
How high should the wrist be and how curved should fingers be in the "default" position?
High wrist is when a palm is horizontal. Low wrist is when the knuckles are higher than the wrist.
High wrist promotes using arm weight. Low wrist promotes using finger technique.

How curved? When I was a little boy I was told to imagine that I was holding an apple from above. Obviously for an adult it must be a big big apple. smile Probably a grapefruit. laugh


Edit: I've written more detailed description here, but really now I'm not sure if it will be helpful or harmful. Sometimes thinking too much is a bad thing. Probably it's better to ignore it and just stick to a grapefruit.
Speaking seriously, the curve must be just enough to support full arm weight, like a resilient arc, without any joint collapsing, but not steeper. In one of the most authoritative Russian books about piano technique it is written that you can test your curve by pressing on a key with all your arm and if you feel pressure and resilience in the center of your palm, with no joint collapsing, than the curve is correct. If you don't feel pressure and resilience the curve is too steep. If you feel instability or collapsing the curve is too flat.

If you want something simpler, there is another thing. You can see a little peak in the center of the pad of every finger. A good "default" position is when contact surface barely reaches that central peak. It's enough contact area to maintain "feeling" of the key and soft touch and at the same time it's enough to provide support.
Advanced pianists sometimes tend to use more surface of the pad, sometimes with intentional collapse of last joints, but this is not something a beginner student should do.


Originally Posted by pianoloverus
As far as moving one's hand in and out to avoid having to play in between the black keys, that is not always possible. And what if one is playing a chord like F#,A, C#? I think all good pianists sometimes play in between the black keys sometimes.
I was talking about individual notes. For chord notes it's normal to play them in-between black keys.

Last edited by Iaroslav Vasiliev; 01/11/21 06:07 AM.
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Hi there,

The position of hands and fingers depends of the music you're playing. There is one basic: the wrist and palm horizontally aligned; the curves of the fingers can be different in what you play.....and mostly the hand will be like a kind of claw, just holding an apple from above, just as Iaroslav Vasiliev said so beautifully......

Kind regards,
Johan B

Last edited by Johan B; 01/11/21 10:18 AM.

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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
As far as moving one's hand in and out to avoid having to play in between the black keys, that is not always possible. And what if one is playing a chord like F#,A, C#? I think all good pianists sometimes play in between the black keys sometimes.
I was talking about individual notes. For chord notes it's normal to play them in-between black keys.
If one plays the notes F#,G, G# with 2, 3, 4 one would play between the black keys.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
As far as moving one's hand in and out to avoid having to play in between the black keys, that is not always possible. And what if one is playing a chord like F#,A, C#? I think all good pianists sometimes play in between the black keys sometimes.
I was talking about individual notes. For chord notes it's normal to play them in-between black keys.
If one plays the notes F#,G, G# with 2, 3, 4 one would play between the black keys.
It would not even come to my mind to play between the black keys in this situation.

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I suppose it might be rather embarrassing to say this, but I saw an interesting YouTube commercial for the Yamaha CLP745, and one of the people demonstrating it was the owner of what I believe is the largest music store in Arizona. (His name, and the name of his website, are familiar to most people, but right off the bat I can't recall it). He is apparently rather accomplished, as he has taught musical instruments for quite some years, and when I saw him playing I was intrigued. His wrists and fingers were parallel, but surprisingly just the slightest bit high above the keyboard. To me he kind of resembled a hawk ready to pounce on a field mouse, with curled talons set to strike. However, his fingers straightened out, without effort, when he had to play black keys. There was nothing unnatural or strained looking in his setup, and he played quickly, fluently, and with great impression. The only difference between him and myself, as far as I could see, was that he was sitting slightly higher than I was.

With that, I decided to find a seat cushion (my bench can't be adjusted) and I sat several inches higher that I normally would, making sure that my wrists and fingers were in line with one another. I can't say that turned me into Horowitz, and it took a little bit to get used to, but I no longer had the problem with buckling fingers. And so I will now see if a cushion I can tie down to my bench might make a positive difference. I think it just might.

Would a good teacher have noticed anything wrong with my setup at the piano? Maybe not, because practicing on her piano in a studio might be one thing, but practicing at home, out of her sight, might be another. Of one thing, though, I'm certain. Most mid-priced digital pianos come with a standard bench whose height cannot be adjusted; one size is supposed to fit all. This introduces a problem that students below a master level might well be completely unaware of.

Last edited by ADWyatt; 01/12/21 04:13 PM.
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AddWyatt, did you check www.hopkinsmedicine.org › dupuytrens-contracture? This article may be relevant to what you describe.

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When I sit at the piano my wrist and elbow are 2 to 3 inches above the keyboard. Why? Because my hand's natural (relaxed) curvature puts my palm 2 to 3 inches above the keyboard. I'm not trying to curve my fingers or lay them flat, I'm simply letting them rest.

Can I play sitting lower or higher than that? Yes, I simply adjust my arm & wrist positions to give my hands a chance to stay in their default shape. Is that a good or bad thing? Well, it's better not to do multiple adjustments. But the reality is every piano bench is different and it can be difficult to find the right height...especially when the audience gets impatient with your seat twittering.

To find your natural hand shape, stand up straight with both feet flat on the floor, let your arms fall down to your side with your hands brushing your thighs. Now bend your elbows and bring your hands up to your shoulders. Your hands are in a karate chop orientation. Now turn them so the palm faces the keyboard. Voila, this your natural hand shape.

One may be more curved than the other. If you didn't tense up or do something funny you will find that any attempt to alter your hand shape will cause a measurable increase in tension. When someone shouts "Don't tense up!" they mean "revert to your natural hand shape".


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Originally Posted by ADWyatt
I suppose it might be rather embarrassing to say this, but I saw an interesting YouTube commercial for the Yamaha CLP745, and one of the people demonstrating it was the owner of what I believe is the largest music store in Arizona. (His name, and the name of his website, are familiar to most people, but right off the bat I can't recall it). He is apparently rather accomplished, as he has taught musical instruments for quite some years, and when I saw him playing I was intrigued. His wrists and fingers were parallel, but surprisingly just the slightest bit high above the keyboard. To me he kind of resembled a hawk ready to pounce on a field mouse, with curled talons set to strike. However, his fingers straightened out, without effort, when he had to play black keys. There was nothing unnatural or strained looking in his setup, and he played quickly, fluently, and with great impression. The only difference between him and myself, as far as I could see, was that he was sitting slightly higher than I was.

With that, I decided to find a seat cushion (my bench can't be adjusted) and I sat several inches higher that I normally would, making sure that my wrists and fingers were in line with one another. I can't say that turned me into Horowitz, and it took a little bit to get used to, but I no longer had the problem with buckling fingers. And so I will now see if a cushion I can tie down to my bench might make a positive difference. I think it just might.

Would a good teacher have noticed anything wrong with my setup at the piano? Maybe not, because practicing on her piano in a studio might be one thing, but practicing at home, out of her sight, might be another. Of one thing, though, I'm certain. Most mid-priced digital pianos come with a standard bench whose height cannot be adjusted; one size is supposed to fit all. This introduces a problem that students below a master level might well be completely unaware of.
No embarrassment. We are glad that you have found solution.

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Originally Posted by Fidel
When I sit at the piano my wrist and elbow are 2 to 3 inches above the keyboard. Why? Because my hand's natural (relaxed) curvature puts my palm 2 to 3 inches above the keyboard. I'm not trying to curve my fingers or lay them flat, I'm simply letting them rest.

Can I play sitting lower or higher than that? Yes, I simply adjust my arm & wrist positions to give my hands a chance to stay in their default shape. Is that a good or bad thing? Well, it's better not to do multiple adjustments. But the reality is every piano bench is different and it can be difficult to find the right height...especially when the audience gets impatient with your seat twittering.

To find your natural hand shape, stand up straight with both feet flat on the floor, let your arms fall down to your side with your hands brushing your thighs. Now bend your elbows and bring your hands up to your shoulders. Your hands are in a karate chop orientation. Now turn them so the palm faces the keyboard. Voila, this your natural hand shape.

One may be more curved than the other. If you didn't tense up or do something funny you will find that any attempt to alter your hand shape will cause a measurable increase in tension. When someone shouts "Don't tense up!" they mean "revert to your natural hand shape".
I'm sorry but this is a widespread nonsense. When my arm hangs down, my fingers have one degree of curve. When I lift my forearm and palm to horizontal position my (relaxed) fingers bend in the knuckles due to the gravity and start to hang down so that my nails become almost vertical. And when I lift my forearm and palm up to the vertical position my relaxed fingers start to bend also in the PIP joints because of the gravity, and my relaxed hand forms a fist.

So the form of your relaxed fingers in piano playing position has nothing to do with their form in vertical arm position. If you let your fingers just relax in piano playing position they will simply hang down in completely unplayable form.

Maintaining hand curve in horizontal, piano playing position is always a result of muscle tension.

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