Piano Exercise: Practicing Chord Relaxation with a Two-Chord Progression
Aspire to play chords with a relaxed approach — that is, don’t hold tension in your hands, arms, and body. You do need a certain amount of muscle tone and firmness in the finger joints to play nice, solid chords, but you also want to build in the habit of releasing tension while you play. Start with this simple two-chord progression, and put the following steps into a cycle for each chord:
With your hands held slightly above the notes in the chord, imagine the shape of the chord in your mind and feel (but don’t play yet!) that shape in your fingers.
Allow your arm weight to drop onto the keyboard as you comfortably play the chord and hold the shape in your fingers.
With a loose, flexible feeling in your wrists, let the weight travel and be absorbed in your wrists with a light bounce.
Keeping the chord notes held down, let the wrist float back up and release the notes under your fingers as you lift up from the keyboard, releasing any muscle tension in your fingers, hands, arms, and shoulders.
During the rest between the two chords, release any tension throughout your arms and torso, and prepare for the next chord shape as in Step 1.
As you exercise, monitor your body for any area in which you may be holding tension — your arms, shoulders, neck, or even your face (in the form of a grimace or facial tic). Your aim is to breathe through your body as you play and to establish a cyclical pattern of tension and release.