Perfect Piano-Playing Hand Posture

Hand posture and comfort are vitally important while playing the piano or keyboard. Poor hand posture can cause your performance to suffer for two reasons:

  • Lack of dexterity: If your hands are in tight, awkward positions, you can't access the keys quickly and efficiently. Your performance will sound clumsy and be full of wrong notes.
  • Potential for cramping: If your hands cramp often, you won't practice often. If you don't practice often, you won't be a very good player.

Cut those nails

You've no doubt heard of the piano teacher with fingernails so long that all you could hear was the clicking of her nails against the keys as she played. It sounds like typing class, rather than piano lessons.

The point is simple: Keep your fingernails short, or at least at a reasonable length. Your audience wants to hear beautiful piano music, not clickety-click-click.

Arch those fingers

When you place your hands on the keys, you must keep your hands arched and your fingers slightly curled at all times. It feels weird at first, but you can't improve your playing technique until you get used to holding your hands this way. Arching your hands and fingers pays off with the following benefits:

  • Your hands don't get tired as quickly.
  • Your hands are less likely to cramp.
  • You can quickly access any key, black or white.

If you know how to type, you have already assumed this arched-hand position — you hold your hands exactly the same way on the keyboard. If you're lucky enough not to be familiar with typing, find two tennis balls (or similarly sized balls) and hold one in each hand, as demonstrated in Figure 1. This is how your hand should look when you play the piano . . . of course, minus the ball.


Figure 1: Arch those hands proudly.

Pick a finger, any finger

Correct fingering — using the best finger to play each note of a song — is always a very important part of piano playing. Some pieces, even the easy ones, have fingerings marked in the sheet music. These fingerings help you plan which fingers to use to execute a particular musical passage most efficiently and comfortably.

The fingerings you see in music correspond to the left- and right-hand fingering you see in Figure 2. Think of your fingers as being numbered 1 through 5. Begin with the thumb as number 1 and move towards the little finger, or pinkie.


Figure 2: Numbers and digits.

While you get used to thinking of your fingers in terms of numbers, you may find it helpful to write these numbers on your hands. I advise using non-permanent markers or fingernail polish. Otherwise, you'll have to explain those numbered fingers to your date on Friday night, your boss on Monday morning, or your homeroom teacher.

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