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  • Bonnie

Posture on the Piano

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

When I started taking up music lessons, electronic keyboard to be precise, I don't recall my teacher emphasizing the importance of posture. Then when I started on the electronic organ and needed to use the pedalboard or pedal keyboard, I realized my legs were too short to press on the pedals comfortably. Even in those days, they already had a pedal extender for the organ. Of course, my first organ only had one octave of pedals, unlike the modern ones available now. I am thankful my mom got me the pedal extender which I started using. Little did I notice the importance of it at that time. Not having to slant my body one-sided to reach the pedals was crucial. Besides being able to play more comfortably with the help of the extender, I also managed to play faster with more accuracy.

When I got taller, I gave that pedal extender away. Sitting correctly on the bench now and anchoring my right leg in the expression pedal while playing the pedals with my left was good enough to give me the right balance and posture on the electronic organ. I can even alternate playing the pedals with my toes/ball of the foot and my heel. I sometimes do a glissando, too (which means a continuous slide between 2 notes), in this case, the higher C to lower C pedals.

Electronic Organ

I went on to practice more complicated pieces and participated in several competitions. Even then, during my teenage years, I didn't think about why sitting correctly, especially at the correct height, plays an integral part in one's progress. I know I am supposed to sit at the same place each time I play the instrument.

When I transitioned to the piano during that time, I was already tall enough to sit straight with both legs firmly on the ground or my right heel on the ground when I needed to use the pedal. I continued sitting the same way, managed relatively well on most pieces, and completed a few examinations. I sometimes struggled with parts that needed more speed or power but thought I lacked practice or my hands were small.

As I progressed into my piano journey, I read more books and attended workshops and seminars, hoping to improve my skill. With time and self-experimenting, I realized different body heights and angles of your hand could produce different tones on the piano. To be able to play with more accuracy, expression, speed, and agility, or better interpretation and delivery of a piece, one must first have a good posture.

So now, in my teaching, especially to young beginners, I always start the first lesson with a brief introduction to posture. For younger learners, besides adjusting the adjustable bench to the correct height, I will also place the pedal extender on top of the existing piano pedals so that their legs can firmly rest on them or depress the pedal whenever necessary.

Several parents also saw the need and eventually purchased the piano extender so their children could use it at home. A stool will also work if you don't have an extender. At least a raised platform on which the child can place both feet.

Usually, having the proper posture means -

  • the feet are on the ground or raised platform (stool or pedal extender) - for good balance and support

  • the knees slightly under the keyboard and apart - so the student is at the correct distance from the piano

  • just sitting the front half of the bench

  • should be sitting tall with back straight

  • elbows should form a 90-degree angle with your hands resting on the keys (think L shape)

  • relaxed shoulders and wrist

  • hands nicely curved so fingers are not flat

For this five-year-old above, even after adjusting the bench to maximum height, I still had to use additional cushioning to elevate her so that she could achieve the L-shaped elbow and curved fingers. But I feel good posture is an essential aspect of piano playing, so we should always make an effort to cultivate it and start the habit from day one.

Once good posture is developed, the student can have an utterly tension-free experience on the piano. It will also lessen the chances of any injury. The student can now play with more flexibility, better energy direction, and better performances on the piano - overall healthier piano playing.


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