When learned properly, playing the piano can be a very rewarding skill. It causes joy, fun, creative expression, and, most importantly, an impact on others’ lives.
This skill, however, requires the development of certain basic concepts right from the start to make the most progress. Missing out on these fundamentals can lead to long-term problems that are difficult to fix down the road.
Whether you’re considering piano playing as a hobby or a career, here are the top three bad piano habits to avoid if you want to have complete control over your playing.
Bad Habit #1: Poor Posture
When you play the piano and sit like the Hunchback of Notre Dame with your head pulled forward, your posture is compromised. Poor piano posture such as this causes unnecessary tension, weariness, and difficulties that will affect practice and performance.
On the other hand, good posture allows the player to practice or perform for longer periods without experiencing pain or injury. Sitting correctly at the piano is critical because it affects everything about your playing, from moving your hands naturally to pedaling effortlessly.
The way you touch the piano, which represents aspects of your posture, also serves as a means for you to communicate your expressive intentions. Skilled pianists, for example, seek to vary individual sounds to add texture and character by combining finger/key pressure intensity and duration with pedaling that involves entire upper body movements. So how you hold yourself not only changes the sound, but communicates emotion to the audience. While this may not be obvious to a beginning pianist, it is something that can be developed with consistent practice.
How to Avoid It – Sit on a comfortable stool or chair at a suitable distance from the piano. The position of your hands, wrists, and forearms should be level. At the elbows, your arms should form a 90-degree angle. Maintain a straight back and relaxed shoulders. A straighter torso is more appealing than a hunched one, and it gives you a more dignified appearance while playing.
Bad Habit #2: Improper Hand Positioning
Do your hands look like “Stick Fingers” when you play? Or do they evolve into “T-Rex hands” the moment you place your fingers on the piano?
Hand position is essential in piano, and without it, you won’t be able to realize your full potential as a musician. When playing, you want to position your hand in such a way that your fingers can play the appropriate keys with the least amount of tension. Remember that the sound of the piano is affected by how you place your fingers on the keyboard. If you get your hand position right, you can play with expression and a wide dynamic range.
How to Avoid It – A good hand position is when both hands are palms down, relaxed, and slightly over the piano keys. Allow your fingers to slightly curve as if you’re holding an egg in your hand. Wrists should be relaxed and straight. The force required to press the piano keys is produced by the hand as a whole, rather than by individual fingers.
Bad Habit #3: Skipping Your Practice Schedule
Ever tried skipping meals? How did it turn out?
Skipping practice, like skipping meals, may not be a problem the first few times, but if it becomes a habit, it can have serious consequences.
We all have a million things competing for our attention. With such busy schedules, it can feel like a challenge to find time to practice, but if you stick with it – constantly learning, growing, and focusing on getting 1% better each day – consistent and efficient practice time can help you stay on track and perform at your best!
How to Avoid It – Make practicing a part of your daily routine, setting aside at least 20 minutes daily. Treat it like a class or something that you can get in trouble with if not attended to. Use a calendar like the one above to help you keep on track. Establish a specific goal for each session like mastering 5 specific major chords, 5 arpeggios, and so on. Having specific goals will allow you to assess whether you have met them or what else needs to be done to improve. Remember, it’s not how much you practice but how you practice.
There is no shame in being a beginner. As you learn, don’t overlook the fundamental concepts of good posture, proper hand positioning, and maintaining a practice schedule right from the start. These are all necessary skills if you want to learn advanced piano techniques that will allow you to play like the world’s best.
Take some time and determine which bad piano habit you’re struggling with and make plans to correct it. Often times, the best thing you can do for yourself is to find the right teacher. Having a teacher and lessons you love, you’ll always look forward to practicing at home, and in no time, you’ll find yourself playing like a pro!