Get Ready for Piano Practice
Are you the type that just immediately sit on the piano bench and start practicing? Or do you take a few minutes to warm up and relax your body before you start to practice?
If you are the former, you may be prone to cramping in your hands, arms and back and worse, tension in your playing after minutes and even hours of playing. And this is the reason why I advocate prep exercises before you approach the piano.
Why warm up first away from the piano? Here are two good reasons why. First you need to stretch and release muscles throughout your body from standing positions and floor positions. These stretching exercises will help you develop a routine of feeling loose and comfortable when you go to the piano. Plus, because you can do these warm-ups anywhere and anytime, you can start before you get to your piano.
Fundamental to music making is the basic pattern of tension and release. This is both in the physical process of playing and in the music itself. Everyone knows that playing the piano involves a wide range of movement. From pressing down a key with your fingertip to using your entire upper body in playing scales, arpeggios, and chords and then throw in in pedaling and voila! You’re using your whole body.
And because piano playing requires so much mental participation along with this physical movement, it’s easy to overlook the buildup of tension. When you find yourself tensing in the neck, forearms, and jaw; hunching in the shoulders; and locking the joints in the fingers, you are coiled up like a spring and exhibit tension in key areas. It is best to stretch and release this at the same time relaxing one’s muscles. All bodily movements on the require muscle flexion, extension, and rotation. This movement is enhanced by a fluid, relaxed approach that’s unhindered by excess tension in your body.
SOME WARM UP TECHNIQUES
Breathing is the model for fluid motion. Think of breathing in an unending circle — the end of an inhalation is the beginning of an exhalation. When you play the piano, you want to think of the music, your body, and your mind as part of this constant, fluid motion. So practice taking in a deep breath and exhale fully, without pushing, and let go of all the air until you’re ready to begin another inhalation. As you develop this slow cycle, let all your muscles relax and let go in the same rhythm.
HAND MASSAGE & EXERCISE
Give all your joints, muscles, and bones in one hand a gentle massage with the other hand. Squeeze the fleshy on your palms, rub the back with your fingertips and gently stretch the fingers in and out. Do whatever feels soothing. Start with your wrist bones and work toward the fingertips, thoroughly massaging the top, sides, and bottom of your hand, and then switch to the other hand. You can lightly anoint your skin with some massage oil to help with the massage. Make sure you wipe your hands after to get rid of the oily residue..
Like your hand, the wrists need some gentle, but firm exercises. Try to hold your hands out and slowly move them in circles. Continue rotating your wrists as a warm-up. Move your hands up and down like a flapping motion of a bird’s wing. You can feel a marked difference after doing these for a dozen reps.
ARM FLEXIBILITY EXERCISE
Try this exercise and then enjoy the looseness you feel throughout your arms. First, swing your forearms up from your elbows, folding them in and touch your thumb to your shoulder. Then let your forearms swing down gently. Allow the momentum to extending your arms out behind you slightly. Do this for 8 reps.
In conclusion, many pianists find that warm-ups, stretching and light exercise in general aid in the physical component of playing music. The prep work heightens the awareness of their bodies and the way they move. After a few stretches and warm-ups, you too can bring a relaxed awareness to the piano when you practice.
Remember, warm-up and stretch before you practice!