Hand Exercises for Musicians to Relieve Pain and Tension

by Jazer Lee
Tips & Techniques

Hand Exercises for the Piano

How to Alleviate Tension and Pain.

In one of the many comments I get from my YouTube channel, many complain about the tension and pain in the hands before one starts a day on the piano. In fact, one of my subscribers shared that he had problems playing properly because his hands and fingers were too stiff. He asked if there are physical exercises that I could share to alleviate his condition.

In fact, I do have some hand exercises that I have my students do whenever they complain of stiff fingers/hands.

5 Hand and Finger Exercises

1. Fist First

Hold out your right hand and make
a fist. Wrap your thumb around your fingers and close. Squeeze until you feel
tightness for about 5 seconds. Breathe deeply and open your fingers, stretching
them out. Make a fist again for 5 seconds breathing deeply. Repeat 5 times and
do the same exercise for the left hand. Remember, make it tight but not too
tight that you feel pain.

2. Wrist Bend

Extend your right arm out in front of you. Place your left hand underneath your right hand’s fingers and gently pull them back. Breathe deeply, and hold for five seconds. Release, then push those same fingers down and toward you. Breathe deeply again, and hold for five seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times and do exactly the same way with the left arm.

3. Lift Them Fingers

Place your hand flat, palm down, on a table or other even surface. Gently lift each finger, one at a time, for five seconds before lowering it back down. Then, lift all fingers at the same time for five seconds, keeping the palm flat, for five seconds before releasing. Do this 3 times. Repeat this exercise exactly the same way with your other hand.

If you can, try doing both hands at once. Lift both thumbs up, then the index fingers, etc. This will help loosen up your fingers at the same time strengthen them.

4. Wrist Twist

Sit on a chair that has forearms. Rest your forearms on the chair’s arms so that your wrists are supported by the ends of the chair’s arms and your fingers hang free. Bend your wrists back, lifting your hands up toward you, and then lower your hands back down. Repeat the lifting and lowering 5 to 10 times.

Next, try rotating your wrists while keeping your elbows in place. Rotate your forearms so your palms are facing upward and hold for five seconds. and then rotate again, turning your palms back over. Repeat for 5 to 10 times.

5. Thumb to Palm Trick

Touch the tip of your thumb to the base of your index finger, and hold for five seconds. Release and stretch all fingers outward. Then, touch the tip of your thumb to the base of your pinky finger, and hold for five seconds. Release completely and gently stretch all of the fingers wide. Do these 5 to 10 times.

Other suggestions to alleviate tension in the hands is to avoid excessive curling of fingers. Try to soak the hands in warm water for about 3 to 5 minutes before playing to bring blood to the hands. Another tip is to avoid a sudden increase in practice time – think ‘chunking’ (playing a small portion of the piece with mindful practice).

Also consider how you use your hands in other aspects of your life, such as typing, texting, preparing food or any other activity that requires grip.

Lastly, remember to curve your fingers into a rounded shape on the keyboard. Let your fingers rest on the piano keys lightly while taking deep breaths. This will help relax any tension in your hand. When you play, pretend your hand is very lazy and you want to barely do any work. Your pianist fingers should rest comfortably on the keys. Try to resist the urge to lift your fingers up off of the keys. Leaving your piano fingers on the keys will help you save energy and reduce the pain and exertion after playing. 

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