While a computer tech was trouble-shooting at the house this week, he was interested in my ergonomic keyboard. In fact, he is going to purchase one.
Take a look! http://www.thehumansolution.com/keyovation.html
That got me thinking about this post, first published in 2010.
Someone searched this blog recently for “ergonomics of playing the piano.” Let’s replace that with “playing the piano safely.”
We can maintain our ability to play the piano for decades by being aware and looking for variety.
Awareness of warning signs is important to avoid injury. Once someone incurs an injury, s/he becomes more vulnerable to further injury in the future. So even if you think it could never happen to you, it happens all the time.
If you feel numbness, tingling, or pain, you need to take a break.
If anything hurts, even a stiff neck, you need to look at that.
Practicing mindlessly for hours on end without a break is never a good idea.
What’s your plan? How do you practice?
Going at something as fast and loudly as possible will get you injured in no time.
Here are a few ideas about staying safe.
You can practice:
- hands alone
- slower than performance tempo
- changing range on the keyboard
- alternating difficult passages with less stressful ones
- mixing up a stint of staccato practicing with legato (use your body in different ways)
- for leaps and glissandi, measuring distances and calculating timing by faking it (above the keyboard ~ no need to play all that often)
- feeling chord shapes in your hands, also above the keyboard
- more carefully when you’re tired
- alternate practicing and gripping activities with passive activities, such as reading or taking a walk, talking on the speakerphone. For example, lifting weights and practicing are both stressing your body, thus making you more vulnerable to injury. Your body needs a break in between.
- play with your hands and arms in a natural position (you don’t have to be exactly lined up with the keys!)
- look at your practice setup ~ lighting, chair height, your distance from the keyboard (do you have room to navigate?)
- always use healthy body alignment (feet on the floor, supporting your body ~ no slumping forward, no legs wrapped around chair legs, no feet on chair rungs, no head on hand on elbow resting on the piano)
- look at the music away from the piano
- conduct, sing, walk the rhythm, clap, speak the text in rhythm, try dynamic changes out with your voice
- take a 20-min. break every hour
- practice in more than one chunk of time during the day
- eat 3 healthy meals every day (don’t skip a meal in order to practice!)
- stretch your body and warm up your hands before practicing (5 min.)
- stretch your arms, shoulders, and back after practicing (5 more min.)
Computer use (i.e. more use of your hands)
Same thing. Look at your setup, use good body alignment (don’t lie on your bed, resting on your elbows). Take breaks. Move your arms, shoulders, and back when you type, like you would on an old manual typewriter with tiered keys. Stretch before and after computer work.
Computers probably demand more fast work without breaks than practicing an instrument. No one talks about good body alignment in workplaces. Deadlines are much more important. (Fed-Ex leaves in 5 minutes! Are you done yet?) And, unless you’re self-employed, you’re likely to have someone who wants you to produce more, faster than you need to be going. Pressure means vulnerability to injury.
Why not take a look at your usual approach to the computer during your time off, at home? Try looking at yourself in the mirror, or ask a friend to help.
At work, you can set your phone alarm to alert you once an hour. Stand up, walk around, stretch, breathe, and something relaxing. Take a break! The up side of leaving your work where it is for a few minutes is, you won’t turn into a pretzel!
What do you think? What is your approach to practice and computer use? Do you have certain ways of going about it that work particularly well for you? Do you take breaks?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section!
You can read much more about ergonomics here.
And while you’re here, please take a look at my E-book! “Goal-oriented Practice” is all about being smart, saving time, and achieving better results.