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How to relax your wrists while playing the piano

Mizue Murakami

Image of hand & paint brush

A few days ago, I wrote a blog about "How to avoid developing tendinitis in your wrists playing the piano." But I couldn't get into "How to relax your wrists practicing piano" in that blog.  The blog wasn't about that. Today, I would like to talk about that so that you won't develop stiffness, inflammation, or even tendinitis in your wrists.

Again, it's the same philosophy that I keep saying. Use your entire body! If you have to shake your wrists time to time because you feel stiffness in your wrists, then, you are relying too much on your wrists. Other parts of your body are not doing much to play the piano. So, to relax your wrists, first, you have to learn how to use your entire body.

If you have injured your lower back in the past, probably your physical therapist told you that you need to develop your core (abdominal) muscle. And she/he probably also told you how to move your entire body differently from the ways you were doing before to accommodate your lower back; How to bend over, How to pick up something from the floor, etc.

The same goes for your wrists and your entire body. Let's take a look at how you can relax your wrists by using your whole body:

  • So, as I mentioned in the other blog, "Use your entire body to play the piano," make sure that you support your upper body with your lower body firmly. Your lower body is the power. The upper body is an operator but relaxed operator that relies on the lower body's power. 
  • How to use the middle section of your body (buttocks, abdomen, and hips) is crucial. Sit on the front edge of the bench, almost like leaning against it. Flex your abdominal muscle (not lower back muscle) to support your upper body. Your hips should be ready to shift the energy and movement of your upper body, especially when your upper body needs to tilt to the right or left. 
  • Once the lower and middle sections of your body are powering your upper body, you should be able to move your upper body more freely. Don't stay still. Experiment moving every part of your upper body in all directions.
    • Your torso can go to the right, left, forward, or backward.
    • Your elbows should be able to circle around but loosely bent all the time. Elbows shouldn't be locked straight.
    • Your wrists should be able to go up, down, and circle. Just experiment without playing the piano but while sitting in front of the piano. 
  • Your shoulders should never be tensed up and raised. If you do so, the tensed shoulders will intensify the stiffness in your arms, elbows, wrists, hands, & fingers because the energy stops at your shoulders. 

If you are a piano practitioner who have been using only your hands and fingers with stiff wrists to play the piano, this concept of using the entire body may take some time to incorporate in to your playing. However, without this, it's going to be almost impossible for you to relax your wrists. So, be patient and try your best to learn to use the entire body

After you become capable of using your entire body, let's try this. Sit in front of the piano. But without playing the piano, place a hand on the piano like you are going to play. Then, gently lift up your forearm without moving your elbow up. This will, of course, raise your wrist. But see if you can just completely relax your entire hand & fingers so that your hand actually drops hanging from your wrist. It looks weird. But I like you to feel the sensation and remember that's how relaxed wrist should feel like.

Keep the same sensation and move your hands around, pretending like you are playing the piano. But don't play it. Just move your completely-relaxed and dropped hands and fingers like a brush by using your elbow and forearm. Yes, I said, "a brush." Your hand and fingers are like a brush. The wrist is where the stick and brush connects. The forearm is the stick. Do this silly practice without actually playing the piano but at the piano pretending like you are brushing the keys.

You may say, "That's it?" Yes, that's it. But did you just read this blog or did you actually try this silly experiment I've just told you to do? I really want you to try it, especially if you need to learn how to relax your wrists while playing the piano.

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