How are you playing the piano??

Every piano player, amateur or pro, has their own piano playing posture. What many fail to realize is how each posture could trigger a very different effect in our playing.

Here’s a paragraph from Hal Galper in his book Forward Motion

” One evening a blue-haired old lady came up to the piano and started talking to me while I was in the middle of a solo portion of some tune. I didn’t stop soloing while we talked. As the discussion progressed I started to notice that I was improvising ideas I had never played before. “

Of course what I’m talking about here is not the normal playing posture a piano teacher would talked about, relax shoulders, straight torso, forearm parallel to the floor, etc.

Instead, what we are focusing here is more of playing “habits” that could trigger different internal process, thus varying external behavior ie. our playing. In short, for lack of a better term, playing posture.    

I for one have experimented with many different playing postures night after night while performing. Its surprising how different the results are. I’ve categorized a few of them, and here they are :

The Eyes Closed Mind Focused Posture

The pianist has his eyes closed, not to doze off, but his mind fully focused. Bill Evans is one of the jazz pianist who adopted this posture extensively, mostly throughout his whole performance


With the eyes closed, the ears listened more attentively. The pianist will tend to focus on how he is sounding, thus producing a nicer tone on the keys, and improvising lines straight from the heart.

Keith Jarrett is another jazz pianist who does this often.


However, when playing with such a posture, the pianist will also have a tendency to dwell in his own music, neglecting the importance of communication between band members on the band stand.


The What Are We Doing Posture

The pianist is constantly looking at the other band members, carefully listening to what everyone is doing. One notable jazz pianist who does this often is the great Chick Corea.


With constant eye contact and communication, band members are feeding each other ideas along the way. The pianist will also be mindful of how the music is sounding as a whole.


The Are You All Having A Great Time Posture

The pianist looks at the audience while playing, always trying to project his feeling to the audience through his music. We can see from countless video clips, how Erroll Garner often communicate with his audience when performing.


Erroll Garner even mentioned in an interview, how he is always drawing ideas from what the audiences are feeding him. Pianists who adopt this posture are aware that they are not just making music, but also entertaining people, and are on a constant quest to get the listener’s foot tapping.

None of the posture mentioned above is better than the other, they only differ in the results they produce. Our goal as musicians, is to find one that you are comfortable with, also enabling you to sound great. 

Note also that these are neither scientifically proven facts nor statiscally supported hypothesis, they are merely personal experiences gained from countless experimentation on stage.

You are very welcomed to voice your opinion or share some of your own experiences, I will be glad to read each and one of them. 🙂

1 Comment

  • Sunfly

    Reply Reply August 19, 2009

    Interesting observations hmm very interesting.

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