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Shake it Off!

One of the largest problems that pianists face (and rarely address) is tension. I’ve mostly noticed it recently in my students’ thumbs; they tend to hang off the piano stiffly. Don’t worry, I suffer from the same problem myself. However, one solution I’ve found to loosen the thumb (and any excess tension) is to simply “shake it out.”

While it usually comes off as a silly, commonplace tactic to some of my students, I’ve found it to be quite effective for those struggling with a particular passage. It works best for students who have had a rough time reading and getting through it during the week, as with their potential frustration, tension usually follows. I am always a fan of breaking things down into more digestible pieces, and I typically use this practice technique to separate portions of the composition into more manageable portions until, bit by bit, the student feels comfortable running through the entire passage with reduced tension.

How do you deal with tension in practice? What’s one habit you want to work on breaking with your piano playing? My right hand pinky still has a mind of its own some days…

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