What are the fundamental skills needed to perform on your instrument? Create a "How to" Pamphlet

1. Playing Mechanics

2. Posture/Grip

3. Breathing/Tone production


  • When seated at the piano you should be able to perfectly balance your arms and hands without playing the notes or feeling any tension at all.
  • Fingers should be naturally curved, playing on the tips of the fingers or fleshy part next to your fingernails (Naturally keep your fingernails trimmed).
  • You should form a "paw". Knuckles should not be caved in or too high. Knuckles could be fairly flat, but just slightly up, like a bridge. The same with the wrists and elbows.
  • Wrists should be even with the white keys, never too high or low.
  • Elbows should be out from the body, allowing the weight of your arm to travel freely to your wrists and allowing for horizontal movement across the keys.
  • Always sit up straight, shoulders back, create a small arch in the middle of your back. Imagine a string going up through the center of your body, out of your head. Your pelvic bone slightly turned in towards the piano.
  • You should sit far enough from the piano so that your elbows are slightly towards the front of your chest.
  • Sit no more than one half to three quarters on the bench. Both feet flat on the floor or pedals.
  • When each part of your body is doing its job, playing is effortless. If it doesn’t feel good and wonderful, it is wrong. Going to the extreme range of motion is the main cause of most performance injuries
  • The right pedal is always the sustaining pedal (damper pedal), it raises all of the dampers at once, allowing all notes which are played to continue sounding after the keys are released.
  • The left pedal is always some type of soft pedal. In vertical pianos, and some grand’s, it moves the hammers at rest closer to the strings, decreasing their travel, and thus striking force. In most grand’s, the soft pedal shifts the entire action sideways, causing the treble hammers to hit only two of their three strings. The lower strings shifting the two strings to one. The shifting type of soft pedal is called the una corda pedal.
  • The third or middle pedal is usually called the sostenuto pedal. It sustains only those notes which are depressed prior to and while holding the pedal down, and does not sustain any notes depressed after holding it down. This is like having a third hand to sustain certain notes, while playing others.
  • In some instances, the middle pedal is the bass sustaining pedal, which lifts only the bass dampers. Some uprights use the middle pedal as a practice pedal, which lowers a thick piece of felt between the hammers and strings, muffling the tone. Once in awhile, you will see the middle pedal being used to lower metal studded tap strips between the hammer and the string, creating a tinny honky-tonk type sound. This is often called a Zither, Harp or Mandolin.

"Good technique is effortless because everything is at its absolute minimum."
Piano Action in Relation to Tone:

1. Weight behind each note. This produces your volume, controlled by your shoulder, arms and forearms. Learning to control the weight creates effortless playing. Tension, and strain using the muscles of your arm create fatigue, and cramps. Practice just dropping your arms into your lap, then onto the keys. Controlled movement, using the weight of your arm is all you need to play effortlessly with a full range of dynamics.
2. Speed behind each note. This creates the speed in the hammer, so it rebounds quickly off the string allowing it to vibrate more freely, producing all of the rich overtones that it is capable of.