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Joined: Sep 2019
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Hello PW,

I'm sure there have been some posts here already about this, but my initial forum searches failed regarding this specific topic.

My question for you all is, what is normal in development of the hands w.r.t. piano playing? Is there any sort of muscle soreness (in a good way, not sharp pain) to be expected?

I have now been playing a little over three years, and of all things, standard scales give me the most trouble. As a result, I've noticed that I tend to gravitate towards slower romantic music over others, and I have decided to fight back against this tendency, and have been working on more classical pieces with my teacher (in particular, Czerny School of Velocity #8, and Kuhlau Sonatina Op 20 No 1).

I have noticed, particularly with the Czerny pieces, that I am able to play the arpeggiated figures with great freedom. There's no tension to be found in the hands, and I'm able to manipulate my weight effectively to produce a good, clear sound at an allegro tempo. However, for both pieces, whenever a scale run is introduced, I am not able to find a similar 'ease' with my movements. My teacher observed a dropping of the wrist when doing 1-4 crossings during these scales, and advised me to not fall into my thumb, but to rather let my thumb hold my hand up as my other fingers do during normal playing (there are other bits in there, like letting my hand adjust accordingly and leading with my wrist and not staying in a 'locked' position). I noticed this week, however, upon trying to implement her feedback, that my thumb muscles have gotten sore (in particular, the abductor pollicis brevis). My inclination has been to immediately stop playing, as I feel that likely I am doing something wrong. Her feedback over text is that it may just be development in my hand muscles.

Do you agree? I tend to err on the side of caution in this regard.

Thanks,
Ghostnotes

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I don't agree and I think you're correct by being cautious. What your teacher suggests (about the movement) makes sense and sounds familiar and I think I've heard it from my teachers as well. You're probably not implementing it right, which is OK. I don't think you should stop playing, just keep trying to get it right (carefully, with the help of your teacher, and by using the pain/ease as indicator for incorrect movement). Just wait for the lesson if it doesn't work.


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I'm trying to analyze what you wrote but I'm not sure I understand correctly. 1-4 means you are doing the inward scale movement towards your body, right? The thumb abductor is a muscle that extends the thumb but you should be curling it instead.

The way I teach myself to relax is to just keep my hand as loose as possible with the wrist flexible, not so loose that it hangs down but almost, and with the fingers in their natural curled shape, and then I just fly my hand horizontally over the keys and play everything non-legato moving my fingers as little as possible. I'm not saying I would play like that but it's just an exercise to not tense up too much and minimize the movements of the hand.

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Hi Qazsedcft,

Apologies for that, I can see how my question is confusing.

In this case I'm talking about an ascending scale in the right hand, with the thumb under crossing. Yes, it is true that the abductor extends the thumb. I believe it is the combination of attempting to curl my thumb under all the way, while also pressing down with the abductor in order to maintain the hand structure, that has caused me to have some discomfort in the muscle. I've noticed, if I attempt to touch my thumb to the base of my pinky, that it is a bit uncomfortable, so it is possible (and probably likely) that I'm incorrectly diagnosing whatever is going on in my hand. I suspect it is the combination of these things contributing to the problem.

I just sat down at the piano to pay more attention to it, and I realize that the discomfort appears to be more during the crossing under...I suppose it is a good thing I signed up for the Taubman seminar next weekend.

I think I'll take a break until my lesson on Sunday just to be safe. I appreciate the inputs.

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Originally Posted by Ghostnotes
I've noticed, if I attempt to touch my thumb to the base of my pinky, that it is a bit uncomfortable.

Is this how you are playing the scale passages, or are you just describing a motion that brings out the pain?

I thought Denis Z. had a great video here...it's about arpeggios, but if you start at the 5:00 mark he talks about not bending the thumb as far as you described (my apologies if you did not mean that's how you are actually playing).

FWIW*...in ~2 years of perusing piano forums and watching videos, I don't think I've ever come across any mention of "good" (or expected, or normal) muscle soreness in the hand related to piano playing. In my opinion, it would have been better if your teacher had advised you to hold off on that movement until your next lesson where she could assess it properly.

*I'm intermediate and still learning too...so it may not be worth much. smile


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BTW...I had a mild injury to my left thumb last year from incorrect technique on a piece that was too hard for me. PT confirmed that it sounded like De Quervain's. I wonder if you are feeling something similar...try the 'Finkelstein test' shown halfway down this page: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/de-quervains-tendinosis/

They make this sound a bit scary, like it's chronic...but mine resolved in a week or so and hasn't come back. I just had to stop making that motion.

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Hi JB,

I was just describing a motion that has some mild amount of discomfort associated with it. It certainly is not how I attempt to play my scales, but I do wonder if I have some lack of mobility there that perhaps makes them a bit more uncomfortable.

Regarding De Quervain's, that's certainly something I've been looking at the past couple of days. I tried the test. I have pain on the top of the wrist below the numb, not where the arrow is pointing in the picture. Is there supposed to be no pain whatsoever? If I attempt to bend a normal amount, it seems OK enough.

Another observation is that I've drastically increased my play time the past couple of weeks. Perhaps it is overuse coupled with improper technique.

I agree with your assessment. Either way, I'll be taking a break for a few days to see how it all feels.

Thanks for your input.

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I should have chosen a better website, sorry. I think the red arrow in that picture is a little misleading. If you have pain in the location indicated by the yellow 'orb' in the picture, that indicates a possible positive diagnosis. I do not have any pain at all in either wrist when I make that motion now, but I did when I injured myself. At the time I didn't delve too deep into how I did it - I knew the piece was out of range for me so I just shelved it. But I suspect I was either bending my thumb too far or holding it in that position too long...or possibly just overpracticing. I think what you said ("overuse coupled with improper technique") was certainly accurate for my situation, and possibly yours too since you said you've drastically increased play time. I hope it clears up for you as fast as it did for me! I was definitely freaked out at first.

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Originally Posted by JB_PW
BTW...I had a mild injury to my left thumb last year from incorrect technique on a piece that was too hard for me. PT confirmed that it sounded like De Quervain's. I wonder if you are feeling something similar...try the 'Finkelstein test' shown halfway down this page: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/de-quervains-tendinosis/

They make this sound a bit scary, like it's chronic...but mine resolved in a week or so and hasn't come back. I just had to stop making that motion.
Good call but can also be tenosynovitis at the wrist.

Ice is always your friend. See the physio or an orthopedist. Rest. Check your technique. Rest. Did I say rest?


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Piano playing should not be causing pain. Consider getting your technique sorted with a teacher and seeking medical advice.

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If you're training thumb under movement it's normal to feel some soreness in the palm in the "pad" of the thumb, but not in other places.


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