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I have been playing piano for a few months now, and learned a couple of Bach inventions. I want to improve my technique so I was looking at exercises, scales, etc to do this. Last night I did some parallel sets, which is just playing multiple sets of, eg C-D-E with first three fingers of right hand, or multiple sets of half scales or scales. It seemed to go fine, but by the time I went to bed, my right shoulder was stiff and sore at the back, and my thumb hurts when I raise or lower it.
So my question is, what did I do wrong, how did I hurt myself so badly just from doing 10-15 minutes of parallel sets? I have heard that you can damage yourself quite badly from practicing incorrectly, so what is the correct way to proceed, and how did I cause so much damage from so little time?
There must be some tension in your posture or movements that is causing this pain but no one can really say what you are doing wrong without seeing you. That's why it would be best to consult with a teacher in person. You may post a video instead but not everything is perceptible in a video.
I find that injuries can occur during the learning phase when repeating the same section many times. Once the piece is secured, you don’t repeat as much.
I’d learn a difficult piece in slow motion with a lot of starting & stopping. Play with exaggerated finger movements. At the end of a phrase lift your hand off the keys slightly and think about releasing the muscle tension.
Learn the notes at a speed you make no mistake. Repeating over & over is going to add tension. Never worry about playing in slow tempo. After you learn the notes you’ll speed up.
When you practice, be aware of your body; stop and ask yourself. ‘ is my shoulder tense’? I was carrying tension in my right shoulder and completely unaware of it. I developed the habit of consciously relaxing and lowering my shoulder. No more tension.
Dr Mortensen has a series on tension
Last edited by dogperson; 07/28/2105:21 PM.
"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin "I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
It sounds like you play with a claw, straight from the wrists. The feeling should come from your lower back. Open your armpits, open your hips and poke your stomach out. Push the piano like it is an extension of you. That's how it should feel. Not like it's coming from your shoulders, elbows, arms, and wrists. Those should all be loose and supple.
Do check in with your body/posture as you play. In particular keep an eye on the head and neck area and ensure you're not pushing the head forward as this can add stress to the lats, shoulders. and traps. Also, give yourself plenty of small breaks to loosen any tension that could be occurring.
Finally, and what often gets over-looked, is to remember to warm down at the end!
A teacher who understands how to help students with injuries, or a sports medicine doctor who understands how to help musicians... or maybe a little of both. I have come at it from both directions over the years.
Master or Mistress neeeel, you have outdone yourself; it's like you've taken the express elevator to the sub-basement in your very first week at the keyboard. So, I think the first thing to try is: to stop. Rest and heal. You can get back on the elevator any time. See if ordinary things people do for ordinary pains will work for you.
Number One: whatever you're doing that makes you hurt, don't do it anymore... at least for awhile, and then go at it in a way that is comfortable. There are some pretty good books you can consult; there are people here who can share their experience. Piano World is not the place to get the advice that an orthopedic doctor or a specialist teacher would give you, with you right there in the office. But if the pain lets off with some rest, some ice as many as four times a day, for about fifteen minutes (with a light cover between you and the ice, so it doesn't burn your skin--- just what you need)! It can help a lot of situations resolve, and take comfort that you will be numb in less than five minutes, so you won't feel it anyway. A regular dose of ibuprofen just like the label says (or something else, if that doesn't agree with you), and be sure to eat, so it is nice to your stomach as well. It is good for both pain and inflammation.
You haven't given us any information about your piano, or your seat while you're playing. A comfortable and firm seat, which lets you hold your forearms just about parallel to the floor, while you sit comfortably erect, but not stiff, is what we usually recommend. Personally, I like to sit just a bit higher, but in any case, please! never play when you have to reach up for the piano keys and pull them down. It's a great way to have a short and painful career.
I think I'm going to stop right here. One could go on and on, and I don't know for sure if the information above will help you. But, you're reaching out, and that will let the process unfold for you. I can tell you, that after working for some time on this--- a period of years--- I do not have any pain when I play. Not my back, not my arms, not anything; not even my ears. It is possible, so don't give up on yourself. And, I think we would really love to hear from you again.