Ask any piano bench and they’ll tell you it’s a tooshie… I mean touchy subject. The piano gets all the glory, and the bench?… Well, the bench gets the tail end of the deal. Butt one can’t live without the other, and so today at TeachPianoToday we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And while it might seem fanny… I mean funny to be devoting an entire blog post to the bench, you’ll see why this rest for your rump is a topic that should not be left behind. Derrière I go on?
Okay, I’m out of puns. Let’s get to the good stuff 🙂
The 4-legged Solution to Good Posture on the Piano
When you’re dealing with a piano teaching problem, all eyes should first to go the bench. Good posture on the piano has a great effect on almost every aspect of your piano students’ playing. The piano bench can often be the root cause behind many piano student problems. The good news is that it’s always an easy fix. Consider the following the next time your piano student is beside you.
The Height of Your Piano Bench
This is the most important consideration and it’s one that is often overlooked. As piano teachers with a constant stream of students through our door (each of a varying size) it can be difficult ensure that our bench is at the optimal height for each and every student. Back in the day, my piano teacher used to use a phone book, but today that book is not as small as it used to be! Enter your new best friend… interlocking foam squares; much more comfy than a phone book and much more adjustable too. You can pick these up at any toy store (and most Wal-Marts) and these, unless you already have an adjustable bench, are worth their weight in gold. Add one, two, or three in a stack until your piano students’ arms are in a straight line from the back of their hand through their wrist to their elbow and their forearms are parallel to the floor.
Height on the bench also affects your piano students’ feet. For students to have a comfortable posture they need to be able to rest their feet on the floor. If this isn’t happening with the height at which they need their bench, then add a foot stool (with more foam squares on the stool if needed).
The Distance from the Keyboard
The other bench consideration is how far away it should be from the piano. Young children tend to want to be very close to the keys. Avoid having your piano students look like a Tyrannosaurus Rex while playing the piano and give them some room for their arms. Your student should have to reach for the keys, and their elbows should have a slight distance from their body while remaining comfortably bent. If they are at the right height with their feet resting comfortably then this should be a natural-feeling position for them.
Check Out More Piano Bench Considerations
Other things to consider when it comes to your piano bench are:
Comfort: squirmy piano students can often be cured with a bit of cushion. There’s nothing worse than a cold hard bench to sit on for 30 minutes, and if you’re 7, you’re going to make your discomfort known in a variety of annoying ways.
Reaching: Teach your students to reach for the high and low keys they need to play within their piece rather than the dreaded “butt slide” across the bench that we’ve all seen. Here’s tips for stopping the “Piano Student Scooch”.
Pedaling: Young children who need to use the piano pedal should avoid perching on the very edge of the bench (or standing as I’ve sometimes seen…unless they’re playing Jerry Lee Lewis and then it’s okay!). If you have a small student with pieces that demand use of the pedal then invest in a pedal extender to be kind to their comfort level.
Too Far Forward, Too Far Back: Check your student to be sure that they’re sitting in the appropriate place on the bench itself. Sitting too far back not only affects their posture, but can also cause “pins and needles” in their feet. I discovered why one of my piano students just couldn’t sit still when I realized that his legs were falling asleep! Students should be far enough back that they’re “grounded” by not so far back that too much of their upper leg is on the bench.
By paying attention to what’s happening under your piano student you’ll have much more control over what’s happening on the keys. Don’t get bummed out by piano student problems… just look to the bench!
If your piano bench problems have more to do with the fact that it’s sitting empty and you need to find piano students now check out our preschool piano program WunderKeys Piano for Preschoolers. Find out how this program keeping piano benches busy around the world!