Sep 12

The Hands of a Pianist

The Hands of a Pianist


I am often complimented by people about my lovely clean piano playing hands.  I don’t have short stubby fingers nor bony and long, and I can reach a decent tenth in both hands.  Men who do “real” jobs that use tools or lift heavy things are cheerfully insulting about my callous free palms.  I’m more or less pleased with them also, I can play everything I want to play and often play for 20 hours a week on my gigs alone without adding the practice hours in.  But there are pit falls.

I have just arrived at the end of a month long recording project that required me to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and my hands are gradually returning to normal.  In the last month I have done many recording sessions that required me to play both bass guitar and electric and while I am quite competent on both instruments, piano is my first love and always will be.

The problems arose after an impromptu day on the guitar.  I know all the shapes of most of the chords and while I don’t play that often, I can usually get the rhythm work done without too much effort, but this was a medley of songs with three different guitar licks to master before I recorded them.  Initially I just felt the familiar soreness on the end of the finger tips where the finger presses the string to the fretboard, but afterwards, at my gig in the evening I was having real trouble with shooting pains up my wrist on my left hand.

I am a stickler for constantly stretching my hands and fingers throughout the day and ramp it up just before a gig but no amount of stretching would relieve this pain. The next day I had more guitar to record and some live bass, requiring a larger finger span and this alleviated a lot of the pain and provided me with some evidence that it was the guitar playing that had caused it.

The problem is, I suppose, that I don’t play enough guitar or have a particular draw to it like I do the piano and so reaching those chord shapes with my wrist bent up, instead of being a continuation of the flatness of the forearm when playing the piano, was always a potential problem.  I don’t really have the time but this problem was my own doing and so I am trying to pick up all instruments for at least ten minutes a day, preceded by some appropriate stretching.  I will also keep an eye out for the sessions that are going to be diverse ahead of time and prepare a bit better. I have gotten a bit lazy and comfortable with the piano to the detriment of my other instruments so it’s time to change. The extra practice won’t hurt me, it just takes a bit of time off my otherwise busy day and night but I think it will be worth it in the end.  And it will get me closer to my secret ambition to play bass live on stage one night.

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