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Doniell Cushman loves to use her teaching experiences to inspire ways to improve music, teaching, and learning.
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Written by Doniell Cushman
Your hands are the most important part of your body as a pianist. In order to keep them in the best shape possible, you must use proper care and hygiene to keep them working and feeling their best on those bright white ivories.
1. Wash Those Hands: This may seem ridiculous to state, but the truth of the matter is many musicians don't think about this when it's time to practice or perform. You obviously can't expect your 8 year old to get a good practice if they just ate a PB&J and sat down at the piano. Cleanliness really makes a difference. Slickness, stickiness, dryness, and foreign objects can all be a hindrance to a solid playing session. Things you (or your student) may have done that would constitute a hand washing directly before practice:
3. Manicures: You don't have to see a salon pro to keep your fingers trim, and smooth. Trim your nails weekly to keep them short enough to play without interference. File your nails' edges to keep them smooth and from preventing a good solid practice. Failure to do so can result in something as minor as snagging a nail on the edge of a key, to developing tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Trim your hang nails immediately. I tell my students to keep nail clippers and emery boards or files everywhere. A simple crystal file can last forever, and never needs to be thrown out or sharpened. Pick up inexpensive clippers or manicure tools at the local dollar store to stay on a budget, and place them in a container on or near the piano, in your bag or purse, at work, on your nightstand, in every bathroom, etc.
4. Moisturize: It's best not to moisturize before playing because your pores may not have absorbed all the product, but make a routine of using lotion several times throughout the day. After using a moisturizer, wait at least 10 minutes, or until hands are fully dry before playing in order to allow maximum absorption. Soft hands can make a huge difference in touch sensation of the keys at any age. Try using something with aloe, vitamin E, and a natural moisturizer like Shea butter or an oil base (avocado, olive). My personal favorite is creating my own lotion with beeswax, jojoba, and vitamin E and adding my favorite essential oils that support skin health like Frankincense, Lavender, and Tea Tree.
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5. Technique & Exercise: Look, if you want to be a great piano player, or musician of any type, you must exercise your hands! Technical works are a great way to do this. Ask me for a recommendation based off your skill level and the areas you need improvement on, and I can find the right material for you. Some suggestions: