Tip-of-the-Month: Up/down wrist rotation

Beginner and Intermediate:

The more often you use this technic as you play, the more it will give you strength in the difficult spots. It will also be easier to learn the notes. This is because, once your mind is free of the stress of mastering difficult spots (spots which feel uncomfortable for the hand), you will be able to focus on reading notes with a clearer mind.

I like to use the term “right/left wrist rotation” (my own term) to describe moving the wrist from right to left or vice versa while playing the piano. This technic is different from the standard wrist position that beginners are taught, but is not contradictory; it is, rather, a NEW technic which is to be ADDED to the standard wrist position which is learned upon beginning piano lessons. You must practice this technic away from the piano at first; do not use any music; simply practice the motion described below.

Simply practice flipping your hand up and down while pretending that you have your hand over a wave at its lowest position (in other words, you are capping a wave in “trough” position). Follow through with the subsequent motion of this wave by raising your hand with it as it rises to its peak, never taking your hand away from the wave. Your entire arm should remain still, and only your wrist should move up and down with the wave, bending at the wrist joint.

Once this feeling has become ingrained, you will be ready to incorporate this motion into your piano playing. While playing a piece, simply raise your wrist up before playing one or more notes, and then gradually lower your wrist AS YOU ARE PLAYING THIS GROUP OF NOTES. In other words, “take in” a group of notes as you are lowering your wrist instead of keeping your wrist straight. Urge yourself to use it as often as possible when ever you encounter spots which are suited to it. In short, strive to use this technic whenever you feel that it makes it easier for you to play certain passages. This motion may seem strange at first but will feel perfectly natural once you have become accustomed to it; as with all skills in piano playing, mastery may only be achieved through thorough repetition.

Students at the intermediate level who are feeling confidant so far might wish to consider one or two of the advanced suggestions.


Glance at the above article for beginners and intermediate level students in order to understand what I mean by the term up/down wrist motion. As with all aspects of piano playing, the development of any new skill is always aided by practicing other related skills.

The following technics will aid with up/down wrist rotation.

  1. Fingers close to keys and pretending to play down to the floor. Wrist position slightly lower than normal; within this basic frame work, constant alternation between raising and lowering the wrists.
  2. Pressing technic; should feel like playing a composition on someone’s back (with a “pressing” or “caressing touch).
  3. Striving for up and down motion of wrists where ever added strength is needed
  4. Left and right motion of wrists
  5. Snappy spring-like action – grasping clusters of notes in one motion of the wrist; wrist must snap up and down or back and forth as the situation requires. This gives strength and speed. Indeed there are times when one can not exaggerate this technic enough!
  6. Practicing rather hard at first; then softening up (after everything is beginning to be automatic within the motor memory)
  7. Practicing brushing into the keys as you press them down. Likewise, try brushing out of the keys as you release them. Although this may not help from the standpoint of sound quality (depending on what other technics are used), it WILL help from the standpoint of accurately striking the key (“dead center”) in certain complex situations. This procedure will actually prevent slipping off the keys, causing cracks and downright disasters at times.
  8. Practicing away from the piano (one can practice playing on a table etc). It is important to test your skills at the keyboard periodically during these procedures to ascertain your degree of improvement. The moment that your recall is instantaneous and effortless, you know you have succeeded.

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