piano bench too low

Bench Height

One of the most important first steps in playing the piano is to find the correction bench height. Piano benches and pianos can be different heights. People come in different sizes and proportions. Learning how to find the correct bench height is something everyone should learn in their first piano lesson.

Imagine if every time a violinist the violin their bow was a different length. Imagine if every time a tennis player played tennis the net was a different height. Violinists and tennis players would never tolerate this! Yet for some reason pianists commonly move from one piano to the next oblivious to the fact that they are not in a consistent physical relation to the instrument. This is perhaps partly due to the misconception that playing the piano only requires the fingers, and not the whole forearm. But it is also partly due to a general ignorance among many piano teachers about even the most basic aspects of healthy piano technique.

piano bench too low
Glen Gould hurt himself sitting like this.

What is the correct bench height? The correct bench height is one in which the bottom of your forearm, when your hand is on the keys, is parallel to the top of the white keys. This is actually hard for a pianist to see for herself and so I encourage students to use a mirror, phone or a person to find the correct height at home.

Why is this the correct height? As Dorothy Taubman discovered, in a healthy piano technique the keys are put down by the weight of the forearm, transferred through the hand and finger. When this weight is transferred without the curling or straightening of the fingers, and without the collapsing of the wrist, one has the feeling of putting down the key without effort. This can only be achieved at the correct bench height. If the bench is too low, the writs breaks upwards. If the bench is too high the wrist breaks downward. Both situations will likely cause the fingers to either curl or straighten. piano bench height

How does one adjust the bench to the correct height? Some benches are adjustable. I often recommend students purchase an adjustable, portable keyboard bench. Another common solution is to sit on square play/exercise mats to raise the height of the bench. These mats are also good for putting under student’s feet if they have a hard time reaching the floor with their feet.

matts for adjust piano bench height

Finding the correct bench height is something I do with all of my students in the first lesson. I work with them to make sure they have the correct height at home as well as other playing situations they find themselves in.