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Proper Hand Position and Exercises for Piano Beginners

Last Updated: November 14, 2016 / by Helen Baker



Learning proper piano hand positioning is vital for both beginner and experienced piano players. When you're just starting out, it might appear as if proper hand position doesn’t really matter all that much. The fact is, when you get more comfortable behind the piano and you start putting in more time, you will quickly come to realize (and feel) the importance of proper hand positioning. But in order to correct your hand position, you must first take the time to identify your current hand position.

Why is proper piano hand positioning so important?

Proper piano hand placement gives you the opportunity, as a piano player, to produce better tone quality, as well as prevent injuries. In addition, it also allows you to play with more speed, agility, and with better accuracy.

So, not only does it produce quality sound, it also gives you the opportunity to play for hours on end without pain or injury.  

What Is The Correct Piano Hand Position?

Stay relaxed while playing.There is no doubt regarding the benefits of playing piano with the correct hand placement, but getting the right-hand position is actually a team effort from your side.

When you sit the correct distance from your piano with proper body posture, the rest will come more naturally. So, let’s break it down into 6 easy steps:

Step 1: Stay relaxed

In order to achieve a natural and comfortable hand position, make sure that you’re not experiencing any tension. So, stand next to your piano and shake your arms, hands, and fingers to release any tension you might be having.

Before you take your seat, pay attention to what your body is telling you. It’s important that your arms and hands are relaxed before you start.

Step 2: Sitting position

Adjust your piano bench for the best distance and height before you start your lesson. 

While you sit, your elbows/upper arms need to fall freely from your shoulders, while allowing your forearms to be parallel with the floor.  Your elbows should be allowed to rest slightly in front of your center line and your feet should be able to reach the pedals without stretching.

Step 3: Hand position

When you keep your hands relaxed, you will notice how your fingers naturally curve in towards the palm of your hand. It will appear as if your thumb and index finger is making a shape similar to a C. While you play the piano, you must aim to retain this natural curved hand position.

Step 4: Even knuckles

If you maintain the natural hand position as mentioned in step 3, the result should be that your fingertips will rest gently on the piano keys while your knuckles stay fairly even with one another and appear higher than your wrist.

It’s important that the first knuckle (the one closest to the tips of the fingers) is flexed during most of your playing. Otherwise, you run the risk of playing with collapsed or too straight fingers, which can cause an injury.

Natural hand position. Step 5: Wrist position

A proper piano hand position will prevent your wrist from collapsing and help you to keep it level with your hand.

To find your ideal hand position, place your fingertips on the surface of the piano keys while maintaining the firmness of your knuckles. Then move your wrists gently up and down, and pay attention to which positions cause the most and the least tension. 

Through this exploration, you should find your ideal wrist position that feels natural and comfortable to you.

Step 6: General rule

The final step is more of a general rule to keep in mind during the whole process of finding your ideal piano hand position. Always make sure that no part of your arm feels tense. You should focus on keeping it relaxed while you’re playing.

How To Improve Your Piano Hand Position

Simple exercises and games have proven many times over how effective they can be to improve your technique. Here are 3 exercises you should try:

1. The goose

For most beginner piano students, incorrect positioning of the thumb is the most common source of hand position issues. Although the thumb has proven to be the most dominant finger, it’s the only finger that doesn’t play the piano key with its tip.

This is where “the goose” comes in! When you relax your hands and let them take their natural curved position, you will notice how the index finger and thumb reach towards each other. 

Pressing your index finger and thumb together will create -  while looking at your hand from the side -  the goose shape. What makes this visual presentation a good way of learning the correct piano hand position, is that it’s impossible to make a proper goose without having your thumb in a great position for playing the piano.  

For younger students, it can be one fun game when you let them use “the goose” to make shadow puppets against the wall before moving on with the lesson.

Once you have succeeded in making a proper goose-position, place your hand on the piano keys. You should gently spread your fingers but focus on keeping the thumb and knuckles in the same position. 

Piano exercises to improve hand position. 2. The quarters game

This is a simple and straightforward exercise. All you need to do is balance a quarter on the back of your hand and play your five fingers in a row, starting with your thumb. You can also attempt this while practicing your scales. The goal is to keep your hand in the correct position so that the quarter doesn’t fall off.

During the exercise, focus on keeping your hand relaxed. Don’t let it get tense because you’re afraid the quarter will fall off. You can always pick it up and try again.

3. Play catch

Playing catch with a friend, or bouncing the ball off a wall and catching it is a great way of becoming aware of your hand position. 

While you play, pay attention to what your hand does when you catch the ball. Your fingers should curve evenly around the one-half  of it. You will also notice that the bottom part of your fingers touches  the ball, except for your thumb – which touches the ball with its side.  

After a  thorough inspection of your hand’s placement when you catch the ball, emulate this hand position when you play the piano.

Remember, you should never feel tension in your hand while you’re playing. So keep it relaxed and don't play while you're injured!


About the Author: Helen Baker

I am a freelance teacher and writer based in Ann Arbor, MI. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, I spent some time teaching English in Paris and, thereafter, returned to Ann Arbor where I was involved both in the media and academics. Currently I am a stay at home mom, working as a freelance writer and teacher. I love all my guitars and I also have an affinity towards old grand pianos. I love singing, traveling, reading, writing, watching films and spending quality time with my husband.


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