Introduction to Pianomap
Many people think that we play the piano with our fingers alone. In fact, piano playing combines movements of the fingers with movements of the arms, the torso and the entire body. The movements involved are as complex and refined as those of any dancer or athlete. If the body is balanced and free, technique functions well and playing is secure, expressive and fluid. If the body is tense and out of balance, playing suffers. Unfortunately, the subtle involvement of the entire body in playing the piano is rarely taught. But pianists and teachers need to understand it in order to improve their own and their students' playing, and to prevent or cure injury.
Almost all pianists, whether they are beginners or advanced players, experience a dramatic improvement when they become aware of the contribution of the entire body to piano playing. They learn to release tension, difficult passages become easier and more secure, and their playing is more expressive. Because they play without tension, they are not at risk of injury.
Playing the piano should not and need not be painful. Nevertheless, many people do experience pain. Injuries like tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or back and shoulder pain are common. The pain can be mild, a mere annoyance, or it can be excruciating. But it should not be ignored, even if it is not severe. If the poor habits that cause discomfort are not corrected, they can lead to injury and in extreme cases to permanent damage. Some pianists have been forced to give up playing entirely. The good news is that pianists' injuries are preventable and, in almost all cases, curable. The bad news is that not many piano teachers or health care professionals are trained to show pianists how to avoid injury, or, once injured, to recover.The purpose of this website is to present information that is essential for expressive, injury-free playing, but is not part of most pianists' and teachers' training. Listed below are some of the resources you will find here.
All pianists, but especially injured pianists, should read the article "Pianists' Injuries: Movement Retraining is the Key to Recovery." It offers an overview of the subject and explains why many so-called "treatments" are ineffective or temporary. It also describes the concept of movement retraining and shows why movement retraining must be a part of any permanent cure.
Book and Video
Much of the information pianists need about improved quality of movement is presented in Thomas Mark's book What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body, published by GIA Publications and described by Barbara Lister-Sink as "The best book on the market in its field." The book includes special information for organists by Roberta Gary and Thom Miles. A video companion to the book is also published by GIA.
Read Barbara Lister-Sink's review of What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body.
To order the book or the video from GIA
Publications, call 800 442-1358 or 708 496-3800, or
The book is also available from Amazon:
The 6-hour course, "What Every Pianist Needs to Know about the Body," can be given anywhere in the United States or Canada. The course is not currently scheduled. If it interests you, send an email to Thomas Mark.
The 4-hour Octave Workshop addresses common problems associated with octave playing: pain and fatigue from playing octaves, small hands, and others. Almost all pianists and intermediate or advanced students will find that the workshop improves their octave playing. The octave workshop is not currently scheduled. If it interests you, send an email to Thomas Mark.
Thomas Mark, creator of this website, teaches and writes in Portland, Oregon. He is available for private lessons, consultations, or workshops. His new book, Motion, Emotion, and Love: The Nature of Artistic Performance was published in October, 2012, by GIA Publications, Inc.
"There is scarcely a keyboard player alive who will not benefit greatly from the information in this book. ...an indispensable, potentially life-changing resource!"
The American Organist
...for the last several weeks, I have used my hands a LOT, in gardening, pruning, lifting, computer work, playing piano. And I have been able to use my hands without using braces or being afraid of injuring my wrists or forearms, just by working on keeping the little-finger orientation.
Your diagnosis was right on the money. This is HUGE for me! I have regained my confidence and ability to use my hands and arms again in so many aspects of my life. And I've described what you have taught me to several people and find that this sort of injury is so widespread with people who depend upon using their hands and arms. I've heard from a couple of different people (one city gardener, one neighbor who is a doctor and hobbyist gardener) who have had carpal tunnel surgery but still have pain and limited use of their hands.
It just seems that you have discovered a very simple solution to a problem that affects so many people and prevents them from fully enjoying their ability to do things with their hands. I'm no Oprah fan, but this is the sort of good information that should be on mass-market shows. It's crazy that people get excited about things like cupcake stores (Martha Stewart made one up the street from me locally famous) but what you have to share is true quality-of-life-changing information.
Thank you so much for your amazing work.
"Your book is as important a contribution to the literature as anything I know. I wish I had had it forty years ago when I was searching for answers."
Harold Gray, Chair
Thomas Mark's new bookMotion, Emotion, and Love:
The Nature of Artistic Performance
was published in October, 2012, by GIA Publications, Inc. American Music Teacher called it "A goldmine of information . . . A fascinating work of enormous significance." Read more.
It is available from the publisher or from Amazon: