Robert Estrin - piano expert

The Importance of the Bench

Discover different kinds of benches and their characteristics

In this video, Robert talks about benches and how important they are for piano playing.

Released on February 1, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. Today's subject is essential element of piano technique, the bench. Is this really true? Absolutely. How can the bench be so important? Well, you know, I also play the French horn, and you know, working on the embouchure, the exact placement of the mouthpiece on the lips is something that you spent years doing. In fact, when Philip Farkas, the former principal horn of the Chicago Symphony was in his 80s, I accompanied in his studio and I accompanied him, and I remember one day going into his cabin and he was all excited because he had changed his embouchure. Here is a man who played for decades and in his 80s he was still refining the embouchure.

People who studied the violin can take years just to hold the instrument properly. Now the good news for pianists is it's a very ergonomic instrument, you're sitting down and you're playing. However, it's critical that you sit in the right spot and at the right height. Most piano benches are like this, the standard duet type bench. You've all seen them. They open up for your music to go inside, and they're called duet benches because two people can sit at them. And that's very nice for not just playing duets on the piano, four-hand piano, but also with younger students they can have an adult kind of sit there with them and help them guide their practice.

Now, when students get more advanced or even at the younger levels of study, an adjustable artist bench sometimes referred to as a tabouret is a godsend, because it has these handles and you turn the handles to raise or lower the height, so you can have exactly the right position to feel comfortable at the piano.

Now there are even other types of benches. This is actually a chair, a piano chair. Steinway used to make piano chairs, they still make them. You don't see them that often. The benefit to this is that it's slanted forward slightly so it's less fatiguing for the back. There are other benches that accomplish this in other ways, sometimes there's a little leap you can engage in the back of the bench so that it stays up, so that gives you that sense of leaning into the keyboard. So you have to find what works for you.

Now, one ideal type of piano bench and my personal bench is a combination of the duet and the adjustable artist tabouret. It's a double wide tabouret. Now, a good one that's, you know, with leather and everything can cost well over a $1,000, that's a serious bench. But I would like you to take benches more seriously than you ever thought you should because it really is an important component to being comfortable and relaxed to the piano, avoiding injury and making your technique more fluid.

Thanks so much for joining me. Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on November 5, 2020 @12:43 pm PST
Necessity is the mother of invention. If the shoe fits, wear it!
Barry Smith on November 5, 2020 @1:20 am PST
Hello Robert,

I agree, the bench is so important. However, for me as a performer and teacher of pianoforte for many years, you have omitted one important element the height at which you sit. You should sit in a position where the forearms are level to the height of the keys.
At least this is good practice when learning piano. Of course, once you have learnt ‘the rules’ and become accomplished, it becomes your prerogative to bend/break the rules.
Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on November 4, 2020 @5:48 pm PST
I want to add that for a youngster or small adult the stadium seat can elevate you so that your hands are more parallel to the keyboard. This puts your hands in a more comfortable playing position. A boat cushion will also work. These are less expensive alternatives, too!
Robert - host, on November 5, 2020 @8:57 am PST
I have resorted to books or pillows when playing in-home concerts where the benches were too low - whatever works!
Steve Borcich * VSM MEMBER * on November 4, 2020 @10:36 am PST
I put a folding stadium seat on top of my duet bench. It has thick padding to sit on and the padded back helps relieve my lower back pain. It's also extremely lightweight and folds up with straps to hold it in place. You can even bring it to your piano lesson. It's worth a try!
Robert - host, on November 4, 2020 @3:11 pm PST
That's an interesting idea. Finding what works for you is key in being comfortable at the piano.
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