Can Brahms 51 Exercises for piano damage my hands permanently?

by Haley
(United States)

My new piano teacher has assigned me to play various exercises from the Brahms 51 exercises book. I find while playing them that parts of my hand hurt, sometimes up to a point where I have to stop the exercise. My teacher says it's good that my hands ache while playing the exercises because the muscles in my hand are growing, but my former teachers have told me that pain in the hand, no matter how small, is dangerous and can lead to permanent damage. Who is right?


Hi, Haley--

I think that you need to distinguish between fatigue and actual pain. It is good to work through a certain amount of fatigue so that you build your endurance--as in playing fast passages, for example.

Pain, however, is another story. If you are experiencing severe pain, then it is NOT a good thing. Could it be that you are trying to make too large of reaches? If you think that might be the problem, then try gradually working up to being able to reach further.

Also, playing with too much tension in your hands can cause pain. There are ways to reduce the tension and work with your hand structure rather than against it, but you need a really expert teacher who is experienced in technique.

In short, YES, playing difficult exercises in the wrong manner can cause permanent damage--like arthritis. Maybe your teacher can find some exercises that are more suited to your hand. I don't think any pianist was ever made or broken depending on whether they performed the Brahms exercises.

Best Wishes

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Jul 21, 2010
Thank you!
by: Haley

Thank you so much for your advice, Lynne. I'll be sure to look more closely at my hands to see whether I am twisting them or making too big of a leap. And you're right, it's important to build endurance! Thanks again --- Haley

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