The height of the keys on a piano is standardized at approximately 28.5 inches. A piano bench is designed so that the average person will be at the correct playing height when sitting in front of a standard piano. The only problem with this system is that many people are not average. Each individual has a different sized torso, arm length, and leg length. It is important to adjust the bench height so that you are in the correct playing position at all times. Some piano benches have an adjustable seat that allows you to raise or lower the height, but most do not. In those cases, you may want to add some extra padding or pillows to raise the height. Lowering the height of a fixed piano bench is not possible without some serious carpentry, and is not advised. Invest in a well-made adjustable height piano bench and it will repay you with many hours of comfortable playing.
Types of Piano Benches
There are several styles of piano benches, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Most benches are simply rectangular benches open on all sides. They may have a fixed height or a mechanism to raise or lower the seat. Standard benches can comfortably fit one player, and special longer benches can accommodate two players for duets at the piano.
Some people find it difficult to maintain good posture on the typical piano bench, since you must rely solely on your own muscles to sit up straight. The piano chair has a backrest that you can use for additional support. Piano chairs also come in fixed and adjustable height models. Always choose an adjustable height model if you can. Even though they are more expensive, they allow you to custom tailor the fit for your individual needs. If there is more than one person who will be playing the piano, the adjustable height feature is indispensable.
Be wary about using a normal chair for your playing instead of a bench or chair made especially for pianos. Most dining chairs, comfy chairs, and desk chairs are designed for a different working height and will cause improper posture and even possible injury over time. Get something made for piano playing!
Piano stools are usually found in antique shops, as they were very popular in the early 1900s during the heyday of ragtime music. Most of them are height adjustable, but offer very limited support. The small round stool increases the burden on your own muscles to maintain proper posture, and for this reason, they have fallen out of favor. However, a well-made piano stool may be the perfect fit for you, so do not hesitate to try one.
FIGURE 3-1: Types of piano benches. Photo courtesy of Paul L. Jansen & Son, Inc.