Should You Strike From Above in Your Piano Playing?

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The topic for today is about why you must strike from above in your piano playing. However, this is not always the case. I’m referring to a very specific technique. In fact, striking from above can create a harsh, unpleasant sound in some circumstances.

When playing large chords, striking from above can sound brash.

When you strike from above using the arms, you have no control and end up with a crass sound. Instead, what you want to do is strike from the surface of the keys and drop the weight of your arms all at once. By doing so, you will achieve a gorgeous sound that will not be harsh no matter how hard you play.

Should you strike from above when doing finger work?

For slow practice, raised fingers can be a good way to delineate which fingers are up and down, so you get clean releases of notes. This is useful when practicing scales and arpeggios. However, when playing more quickly, you must stay right on top of the keys without raised fingers or you’ll never gain the speed. But to practice the release of notes, practicing with delineated fingers down with other fingers up and out of the way is a terrific exercise, akin to stretching before working out, as I’ve discussed before.

The real place where striking from above is vitally important is with staccato!

When practicing slowly, you might be tempted to play with your fingers close to the keys. The problem with this is that you won’t get the crisp staccato you’re aiming for. Playing faster using that technique will produce a muddy sound. Striking from above gives you a crisp staccato sound. So, you must strike from above in your slow practice to prepare yourself to play quickly and achieve precision and power in your staccatos.

It’s the wrist that is doing all the work.

Make sure you don’t let your fingers go down to notes before you play them. You want to strike from above in one smooth motion using your wrist. That way, you get the clarity of the staccato and the power from the wrist. Another thing to avoid is using the arms for the up and down motion. The arms are too big and heavy, which will result in a clumsy sound. You won’t get the crisp sound you desire. The arms are too slow, and it just bogs down. You should move the arms side to side to get over the right keys, but there should be no up and down motion.

You can achieve a light staccato with the wrist as well.

By utilizing the wrist staying closer to the keys, you can get a light, fast staccato as well. So remember: for more power, use more motion, and for light, crisp staccato, use smaller wrist motion. But always use the wrists when trying to achieve a short, crisp sound.

So that’s the tip for the day!

Remember to strike from above in your staccato, and you will be rewarded with a crisp sound. Doing this, you can achieve speed, fluency, power, and lightness. I hope this has been helpful for you! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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4 thoughts on “Should You Strike From Above in Your Piano Playing?”


  1. The Steinway you are playing in your “Staccato” video is very well tuned and is a joy to listen to. Years ago my piano teacher taught me essentially what you are teaching in your video about how to play staccatos.

    1. It’s a challenge to keep my Steinway in tune since there are always so many pianos to work on here! Glad to hear that your teacher showed you this wrist staccato technique.

  2. It might be interesting to get a tiny slow motion camera into the action of the piano and see if there’s some visible difference in way the hammers accelerate, or if maybe the shanks bend just a tiny amount.

    1. That’s an interesting idea. It would be a challenge having a small enough camera with slow enough slow motion capabilities, along with mounting lights inside the piano. There are a number of videos on YouTube with action models in slow motion, but mostly upright actions.

      I will attempt a slow motion action model video!

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