Pam's Story of Learning Piano With Arthritis
At age 59, Pam took up piano using the DecPlay online method, after she had previously tried to learn piano, without success.
Watch the video below to see the incredible progress Pam made on piano whilst suffering from arthritis. She describes the huge enjoyment she gains from playing piano and how regular practice drastically reduced the pain she felt from arthritis in her hands, reduced reliance on anti-inflammatories and increased the flexibility and dexterity of her fingers.
Transcription of Pam's learning piano with arthritis story
When I started with DecPlay, I suffered quite badly with arthritis in my fingers. I don't wear any rings because, well, they're all too small for me now. I can't get them over my arthritic joints, and I was really sceptical as to whether I was going to be able to not only play the DecPlay system, but actually have the dexterity to play the piano with both hands. Very quickly, I was able to learn the DecPlay system because it's very straightforward.
But I had to work very little and often, to be able to play the chords and the melodies in my right hand because my fingers would ache because I hadn't done anything like that before. So, it was an expected ache, but what very quickly transpired was my ability to work through a little bit of aching and then return to the piano; and over time, find it so much easier to actually play. So, doing that repeatedly in short play periods and practice periods, I found the flexibility in my hands and my fingers allowed me to play.
Well, I've got to say, I really enjoy it. So I play quite well and often, and I've worked through a lot of the DecPlay music to then play quite complex pieces of music that I really enjoy playing for myself and my family. The benefit is the flexibility in my fingers - the joint size hasn't obviously gone down because that's there now for life - but the flexibility in my fingers is brilliant and I don't take any anti-inflammatories now for my hands, which is a huge bonus in not taking medication that I don't need to take and I put that down to it. I'm not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, but I put that down to daily practise on the piano whereby I'm using my fingers all the time and they're getting stronger and stronger. Now, each time I stretch myself and learn another technique with DecPlay - a more advanced technique - you know, I have to train my hands to take that extra step, but very quickly any discomfort that's experienced is gone, and I'm able to master that technique and move on and play what I want to play.
If I was talking to somebody who had arthritis and was very doubtful about whether they could actually play the piano.... I was that person. I had grave doubts about it and, if it's something that you want to do, I would certainly give it a go. Because it's benefited me - not just learning to play, that's a gift in itself, being able to play the piano - but it's benefited me physically in the arthritis, in my fingers, and given me back so much more movement.
Essentially, it's like daily physiotherapy for your fingers. So I would say definitely give it a go, but do it as a 'bit by bit' approach and not a long term slog on the piano because your fingers will ache if you do that. But doing short practices will help you tremendously.
How long would you say the practice should be? Or, your practising - how short was that?
When I started doing the practice sessions I was too keen because I was enjoying the piano so much and I would sit down for an hour at a time and, to be honest, that was too long for my fingers because they would ache.
I learnt through experience, then, to actually play for 10 minutes at a time and build it up gradually over a period of days and weeks, depending what I was learning. That took a great deal of control for me because I did love the learning of it so much, but it was so much more beneficial for me to do short periods. But everyone will be different, depending on the degree of arthritis in your hands.
DecPlay, the system, was so flexible for me with the stiffness in my fingers. Instead of learning the traditional routes, where it's quite dictatorial what fingers you use for what notes and in what order, DecPlay allowed me to find my own way and what was comfortable for me.
So whereas you might want to use this finger, this finger and this finger, I might only use two fingers. See - I've got no control over that! But I might use two fingers, or a thumb and a finger, whatever allowed me to play that music, and it really worked for me. An additional benefit of DecPlay, for me, was allowing me to use the best fingers that I could use to play the notes, so I wasn't tied into a rigid format where I was forcing my hand, with the arthritis, into a position that was fixed and painful for me.
DecPlay showed me a way that I could actually use whatever fingers and thumbs were comfortable to me, to get that result, and it served me well in actually helping me with the flexibility of my fingers.