How to avoid “stride piano fatigue”

Have you ever played stride piano? If so, you know that it’s one of the most fun and exciting styles of jazz to play! Back in the 1920s-30s, pianists like Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, and Willie “The Lion” Smith took this left hand technique to the the limit. Even “pop” pianists of the time, such as composer George Gershwin, used a stride pattern when playing much of their repertoire.

If you’ve ever tried to play stride for an extended time, though, you may have noticed that your arm can get tired pretty quickly. In one sense, it’s just a matter of building up our muscles. After all, we can walk for hours and our legs do just fine. But we’re not used to moving our left arm back and forth over the keys in the “bass note/ chord” stride patter for that long. And one big challenge is that we can strain our tendons if we’re not careful.

Here’s a way to practice stride piano that will give your arm time to develop endurance, without tiring it out along the way. Practice like this for a while and you’ll soon be “tickling the ivories” in the same way that Fats, James P., and The Lion did at the height of the stride era!

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