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About the Lister-Sink Institute

The Lister-Sink Institute is an educational organization dedicated to promoting a healthful, well-coordinated keyboard technique to maximize musical artistry and help prevent potential injury at any point in the career.

Recommended Videos, Books, and Articles About Keyboard Technique

Note from Barbara Lister-Sink

An extraordinary number of books have been written on piano (keyboard) technique over the centuries. While the authors are intelligent, dedicated, insightful and often successful teachers and players, the written word, in general, tends to create yet more confusion. Contradictory opinions, excessively detailed scientific and anatomical descriptions and easily misinterpreted terminology often leave the reader frustrated and bewildered. Playing any keyboard can be one of the most complex coordinations known to human kind. It is an intensely physical experience that defies verbal description.  One simply cannot describe the fragrance of a rose, or the sensations of well-coordinated playing.  So we are left with a handful of books below that will inform and not as easily confuse, although there will still  be contradictions from author to author. My apologies to dedicated authors whose worthy books are inadvertently omitted. –BL-S


  • Freeing the Caged Bird – Developing Well-Coordinated, Injury-Preventive Piano Technique with Barbara Lister-Sink, (WINGSOUND, P.O. Box 10912, Winston-Salem, NC 27108, 1996, 2005).
    A clear, direct look at piano technique from the ground up.  Explores piano and body mechanisms, demonstrates potential harmful technical habits, outlines a step-by-step training program with numerous playing examples. Reviewed in Piano & Keyboard magazine as “brilliantly conceived and produced.” Vladimir Ashkenazy calls it “a monumental work!”
  • The Art of Piano – Great Pianists of the 20th Century(NVCArts).
    Extraordinary film and TV footage of extended live performances, from Ignace Jan Paderewski in 1936 to Claudio Arrau in 1970. Includes Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cortot, Gilels, Richter, Michelangeli, Dame Myra Hess, with commentary by 18 present-day pianists and conductors. A wonderful visual and aural documentation of legendary pianists. A great musical and technical teaching resource.
  • The Golden Age of the Piano by David Dubal (Peter Rosen Productions, Inc., 1993)
    An award-winning, beautifully produced documentary video about the great pianists of the “Golden Age.” Rare film footage of performances by Josef Hofmann, Myra Hess, Percy Grainger, Paderewski, Horowitz, Brailowsky, Cortot, Arrau. Also includes footage of Glenn Gould, Rudolf Serkin, Van Cliburn, among others. Inspiring and fascinating.
  • The Anatomy of a Piano – How Your Grand Piano Works, With Piano Technician John Serkin, (SH Productions, Kansas City, 1991).
    A unique, excellent look at the mechanism of the piano from the viewpoint of a piano technician whose father, Rudolf Serkin, was one of the great pianists of the 20th century. Beautifully produced. Good for all students, teachers and parents.
  • YouTube
    This highly popular website is an invaluable resource for locating and observing video footage of great keyboardists, past and present, and their techniques. A search for such names as Richter, Gilels, Cliburn, Argerich, Perlemuter, Casadesus, Hess, Arrau, Marie-Claire Alain, etc. will yield fascinating, exciting and highly instructive musical and technical results.

Books About Whole Body Awareness and Biomechanics

  • What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping & the Alexander Technique to Making Musicby Barbara and Benjamin Conable (Andover, 1998).
    A charming but powerfully informative book with humorous and helpful cartoon illustrations. Very easy to understand and readable for young musicians.
  • Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health, by Thomas Hanna (Harper Collins Publishers, 1988).
    This gives specific, effective exercises for releasing chronic muscle tension throughout the body. It is especially helpful in understanding and relieving chronic muscle tension. This book is suitable only for teachers, performers and mature students.
  • How to Learn the Alexander Technique: A Manual for Students, by Barbara Conable (Andover Press, 1995).
    This is one of the best books for self-instruction in Body-Mapping, as well as the Alexander Technique. Appropriate for mature students, teachers and performers.
  • Dr. Pascarelli’s Complete Guide to Repetitive Strain Injury, by Emil Pascarelli, M.D., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004.
    This book remains one of the most accessible and respected books on an injury that effects numerous keyboardists. To quote Amazon, “Dr. Emil Pascarelli, one of the world’s leading authorities on RSI, offers a comprehensive, prescriptive, practical, and long-awaited sequel to his bestselling Repetitive Strain Injury.”
  • The Art of Practicing, by Madeline Bruser (Bell Tower, NY, 1997)
    A lovely book, full of wisdom not only about practicing, but about technique, stage fright, discipline, improvisation and all the various issues which confront the keyboardist. Bruser writes eloquently. Her love of music and teaching, as well as her, healthy, positive attitude toward music-making permeates the book.
  • Playing (Less) Hurt:  An Injury-Prevention Guide for Musicians, by Janet Horvath (Janet Horvath, 2002).
  • The Athletic Musician, by Barbara Paull and Christine Harrison (Scarecrow Press, 1999).
  • The Body Atlas, by Steve Parker (Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1993).
    A big, beautifully illustrated guide to the human anatomy.  Colorful drawings are large, clear and interesting. Explanations are simple and written in plain English. A powerful visual tool in building awareness of the “body map.” Suitable for all ages and levels, but especially enjoyable for children.
  • Digital Atlas of Human Anatomy, by Jim Glenn and Thomas McCracken, ed. (Anatographica, LLC, Miami Beach, 2007)
    This book is one of the results of the Virtual Anatomy project, begun in 1992, which purpose was to create virtual anatomy via digital methods. Extremely well-designed and formatted with extraordinarily clear digital images. ‘This is fully accurate, fully realistic “virtual” anatomy, the state of the art in current anatomical illustration.’ (quote from book cover)
  • The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbookby Davis, Eshelman and McKay (New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 1995).
    The most comprehensive and practical guide to various relaxation and stress reduction techniques. Clearly written, well-formatted. A valuable resource for all performing and teaching musicians.
  • The Musicians’ Survival Manual:  A Guide to Preventing and Treating Injuries in Instrumentalists, by Richard Norris, M. D. (MMB Music, 1993).
  • The Musician as Athlete: Alternative Approaches to Healthy Performanceby Dorothy Bishop and Jude Carlson (Kava Publications, 1992).
  • Body Mind Mastery, by Dan Millman (New World Library, 1999).
    A clearly written book about integrating mind, body and spirit in athletics but could be used by all musicians. Addresses chronic tension build-up, mental practice, whole body awareness, stress reduction, relaxation techniques, avoiding injuries from a “natural athlete [musician]” viewpoint.
  • The Breathing Book: Vitality and Health Through Essential Breath Work, by Donna Farhi (Henry Holt & Company, LLC, New York, 1996)
    A simple, sound guide to various breathing techniques written by an internationally noted yoga instructor.

Books About Keyboard Technique

  • What Every Pianist Needs to Know About the Bodyby Thomas Mark (GIA Publications, Inc., Chicago, 2003).
    This book and video are excellent for all musicians, but are most appropriate for serious student and adult keyboardists.
  • Chopin: Pianist and Teacher by J.J. Eigeldinger (Cambridge University Press, 1986)
    A fascinating look at Chopin’s teaching and playing philosophies from the viewpoint of his students. One chapter is devoted to technical matters.
  • Famous Pianists & Their Technique, by Reginald Gerig (Indiana University Press, 2007).
    An exhaustive, complete look at the history of keyboard technique– “schools,” methods, famous teachers, etc. Extremely well-written by a highly informed pianist who has dedicated his life to researching the world of piano (keyboard) technique. The last chapter discusses the most recent return to  “enlightened technique,” i.e., integrated, whole-body coordinated, injury-preventive playing.
  • A Symposium for Pianists and Teachers: Strategies to Develop the Mind and Body for Optimal Performance, (Heritage Music Press, Dayton, OH, 2002).
    Ten authoritative authors offer their expertise and unique viewpoints in a comprehensive look at piano playing.  Body, mind, emotions and spirit are all addressed in great detail, chapter by chapter.  From performance anxiety, through biomechanics, holistic health, sound pedagogy, mind control, practice methods, etc., etc., this compendium offers an unprecedented amount and depth of information. Viewpoints sometimes differ but all authors are united by their unswerving dedication to developing joyous, informed, and healthy pianists.
  • Mastering Piano Technique, by Seymour Fink (Amadeus Press, 1992).
    A rational, comprehensive and systematic approach to developing healthy piano technique with special emphasis on free, natural movements and biomechanical laws.  Filled with fascinating anatomical information and imaginative exercises.
  • The Pianist’s Talent, by Harold Taylor (Kahn & Averill, 9 Harrington Rd., London, England, 1994).
    A small, insightful book on the application of the principles of the Alexander Technique in the playing of a number of the great piano prodigies, including Artur Rubinstein. Historic photos included.
  • On Piano Playing by Gyorgy Sandor (Schirmer Books, 1981)
    One of the most biomechanically valid and accessible looks at the basic principles of body use at the piano. Clearly written, many photos and illustrations.

Dissertations on the Lister-Sink Method

Peer-Reviewed Articles by Dr. Lister-Sink

Resources for Small-Handed Pianists & Organists