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The small-handed pianist support thread


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#16 corenfa

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 16:34

... one month later ...

I have a lot more fluency in both hands when it comes to consecutive octaves. Stretches that used to hurt either hurt less, or don't hurt any more. I find that I can now do octaves in the right hand with 1-3 and 1-4 as well as 1-5.

I've been thinking increasingly that the biggest handicap I have encountered as a small-handed pianist is thinking "I have small hands so I can't play _______".


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#17 LittleMelon

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 05:40

Yay! There's people here who understand my pain! ^^

I can barely make an 8ve on both hands. I'm physically tiny myself so that's why. So...I can't play pieces that require too many octaves or else I'll get cramps on my thumb.

Like someone else said here earlier, break/roll the chords! Yes, I do that plenty. Sometimes, it can be impossible so I omit a note out to make my life easier.

As a result of my small hands, arpeggios is obviously my weak point. In any form, inversion or no inversion. I have to do this weird "swinging" movement (it's like throwing out your fishing line, but it's not noticeable) to help propel my fingers into the next octave. Weird, huh?

I realised, as you climb higher up the grades, they ask more of your tiny hands (doing grade 8 this year). =( In this Bach Prelude and Fugue piece, I have to break the chords in that piece because it's stretch was beyond what my hands can do.

But guess what?! My piano teacher said I have very good fast technical playing skills so it's not so bad to be small handed!

I do practise hand stretching exercises every so often. But I seriously see no difference in my stretch capacity. T.T Sure, it'll make it easier to play 8ves but it's not going to make me play 9ths.
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#18 corenfa

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 21:55

QUOTE(LittleMelon @ Apr 20 2011, 06:40 AM) View Post

...

As a result of my small hands, arpeggios is obviously my weak point. In any form, inversion or no inversion. I have to do this weird "swinging" movement (it's like throwing out your fishing line, but it's not noticeable) to help propel my fingers into the next octave. Weird, huh?


Yay! Someone else who does this! I find that I need to move my whole arm quite a bit to get my small hands into the right angle.


QUOTE(LittleMelon @ Apr 20 2011, 06:40 AM) View Post

...

But guess what?! My piano teacher said I have very good fast technical playing skills so it's not so bad to be small handed!


Someone I know with rather large hands once told me that having big hands caused him problems that you wouldn't think were obvious - one was that fingers get stuck between keys.

QUOTE(LittleMelon @ Apr 20 2011, 06:40 AM) View Post

I do practise hand stretching exercises every so often. But I seriously see no difference in my stretch capacity. T.T Sure, it'll make it easier to play 8ves but it's not going to make me play 9ths.


What hand stretching exercises do you do? Would you mind describing them or a link to them if it's not too much trouble? I have never really looked for these, I just try to work with the pieces I have and try to find creative ways of playing them. One idea that I find helpful is from my time as a horn player - slurring between notes is difficult sometimes because it is hard to not break the air stream if there is an awkward fingering, so a technique called "legato tonguing" is used where you do break the air stream but make it seem like you didn't. The way this carries over to piano is that if I really cannot make the interval without breaking the slur, I will try to put the minimum amount of time between the break, and see if I can use the pedal to help.

I have no idea how this will turn out! I've only been experimenting with it in the last week or so. I'm needing it in Chopin Op. 53 - in the right hand there is the fingering 1-454(mordent)-1+4(octave)-1+5(octave) (bar 23 if anyone knows the piece).
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#19 Guest: lilly763_*

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Posted 27 April 2011 - 13:44

QUOTE(LittleMelon @ Apr 20 2011, 01:40 AM) View Post

Yay! There's people here who understand my pain! ^^

I can barely make an 8ve on both hands. I'm physically tiny myself so that's why. So...I can't play pieces that require too many octaves or else I'll get cramps on my thumb.

Like someone else said here earlier, break/roll the chords! Yes, I do that plenty. Sometimes, it can be impossible so I omit a note out to make my life easier.

As a result of my small hands, arpeggios is obviously my weak point. In any form, inversion or no inversion. I have to do this weird "swinging" movement (it's like throwing out your fishing line, but it's not noticeable) to help propel my fingers into the next octave. Weird, huh?

I realised, as you climb higher up the grades, they ask more of your tiny hands (doing grade 8 this year). =( In this Bach Prelude and Fugue piece, I have to break the chords in that piece because it's stretch was beyond what my hands can do.

But guess what?! My piano teacher said I have very good fast technical playing skills so it's not so bad to be small handed!

I do practise hand stretching exercises every so often. But I seriously see no difference in my stretch capacity. T.T Sure, it'll make it easier to play 8ves but it's not going to make me play 9ths.


Doesn't everyone have to make a "swinging" motion for arpeggios? That was one of the first technical things my teacher helped me with, and it made a huge difference, but I didn't think it was anything specific to small hands. It seems like the most effective waly to execute arpeggios in without tension. Also, there's a fine line between it becoming easier to play octaves and possible to play 9ths smile.gif I will never be able to play ninths comfortably, but I've learned to grab the occasional one if the figuration is right and I have time to place it (i.e. in slow movements like the first movement of Moonlight, the middle movement of Schubert D. 664).

Right now my small-hand related whining is caused by a few pages in Chopin's Barcarolle... it's a lovely piece, but you wouldn't guess from listening that the part around the climax is so difficult and tiring to play dry.gif I'm talking about the part where the first theme (in thirds) and its accompaniment come back with extra octaves ph34r.gif When I practice it, it seems to improve at first, but as I get more tired it regresses... and it's so hard to stay tension-free!
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#20 Sunrise

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Posted 29 April 2011 - 19:51

I just saw this on you tube and it made me think of this thread... these guys have been a revelation to us tonight...



I hope you haven't all seen it before!
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#21 Martin.Walters

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 08:55

I watched Lang Lang, if youve seen how he stretches to a 10th, he does it the exact same way I do, and he can barely touch the edge of the key with the skin of his finger. with that in mind, it gives us all hope.

It is a bit demoralising when you want to play your favourite composers, such as Lizst & Schumann, and your hands are not big enough to hit the 10th, ~ but seriously how many notes of the whole piece requires a 10th, we can make just a good performance even if we cant hit one note!
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#22 kingsley13

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Posted 30 April 2011 - 09:52

I've never thought I had particularly small hands, but I can barely reach a ninth and have got used to spreading chords bigger than an octave, or even octave chords with awkward notes in between, so it's never been a problem. That was until I started learning Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor, with the horrendous octave bit it the middle where you'e jumping up and down the piano. I'm trying to fit all of the notes in because it doesn't sound as full and impressive when I miss some out, but I can't spread them because they're all repeated notes. I'm hoping that it won't sound as obvious that I'm missing notes out when I actually get it up to speed! laugh.gif
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#23 Martin.Walters

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 00:32

QUOTE(kingsley13 @ Apr 30 2011, 10:52 AM) View Post

I've never thought I had particularly small hands, but I can barely reach a ninth and have got used to spreading chords bigger than an octave, or even octave chords with awkward notes in between, so it's never been a problem. That was until I started learning Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor, with the horrendous octave bit it the middle where you'e jumping up and down the piano. I'm trying to fit all of the notes in because it doesn't sound as full and impressive when I miss some out, but I can't spread them because they're all repeated notes. I'm hoping that it won't sound as obvious that I'm missing notes out when I actually get it up to speed! laugh.gif


Prelude 23 5? ~ Its an amazing piece of music and yet it reminds me of Chopins Fantasise.
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#24 katica

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Posted 01 May 2011 - 00:49

QUOTE(Dawnmc71 @ Apr 29 2011, 01:51 PM) View Post

I just saw this on you tube and it made me think of this thread... these guys have been a revelation to us tonight...



I hope you haven't all seen it before!

Yes, but always worth another laugh! Love those guys. biggrin.gif

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#25 corenfa

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 17:58

QUOTE(kingsley13 @ Apr 30 2011, 10:52 AM) View Post

I've never thought I had particularly small hands, but I can barely reach a ninth and have got used to spreading chords bigger than an octave, or even octave chords with awkward notes in between, so it's never been a problem. That was until I started learning Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor, with the horrendous octave bit it the middle where you'e jumping up and down the piano. I'm trying to fit all of the notes in because it doesn't sound as full and impressive when I miss some out, but I can't spread them because they're all repeated notes. I'm hoping that it won't sound as obvious that I'm missing notes out when I actually get it up to speed! laugh.gif


Interesting - I am also learning this, but the left hand bit of the middle section is actually giving me the most trouble, and that does not have any chords at all. By a lot of contortion and trickery (sometimes using one finger for two notes) I can get all of the notes in the right hand (I have the same span as you - barely reach a ninth) but the left hand of that section is just doing my head in.

I have observed that I do contort my hands a lot when I play, and I was worried about this but I have decided that I am going to deal with this by making the contortions happen without tension rather than trying to avoid them. To me this is the same as what I do in yoga class - I'm supposed to contort, but with practice, that should become easier and more relaxed.
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#26 jod

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 20:29

I can span an octave and reach most chords covering that range and at a pinch reach a ninth.

I'm entered for Grade 8 piano this term and should do OK if only I can get over the gremlin that is my A Level music teacher who told me I could never play the piano. It's going OK, and there are times I hear glimpses of things that sound like real music. Theoretically there is no problem is just a case of getting the demons out of the machine!
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#27 corenfa

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Posted 05 June 2011 - 21:37

Well today was the day that a lot of things appear to have fallen into place. The slow stretching that I have been doing every day has paid off because I can play consecutive octaves in both hands now, at a greater speed than I used to. It feels like I can just move my hands into the octave position without feeling pain - forearms still get tired, but that's the same sort of tired that my legs get after i've been running. Obviously my fingers can't get any longer, but I can see that I can spread my palm out more than I used to and the extra millimetres have clearly made a difference.
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Posted 06 June 2011 - 00:19

If a big stretch was all it took to make a pianist I'd be playing the Carnegie Hall by now. Fortunately (for most people - unfortunately for me) there is rather more to it than that. If you can stretch an octave, you can be a pianist.,
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#29 jod

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Posted 06 June 2011 - 08:13

It isn't just about stretch, it is about strength. I have tiny hands (Glove size 6-6.5) I can reach an octave a ninth if the notes are a good fit. However over many years have built up strength and stamina in my hands, and knowhow to use my arms to add weight to the sound. Hence not only are my fingers flexible but they are strong and supported by the appropriate weighting for the required sound.

I still have to pick pieces carefully, but it works.
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Posted 06 June 2011 - 14:40

QUOTE(jod @ Jun 6 2011, 04:13 AM) View Post

It isn't just about stretch, it is about strength. I have tiny hands (Glove size 6-6.5) I can reach an octave a ninth if the notes are a good fit. However over many years have built up strength and stamina in my hands, and knowhow to use my arms to add weight to the sound. Hence not only are my fingers flexible but they are strong and supported by the appropriate weighting for the required sound.

I still have to pick pieces carefully, but it works.


Agreed that a lot of it is about training and stamina, rather than physical size. My younger sister doesn't really play the piano, but was required to do a little as part of a "keyboard skills" unit in school. When I was showing her something with an octave, she said that she couldn't reach that far, and indeed she couldn't, finding the stretch too painful and tiring, even though I'm comfortable with octaves and her hands are clearly larger than mine.
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