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The small-handed pianist support thread


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#91 fsharpminor

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 16:55

A good one for you to practise would be Clementi Sonata op33 No 3 in C.  This has right hand octaves with an added third. Despite the fact I can get a 10th comfortably, and octave with added third always bothers me ! But do have alook at it !


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#92 corenfa

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Posted 30 January 2014 - 21:08

A specific exercise that has helped retrain my reflexes is to practise octave passages with only the top notes, or only the bottom notes, but still using the same fingering that one would use in the octave, and with the hand at full stretch. This trains the movement from the knuckle joint. Because I came to this technique so late, I am always forgetting it, and when I've had a particularly bad time with stiffness in octaves, teacher orders me to spend a few weeks practising this way. I probably ought to just always practise that way and then I wouldn't forget it.. 


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#93 corenfa

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 21:47

One year later, I am starting to work on the Chopin A-flat Polonaise (Op 53). We have spent six weeks on two pages, but I suppose much of it is the same. I can now play octaves on the top of the keys (not at the edges, and at speed), just barely. We are working on the Marguerite Long octave exercises and in only two weeks they have had a great effect.

It seems to be as I thought, that "all I need" is to develop a secure octave and I should be able to play this Polonaise. I was told about someone's teacher at Moscow Conservatoire who had hands my size and won a Chopin competition. Since I have no aspirations to win any competitions but simply to play Op 53, I will probably be OK.
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#94 jch48

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 21:59

Corenfa, please to hear you're getting results. Was Op 53 the big ambition or is that the Polonaise-Fantaise? That middle section of Op53 must be a locus-classicus for releasing tension and avoiding locking up. I've just been driven to have a proper look at the Chopin 3rd Scherzo - I love the 'chorale like' theme with the cascades and must get away from viewing the octave passages as a necessary evil.


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#95 corenfa

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Posted 10 February 2015 - 22:01

Op 53 is the big ambition. Not too sure why but think it has to do with being one of the first pieces ever that I remember hearing. To me that piece "means" piano, not because I think it's better than any other piece out there but just because that's its significance in my life.

It's on my LTCL programme. We shall see whether I fail or if I have to enter with a different programme!!! Teacher thinks it is possible. Other people think I am mad. They might be right.
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#96 Martin.Walters

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 23:24

I tried practicing the middle section of that Op.53.. absolute nightmare! I simply say this.. (being only grade 7) .. practice slowly until it becomes comfortable(ish) then move up the tempo.. 
What a beautiful piece though.. one day when i'm more experienced, I will take it on fully committed! 


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#97 fsharpminor

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 10:15

I am playing a different Op 53, Waldstein Sonata !  two movements are OK  but last movement is a stinker, niot sure I will ever play it properly.


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#98 vee

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 22:08

One year later, I am starting to work on the Chopin A-flat Polonaise (Op 53). We have spent six weeks on two pages, but I suppose much of it is the same. I can now play octaves on the top of the keys (not at the edges, and at speed), just barely. We are working on the Marguerite Long octave exercises and in only two weeks they have had a great effect.

It seems to be as I thought, that "all I need" is to develop a secure octave and I should be able to play this Polonaise. I was told about someone's teacher at Moscow Conservatoire who had hands my size and won a Chopin competition. Since I have no aspirations to win any competitions but simply to play Op 53, I will probably be OK.

Good luck Corenfa ! You've been so methodical in working towards your goal- hope it goes well for you


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#99 corenfa

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 00:24

I tried practicing the middle section of that Op.53.. absolute nightmare! I simply say this.. (being only grade 7) .. practice slowly until it becomes comfortable(ish) then move up the tempo.. 
What a beautiful piece though.. one day when i'm more experienced, I will take it on fully committed!

It's not so simple for this small-handed pianist; I can't simply "practice slowly", I have to be able to do it without wrecking my hands. But that's why I am having lessons. It's going really slowly as in blocks of four or eight bars.
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#100 corenfa

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 00:24

One year later, I am starting to work on the Chopin A-flat Polonaise (Op 53). We have spent six weeks on two pages, but I suppose much of it is the same. I can now play octaves on the top of the keys (not at the edges, and at speed), just barely. We are working on the Marguerite Long octave exercises and in only two weeks they have had a great effect.

It seems to be as I thought, that "all I need" is to develop a secure octave and I should be able to play this Polonaise. I was told about someone's teacher at Moscow Conservatoire who had hands my size and won a Chopin competition. Since I have no aspirations to win any competitions but simply to play Op 53, I will probably be OK.

Good luck Corenfa ! You've been so methodical in working towards your goal- hope it goes well for you


Thank you! Even if I never pass my LTCL playing this piece, I will have improved my playing a lot and that's got to count for something.
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#101 agricola

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 08:34

I would not practise the octaves slowly because the whole action required is different.  Instead I would play up to speed but in very short bursts to begin with to avoid seizing up. 

 

I think there are two factors here:  one is that you have to develop enough strength in the small muscles of the hand to be able to keep it braced without the little finger flopping about.  If you have a small hand it will be very extended when playing octaves so a lot of strength is required.  The other factor is that the tension mustn't spread to your arm, which must be kept as free as possible.  It takes most people a while to learn to separate those two things. 

 

I think the image Liszt gave of " shaking the octaves out of your sleeve end" helps to realise what the correct action should be.  20 years ago I would have found those octaves very difficult and now I don't.  My hands are still the same size and I haven't increased in strength but my "know-how" has improved a lot in that period !


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#102 mel2

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Posted 14 February 2015 - 09:52

 We are working on the Marguerite Long octave exercises and in only two weeks they have had a great effect.

 

I've heard about these - well, about Marguerite Long anyway; I didn't think they were still available. Aren't they out of print, or only available in French or something? I don't suppose octaves are any easier in French. :)


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#103 corenfa

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Posted 15 February 2015 - 22:37

We are working on the Marguerite Long octave exercises and in only two weeks they have had a great effect.

I've heard about these - well, about Marguerite Long anyway; I didn't think they were still available. Aren't they out of print, or only available in French or something? I don't suppose octaves are any easier in French. :)

They are in print, but only available in French. Google translate is my friend.. but also, because teacher had worked through the Russian edition she's able to tell me how to practise them and what to look for, even though neither of us can speak French.
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#104 corenfa

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Posted 15 February 2015 - 22:39

I would not practise the octaves slowly because the whole action required is different.  Instead I would play up to speed but in very short bursts to begin with to avoid seizing up.



I've been told to practise them both slowly and at speed in short bursts as you say, but when I practise them slowly to use the correct movements and position as if I was playing them at speed.

When I figure this out I'll let you know...!


I think there are two factors here:  one is that you have to develop enough strength in the small muscles of the hand to be able to keep it braced without the little finger flopping about.  If you have a small hand it will be very extended when playing octaves so a lot of strength is required.  The other factor is that the tension mustn't spread to your arm, which must be kept as free as possible.  It takes most people a while to learn to separate those two things.


I'm finding it hard to control my upper arm well enough to make small movements with it- I can do large scale motion with the upper arm, but not anything with precision.
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#105 corenfa

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 21:20

I tried practicing the middle section of that Op.53.. absolute nightmare! I simply say this.. (being only grade 7) .. practice slowly until it becomes comfortable(ish) then move up the tempo..


Spent today's lesson working on that bit. I've been told that the movements I am looking for are a down-stroke with the whole arm (but not a big movement) on the beat, with the 3 semiquaver octaves to be taken as only enough flick of fingers to catch the notes. Using this articulation I was able to play through that passage at half speed with no tension or pain or fatigue. From here, it is "simply" a matter of increasing the speed. The hard part is keeping the correct articulation. No matter; I don't really care how long it takes, once I know I have the right movement (as confirmed by teacher, we'll have to see next week whether I still remember), I know I will be able to get it up to speed- I've done this with other pieces before.
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