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Hey everyone, I wanted to get your thoughts on stretching your hands to increase hand span. I have found that the more I stretch and the farther my reach becomes, the better my fingers and strength at the keys become. I went from a 9th to an 11th. Are there any suggestions or exercises that you have found helpful in increasing your handspan and also stretch between fingers? Also how do you avoid injury besides stopping when it hurts?

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Normally I wouldn't play any sequence that requires finger 1 & 5 to play 2 notes that span more than 1 octave apart. There are times when a note is written for 1 hand but can be moved to the other hand.

The 1 thing most teachers recommend is hand rotation exercises:

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I increased my span by learning Brahms. Playing some of the rich chords was uncomfortable but I carefully persisted. The trick was to stop practicing the pieces as soon as my hand began to feel sore. Little by little, day by day, my span increased without injury. I went from barely reaching a 9th to a comfortable 9th. I also improved the stretch between my fingers.


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Going from a 9th to an 11th sounds like an extreme basically outlier example. Having a reach that big is not much of an advantage, if at all, except for a very limited repertoire(stride pieces by Fats Waller, for example).

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Originally Posted by OscoBosco
Hey everyone, I wanted to get your thoughts on stretching your hands to increase hand span. I have found that the more I stretch and the farther my reach becomes, the better my fingers and strength at the keys become. I went from a 9th to an 11th. Are there any suggestions or exercises that you have found helpful in increasing your handspan and also stretch between fingers? Also how do you avoid injury besides stopping when it hurts?

But how much is going from 9th to 11th attributable to your hand stretch exercises versus the fact that you body and bones are probably still growing at your age, even if slowly? For adults who are already fully grown, I wonder whether hand stretch exercises can have any real effect. I also wonder if hand stretch exercises could lead to bad future health consequences (early on-set osteoarthritis, etc.).


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Originally Posted by OscoBosco
Hey everyone, I wanted to get your thoughts on stretching your hands to increase hand span. I have found that the more I stretch and the farther my reach becomes, the better my fingers and strength at the keys become. I went from a 9th to an 11th. Are there any suggestions or exercises that you have found helpful in increasing your handspan and also stretch between fingers? Also how do you avoid injury besides stopping when it hurts?


Since carefully practicising for around a couple of hours a day for the last 16 months I have found that I am far more comfortable doing 10ths - both hands. And I am going on 77. You should never get to the point of hurting. A gentle ache is when you stop, until the next day.


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Playing wide intervals and chords is all that is necessary for stretching imho.

Stretching should be done extremely carefully, because every microtrauma promotes growth of the connective tissue in between the bones (instead of muscle tissue) and it can't be undone ever, except with surgery.

Playing 10th comfortably is enough stretch, playing 11th is not necessary imo.

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Yeah I mean you don't want to "Do a Robert Schumann" on yo ass.

Stretching should happen naturally, I think it does happen, but it's a by-product rather than intentional.

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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Yeah I mean you don't want to "Do a Robert Schumann" on yo ass.

Man, imagine how awkward that would be. On one’s ass, of all places laugh

I’m someone who’s always been proud of being able to play a tenth (no dainty girly hands here, d’ya know?) and now I’m dealing with early-onset osteoarthritis. No idea if there’s any causality there, but I’d still recommend avoiding anything that carries even the slightest risk of causing injury.

Last edited by Sibylle; 01/01/19 04:35 PM.

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Originally Posted by Sibylle

Man, imagine how awkward that would be. On one’s ass, of all places laugh


laugh

Why do you think that piano benches are made so wide?

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Going from a 9th to an 11th sounds like an extreme basically outlier example. Having a reach that big is not much of an advantage, if at all, except for a very limited repertoire(stride pieces by Fats Waller, for example).


That's right, and even in the music of Waller and other stride players, some would say breaking the tenths upwards or downwards produces a more rhythmically interesting effect anyway. Stephanie Trick, for example, has small hands and plays Waller beautifully.


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I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the Aeolian Harp etude of Chopin. If you cannot make the stretch, learn to arpeggiate.


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Thanks everyone for your advice and thoughts. Appreciate it smile

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Try "Exercises in extension" by Isidor Philipp. I find it really useful.

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For some of us the mere thought of a tenth stretch is pure fantasy. I have exceptionally small hands plus a damaged little right hand finger, which is about 1/4 inch shorter than normal with the bone barely covered by the skin. I learned to play octaves with thumb and third finger, supported by the fourth when necessary when sometimes the skin broke. I carried tissues in my pocket for recitals or competitions to discreetly as possible wipe the few drops of blood off the keys.

When I auditioned for Juilliard, I was terrified that this unorthodox finger gymnastic would doom me. So I scoped out pieces requiring the minimum of those repetitive octaves. I finally convinced myself if I played quickly enough with enough flourishes I might escape condemnation. Luckily the judges were sitting at a distance and either chose to ignore the few moments when I sneaked one in .. or didn't notice. None of my professors ever mentioned it after seeing the deformed finger.

Now in my senior years, I have gone back to baroque music, relishing the agility which four voices require. And happily play works requiring speed and dexterity with not too many of those right hand octave chords. Ten note stretch .... YIKES cry

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Originally Posted by OscoBosco
Also how do you avoid injury besides stopping when it hurts?


You avoid injury by making comfort a priority. Playing the piano should feel basically good. If you find yourself frequently getting to the point where you need to stop because of the pain, it means that you're just not paying attention to how it feels while you play. Fix this!


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