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Difficulty maintaining an octave #2951942 02/26/20 06:40 PM
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KevinM Offline OP
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I don’t have a small reach, I can just clumsily reach a tenth at my absolute limit.

However in the middle section of the second movement of moonlight sonata there is a constant octave stretch for the right hand. When practising this my right hand quickly wants to cramp. I cannot practise that section for any length of time before I have to stop.

It seems keeping the hand constantly stretched to maintain the octave spread is causing the problem. The tendency to cramp quickly recedes once I stop.

I do have nerve related issues in my hands but they have not been an issue for playing the piano. I don’t know if this related, or whether maintaining an octave is a common problem which just requires the hand to adjust through practise.

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Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2951960 02/26/20 08:07 PM
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My wife recently had to attend a hand therapist for dealing with an injury to her hand.

One of the things the therapist recommended was using what was essentially a large peg, maybe twice the width of a regular peg, squeezed into muscle just next to the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger. Just leave it there for a minute or so.

I tried it, and it sort of loosened up my hand and probably increased my octave stretch.

Maybe a visit to a hand therapist would help you? I didn't know there was such a thing as a hand therapist until recently.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2951977 02/26/20 09:24 PM
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Iaroslav Vasiliev Offline
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It's worth to remember that when holding down an octave fingers must stand on the keys with fingers 1 and 5 forming an arc on which arm weight peacefully resides. And between octaves hand must relax for a brief moment.


| Taa atu uka taa aatk tuku taka tuku |
Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2951982 02/26/20 09:35 PM
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The octave is ubiquitous in my current Beethoven sonata. Sometimes just octaves, other times with chords. This causes fatigue so I leave out part of the octave during practice. I break the octave letting go of the bottom or top note depending on the motion.

An octave is just about my reach limit so it's very hard for me to practice octaves for any length of time. Doubly so during slow practice. I just don't do octaves unless I have to play for real.


Beethoven Sonata #6 op 10 nbr 2
Scarlatti K. 466, 521, 434, 24 / Haydn Hob. XVI/35, 36
Mendelssohn Op. 54
Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952054 02/27/20 03:21 AM
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For most cases it is just a matter of practice. You have to keep the hand relaxed and fluid. Based on what you say, your reach is large enough so that you should be able to play it with enough training. Just dont overtrain.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2952071 02/27/20 05:10 AM
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KevinM Offline OP
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Thanks everyone. Relaxed and fluid, but also allowing brief moments for the hand to relax helps.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952174 02/27/20 10:55 AM
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You stop but do you give your hand enough time to rest? I don't think cramping is common. You really have to take care of your hands. Well, actually the whole body. Eat well, exercise, stay hydrated, get enough rest.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952179 02/27/20 11:20 AM
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Regarding relaxation, my teacher tells me to relax after each key; of course only possible if the passage is not too rapid, but basically play the note, then relax the hand and let it sit on the key. Further pressure / tension will no longer change the sound after the keys are depressed. Try practicing this. Play a note, or a chord, or an octave, then relax. Try this from pp-p-mf-f-ff; regardless of intensity, relax after playing the notes. See if this helps.


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Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952182 02/27/20 11:28 AM
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Moo :) Offline
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The moonlight sonata, do you mean the 1st movement ? Where exactly is there a held octave stretch ? I thought it is mostly a held top note in the right accompaniment with 1-2-3 with the right hand. I would collect the thumb slightly when you play the second triplet with the second finger. Only the 5th need to be held. This way your hand is in a more natural position and not held for long periods of time in the strained octave position that is causing you problems. I was taught to collect thumbs and 5ths so you dont hold this stretched octave hand for many minutes. The piece is slow so possibly you would get away without this but I think if it is causing pain I would seriously consider collection of the thumb to see if this prevents the pains.

Last edited by Moo :); 02/27/20 11:31 AM.
Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: Moo :)] #2952207 02/27/20 12:06 PM
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KevinM Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Moo :)
The moonlight sonata, do you mean the 1st movement ? Where exactly is there a held octave stretch ? I thought it is mostly a held top note in the right accompaniment with 1-2-3 with the right hand. I would collect the thumb slightly when you play the second triplet with the second finger. Only the 5th need to be held. This way your hand is in a more natural position and not held for long periods of time in the strained octave position that is causing you problems. I was taught to collect thumbs and 5ths so you dont hold this stretched octave hand for many minutes. The piece is slow so possibly you would get away without this but I think if it is causing pain I would seriously consider collection of the thumb to see if this prevents the pains.


A request please Moo. If the question asked doesn't make sense from your quick scan of the original post. Before replying to a different question, perhaps read the original post a little more carefully.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952226 02/27/20 12:46 PM
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Ok my bad. If you have a series of repeating octaves like in second movement I would normally play a mixture of 1-4 and 1-5. Sometimes I collect my thumb and 5th after the octave so you have a normal hand position. I think you can play all octaves with 1-5 but you want to avoid where the hand is fixed rigidly and just moved up and down in same position from one octave to the next.

Last edited by Moo :); 02/27/20 12:46 PM.
Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952243 02/27/20 01:16 PM
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Thank you Moo, that's a good suggestion.

Re: Difficulty maintaining an octave [Re: KevinM] #2952344 02/27/20 06:59 PM
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In that particular movement, because of the slurs in several places, it is best to alternate 14 and 15 to keep it as close as possible to legato in the upper voice. But it is not necessarily easier ....


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