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Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
#3014013 08/14/20 11:43 PM
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Hi beginner pianist here about almost 6 months. Just want to ask some general tips for a small handed pianist. I can only a maximum of a 9th interval for both my hands, although a 9th already feels straining for me. I'd say an 8th is more comfortable(thank god) but it is still a stretch. I've only started to pay attention to this when I noticed that I started having acute pains on my hands after a day of practicing pieces with those 8th or 9th interval chords. Truthfully I have not been managing my time well by not taking enough breaks so that might also be a cause. I've remedied these issues by dividing my playing time to about 30 mins per session then resting and actually scanning pieces to identify if there are parts that have these 8th+ intervals so I can flag them as potentially dangerous areas.

But the experience made me think if there are other things that I need to watch out for as a small handed pianist. Can anyone(maybe fellow small handed pianists?) share their thoughts?

I'm 28 at the moment by the way so I'm not expecting my hand span to grow significantly over time.

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Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3014025 08/15/20 01:11 AM
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I can't reach more than an octave/8th, and then only off the end of the white keys (black keys are easier), and only more recently have octaves with notes in between to boot become doable, and then not all the time. But - there was a time when I couldn't do that. So with time your hands will become more flexible. I'm not sure I've ever seen a 9th, but 10ths (C to E, for instance, or similar) are pretty common in the left hand of pop/big band and similar. In a modern ragtime piece I want to learn there are 10ths everywhere, so I'll just figure out how to roll them really fast, or use only the octave or an inversion. C'est la vie.

But the pain is really troubling. You don't want to end up with tendinitis or something. So - really pay attention to tenseness in your hands at all times. It seems likely, to me, that you probably are much more tense than you realize, and it will not only give you pain, but slow down fast passages and just generally make all your playing much more difficult than necessary.

I once spent at least a week just playing with *ease* - slowly, flexibly, sometimes floppily, just to get used to the feel. No tenseness not only in my hands, but not in my shoulders or my neck or anywhere else. I noticed that when I was watching pianists on youtube that my body would mimic the tenseness of the player I was watching and I became much more aware of it, to the point it was cringe worthy to watch someone who was tense. Ugh.

So, your hands aren't unaveragely small smile and with time they will be more flexible. In the meantime, yes, breaks - this is a physical activity like any other - and, I think some will say to try to relax, even if for a nanosecond, between each stretch as you play. I've never really noticed that, but I am highly aware of tenseness.

I'm sure others will have great ideas, too - we all go thru similar things as we're learning.


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Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3014050 08/15/20 04:54 AM
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Octaves and larger intervals require good hand relaxation which is something you learn as your technique gets better. There's a good reason why they usually appear in more advanced music. As a beginner I would not force it by playing a lot of octaves. Start with 5ths and 6th and focus on staying very relaxed. Make sure you have no tension. Over time (month or years) the relaxed state will become natural and then you can start expanding to larger intervals, making sure you keep the same relaxed hand.

Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3014868 08/17/20 01:00 PM
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I’ve been playing for a while and have about the same limitation.

Generally, if rolling the notes doesn’t work, I usually play only one of the notes. In this case, I play the lower note if it’s in the left or the upper note if it’s in the right.

Most of the time it sounds okay, if the notes are brief. If the notes are long, I usually have enough time to roll them and hold the first one using the sustain.

It takes some practice, but becomes second nature over time.


MH1963

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Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3014876 08/17/20 01:30 PM
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I can't improve on the great advice already given, but fear not, you are in good company. Elton John has small hands. My Dad also had small hands, but was miles better then I'll ever be with much larger hands than he.

For now, don't cram pieces with lots of octaves. Work up to it is the way. I can reach a 10th. now, but not always clean at tempo. Still, I try to reach them, but not for hours on end as it will kill your hands, as you are experiencing a little already.

Most of the effort is still in your mind, which is far more important then hand size.

In the end, it is really not that big of factor.

Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3014935 08/17/20 05:51 PM
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As others have suggested, I think it's possible that your hand will become more flexible and effectively "stretch" slightly with more practice. I can reach a tenth in both hands but more easily with my LH, and my guess is that's because larger intervals are more common in the LH so my hand has adjusted.

I think as long as you reach a point where you can play an octave comfortably you don't have to be concerned about playing a ninth or tenth since they are much rarer and you can use the go-arounds mentioned earlier in this thread. I once saw a terrific stride pianist who had very small hands but had learned to roll the very common tenths in stride so quickly it was virtually unnoticeable.

Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3015073 08/18/20 05:27 AM
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It's extremely important to stretch your hands. I could play 10th when I was a teenager and I thought that my hands were big enough and that I didn't need stretching. It was a big mistake that I regret about. I lost much time. When I finally started stretching some years later it took all my chords technique to a whole new level.

In that post I've recently described what I believe is a correct beginning of stretching.
http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...en-the-raindrop-prelude.html#Post3013692
Start with this simple exercise, imagine that you're trying to hold a big heavy cannon ball in your hand and try to feel widening in the center of the palm, just do it many times a day.

Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3015146 08/18/20 11:14 AM
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Hi, I have small hands, basically just an octave. I started 3 years ago in my 50's. Right now my hands can open so that the thumb and pinky are in a straight line. In this position I can reach the edge of a 9th. It is physically impossible for me to ever play a 10th.

Some random thoughts...

- I accept the piano is not the ideal instrument for me, and that's ok. There are still many piano pieces that don't require stretch over an octave.

- I now have a pretty comfortable 7th between 2 and 5, a 6th between 2 and 4, etc. The stretch between all the fingers 2,3,4 are useful, especially for chords.

- Use the pedal. Good pedaling really helps us small handers :-)

- You have to be willing to play uncomfortable fingerings and stretches, but at the same time not over do it and hurt your hands. There's some middle ground there.

- This one is just how I practice. I am sure some people will disagree. For octaves, I try to play (stretch) up and forward, instead of only sideways. That is, up so there is arch to the hand, and by forward I mean the fingers 2,3,4 that are not playing, point somewhat into the fall board rather than all pointing towards the pinky.

- Must relax! (this is number one, imo)

- When I feel discouraged about the small hands, I think of all the children who are able to play. Their hands are even smaller (although flexible). If you want to sound the tone in your head, if you yearn for it, your hand will reach for it.

Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
wszxbcl #3015156 08/18/20 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
- I accept the piano is not the ideal instrument for me, and that's ok. There are still many piano pieces that don't require stretch over an octave.
I think a big majority of pieces don't require stretch over and octave. Very little from the Baroque or Classical eras. Composers like Liszt and Rachmaninov probably have more intervals beyond an octave.

I think a more common problem for those with small hands are pieces requiring one to play an octave with some notes in between the thumb and pinky.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 08/18/20 11:48 AM.
Re: Advice for small handed player(9th interval max)
dcbluepiano #3015159 08/18/20 11:48 AM
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The best I can do is a 9th. It hasn't really been an issue yet smile


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