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Handspans of great pianists
#3038765 10/23/20 11:25 PM
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I was lamenting about my small hands today (I can only reach an octave currently) and found this:

[Linked Image]

I was surprised at Barenboim’s handspan, only a 9th. Also surprised at Lang Lang, which they say is a 12th. Scriabin is only an octave...maybe I have hope yet.


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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038772 10/24/20 12:04 AM
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As many have said: It's not the size that counts, but how you use it.

Regards,


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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038773 10/24/20 12:06 AM
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"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038783 10/24/20 01:05 AM
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Erroll Garner's opening of the palms was similar to that of Rachmaninov - 13; and by ear he could freely reproduce the SR style.

Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038904 10/24/20 11:41 AM
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Hi

It isn't necessarily the size, you can work at stretching your 'wingspan'. My left hand has a bigger span than my right hand from trying to play 10ths, which I can do for some of the easier minor ones, but can't do at all in my right hand.

Oscar Peterson could stretch to an 11th and could walk 10ths in his left hand alternating 1,4 1,5 1,4 1,5, which he said (in an interview with Andre Previn) avoided that choppy sound.

If only... :-)

Cheers


Simon

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
BruceD #3038920 10/24/20 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
As many have said: It's not the size that counts, but how you use it.

Regards,

I’m wondering if such a statement is said to make small-handed people feel better (especially by those with big hands).

I understand that I can stretch my handspan with experience and technique help from my teacher, but starting with only an octave I think realistically I can go as far as only a 9th.

The background story for my lamentation. I’m learning to play an RCM 2 piece that has an octave stretch, c & c in the left hand, followed by a b & b, to be played legato. While I can play an octave, I wasn’t originally able to execute the transition from the c octave to the b octave cleanly in a legato fashion. My teacher taught me a different fingering and I was able to do it. So problem solved, right? For now. The RCM book’s answer was to allow the player to drop the bottom note during exams. I suppose this was meant for young children whose hands were still small, but I’m a fully grown adult. So, the answer is to drop notes because small-handed people can’t reach them. That seems imperfect to me, and yes, that bothers me, although I know it’s the way it is and the way it will be.

Then, I had a long discussion with my guitar teacher about buying a shorter scale guitar because I couldn’t reach the correct position on the frets the way he wanted me to. He’s tall at over 6 feet and me just barely 5’4”. He tried to convince me I could work around it and should stick with a full-sized guitar but I wasn’t convinced because I feel like those who do have the reach just don’t understand. He said pianists don’t go out and find a smaller piano so why should guitarists buy a smaller guitar. Makes sense, I guess, but smaller scale guitars are so much more accessible and smaller keyboard pianos aren’t. Anyway, I got his point but still not 100% convinced.

Anyway, those of us with small hands feel lacking and it just feels bad. We just aren’t able to play certain pieces properly or we have to sacrifice technique to do so (in the case of guitar).

Ok, lamentation over. It is what it is and I’ll just need to work around it. Thanks for listening.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 10/24/20 12:45 PM.

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038925 10/24/20 12:54 PM
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Last edited by dogperson; 10/24/20 01:03 PM. Reason: Duplicate

"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Handspans of great pianists
dogperson #3038928 10/24/20 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Weak left hand
Before you do any more lamenting, look at Alicia de Larrocha in the earlier post... and she did not drop notes.

I’m intrigued but it is unclear how small her hands were and how she was able to not drop notes. She did look rather small from the pictures. What was her technique? Maybe it’s in her website but I missed it? I wish someone could write a book of tips and tricks for us small-handed people. It would make me feel much better.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 10/24/20 01:06 PM.

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038935 10/24/20 01:25 PM
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I'd guess she can reach at least a 9th comfortably, stretching to at least a 10th:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ramMUDUG_QQ

Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038970 10/24/20 02:46 PM
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My measurements are 9.5" for 1-5, and 7.5" for 2-5, and 2-5 are probably 1/2" worse that 40 years ago because I got lazy.
I did a lot of finger stretching and stamina exercizes when I was a boy and played volleyball. I guess it is never too late to start stretching (carefully if you are not young anymore).

I guess the hand span is directly related to how tall you are; Rachmaninoff was huge, and may modern players are not.

Lang Lang said he can reach almost 12 keys, which means 11 are easy for him, and his span should be around 11.5" which is interesting, because his hands do not look that big.

Last edited by VladK; 10/24/20 02:55 PM.

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038975 10/24/20 03:00 PM
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It is probable that Rach had Marfan’s Syndrome

Rach.org. Marfan’s

Re: Handspans of great pianists
dogperson #3038984 10/24/20 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
It is probable that Rach had Marfan’s Syndrome

Rach.org. Marfan’s

Quite possible; just don't forget that at 6' 6" he was 23 cm taller than average US man is now (5' 9"), which means that statistically his hand should be 2.3 cm longer than modern average, and would allow for extra 4.6 cm, i.e. 2 keys, at 1-5 span.
Liszt was 6' 1", by the way.
And Lang Lang is 5' 10", almost average man.

Last edited by VladK; 10/24/20 03:29 PM.

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
VladK #3038989 10/24/20 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by VladK
Originally Posted by dogperson
It is probable that Rach had Marfan’s Syndrome

Rach.org. Marfan’s

Quite possible; just don't forget that he at 6' 6" was 23 cm taller than average US man is now (5' 9"), which means that statistically his hand should be 2.3 cm longer than modern average, and would allow for extra 4.6 cm, i.e. 2 keys, at 1-5 span.
Liszt was 6' 1", by the way.


Marfan’s is categorized by increased height , increased handspan, plus connective tissue genetic issues.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038990 10/24/20 03:30 PM
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Alicia De Larrocha had unusual hands. They were very small but she could open her hand so much that the thumb almost formed a straight line with the little finger. It gave her tiny hands some extra stretch. I wonder what Yuja Wang's hand span is. She looks like she has small hands (not scientific I know) but she can play anything.

Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3038991 10/24/20 03:36 PM
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I can reach a 10th and it helps me with absolutely nothing at this point wink

Once you can play let´s say octaves very well, at a fast tempo and with big jumps, then you will eventually figure our how to play (roll) some bigger stretches even if you cannot play all the notes at the same time.

Re: Handspans of great pianists
johnstaf #3038997 10/24/20 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by johnstaf
Alicia De Larrocha had unusual hands. They were very small but she could open her hand so much that the thumb almost formed a straight line with the little finger. It gave her tiny hands some extra stretch. I wonder what Yuja Wang's hand span is. She looks like she has small hands (not scientific I know) but she can play anything.

This is not hard to achieve if you do some stretching
[Linked Image]

Last edited by VladK; 10/24/20 04:06 PM.

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Re: Handspans of great pianists
Tom97 #3038998 10/24/20 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Tom97
I can reach a 10th and it helps me with absolutely nothing at this point wink

Once you can play let´s say octaves very well, at a fast tempo and with big jumps, then you will eventually figure our how to play (roll) some bigger stretches even if you cannot play all the notes at the same time.

Yep, octaves with 2-5 is more than enough IMHO, and even with 1-5 is probably enough for anything most players will ever be able to play.


Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. (falsely attributed to Plato)
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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3039003 10/24/20 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I wish someone could write a book of tips and tricks for us small-handed people. It would make me feel much better.
Actually, I think there has been an entire book written on that exact topic.
https://www.amazon.com/Adaptive-Str...amp;s=books&sr=1-1#reader_0190616857

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/24/20 04:17 PM.
Re: Handspans of great pianists
pianoloverus #3039020 10/24/20 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I wish someone could write a book of tips and tricks for us small-handed people. It would make me feel much better.
Actually, I think there has been an entire book written on that exact topic.
https://www.amazon.com/Adaptive-Str...amp;s=books&sr=1-1#reader_0190616857


Well, well, that would be a book I need to get! Thanks!

I, too, can get my hands to form almost a straight line when stretched, but still it’s only 7.5” across, end of thumb to end of pinky. I can play a 9th hanging off the side of the keys. A 10th is just impossible.


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Re: Handspans of great pianists
WeakLeftHand #3039031 10/24/20 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I wish someone could write a book of tips and tricks for us small-handed people. It would make me feel much better.
Actually, I think there has been an entire book written on that exact topic.
https://www.amazon.com/Adaptive-Str...amp;s=books&sr=1-1#reader_0190616857


Well, well, that would be a book I need to get! Thanks!

I, too, can get my hands to form almost a straight line when stretched, but still it’s only 7.5” across, end of thumb to end of pinky. I can play a 9th hanging off the side of the keys. A 10th is just impossible.
I can just about reach a 10th in LH with preparation (i.e. if I have about a half second before having to play it) and only 9ths in RH (I used to have the same span in both hands, but lost the tip of my right pinky to frostbite, hence the limitation since). When I play at full stretch, my thumbs and pinky are in a straight line.

I just roll chords that I can't play complete at full stretch, and think nothing of it......just like Rachmaninov rolls lots of chords that he can easily swallow whole, and then some. (Listen to the start of his recording of Rach 2 which contains chords that even I can play without rolling.)

Incidentally, with chords that cannot be rolled (due to the tempo etc), one might heed what the great Vladimir Ashkenazy hinted at when asked how he managed Rachmaninov with his small hands: he admitted that he doesn't always play all the notes........


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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