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#434499 - 08/29/06 03:01 AM handspan  
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Bosendorfer88 Offline
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I just want to have an idea about the biggest interval the forum members can play on the piano

i think the average is 9th??or not?i can play a major 10th pretty easily, although my left hand has a slightly bigger span

it is said about Liszt and Rachmaninoff that they could easily hold down a 13th!
so what about you?


"Music expresses that which cannot be said and upon which it is impossible to remain silent"-Victor Hugo
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#434500 - 08/29/06 04:47 AM Re: handspan  
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My recollection (sorry, can't cite sources)

Liszt - tenth
Chopin = "hands open up, rabbit-like, and cover the whole keyboard"
Horowitz, Artur Rubinstein, Cesar Franck - twelfth


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#434501 - 08/29/06 04:54 AM Re: handspan  
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Chopin - probably an easy 9, a very difficult ten. He said of Thalberg (not Liszt) that "he can do a ten as easily as I can an eight." Chopin's hands were very small but stretchy.

Me, an easy nine, a very difficult 10.

I remember reading somewhere that the average handspan of adult pianinsts (man and female combined) is a nine and that about 95% of the literature out there needs no more that a nine.


Slow down and do it right.
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#434502 - 08/29/06 06:43 AM Re: handspan  
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When I look at what a 13th I can't help but think 'holy sh** those are huge hands', concerning Rachmaninov.

I can do a 9th rather easily, a 10th if i streth a lot, but it hurts and it's rather unnatural.

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#434503 - 08/29/06 06:55 AM Re: handspan  
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"95% of the literature out there needs no more that a nine."

Yeah, any interval larger than that can be rolled. I don't think I have come across a piece where it would be impossible to work around a large interval somehow.

My actual handspan is a major 9th, but I can stretch to major 10th (and 11th with the left hand).

#434504 - 08/29/06 07:36 AM Re: handspan  
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I am glad you brought this up because I have though about this for some time now. I quite small hands and find playing a 9th comfortable, but 10ths hard.

I see so many pieces with a 10th interval in the left hand (and not just a spread chord). Whether its stride jazz piano, classical, pop/film piano etc and its an interval you are required to play together, not spread(and it sounds good if you can do this rather than spread it!)

Its much harder with certain intervals I have found. For example I can just about reach C-E, D-F, E-G, F-A, and G-B. However doing C-Eb, D-F#, or Ab-C for example is very hard.

Do you think this means that certain pieces you will never be able to play?

#434505 - 08/29/06 08:15 AM Re: handspan  
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I've got big paws. I can span a tenth comfortably with either hand.

A thirteenth, though! Wow! That's impressive!


Compassion, Love, Strength, Peace, Dignity, Balance, Order
#434506 - 08/29/06 09:33 AM Re: handspan  
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I can thirteenth. but for fast playing and from up to down, I can only 12.

#434507 - 08/29/06 09:42 AM Re: handspan  
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I can easily reach a tenth with both hands. Then with some trouble I can just barely reach an 11th, also with both hands.


Once during a concert at Carnegie Hall, the violinist Rachmaninoff was playing with lost his place in the music and whispered to Rachmaninoff, "Where are we?" Rachmaninoff replied, in all seriousness, "Carnegie Hall".
#434508 - 08/29/06 09:49 AM Re: handspan  
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Quote
Originally posted by nezkeys79:
I am glad you brought this up because I have though about this for some time now. I quite small hands and find playing a 9th comfortable, but 10ths hard.

I see so many pieces with a 10th interval in the left hand (and not just a spread chord). Whether its stride jazz piano, classical, pop/film piano etc and its an interval you are required to play together, not spread(and it sounds good if you can do this rather than spread it!)

Its much harder with certain intervals I have found. For example I can just about reach C-E, D-F, E-G, F-A, and G-B. However doing C-Eb, D-F#, or Ab-C for example is very hard.

Do you think this means that certain pieces you will never be able to play?
I would have to believe that the vast majority of audience members would not throw tomatoes at you and boo you off the stage if you rolled a larger interval instead of playing it exactly as written. wink


Bösendorfer 225
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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. Henry David Thoreau
#434509 - 08/29/06 10:06 AM Re: handspan  
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i can barely reach a 9th on both hands (not major 9th though). my teacher doesn't even have huge hands himself either and can only reach a 10th.

#434510 - 08/29/06 01:15 PM Re: handspan  
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I can do a tenth with both hands and an eleventh, if pushed, but only with my left. Don't know why that is because I'm right handed!


Best regards,
Jonathan
#434511 - 08/29/06 01:26 PM Re: handspan  
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What was it that Freud called this?

Oh yeah.............pianist envy cool

#434512 - 08/29/06 01:42 PM Re: handspan  
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I can easily do a ninth, and when pressed, I can manage a tenth. I have extremely small hands, but I started piano at five and my teacher made me to stretching exercises twice daily, so they're pretty good at that sort of thing. Nevertheless, I have the smallest hands of anyone I know.


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#434513 - 08/29/06 01:55 PM Re: handspan  
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I can do a 10, but not 10.5
Does anyone know how to start a Poll here? It'd be nice to see the distribution.
- 8 or less
- 9
- 10
- 11
- 12 or more

#434514 - 08/29/06 02:14 PM Re: handspan  
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10 is as comfortable as I can play without strecthing. 11 is too much.

#434515 - 08/29/06 02:42 PM Re: handspan  
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I can do a tenth fairly easily if I stretch a bit. Haha, I wish I could reach more. By the way, Richter can reach a 12th too.

#434516 - 08/29/06 02:53 PM Re: handspan  
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I can easily hit 10ths. I can hit most 11ths, but it's a stretch and not really comfortable. Really stretching I can hit a couple of 12ths.


What you are is an accident of birth. What I am, I am through my own efforts. There have been a thousand princes and there will be a thousand more. There is one Beethoven.
#434517 - 08/29/06 03:38 PM Re: handspan  
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While playing a piece, I feel comfortable reaching tenths. I can stretch to an comfortable 11th, but wouldn't care to play those in a piece.


Playing piano is 90% mental, the other half is physical.
#434518 - 08/29/06 06:06 PM Re: handspan  
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The only tenths I can play with any comfort and certainty are the two minor ones on the black keys.

#434519 - 08/29/06 06:52 PM Re: handspan  
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I can barely reach an octave.


whatever
#434520 - 08/29/06 07:06 PM Re: handspan  
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Liszt could just do a tenth. (see "The Great Pianists" by Schonberg, p. 179)

I can do a 9th with ease, a 10th is stretching.

#434521 - 08/29/06 08:51 PM Re: handspan  
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I'm also in the easy 10th / uncomfortable 11th club.
What's odd is I could play 10ths when I was about 9 years old.

#434522 - 08/29/06 09:16 PM Re: handspan  
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I can comfortablly reach an octave, no more. This may hold me back in the future, but lately, I've adopted the attitude that "If there's a will, there's a fingering and a way."

#434523 - 08/29/06 10:03 PM Re: handspan  
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Quote
Originally posted by appassionata9:
...By the way, Richter can reach a 12th too.
Not any more. frown


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#434524 - 08/30/06 01:02 AM Re: handspan  
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Scriabin did the small hand thang too.

#434525 - 08/30/06 01:24 AM Re: handspan  
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13th uncomfortably but 12th easy.


So, you're a cannibal.
#434526 - 08/30/06 02:28 AM Re: handspan  
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i liked the idea of the poll, so i did the math based on the comfortable span reached, since most provided 2 intervals and i counted all the teachers and pianists as well
i think there's an error with the total but here are the results, 30 results:
8th:6.6%
9th:23.3%
10th:50 %
11th:0%
12th:20%
13th:0%


"Music expresses that which cannot be said and upon which it is impossible to remain silent"-Victor Hugo
#434527 - 08/30/06 04:29 AM Re: handspan  
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Inherent bias in the results due to self selected subjects. Those with ten and above tend to want to brag about it.


Slow down and do it right.
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#434528 - 08/30/06 06:12 AM Re: handspan  
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I can reach out for a 11th.
And about the composers you mentioned:
Chopin could stretch his both hands covering a span of c to a flat`` together.
Liszt didn't have that much of a span - 11th maybe.
Rachmaninoff's hands were enormous. His fingers were so long they hit the wall behind the keyboard if placed horizontally (!!!).
And also, Schumann had a pretty large span - 13th, I think.

#434529 - 08/30/06 12:19 PM Re: handspan  
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By the way, guys: It is much more important to have a flexible hand than a big one. I used to have problems with the last few left hand chords in Rachmaninoff's prelude op. 23/1 (actually I don't think you should play them arpeggio). But then I found out how I can improve my hand span.

Just put your hand on the chord keys, press them down to the keybed and leave your fingers there for a while. If necessary stretch the fingers (very carefully!) with your other hand. Repeat this from time to time. After a while you will be able to play chords you couldn't play before - of course within your natural possibilities.

I think this is the ability which contemporaries reported about Chopin's hand.

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#434530 - 08/30/06 05:28 PM Re: handspan  
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I remember reading a comment by one of Chopin's students that Chopin sometimes wrote chords he himself had to roll. He was also quite willing to take two keys with one finger if helped the situation.


Slow down and do it right.
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#434531 - 09/01/06 02:22 AM Re: handspan  
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I have small hands. I can reach an octave comfortably, but full chords are sometimes a problem. I sometimes have to roll them, and use the pedal to sustain the sound. Purists will frown, but it is the best I can do. Sometimes I leave out notes that are doubled. Gaby Tu

#434532 - 09/01/06 06:24 AM Re: handspan  
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Depends which tenths. Eb/G,Ab/C,Db/F and Bb/D are uncomfortable in Waller basses so I break them. The rest are all right quite fast, even filled in. I can play an eleventh but it's hardly worth bothering. My left hand has a wider span because my left fifth finger is a few millimetres longer than my right one.

It is worth remembering, when considering spanning intervals, that physically similar looking positions actually have small differences in stretch.

1. The centres of the key shanks, black or white, are equally spaced.

2. The borders of the white notes are equally spaced.

To take the case of sharp key tenths, which caused me to notice this effect:

For these particular tenths therefore, what matters for stretching purposes is the distance between the upper border of the lower white notes and the centre of the upper black note. Well, strictly speaking , the lower border of the upper black notes, 1/24 of an octave less, but for comparative playing purposes in this example this doesn't matter.

Let the distance of an octave be unity. Then the centres of the key shanks are therefore at 1/24 + 2n/24 and the borders of the whites at m/7.

For an E tenth:
The upper edge of the E is at 3/7 and the centre of the G# is at 41/24
Stretching distance = 41/24-3/7=215/168

For a D tenth:
The upper edge of the D is at 2/7 and the cente of the F# is at 37/24
Stretching distance=37/24-2/7=211/168

For an A tenth:
The upper edge of the A is at 6/7 and the centre of the C# is at 51/24
Stretching distance=51/24-6/7=214/168

For a B tenth:
The upper edge of the B is at 0 and the centre of the D# is at 31/24
Stretching distance=31/24-0=217/168

There are very tangible variations in the span of any physically similar grips involving two colours. In fact, because of the arithmetic no black/white pairs can have identical spans.


"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" - Aleister Crowley
#434533 - 09/01/06 07:02 AM Re: handspan  
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Quote
Originally posted by Ted2:
It is worth remembering, when considering spanning intervals, that physically similar looking positions actually have small differences in stretch.
This is very important to mention, indeed. Only very few (even professional) pianists know that the black keys are not always right in the middle between two white keys.

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#434534 - 09/09/06 06:07 AM Re: handspan  
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Of course, there are differences between the same intervals.

#434535 - 09/09/06 11:03 AM Re: handspan  
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I can do a 12th with my right hand but only a 11 with the left.

#434536 - 09/09/06 12:00 PM Re: handspan  
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Wow all of you are so...stretchy.

I can do a tenth with a little bit of stretching. My most comfortable is probably a 9th. But it depends, usually on my hands.


"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable." -Leonard Bernstein
#434537 - 09/09/06 12:23 PM Re: handspan  
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Both hands a 10th, left is able to reach a 11th with a lot of streching.

It's hard to compare the pianist's handspan from the past with those of now, because I've you've noticed they are building keys wider and wider... On a 19th century Pleyel or Erard Chopin played the keys are much narrower.


Yiteng

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is never enough for music."
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#434538 - 09/09/06 01:10 PM Re: handspan  
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I can reach a tenth if I have a moment to prepare for it. I have practiced playing larger tenths (D - F#) broken, but very quickly emphasizing the top note. On a good day, these sound quite acceptible. I also agree w/the posters who talk about developing flexibility. I was taught to expand my hand from the palm rather than to strain to reach from the fingers. Struggling from thumb to pinky actually restricts motion a lot like those chinese finger toys that only pull you in tighter the more you try to pull out.

#1739500 - 08/24/11 07:21 AM Re: handspan [Re: Shellman]  
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It is natural for all humans to have bigger left hands than right. I can reach an 11th on good days.


"There is nothing greater than the joy of composing something oneself and then listening to it."
- Clara Schumann
#1739501 - 08/24/11 07:23 AM Re: handspan [Re: Fledge]  
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Originally Posted by Fledge
I can do a 12th with my right hand but only a 11 with the left.


Most unusual since most people have bigger left hands.

Last edited by Froglegs; 08/24/11 07:23 AM.

"There is nothing greater than the joy of composing something oneself and then listening to it."
- Clara Schumann
#1739510 - 08/24/11 07:39 AM Re: handspan [Re: Froglegs]  
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Originally Posted by Froglegs
Originally Posted by Fledge
I can do a 12th with my right hand but only a 11 with the left.


Most unusual since most people have bigger left hands.


Is it unusual then to have absolutely equal sized hands like I do?


Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)
#1739517 - 08/24/11 07:46 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach a 14th!


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#1739518 - 08/24/11 07:47 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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just kidding.. I can comfortably play a 9th, and reach a 10th with both hands.

I wish my hands were bigger but can quickly substitute an 'emergency' note in the other hand if necessary to complete a chord.


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
#1739522 - 08/24/11 08:01 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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a 12th both hands, never have to really use it though.


Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure, but not anymore!
#1739624 - 08/24/11 11:40 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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How many people's hands have expanded since this thread was initiated three years ago? Is that a good reason to revive it?


BruceD
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#1739641 - 08/24/11 12:00 PM Re: handspan [Re: dolce sfogato]  
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Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
a 12th both hands, never have to really use it though.


From the perspective of those of us with a much smaller hand, who experience difficulty and fatigue more easily when playing broken 10th LH accompaniments, or sequences of large chords... believe me, you "use" it all the time, even if you never actually play 10ths or 12ths in a chord.


-J


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#1739654 - 08/24/11 12:17 PM Re: handspan [Re: beet31425]  
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Originally Posted by beet31425
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
a 12th both hands, never have to really use it though.


From the perspective of those of us with a much smaller hand, who experience difficulty and fatigue more easily when playing broken 10th LH accompaniments, or sequences of large chords... believe me, you "use" it all the time, even if you never actually play 10ths or 12ths in a chord.


-J

It's true, there can be advantages with a wider span. But a comfortable octave and a good understanding of how to move is all that is required. Still, I wish I didn't have to concentrate so hard to play LH in the d minor Chopin prelude!


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#1739658 - 08/24/11 12:21 PM Re: handspan [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
How many people's hands have expanded since this thread was initiated three years ago? Is that a good reason to revive it?


To be honest, three years ago I could only play a ninth and now I can play a tenth.

#1739664 - 08/24/11 12:24 PM Re: handspan [Re: -Frycek]  
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Originally Posted by -Frycek
Chopin - probably an easy 9, a very difficult ten. He said of Thalberg (not Liszt) that "he can do a ten as easily as I can an eight." Chopin's hands were very small but stretchy.

Me, an easy nine, a very difficult 10.

I remember reading somewhere that the average handspan of adult pianinsts (man and female combined) is a nine and that about 95% of the literature out there needs no more that a nine.


I'm so glad to know this about Chopin's hand size. Do you remember the source?

I see evidence everywhere in C.'s passage work of his need to compact the hand, yet still cover great expanses. It's a window into his technical insights I find very interesting.

I have a comfortable octave, a possible ninth and a sneaky tenth.


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#1739755 - 08/24/11 02:38 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I seem to be the only full grown adult here only able to do a 7th. I can't really do an 8 because I can't seem to apply the pressure on both keys equally at the same time and can only touch the keys with the very tips of my fingers. I often slip when trying. Until now, I have been in denial thinking lots of people have small hands. From the comments I see here, not quite that small though. Even beginner music requires me to do lots of jumping and fast movements to compensate. At times it completely ruins my attempt to play legato frown If I have trouble now at beginner level, how can I ever hope to play more complicated music?

On the upside, I can easily play between black notes with lots of room to spare.

#1739758 - 08/24/11 02:50 PM Re: handspan [Re: tnew]  
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Originally Posted by tnew
....Even beginner music requires me to do lots of jumping and fast movements to compensate. At times it completely ruins my attempt to play legato frown If I have trouble now at beginner level, how can I ever hope to play more complicated music?

Do the best you can, and do what you can. smile
Including, sometimes, simplifying/modifying what's in the score. Rolling chords, breaking chords, and maybe especially just leaving out some notes. Even the highest echelon of pianists sometimes do those things, or at least most of them do. Some people who see this might say it's not so, but it is. I'm not saying they do it a lot, but some. The only difference for you is that you'll need to do it more -- a lot more, but so what. smile
Most people with your issue probably would be discouraged from playing serious piano at all. It's great that you're not.

Quote
On the upside, I can easily play between black notes with lots of room to spare.

ha ha

There have been moments where I would have gladly traded with you. grin


"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)
#1739931 - 08/24/11 07:04 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach a tenth, the most difficult tenth I can reach fairly well is from one white key to another. Anything beyond that I have to roll.


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#1739932 - 08/24/11 07:07 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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Some passages in "Soaring" by Schumann really annoy me... Because that stretch Bb-Bb-Db is too big for me. frown I can just touch the Db with the tip of my pinkie, then the pinkie slips down. mad cry I would prefer not to reach the Db at all! I feel like Tantalus instead... eek
I did found a trick - playing it with the LH of course - very easy in the first measure of course, and when the LH is supposed to play something else, like just a couple of measures later, use the pedal (luckily the evil stretch is not at the beginning of the measure, and it is easy to use the pedal to sustain the octaves in the LH and then use the LH to help the RH.)



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#1739940 - 08/24/11 07:24 PM Re: handspan [Re: tnew]  
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Originally Posted by tnew
I seem to be the only full grown adult here only able to do a 7th. I can't really do an 8 because I can't seem to apply the pressure on both keys equally at the same time and can only touch the keys with the very tips of my fingers. I often slip when trying. Until now, I have been in denial thinking lots of people have small hands. From the comments I see here, not quite that small though. Even beginner music requires me to do lots of jumping and fast movements to compensate. At times it completely ruins my attempt to play legato frown If I have trouble now at beginner level, how can I ever hope to play more complicated music?

On the upside, I can easily play between black notes with lots of room to spare.


There's definitely hope. It's called practice, just way more than most people. If you are a beginner, your hands should stretch the more you play but most importantly, the precision will increase.

Some of my 5 year old students have larger spans than I do LOL. I too am a grown adult who can only play a 7th comfortably. Octaves on the very edges and tips of my fingers are possible; with my pinky and thumb stretched out, it's close to 180 degrees. I've played since I was very young, so I can stay on the keys and learn to fake it as long as they are not chords. Fast running octaves, broken or chords (ex. Beethoven's Tempest), can be achieved through a ton of practice to make sure you don't slip off though it may hurt while practicing due to slips... then hanging on a nail even when they are very short, OUCH!

Kid gloves (and shoes) are cheaper than adult ones that are exactly the same =).

#1739947 - 08/24/11 07:31 PM Re: handspan [Re: miaeih]  
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Originally Posted by miaeih

Kid gloves (and shoes) are cheaper than adult ones that are exactly the same =).


I just bought some kid gloves without fingers yesterday for only 2 dollars. I though who knows, maybe they are nice for playing when my hands are really cold in winter. They fit me. smile



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#1739984 - 08/24/11 08:53 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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11th or 12th (depends on the notes). But, along with many other comments I skimmed through, most of the time stretching your hand isn't necessary and actually bad (in terms of tone). Technique usually calls for the hand to stay relaxed, loose, and rotating instead of stretched and sprawled over the keys. . . of course, big hands help when showing off to people who are not educated in piano technique. laugh


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#1740002 - 08/24/11 09:30 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can only just get an octave on the edge of the white keys. I've been doing research on hand size and piano playing, have had some stuff published and given conference papers down here (Australia).

I also have a 7/8 keyboard in my grand, custom made by David Steinbuhler of Pennsylvania (www.steinbuhler.com). Until you have experienced a smaller keyboard, smaller-handed players simply do not realise how much EASIER everything is, how much faster it is to learn, and how much more enjoyable the whole experience is. It's far more profound than simply being able to get certain chords.

I've summarised hand span data that's readily available on my website: www.smallpianokeyboards.com (see page called 'Hand size and the piano keyboard'). For males, the mean is around 9 inches for total thumb to 5th finger stretch, for females it's about 8 inches, which translates into being able to play a 10th and a 9th (though not comfortably) respectively.

This difference is approx the same as the difference between the 7/8 and conventional keyboard.

I'm currently compiling my own database and will later report on an analysis of this, including left hand versus right hand differences and ethnic differences.

#1740044 - 08/24/11 10:33 PM Re: handspan [Re: Rhonda B]  
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Originally Posted by Rhonda B

I've summarised hand span data that's readily available on my website: www.smallpianokeyboards.com (see page called 'Hand size and the piano keyboard'). For males, the mean is around 9 inches for total thumb to 5th finger stretch, for females it's about 8 inches, which translates into being able to play a 10th and a 9th (though not comfortably) respectively.



My total thumb to finger stretch in the LH is 9 and 3/4 inches...but my RH stretch is only 9 and 1/2 inches. Until now I never realized that there was a difference between the two.


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#1740058 - 08/24/11 10:45 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach an octave very comfortably, a 9th if I need to, and a 10th just barely with my hands hanging off the keyboard. My hands are actually pretty small and can fit through tiny, tiny holes (like baby bracelets) and my fingers are thin, but they are very flexible.

#1740064 - 08/24/11 10:48 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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8 inches (both hands)... And yes, a 9th is usually my maximum stretch, without an effort now, with some effort some time ago.



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#1740072 - 08/24/11 10:51 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach a minor tenth, or a white to white major tenth. I'm just a little bit short of white to black or black to white tenths.

#1740121 - 08/25/11 12:02 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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My left hand can reach a very painful ninth and my right hand reaches a rather uncomfortable octave

#1740126 - 08/25/11 12:08 AM Re: handspan [Re: PaulaPiano34]  
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Originally Posted by chobeethaninov
My left hand can reach a very painful ninth and my right hand reaches a rather uncomfortable octave

Then, please don't do it. grin


"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)
#1740132 - 08/25/11 12:30 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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Tenths on either hand, but I don't see why it's so important.

#1740136 - 08/25/11 12:37 AM Re: handspan [Re: Steve712]  
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Originally Posted by Steve712
Tenths on either hand, but I don't see why it's so important.

I think vanity mostly. grin


"Everything I say is my opinion, including the facts." :-)
#1740188 - 08/25/11 04:06 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I just reached a 10th! smile Again in "Soaring" - LH F-C-A. Not a difficult 10th, I know, but still a 10th! I do have to stretch and I think I have to work on this now. In fast playing it would be a problem but maybe I can get used to it... I have to start with C and A and then stretch the pinkie to reach the low F. This is the only way I can do it at the moment. Maybe there is hope. smile
If I try a random 10th with the RH it is the same. I have to stretch the pinkie last if I want to succeed.



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#1740231 - 08/25/11 07:45 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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11th in both hands... but only just.

#1740233 - 08/25/11 07:46 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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11th in both hands... but only just.

#1740296 - 08/25/11 10:26 AM Re: handspan [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
I just reached a 10th! smile Again in "Soaring" - LH F-C-A. Not a difficult 10th, I know, but still a 10th! I do have to stretch and I think I have to work on this now. In fast playing it would be a problem but maybe I can get used to it... I have to start with C and A and then stretch the pinkie to reach the low F. This is the only way I can do it at the moment. Maybe there is hope. smile
If I try a random 10th with the RH it is the same. I have to stretch the pinkie last if I want to succeed.


That's exciting! You sound like me yesterday because I just figured out I could reach a 10th too!

#1740401 - 08/25/11 02:01 PM Re: handspan [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
Some passages in "Soaring" by Schumann really annoy me... Because that stretch Bb-Bb-Db is too big for me. frown I can just touch the Db with the tip of my pinkie, then the pinkie slips down. mad cry I would prefer not to reach the Db at all! I feel like Tantalus instead... eek
I did found a trick - playing it with the LH of course - very easy in the first measure of course, and when the LH is supposed to play something else, like just a couple of measures later, use the pedal (luckily the evil stretch is not at the beginning of the measure, and it is easy to use the pedal to sustain the octaves in the LH and then use the LH to help the RH.)


If you refer to the tenor melody, it's absolutely expected that it be divided between the hands and a certain over-ring of pedal is acceptable. (In speed this is hardly noticeable.) If the LH passage Bb leap to Db bothers you, think of the low Bb as the last note of the previous group and start the next group with the thumb. This will remove the "stretch."

Please allow me to encourage you to never "stretch" to an extreme. The hand can, of course, be open without stretching, but it is always more efficient (and healthier) to move rather than stretch.

Last edited by NeilOS; 08/25/11 02:08 PM.

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#1740402 - 08/25/11 02:03 PM Re: handspan [Re: Rhonda B]  
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Originally Posted by Rhonda B
I can only just get an octave on the edge of the white keys. I've been doing research on hand size and piano playing, have had some stuff published and given conference papers down here (Australia).

I also have a 7/8 keyboard in my grand, custom made by David Steinbuhler of Pennsylvania (www.steinbuhler.com). Until you have experienced a smaller keyboard, smaller-handed players simply do not realise how much EASIER everything is, how much faster it is to learn, and how much more enjoyable the whole experience is. It's far more profound than simply being able to get certain chords.

I've summarised hand span data that's readily available on my website: www.smallpianokeyboards.com (see page called 'Hand size and the piano keyboard'). For males, the mean is around 9 inches for total thumb to 5th finger stretch, for females it's about 8 inches, which translates into being able to play a 10th and a 9th (though not comfortably) respectively.

This difference is approx the same as the difference between the 7/8 and conventional keyboard.

I'm currently compiling my own database and will later report on an analysis of this, including left hand versus right hand differences and ethnic differences.


This is fascinating. I'm so glad you're doing this research. Have you come accross information on Josef Hoffmann?


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#1740452 - 08/25/11 04:01 PM Re: handspan [Re: NeilOS]  
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Thanks, yes, I always stop when I feel pain, but I have pretty flexible hands (I can curl my fingers upwards for example ha) and want to make the most out of it, but in a natural way, so step by step until I get there. I could only reach an octave 5 years ago, so I am improving. smile
(Chopin by the way also said to choose a natural fingering, what really comes natural to you without stretching.)



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#1740453 - 08/25/11 04:05 PM Re: handspan [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]  
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Originally Posted by WinsomeAllegretto
Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
I just reached a 10th! smile Again in "Soaring" - LH F-C-A. Not a difficult 10th, I know, but still a 10th! I do have to stretch and I think I have to work on this now. In fast playing it would be a problem but maybe I can get used to it... I have to start with C and A and then stretch the pinkie to reach the low F. This is the only way I can do it at the moment. Maybe there is hope. smile
If I try a random 10th with the RH it is the same. I have to stretch the pinkie last if I want to succeed.


That's exciting! You sound like me yesterday because I just figured out I could reach a 10th too!


thumb Wonderful!!! Was it in a particular piece you want to remember as a milestone? I could also reach a 10th in "Fable" yesterday by the way.
Now that I am getting there (and this is a question to everybody), are there any particular exercises you would recommend?



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#1740564 - 08/25/11 07:21 PM Re: handspan [Re: ChopinAddict]  
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Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
Originally Posted by WinsomeAllegretto
Originally Posted by ChopinAddict
I just reached a 10th! smile Again in "Soaring" - LH F-C-A. Not a difficult 10th, I know, but still a 10th! I do have to stretch and I think I have to work on this now. In fast playing it would be a problem but maybe I can get used to it... I have to start with C and A and then stretch the pinkie to reach the low F. This is the only way I can do it at the moment. Maybe there is hope. smile
If I try a random 10th with the RH it is the same. I have to stretch the pinkie last if I want to succeed.


That's exciting! You sound like me yesterday because I just figured out I could reach a 10th too!




thumb Wonderful!!! Was it in a particular piece you want to remember as a milestone? I could also reach a 10th in "Fable" yesterday by the way.
Now that I am getting there (and this is a question to everybody), are there any particular exercises you would recommend?


I just discovered it while messing around. Unfortunately it isn't quite practical for playing pieces yet, but it might be eventually!

A warm up/stretch that I do and have been doing for a long, long time is to play a 5 note chord with one hand (big enough to be a comfortable stretch) and lift one finger curved, then straighten, then play the key while keeping the other 4 fingers down. Repeat several times with all fingers. I think it has helped me a lot. smile

Last edited by WinsomeAllegretto; 08/25/11 07:22 PM.
#1740677 - 08/25/11 10:37 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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Regarding Josef Hoffmann, his scaled down keyboard was destroyed by Steinway after his death. I have read conflicting information about its size - as to whether it was 7/8 or 15/16.

My hand span has not increased since my youth - I don't believe that stretching does much, apart from warming up before playing which is probably a good idea. Whether my hand span would be even smaller than it is if I had not played the piano as a child, I do not know. Though I wasn't really trying to play octaves etc until I had more or less stopped growing. As I mentioned, I can only just get an octave as an adult.

After experiencing the 7/8 for a couple of years, I have no doubt that up to half the population is severely disadvantaged by the 'one size fits all' approach - apart from smaller-handed players who are happy to specialise in Baroque/early Classical repertoire.

There is much commentary from pianists playing reduced size keyboards on my website. Based on this, and reactions I've seen from others, those whose hand spans are less than around 8.5 inches (i.e. cannot get a 10th on the edge of the keys) find so much that is a whole lot easier and thus, more enjoyable.

#1741007 - 08/26/11 12:30 PM Re: handspan [Re: Rhonda B]  
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Originally Posted by Rhonda B
Regarding Josef Hoffmann, his scaled down keyboard was destroyed by Steinway after his death. I have read conflicting information about its size - as to whether it was 7/8 or 15/16.

My hand span has not increased since my youth - I don't believe that stretching does much, apart from warming up before playing which is probably a good idea. Whether my hand span would be even smaller than it is if I had not played the piano as a child, I do not know. Though I wasn't really trying to play octaves etc until I had more or less stopped growing. As I mentioned, I can only just get an octave as an adult.

After experiencing the 7/8 for a couple of years, I have no doubt that up to half the population is severely disadvantaged by the 'one size fits all' approach - apart from smaller-handed players who are happy to specialise in Baroque/early Classical repertoire.

There is much commentary from pianists playing reduced size keyboards on my website. Based on this, and reactions I've seen from others, those whose hand spans are less than around 8.5 inches (i.e. cannot get a 10th on the edge of the keys) find so much that is a whole lot easier and thus, more enjoyable.


Yes, I read an article some time ago about a professional pianist (forgot the name) who final got fed up struggling with the G minor ballade coda and had a smaller keyboard designed. Problem solved.

What a pity it's impractical for most pianists to carry their instruments from concert to concert. Of course the stars can do it: Andre Watts just appeared in Los Angeles at the Bowl with his own piano, not a smaller one, though.

And you're quite right. Your hand size is set. No amount of "stretching" is going to make it larger and when you do stretch the danger of injury is considerable. Coincidentally, I spent last evening at a musical gathering at which a hand surgeon was in attendance. We discussed some of these issues. One new syndrome he's finding in his practice is the injured thumbs from incorrect use during excessive texting.

Last edited by NeilOS; 08/26/11 12:32 PM.

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#1741180 - 08/26/11 06:18 PM Re: handspan [Re: NeilOS]  
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Originally Posted by NeilOS
Your hand size is set. No amount of "stretching" is going to make it larger and when you do stretch the danger of injury is considerable.


Alicia de Larrocha said she increased her span by a couple of notes through regular stretching.


#1741200 - 08/26/11 07:14 PM Re: handspan [Re: wr]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by NeilOS
Your hand size is set. No amount of "stretching" is going to make it larger and when you do stretch the danger of injury is considerable.


Alicia de Larrocha said she increased her span by a couple of notes through regular stretching.



Quite true. Later in life she lost that increase and then some as her hands shrank along with her body.



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#1741227 - 08/26/11 08:23 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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Rhonda B Offline
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The professional pianist who struggled with the G minor Ballade was a Canadian, Christopher Donison, the co-inventor of the DS keyboard now made in Pennsylvania by David Steinbuhler. He worked with a technician to design his own 7/8 keyboard for his Steinway, many years ago, before he met Steinbuhler. I first stumbled on Chris's website on 31 Dec 2006, before finding the Steinbuhler website, which led to me getting a DS keyboard. Chris is no longer involved in the business but I have been in touch with him by email to discuss various issues. I admire his articles and increasingly agree with virtually all that he says. (There are some quotes on my website and links to his website.)

Chris, and others involved with reduced size keyboards, believe that a second standard size is necessary. In the long term, the major manufacturers would have to come on board and start producing pianos with a choice of one of the two sizes. Performance venues would of coure have both sizes, as it's easy to swap them in a grand. There are now five universities in the US with either 7/8 and/or 15/16s, so anyone performing at these would have a choice now.

According to a NY Times article, Alicia Larrocha could play a 10th in her heyday, which 80% of women cannot do. (Sometimes body height is not a good indictaion of hand span).

I've also been told that Daniel Baremboim has his own smaller keyboard - but I don't know what size or aything else about it.

#1741309 - 08/27/11 12:31 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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Hand size really isn't that vital--it's more important what you can DO with it. People with small hands can be very creative.

#1741719 - 08/27/11 07:37 PM Re: handspan [Re: wr]  
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NeilOS Offline
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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by NeilOS
Your hand size is set. No amount of "stretching" is going to make it larger and when you do stretch the danger of injury is considerable.


Alicia de Larrocha said she increased her span by a couple of notes through regular stretching.


Interesting. I would think that might be possible as a child, but later...?


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#1741726 - 08/27/11 07:49 PM Re: handspan [Re: NeilOS]  
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Originally Posted by NeilOS
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by NeilOS
Your hand size is set. No amount of "stretching" is going to make it larger and when you do stretch the danger of injury is considerable.


Alicia de Larrocha said she increased her span by a couple of notes through regular stretching.


Interesting. I would think that might be possible as a child, but later...?


Well, I increased my span too (as an adult). I could only reach an octave 5 years ago. Now I can reach a ninth very comfortably and a 10th not so comfortably, but maybe with time I will be able to reach that cursing 10th comfortably too ... smile



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#1754280 - 09/17/11 08:23 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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The average male can just reach a 10th 'on the edge' and a 9th comfortably. The average female hands are an inch smaller, meaning a 9th 'on the edge' and an octave comfortably. See data on www.smallpianokeyboards.com

#1754314 - 09/17/11 09:20 PM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach a 10th comfortably, an 11th 'on the edge.'


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#1754390 - 09/18/11 12:06 AM Re: handspan [Re: WinsomeAllegretto]  
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I thought that that the span between the 2nd finger and the thumb is where stretching can occur. I regularly stretch the web between these fingers, and I know it has increased my span there at least. I have a photo of Artur Rubenstein with his thumb hanging way below the level of his wrist. Isn't that acquired?


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#1754541 - 09/18/11 09:02 AM Re: handspan [Re: Rhonda B]  
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Originally Posted by Rhonda B
The average male can just reach a 10th 'on the edge' and a 9th comfortably. The average female hands are an inch smaller, meaning a 9th 'on the edge' and an octave comfortably. See data on www.smallpianokeyboards.com


I'm just 16 and can reach a 10th. Not comfortably, but not on the edge either.

#1754564 - 09/18/11 09:48 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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I can reach 12th, 19 years old but its not so important.


Sorry for my English, I know it sucks, but I'm trying to improve.

#1754595 - 09/18/11 10:28 AM Re: handspan [Re: Bosendorfer88]  
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a difficult 8ve, doesn't really bother me that much...

#1755152 - 09/19/11 07:43 AM Re: handspan [Re: tnew]  
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I just took an official measurement of my handspan: 6.7 inches. And that is stretching as far as I can until it is almost painful. I don't even show up on the 'average handspan' charts. I need one of those 7/8 keyboards just to reach the lower end of average.

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