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#974128 - 11/16/06 06:59 PM Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Well, I did the measurement where you stretch out your hand, and from thumb tip to pinkie finger tip, I have a 9" span. From pinkie to pointer, 7" span. Tip of middle finger to beginning of knuckle is 4". Palm is 3.5" wide just below knuckles.

I'm only 5'8" or so, my hands are pretty big for my height. Are they still on the small side? Or will I be ok? My fingers are long and slender. Just for fun (and reference), here's a few pictures of my hands making a frog (if you ever wanted to know how, now you can!):
http://corenode.com/~ormandj/images/david/froggie/

Am I going to be at a disadvantage for classical piano? I've been worried because I don't know what hand-size is considered "good". Obviously a 14" span would be really cool, but what's considered a "good" span to have?

I've been getting anxious about getting back into piano, sorry if this topic seems trivial! smile

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#974129 - 11/16/06 07:32 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Hm, if you can span an octave on the keyboard (so from c to c for example), you're fine. I can get an octave and my teacher thinks I will get an additional note in about half a year due to increased strength and stretch in the fingers. Those inches couldn't say less to me though.

#974130 - 11/16/06 07:37 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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When you can play a tenth..

#974131 - 11/16/06 07:41 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Bob: Sorry for my "newbieness", but is a tenth meaning notes 10 keys apart? IE:

[|] | | | | | | | | | | [|]

Or meaning 8 keys apart? IE:

[|] | | | | | | | | [|]

When I get home, I'll have to see if I can do an octave, I think I can. Not sure about the tenth. Could someone who can do a tenth stretch their hand and measure from thumbtip to pinkie finger tip please? smile

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#974132 - 11/16/06 07:55 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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ex: C to E left hand pinky thumb.. and Eb to G..

#974133 - 11/16/06 08:04 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Thanks Bob, once I get home, I'll give it a go!

Is it common to be able to add an extra note after playing for a while, to your span? Two? Just curious. smile

#974134 - 11/16/06 08:04 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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I stretched out my hand, and got about 9.75".
I can reach an eleventh, and can do tenths easily.


Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.
#974135 - 11/16/06 08:06 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by ormandj:
Thanks Bob, once I get home, I'll give it a go!

Is it common to be able to add an extra note after playing for a while, to your span? Two? Just curious. smile
From playing a lot, I have improved my ability to stretch. When I started, I could barely reach a tenth.


Practice makes permanent - Perfect practice makes perfect.
#974136 - 11/16/06 08:13 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Super news! Sounds like I'm not too disadvantaged by my hands, then.

Thanks again,
David

#974137 - 11/16/06 08:30 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Well you guys are darned lucky to have decent-sized hands. I can stretch a 9th only. That limits what I can play but there is a lot of good stuff that people with small hands can tackle. I just avoid music with big chords. So no Rachmaninoff etc.

This used to drive me nuts when I was playing the piano regularly over 20 years ago, and the main reasons why I stopped for so long. I'm over the pianist envy now, hence the recent piano purchase. laugh

#974138 - 11/16/06 10:01 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Chopin had tiny hands for a guy and Liszt's weren't much larger than average. Size doesn't matter nearly as much as suppleness does. Just keep trying to reach "the impossible." With effort "the impossible" often turns into "the difficult" and "the difficult" eventually comes more easily. (And even Chopin occasionally rolled chords.)


Slow down and do it right.
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#974139 - 11/16/06 10:08 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Ok, got home. Octave is easy, I can play it anywhere on the keys. I can play C - D too, but only if I play at the end of the keys. If I try to play it between the black keys, I'll depress them too. I can do C - E if I play the very edge of the keys. Am I going to be ok?

#974140 - 11/16/06 10:12 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by ormandj:
Ok, got home. Octave is easy, I can play it anywhere on the keys. I can play C - D too, but only if I play at the end of the keys. If I try to play it between the black keys, I'll depress them too. I can do C - E if I play the very edge of the keys. Am I going to be ok?
You are going to be fine. Sound like you've got a very easy 8, probably a 9 already, and maybe a 10 with some practice. A nine is considered average when adult pianists of both sexes are considered together, and 90% of the repertoire can be handled by a pianist with a span of 9. A span 10 is gravy.


Slow down and do it right.
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#974141 - 11/16/06 10:13 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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you're more than ok, and i can reach C - D from key edges only.

#974142 - 11/16/06 10:58 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by ormandj:
Ok, got home. Octave is easy, I can play it anywhere on the keys. I can play C - D too, but only if I play at the end of the keys. If I try to play it between the black keys, I'll depress them too. I can do C - E if I play the very edge of the keys. Am I going to be ok?
Your hand size is excellent and your fingers are longer than average.

As your hands naturally stretch with regular playing, you'll have no trouble with 10ths.

And if you do, you can always roll them.

Mel


"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn
#974143 - 11/17/06 06:07 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Now you've got me worried. I can do an octave on white with my left hand without pressing on the adjoining keys, but with my right hand I can only do a 7th. I'm left handed.

But I'm not going to worry too much; I've got plenty of other more immediate problems.


Regards, Alex
#974144 - 11/17/06 08:05 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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You can definitely get your hands to stretch with time, regardless of natural size. I can reach 9th with my short stubby fingers. I started playing when I was seven. My boyfriend has long, elegant hands that look twice the size of mine; he has never played the piano, and can reach no further than I can on the keyboard (ha ha).

#974145 - 11/17/06 08:57 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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I never thought of this aspect to playing (hand size). I suppose it should have been obvious, but the whole realm of piano playing in new and fresh to me so it is somewhat overwhelming. (Sooo much information to take in and assimalate(sp?).

BUT ... my curiosity is tickled! smile ! So I'll be looking for my tape measure as soon as I hit the "Add Reply" button smile .


Regards,
Rob Easter
#974146 - 11/17/06 09:04 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Results: Right hand- a good bit over 8.5" and Left hand- bearly reaches 8.5".

But as I understand it, there isn't an official standard for the width of keys is there? This would suggest that people would be able to reach different groupings (number and/or distance apart) of keys based on both one's hand size/suppleness AND width of the keys yes?


Regards,
Rob Easter
#974147 - 11/17/06 09:43 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Actually key width is not officially standardized and never has been, but from a practical standpoint it is. Think about it. A manufacturer whose key width differed significantly from the average couldn't stay in business because a pianist must be able to play on whatever instrument is available.


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#974148 - 11/18/06 02:18 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_keyboard :

"Over the last three hundred years, the octave span distance found on historical keyboard instruments (organs, virginals, clavichords, harpsichords, and pianos) has ranged from as little as 125mm to as much as 170mm. Modern piano keyboards ordinarily have an octave span of 164-165mm, but several reduced-size standards have been proposed and marketed, including a 15/16 size (152 mm octave span) and the 7/8 DS Standard (140 mm octave span) developed by Canadian composer, conductor and pianist Christopher Donison in the 1970s then further developed and now marketed by Steinbuhler & Company, located in Titusville, Pennsylvania. U.S. pianist Hannah Reiman has promoted piano keyboards with narrower octave spans and has a U.S. patent (#6,020,549) on apparatus and methods for modifying existing pianos to provide interchangeable keyboards of different sizes."

So, a "standard" modern piano would have an octave span of 164-165mm. Older pianos might get up to 170mm. Pretty close either way. The smaller pianos seem to be a fair amount smaller.

#974149 - 11/18/06 02:56 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Ormandj, interesting! My upright Danish Hindsberg from the late 1920's is 165 mm. Now I will have to wear a tape measure wherever I go!

Frycek, that about Chopin's and Liszt's stretch, how sure are you about that? I have heard they had large hands .... (?!)

#974150 - 11/18/06 06:12 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by buxtehude:
Ormandj, interesting! My upright Danish Hindsberg from the late 1920's is 165 mm. Now I will have to wear a tape measure wherever I go!

Frycek, that about Chopin's and Liszt's stretch, how sure are you about that? I have heard they had large hands .... (?!)
Chopin's were very small. I have a cast of his hand. It's actually the same size as mine, which stretch very well (180 degree angle)to an easy nine and very problematic ten. Liszt himself gave his maximum range as a ten. Thalberg, a rival pianist of the two, apparently had a great reach. "He does a ten as easily as I do an eight" was what Chopin lamented about Thalberg. Now Rachmaninov had a huge hand, I've heard a thirteen!

FYI my 1887 Mathushek is 164 and my Casio Privia is 165.


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#974151 - 11/19/06 10:17 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Ormanji: How many yrs have you been playing?
if your just starting..your hand will stretch, if you can do a 9th now you'll make the 10th..
as an aside > I played Jazz guitar over 40yrs..
so my left hand is fully stretched..and can reach a 9th and a 10th white only..but get this.. my right hand can only make an 8th..so as you see its possible to reach another key or key and a half.. Bob Newbie

#974152 - 11/19/06 02:23 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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9, 13? What are this numbers? I can play from C to Eb with no problems with both hands. What number is this?


ex - pian00b
#974153 - 11/19/06 05:47 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by pian00b:
9, 13? What are this numbers? I can play from C to Eb with no problems with both hands. What number is this?
10 (assuming you can hit C-E as well otherwise a good 9)


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#974154 - 11/20/06 02:45 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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PianOOb, count the white keys in the span - C to C is 8, C to D is 9, and so forth. [Ed: I didn't notice Frycek had already answered that].

I must say that that about Rachmaninoff doing a 13 sounds almost incredible...!!

Thanks to Frycek.

#974155 - 11/20/06 04:07 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Rach was a huge guy all over apparently.


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#974156 - 11/20/06 06:17 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Wonder about his shoe size? (You have a cast of Rach's foot?)

#974157 - 11/20/06 06:37 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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An octave is 165mm on my Yamaha P140 and 164mm on my Steinway B.

The B is much easier to play.

So only a millimeter makes a difference.

Mel


"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn
#974158 - 11/20/06 06:39 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by pian00b:
I can play from C to Eb with no problems with both hands. What number is this?
C to E flat is a minor 10th.

That's very good.

Mel


"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn
#974159 - 11/20/06 08:36 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Originally posted by dannylux:
An octave is 165mm on my Yamaha P140 and 164mm on my Steinway B.

The B is much easier to play.

So only a millimeter makes a difference.

Mel
Same difference between my Privia and my Mathushek but I really can't tell any difference atributable to key width.


Slow down and do it right.
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#974160 - 11/20/06 08:39 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by buxtehude:
Wonder about his shoe size? (You have a cast of Rach's foot?)
I imagine somebody has one someplace. There's a museum in Paris that has a cast of George Sand's arm.


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#974161 - 11/20/06 01:38 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Bob: I've only had one lesson (last Saturday). Well, I've "noodled" off and on for the past 15 years, but maybe a day or two out of every month if you averaged it out, and nothing that required any stretching. smile Seems I'll be ok, assuming I'm not some mutant with inflexible/unstretchable hands. :p

#974162 - 11/20/06 01:43 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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As a FYI for those discussing Rachmaninov, it is generally thought he had Marfan's syndrom, as well.

http://www.marfan.org/nmf/GetContentRequestHandler.do?menu_item_id=2

Some people who have Marfan's exhibit the ability to stretch their hands in unbelievable ways. The connective tissue isn't "normal", some of these people can flex joints sideways and all kinds of other interesting ways. While Rachmaninov was a big guy, and did have big hands, Marfan's explains his *extraordinary* span.

#974163 - 11/20/06 08:22 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Re: Rach - very interesting. There's more about it in the article below.

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=1351877&blobtype=pdf


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#974164 - 11/20/06 09:40 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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This discussion comes up here quite regularly, but I don't really see the point. Sure, my life would be easier if I were good-looking, witty, and rich, and I could become a better piano player if I had another 200 years to live and three hands, but in view of the lack of these qualities, you just try to make do with what you have.

(I can reach an octave with mild discomfort and a 9th if my life depended on it, and I'm still trying to play.)


Beginner, started in Summer 2006, self-taught
#974165 - 11/20/06 10:13 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Originally posted by glitzer:
This discussion comes up here quite regularly, but I don't really see the point.
Just think of it as guys comparing - - - engines.


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#974166 - 11/20/06 10:30 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by Frycek:
Just think of it as guys comparing - - - engines.
Yes, that was actually more or less my thought, too. Well, I did post my data (to avoid misunderstandings and because you might think otherwise if you just measured my hands: I am a guy).


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#974167 - 11/21/06 08:39 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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Quote
Originally posted by glitzer:
Sure, my life would be easier if I were good-looking, witty, and rich
I am good-looking, witty and rich and still I'm not allowed to sleep on park benches or under bridges. So, you shouldn't envy us...

#974168 - 11/21/06 01:06 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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glitzer: For somebody starting out, who doesn't really know much about piano, it's only natural to ask "will I be able to play." That's what I did. It wouldn't make sense for me to invest 10 years in something I won't ever be able to do because of a physical limitation. Not knowing piano, I didn't know if small hands are crippling, or if they are ok.

From the response, it's quite obvious hand size does make a difference, but even if you have small hands it doesn't mean you can't play piano. That's the answer I was looking for. smile I'm about "average" in span it seems, and should be able to play a tenth between blacks after my hand stretches more, but even if I could only hit an octave I'd still give it a go, now knowing that it's quite alright and doable! Hope this helps explain why it gets asked (or at least - why I asked.) At $60/hour to learn, I tried to make sure I wasn't just throwing my money into the toilet and flushing it over and over. wink

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Thanks frycek, buxtehude and dannylux!

And I agree, 13!? Thats huge! So if I understand correctly this is from C to A. Almost two octaves!!


ex - pian00b
#974170 - 11/26/06 08:16 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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An octave (C to C) is an 8. C to the D above that C of the octave is a 9. This is using the C major scale as the example.

I do not know what C to Eb is called.


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#974171 - 11/26/06 08:23 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter?  
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If anyone wants to investigate a smaller keyboard, there are two models which currently exist for the smaller-handed pianist - be that a child, a student with a tiny hand, or an adult amateur whose hands may have stiffened with time. David Steinbuhler in Pennsylvania makes a 7/8 keyboard and a 15/16 size keyboard. These can either be built into an existing piano (does not change the sound at all)or - if one wants to invest in a so-called "portable" keyboard, it is available at a higher price and can be easily fitted into a Steinway concert grand (American model only at this point).

#1648729 - 03/27/11 04:15 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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Guys I have a question which is somehow related to this post.

I want to buy a piano for my 8 y.o. niece and I'm wondering whether it is usual to buy a normal-size piano with normal-size keys for her with those little hands. What do people do when teaching piano to a kid? Limit the repertoire? Use specific technics? or use smaller-keyed pianos?


#1648756 - 03/27/11 06:39 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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ll Offline
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It would have probably been better to start a new post, but I'm a member who wouldn't care - just a warning for others.

Buy a normal one. I'm not really going to go into why, but yeah. That's all you need.


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BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.
#1648804 - 03/27/11 08:44 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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I have what I'd say are moderately large hands (11th or 12th reach depending on the day, and a 10th without thinking about it), and it ain't all rainbows and sunshine. Large chords get a lot easier (yay Rachmaninoff!) but Mozart and friends seem to get nastier. I'm convinced that part of the advantage of younger players is being able to move a lot less even with bad technique in playing quickly.

I've been curious lately about developing new fingerings that are more advantageous to me, a lot of pieces feel very "cramped" when I use the written fingerings (ex: Bach Invention #1, there's a few places where my book has fingerings that repeatedly move thumb under for reasons I don't understand instead of simply stretching...)

In the end, my conclusion on hand size, is that you should be happy with what ya got, and develop a style that best suites you. smile

#1648810 - 03/27/11 08:55 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ll]  
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Originally Posted by ll
It would have probably been better to start a new post, but I'm a member who wouldn't care - just a warning for others.

Buy a normal one. I'm not really going to go into why, but yeah. That's all you need.


Thanks. I myself think that a normal piano would be better.

And sorry for asking a question is someone else's post. I know its a little nasty!

#1648826 - 03/27/11 09:32 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: Fate]  
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Y'all got me curious, so I checked my span. I can reach an octave easily now, but it was pretty hard a couple of months ago when I started lessons. I'm working on the D Minor arrangement of Moonlight Sonata, and since this piece requires an octave span, working on it has helped stretch my hand for sure. I can now reach a major 9th without too much difficulty, and just barely reach a 10th on the tips of the keys.

What I've been worried about more is the thickness of my fingers (my ring finger is a 10.5 or 11 ring size, 2 and 3 are of course correspondingly larger). I feel very clumsy reaching between black keys (that is, playing D, G, and A up high on the white keys, between the black keys). I still sometimes bump a black key, but it's getting better with practice.

Originally Posted by Fate
In the end, my conclusion on hand size, is that you should be happy with what ya got, and develop a style that best suites you. smile


An excellent point. Thanks!!!

#1648894 - 03/27/11 11:04 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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Yes, a regular-sized piano. I know kids start with smaller guitars or violins, but pretty much pianos are standard (altho I've heard of miniscule differences in key width). I have very small hands but they've stretched enough that I can do octaves now. But when I couldn't, I adapted smile For children beginning there's lots of repertoire they can play and learn things from as their hands grow to accomodate larger spans. And their hands are more flexible than some of us old farts, so they will get to octaves and possibly beyond faster.

Good question.

Cathy


Cathy
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#1649094 - 03/27/11 05:29 PM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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This week I went to Bonn to see the house where Beethoven was born. There was an organ and two piano's similar to those he played and I was amazed how small the keyboards were. Especially the organ. The piano keys were about 5 mm smaller each 5 white keys. I always thought key width was fixed. How wrong was I.

#1649313 - 03/28/11 02:37 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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My hands are pretty small, but I was born with hyper-flexible (floppy) joints, very double-jointed, so they're stretchable at least. smile

#1649418 - 03/28/11 08:53 AM Re: Hand size - what does it matter? [Re: ormandj]  
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Like the OP, Ormandi, I am just over 5'8". My span is only 8.75", my golf glove size is "Men's Cadet Small" that means; small hands, short fingers. Now, I am not a beginner, however there is very, very, little classical piano literature that I can't comfortably play. An octave is comfortable, I have to be a little bit careful with a 9th to not catch an adjacent note, I can do an isolated 10th using the very tips of my fingers on the very tips of the keys. Your hand will stretch.

What I really can't do are those LH tenths that occur in some jazz pieces (Art Tatum, et.al.)



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