small hands

Posted by: Rachelle

small hands - 07/18/01 04:46 AM

I have very small hands and cannot play octave on the black keys,and it seems quite impossible for me to reach even trying to stretch, seems like reaching the max limit, about 1cm short . That also makes my playing very diffcult and cannot play diffcult pieces that has many octaves , and worst of all,if it is a fast piece. some may suggest playing with just one note instead of two, but I don't feel satisfied at all, as sound produced is not as fantastic. I cannot expect my fingers to grow any longer at this age, and is there any way to solve my problem?

[ July 18, 2001: Message edited by: Rachelle ]
Posted by: magnezium

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 07:31 AM

i happen to know a Rachelle from Singapore... maybe you're the one... hehe...=]

anyway, i don't think there's much you can really do... if the piece allows it you can play one note with the left hand and the other with the right... but i'm sure the others on this forum will give you pretty good suggestions...
Posted by: Bernard

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 01:10 PM


You may take heart. The famous pianist Alicia DeLarocha has very small hands and cannot span an octave either. But this did not stop her from pursuing her love of music and she is internationally reknown as an interpreter of Mozart.

Some pianists with small hands play octaves as an arpegio, the two notes quickly in succession. I am sure this takes a lot of practice but the technique is achievable. It perhaps works better in the music of some composers than others. For instance, in Brahms it would not sound bothersome if the technique was solid and clean, also in Beethoven it would be perfectly alright. The effect is the same as when one plays a 10th. In most music I've ever seen 10ths are usually written arpegiated in the score, and even when they are not, many (if not most) pianist need to play them arpegiated. Simply bring this technique to your octaves.

There are tons of music that a person with small hands can play. Perhaps you will not have Liszt in your repertoire, but that needn't stop you from fullfilling your dreams.
Posted by: AndrewG

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 01:48 PM


Are you sure Lady De Larocha can't reach an octave? She recorded conerti like Tchaikovsky #1 and Khachaturian!

To me anyone cannot reach an octave will be gravely disadvantaged. This person at least should not pursue a career as a professional pianist.
Posted by: Joe

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 01:48 PM

I was at a lecture a long time ago, and the woman, I think her name was Gloria Taubman, had very small hands. At one point she briefly touched on playing music and having to leave notes out. She then played some Rachmaninoff, and the sound was UN BLOODY BELIEVABLE. So it can be done. \:\)
Posted by: Daan

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 03:00 PM

When I learned to play ocaves , i couldn't reach both notes eiter, but after a while of practice, I was able to stretch my both fingers more and more.
Maybe you just need a little more practice on stretching your fingers.

I am not good at piano , but maybe it helps
Posted by: Bernard

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 06:35 PM


I remember being told this one time and am quite sure I also read it in a book of interviews. I will look for it tonight and see if I can offer it as verification.
Posted by: ryan

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 09:16 PM

I have seen Alicia de Larocha play (on video), and she can definately handle an octave, if not a tenth. She played the first movement of Beethoven's 110 Sonata and Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto. There were no rolling of chords. And, I don't remember for sure, but I *think* she may have even taken the octaves before the recap as glissandi. I also remember being in a master class where the subject of octaves came up. The instructor demonstrated various ways of approaching octaves and demonstrated how he had observed de Larocha play the octaves in the Tchaikovsky concerto.

I believe the story is that she had a very small reach when she began studies, but was taught how to increase that reach during the course of her studies. She is truly a master at piano, and even though she tends to be known for her baroque and classical work, she doesn't come up short in big works from later periods.

Just wanted to offer that, for what it's worth \:\)

Posted by: wghornsby

Re: small hands - 07/18/01 10:20 PM

I'm not sure where I found this (maybe here) but here's a link to a company that custom builds piano keyboards for smaller hands. Just to let you know that option is out there.
Posted by: Eldon

Re: small hands - 07/19/01 02:01 AM

Hey, Ryan...what's up?
Again, you are absolutely right... about Alicia. She has no problems with octaves. She also played the Rach.2nd beautifully, with Michael Tilson Thomas! Gotta go, it's getting late.
Posted by: AndrewG

Re: small hands - 07/19/01 06:53 AM

Thanks for clarification, Ryan and Eldon. That's what I suspected. Back in the early '80s I shook De Larocha's hands once after she rehearsed Ravel G with Boston Symphony at Tanglewoods. I did not specifically ask this question of her hand size. I did remember, however, that her hands're about the same size as mine. I can comfortably reach the octave. If I stretch hard I can reach a ninth. Ryan, you know my hand size, right?

I still hold the notion that if a person has aweful lot trouble in getting the octave should not strive for a career in piano. Instead, he/she should try something else like the violin. If for fun, anyone can try the piano. Those with small hands, particularly those that cannot even reach the octave will be tremendously limited in the repertoire they can tackle. The remedial technique mentioned here only works in slow to moderate tempo sections.

Posted by: Rachelle

Re: small hands - 07/19/01 07:34 AM

Thanks for all the suggestions and advice. I have no intention for taking it as my career, but has regretted for learning it and unable to proceed further, hence feeling much dissatisfied. I have visited the website customised piano for small hands , but only available in the united states. purchasing without test-playing is risky, and do not know if the brand " Story and Clark" upright piano is a good choice. I wonder if anyone Knows about this brand? and the brand " Charles R. Walter is quite steep, cost US$ 4000-6000
Posted by: magnezium

Re: small hands - 07/19/01 10:00 AM

by what everyone's been saying on these forums, the C. Walter seems to be a fantastic piano... but i doubt you can get it here in Singapore... i haven't seen a dealer selling this brand so far...
Posted by: Bernard

Re: small hands - 07/19/01 05:12 PM

Well, I looked for verification of my statement in print and unfortunately couldn't find anything specific enough. I definately was told she had trouble reaching an octave and overcome it with persistence. What I've read over the years subsequently reinforced that impression on me. Alas, I'm left with hearsay. Sorry for the misinformation.

*However*, she *does* have small hands. In "Great Contemporary Pianists Speak For Themselves", she says:

"I had to open up my hands and play slowly. By staying on a chord, I could feel the stretch. I wish I had a naturally wider expanse, but I don't. I wouldn't care for longer fingers, just a broader hand spread. But by training and hard work I've managed to overcome that limitation."


"As I mentioned, exercises which stretch the hand are helpful. However, by using your musical imagination in pedaling, phrasing, and so forth, you can still product the big sound and overcome the technical problem. Still, I continue to do stretching exercises, even if I have to use one hand to help stretch the fingers of the other."

Andrew, you stated "I still hold the notion that if a person has aweful lot trouble in getting the octave should not strive for a career in piano." I think I will respectfully disagree with you. There is repertoire that a person with a short span can build a career on if they are musical and determined.
Posted by: Jim

Re: small hands - 08/13/01 04:16 PM

I also have small hands - I think I can just about manage an octave but it hurts! I only play for enjoyment but I am concerned that I will start to find pieces that I will be unable to play. Does anyone have any experience of this? Also, I'm thinking of buying a Yamaha P80 digital piano for approx 700 ($1000) but if my hand size will be a problem I don't want to have wasted my money.

Any advice appreciated,


Posted by: Amy

Re: small hands - 08/13/01 10:45 PM

I would be very careful about stretching your hands to get them to reach an octave. I have had hand problems and they take a LONG time to heal. If you try stretching your hands and it hurts, STOP!!!!
Posted by: jgoo

Re: small hands - 08/13/01 11:36 PM

Don't worry. Over time, your hands will stretch out enough. Thats what happend to me. Ever since I started playing the piano, my stretch over the keyboard has grown. Just make due with what you have now and mabye your hands will get a longer stretch in them as well. (May I suggest milk for calcium? Great for growing bones. ;\) )
Posted by: Ben Foo

Re: small hands - 08/14/01 12:37 AM

Hi Rachelle! I'm from Singapore too. Just wanted to add that if you really have the money, you can actually custom made the keys to be smaller so that you can reach an octave. Yes, there's no Charles Walter dealer here but if you can fork out the money, you can visit the Steingraeber dealer who can help to customize pianos to suit your needs.I think it should be possible to scale down the keys to a smaller size but it might affect how the piano might feel. Don't feel discouraged if you cannot play ocatves. Maybe you can try to change the octave note to a 3rd and a 5th? Like C and high C ocatve maybe you can change it to E and C? I don't know. Thta's what my friend does. Don't feel too discouraged. I have sweaty palms and i can't play fast running passages and sometimes , octaves on the flats and sharps are quite difficult because my fingers will slip off the black keys. Just to let you know you are not alone...
Posted by: ZeldaHanson

Re: small hands - 08/14/01 09:15 AM

I recently just tried to play Chopin's Polonaise in A Major. I was so disappointed when I found out my hands wouldn't reach the intervals for the chords written. They span about 10 intervals. My fingers barely stretch 9. I hope one day I'll figure out a way to play fix this. =0(