We have always seen professional pianists swing up and down the hands on the piano keyboard when they are in action. We can see that their fingers fly over the keys and they play note after note, bringing life to the music between their fingers and their thumbs. Do you know that the span of the hand and the size of the fingers of the pianist play a significant role in their piano playing style? Yes, the size of the hand impacts the piano playing experience and there is an ideal hand size for playing the instrument.
Musicians are of different ages and there is a difference in their hand sizes. The hand size of male pianists is different from that of female pianists as well. And hand span plays an important role in playing the piano as they have to stretch their fingers between two specified intervals on the keyboard to play an octave correctly. For instance, the average octave placement for hand span is about 6.7 inches, and to play the 9th note, it may be required to increase the hand span to about 7.6 inches and so on.
For instance, as the hand span of women is small, about 70% of them find it uncomfortable to span their fingers across an entire octave. And some even find it difficult to add a 9th note to their music in a single hand. This is because the hands of females are at least 15% smaller than that of the males and for children, it might be even smaller. And this can have a great impact on their playing ability. So what is the ideal hand size to play the piano? Read through to learn more.
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What is the ideal hand size to play the piano?
There is a general conception that we need bigger hands to play the piano, but there is no clarity of how big the hands should be. Though some music pieces require really large hands, they are very rarely found. Even music composers tend to compose music, by keeping in mind the hand size of the pianists.
The general rule is that, if your hands can stretch for an octave, then you can easily play the piano. But even students with tiny hands can play some notes brilliantly, as they make use of the pedals to complement their music journey. Having bigger hands to play the music is truly a blessing and their pianist can play the chromatic octaves with 5-1 on the white keys and 4-2 on the black keys and for such pianist, the open hand positions seem very comfortable. But the fact that only those who have a larger hand span could play complex octaves on the piano is a myth.
Most pianists modify the passages so that they could fit their hands. At times one chord In the music piece could be really hard to reach with the fingers. In such instances, it is better to use our musical judgment and find a perfect solution for the problem, rather than following the composer diligently.
What it is to have a real piano hand?
Nobody is born with a real piano hand but rather equip their hands to be piano friendly. Pianists must develop flexible hands to play the instrument, but at the same time, shouldn’t get it hypermobile or double-jointed. The fingers need to stay curved and should be bent backward at the joints. The pianist should develop the dexterity to get around the keyboard easily. They should also develop the skills to move from one hand position to another quickly, especially when their hand position demands dexterity from the fingers and this can be improved carefully including the scales, arpeggios, and even the double notes at times.
Yet another quality of the real piano hand is to develop the ability to release the fingers instantly, especially in fast passages. This is one quality that allows us to play articulately so that we can communicate the music. The real piano hand articulates notes in the music appropriately so that the music sounds natural and realistic. Both under articulation and over articulation gets the music to sound very unnatural. For expressive playing, it is important to have good control over the release of the keys as well.
Above all, it is important to gain some strength in the muscles of the hands and the fingers to play the piano. Endurance is part of muscular development and it can be achieved with a minimum practice of few hours in a day. By practicing scales of different dynamics, tempo and articulation are some of the best ways to develop endurance and strength of the hands.
Also read: How to Play Piano With Both Hands?
When we compare the keyboards that we play recently, compared with the historical instruments, the size that we use today is large compared to the keyboards that were used in the past. The greatest pianist in the past has played in keyboards that have narrower keys.
For people who like to play the piano and have the passion to enhance their playing style, the alternative sized piano keyboards can be an optimal fit. These downsized keyboards help pianists to play more music without having to worry about injuring the fingers. It also helps in improving the hand position and power and it doesn’t mandate the need for redistribution of complex fingering as well.
The conclusion is that there is nothing like an ideal hand size for playing the piano, and like other skills, we can play the instrument with only what we have. Some pianists will have natural piano hands and their hand span will be much higher than others. Whereas others have smaller hands, but can develop piano hands with practice and endurance.
Or they can choose pianos with shorter and narrower keys to play like professionals. People with smaller hands have the advantage to play the instrument quickly and nightly and some notes fall easily and naturally for them on the instrument.