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#916386 - 10/27/08 01:37 PM Re: stretching an octave
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
That is the split I talk about in my posting above - that is absolutely as far as one can "stretch".

However, I don't endorse doing it to this full expansion. It is not a position that is meant to be held.

Also the 3 fingers in this picture are distorted in positioning, I can't imagine this producing a quality sound from the instrument. Who would want to play a 'clump' of notes that looks like this, and being incredibly realistic as to how it feels to be 'wearing' this hand, it's outrageous to consider this.

Injury? Most likely!
Immediately? Possibly!
Over time? Definitely!

I can duplicate that position, and my question would be "Why would you want to?"

Betty

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#916387 - 10/28/08 06:29 AM Re: stretching an octave
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1515
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I agree with Betty in that I have found it unwise to become obsessed with any physical extremes such as speed or stretch. I enjoy playing Waller and other stride with its rapid left hand tenths but music and fluency are the goals, not proving to myself I can do something and thereby lessening musical control and hurting my hands. If I find I cannot execute a grip without strain then I devise something else of equal musical value.

Doing something very physically stressful to no musical advantage just to prove a point seems silly to me. I wasted far too much time with that sort of nonsense when I was young.
_________________________
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#916388 - 10/28/08 06:46 AM Re: stretching an octave
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
That is the split I talk about in my posting above - that is absolutely as far as one can "stretch".

However, I don't endorse doing it to this full expansion. It is not a position that is meant to be held.

Also the 3 fingers in this picture are distorted in positioning, I can't imagine this producing a quality sound from the instrument. Who would want to play a 'clump' of notes that looks like this, and being incredibly realistic as to how it feels to be 'wearing' this hand, it's outrageous to consider this.

Injury? Most likely!
Immediately? Possibly!
Over time? Definitely!
[/b]

But that's the point of the whole "small hand/big hand" debate. You only need to reach for a big chord once in a blue moon. If there are pieces that require an 11th it is usually one bar out of 400 bars. Even when tenths are in the piece, only in very few instances they are simultaneous played notes.

As long as the hand is not cronically deviated, it can divert even grossly from a natural position and returning to it immediately, without injury or consequences.

*******

Let me repeat this concept again.
It's absurd to limit your repertoire because of your hand size. I've heard of piano students with small hands claiming that they carefully select pieces that they can play or that they don't move beyond baroque and classical era or that they will never attempt Liszt or Rachmaninoff.

This is totally absurd for two reasons:

There are many professional small hands pianists who play whatever piece from whatever composers.
Check "Idil Biret" repertory. She is a small woman with small hands who need to stretch to
reach an octave.

The second reason is that large intervals span, even in pieces requiring them, is usually limited to few bars in a whole piece and few chords out of thousands. If you had to skip those passages altogether, it would rather be irrelevant in the context of the wall piece. If you had to just resort to skipping notes or rolling chords, the difference would be even more irrelevant. Often you can resort to substitute a tenth with an octave. An octave won't sound like a tenth, but in the context of a tune, who cares?

Here is what a pianist with small hands from another forum used to say:

I have pretty small hands but I don't let that stand in the way. It's only 1 or 2 chords. I love Rach, and don't find that a problem, so I don't think one has to limit their repertroire due to hand size.

Not very philosophical. Just straight to the point.

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#916389 - 10/28/08 07:12 AM Re: stretching an octave
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
I have some questions to consider:

1) Let's think about the size of Liszt and Rachmaninoff please. Stature, and hand size. Do we know?

2) Then besides these two composers, what other composers or pieces ask for a huge extention.

3) How frequently do we do 9ths, 10ths, 11ths?

I am a firm believer that one's physiology sets the parameters of which one can use the hand to play octaves and chords. Even once to go to this extreme in the photo, is beyong my consideration.

You might choose to do this, a find it too risky. As a teacher, I would never encourage anyone to do this, nor if I saw it happening with a student would I be passive about it. I am responsible for my students well being, and an injury in my home on my piano to the hand, I believe, would be a medical and legal problem.

Rash? I don't think so.

Adults who play performance pieces can make their own decisions. I feel adament about this because I have arthritis in my thumbs and pain and limitation in movement is not something that has any benefit to a pianist, it limits one dearly.

Things like arthritis, bursitis, itis (being inflammation) may not bother you when you are young, but put a few decades on your body, and there you are caught in what may started in your prime with some risk taking. I recommend caution and sensibility.

And, being the forum, we each get to post as we see it. Preferences are individually based.

Betty

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#916390 - 10/28/08 07:12 AM Re: stretching an octave
Beethoven Fan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/07
Posts: 191
well, here's my bit of semi-advice. yes if you stretch your hand with exercises, your handspan will increase. my teacher a small russian woman was able to hit a 10th despite her hands being about 2 inches shorter than mine. exercise your hands

also, everyone's different. the webbing in between the fingers on each person is different and each person will require a different amount of time to stretch that out.

another thing i've learned is, if possible, play the chord with the hands as flat as possible because curving them takes away from the distance. right now i'm learning a piece in which the right hand must play

Ab Db F(natural) Ab B(natural)

and the left hand is playing

Db Ab F natural

I have relatively large hands but this is quite a stretch for me. especially the inclusion of the black keys makes it difficult but since I've started working on it, its gotten easier. so last major piece of advice,

play pieces that force you to stretch and your hands will gradually adapt to the best of their ability.

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#916391 - 10/28/08 07:14 AM Re: stretching an octave
Beethoven Fan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/07
Posts: 191
well, here's my bit of semi-advice. yes if you stretch your hand with exercises, your handspan will increase. my teacher a small russian woman was able to hit a 10th despite her hands being about 2 inches shorter than mine. exercise your hands

also, everyone's different. the webbing in between the fingers on each person is different and each person will require a different amount of time to stretch that out.

another thing i've learned is, if possible, play the chord with the hands as flat as possible because curving them takes away from the distance. right now i'm learning a piece in which the right hand must play

Ab Db F(natural) Ab B(natural)

and the left hand is playing

Db Ab F natural

I have relatively large hands but this is quite a stretch for me. especially the inclusion of the black keys makes it difficult but since I've started working on it, its gotten easier. so last major piece of advice,

play pieces that force you to stretch and your hands will gradually adapt to the best of their ability.


P.S- just a reminder that supposedly Joseff Hoffman had small hands but he made some pretty wicked sounds with the piano. sooo, it doesn't take large hands to become a virtuoso.

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#916392 - 10/28/08 08:38 AM Re: stretching an octave
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Betty Patnude:
You might choose to do this, a find it too risky. As a teacher, I would never encourage anyone to do this, nor if I saw it happening with a student would I be passive about it. I am responsible for my students well being, and an injury in my home on my piano to the hand, I believe, would be a medical and legal problem.

Rash? I don't think so.

Adults who play performance pieces can make their own decisions. I feel adament about this because I have arthritis in my thumbs and pain and limitation in movement is not something that has any benefit to a pianist, it limits one dearly.
[/b]
I think it's impossible to injury your hand by stretching the fingers like that momentarily. A lot of works requiring hands (expecially craftmanship and factory work) take advantage of far more awkward positions but generally without consequences. Should someone play the piano in a chronically stretched position it would certainly cause injury, but if you just stretch a lot or even choose an awkward position to play a chord for a fraction of a second, I don't think it will have any effect. We just have to remember what can we do by improving the flexibility of our body. Our legs, arms, torso, neck can be bent to maximum stretched position without consequences, as long as flexibility is increased slowly and soundly day by day, week by week.

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#916393 - 10/28/08 08:47 AM Re: stretching an octave
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11765
Loc: Canada
A physical specialist for musicians (I forget his exact specialty or title) has advised that stretches you can do using only the limbs involved in the stretching are generally not harmful. If you stretch your arms like when you are yawning, or if you play C with your thumb and reach over to play C with your pinky you are not that likely to hurt yourself (though I don't know if it's technically ideal). If you push or pull your fingers apart with your other hand, or if you wedge your fingers against a piece of furniture and shove, you may well injure yourself. The expert had a name for this second kind of stretching, and warned to be careful with it, or not do it at all.

It's probably also not a bad idea to have an idea of anatomy. The thumb and little finger are equipped in an extra manner to move sideways. There is a special distance to be had between the thumb and forefinger.

You can also make yourself aware of tensions. it is possible to be simultaneously stretching and tensing (pulling together the hand). For me it made a difference when I stopped trying to make the fingers have a distance between their tips, and moved each finger out from its individual base in the hand. I'm not sure whether it was all psychological, but the first created tension. I have a comfortable 10th, at 5'7" and "middle aged", having returned to the piano a year ago. A lot of the extra stretch came from what I have just mentioned.

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#916394 - 10/29/08 07:27 PM Re: stretching an octave
Beethoven Fan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/07
Posts: 191
also wanted as an update to my situation. i dropped the lowest Ab and it sounds nearly identical. the reason i say "nearly" is because I can't really tell the difference but i'm sure there's someone out there who's snobbish enough to notice and point out but Im satisfied. so if you're situation allows it, drop a note or too and see if it sounds the same.

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