For all those small paws out there...

Posted by: Debbusyist

For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 04:22 AM

If you had to play continous 9th or 10th chords in both right and left hand, how would you do it? By small paws, I mean maximum hand range is an octave. (this problem is in my messiaen)
Posted by: JoelW

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 04:48 AM

I mean.. if you can't reach them, you can't reach them. So, can you reach them?
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 04:49 AM

Hmm... Do wait for others to chime in, because I have huge paws, plus I no longer practice the piano as I used to, but...

1. It will be extremely difficult to pull it off. The opposite thing is happening to me: Some things which require small hands and delicate playing are simply too difficult to pull off, so eventually I gave them up... I love my large hands and the things I can play easily enough.

2. How fast are we talking about? I think that if it's a bit fast, there will be difficulties in playing every chord from bottom to up. Perhaps you can later once in a while to up -> down? in order to make a better legato, or something I mean...

3. Pedalling. Make sure your sustain pedal works the best way possible...

Not sure I can think of anything else to tell you, but keep at it and wait for the others to join in the discussion...
Posted by: Debbusyist

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 05:40 AM

Lets say you can add rubato and can put lots of pedals.
Posted by: RonaldSteinway

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 08:19 AM

There are tons of pieces that do not need such a big reach.
Posted by: Chopinlover49

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 09:41 AM

My daughter and I have the same problem. She is an advanced player and tells me to roll the chords quickly with pedal. At least I think I have explained what she said. I am not advanced and have a hard time doing it.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 10:09 AM

I'd roll the chords if I have to, but if the music requires a lot of these and sounds odd with every chord rolled, I'd probably not play it in the first place....

I can stretch a 9th reliably and comfortably at speed but not a 10th except when I have enough time to prepare.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 10:58 AM

I've got an uncomfortable 9th. Sometimes solutions can be found by redistributing the notes between the hands. This might mean shifting a note down to the other hand without changing the order of the notes, or it might mean changing the placement of a non-critical note to another place in a chord. If that doesn't work, I'd try rolling as long as it doesn't destroy the piece. With my reach, I struggle with tension developing when I play repeated fast octaves so the last and saddest option would be to avoid music with repeated 9ths and 10ths.
Posted by: Ian_G

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 11:12 AM

I've had never had to worry about this much, but still there are bits which bother. Like the bottom of the penultimate page in the Dante Sonata, where I have to roll the last couple of LH chords.

So, pedal and roll. (no stopping or dropping, though).
Or, play the bottom note as an appoggiatura before the beat and play the chord body on the beat.
Of course, clever splitting between the hands does help, too.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 11:24 AM

Another option is leaving notes out. Depends on the context.
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 12:57 PM

Depending on the context you can:
1) Roll the chord
2) Leave out the mischievous note
3) Choose the same note in another octave and see how it sounds
4) Use the sustain pedal
5) Help with the other hand (when I do that I use a bracket like this [ to remember).
6) Damn the composer and choose another piece
Posted by: Derulux

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 01:15 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
Another option is leaving notes out. Depends on the context.

I was going to say you have two choices, but upon further review (read: correction), it appears you have at least three.

1. Roll the chords. If you can't reach them, you can't reach them.

2. If possible, you may be able to redistribute it between your hands (depends on context).

3. See debrucey's excellent comment.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 03:49 PM

I heard a piece of contemporary music recently that I really liked. It heavily featured some gorgeous sounding but widely spaced chords. When I looked at the score I realised that I would never be able to play a single chord in the piece, as all of them spanned at least a 11th. The piece was written for a friend of mine, who has Rachmaninoff sized hands. Glumly I resigned myself to the fact that no matter how good at the piano I will get, I will never play this piece.
Posted by: boo1234

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 04:28 PM

I can barely reach a 10th so I tend to avoid pieces that have a lot of them.
Posted by: Ferdinand

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 05:06 PM

The OP mentioned there are wide chords simultaneously in both hands, so redistribution would not work, unless the hands overlap when playing as written.
Posted by: Playagain

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 05:34 PM

Another way to break up a large chord that you can't reach is mentioned in Ruth Slenczynska's book, "Music at your Fingertips."

She says, "...play as many solid notes as possible on the beat, the remaining notes afterward, so that the essential rhythm won't be disturbed. For example, in the opening chords of Rachmaninoff's Second Concerto, play the left thumb quietly after all the other notes have been struck simultaneously."

She also mentions "...besides breaking a chord from left to right (bottom to top) it can be done the other way around if it agrees better with the context of the music." It would be interesting to see an example of this, but she doesn't mention one.

Kathy
Posted by: -Frycek

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 07:02 PM

I've got a good nine, an "ify" ten. The nine chords I could play. I might figure out some what to cheat on the tens if there were just an occasional one as I can manage a ten with some difficulty. If there were a lot of tens I wouldn't even attempt the piece. I definitely wouldn't attempt the piece if my reach were an octave and there were multiple nine and ten chords, particularly fast moving ones. I can't imagine the sort of gymnastics necessary to the attempt would be very good for your hands or result in a clean sounding piece.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/12/12 10:32 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
I heard a piece of contemporary music recently that I really liked. It heavily featured some gorgeous sounding but widely spaced chords. When I looked at the score I realised that I would never be able to play a single chord in the piece, as all of them spanned at least a 11th. The piece was written for a friend of mine, who has Rachmaninoff sized hands. Glumly I resigned myself to the fact that no matter how good at the piano I will get, I will never play this piece.

That's insane, and quite unfortunate. I have to believe most composers specifically avoid such spans because they intrinsically want their music to be widely played by as many people as possible. However, it's nearly impossible to avoid the "specifically-commissioned" piece. Any chance you have a recording of some genetically-gifted individual (perhaps your friend) performing it? I wouldn't mind having a listen to something I, too, would never be able to play.
Posted by: btb

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 01:54 AM

Chords in excess of an 8th are necessarily strident.
( ie.9ths,10ths, 11ths).

But why include a raspy chord? ... just because of big hands?

Perhaps to provide contrast to an adjacent melodious input.

Beats me.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 02:00 AM

Originally Posted By: btb
Chords in excess of an 8th are necessarily strident.
( ie.9ths,10ths, 11ths).

But why include a raspy chord? ... just because of big hands?

Perhaps to provide contrast to an adjacent melodious input.

Beats me.
You may carry on being beaten as much as you want, but since the OP is discussing a work by Messiaen, I'd place my trust in his composing skills and ideas, rather than your hatred towards 'strident', 'raspy' and 'unecessary' chords! wink

I can reply with great ease on why big chords. In fact I actually made a thread about this very issue: Was composing a trio (with piano of course) and the method and idea I used to compose the 2nd movement was filled with rather large chords. My problem, as Brucey described, was that my hands can reach an 11th with relative difficulty, and even a 12th in my left hand, so I'm definitely not the best judge of such chords. Thus I posted here and changed a couple of things, but not everything.

While I support the freedom of the performers and the idea that a performer should take liberties, at the same time I would appreciate just a tiny bit more appreciation and respect towards what the composer writes in the score. I think it means there's mutual respect there.

As Brucey mentioned, btw, some works just are out of reach for some people (I also mentioned that in my first post here).
Posted by: btb

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 02:14 AM

The Gleeks don't read the small print ...
there is no question of "hatred" of big chords ...
the point being made is WHY!!

My earlier comment ...

"Perhaps to provide contrast to an adjacent melodious input" could just be on the money.
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 02:32 AM

Originally Posted By: btb
The Gleeks don't read the small print ...
there is no question of "hatred" of big chords ...
the point being made is WHY!!

My earlier comment ...

"Perhaps to provide contrast to an adjacent melodious input" could just be on the money.
First of all. I don't know if the term 'Gleek' was a tpyo (such as this one) or coming from Glee, but I have never ever watched Glee, nor I care to watch it! wink

now to your comments, since I have a couple of minutes to spare. Before posting I went ahead and checked what both 'strident' and 'raspy' mean. both have a negative meaning of too harsh and so on... So don't you dare tell me that there's no negativity (as always) in your post! wink Then you disregarded who the composer is (Messiaen is not your middle crappy composer! He's Messiaen) by a simple "Beats me", which could be taken as lightly or as seriously as one thinks. You didn't mention the score, and since it's an expensive score and quit contemporary sounding, I'd assume that you don't own it, and since it's still in copyright you can't take a look in IMSLP to find it and yet you decided to offer up your opinion! Of a general tendency to use big chords: "Beats me"

The why can be left for you to find out. But if you could, for a minute, escape your closed ears and decide that some things can sound good, even if they are not your usual triadic chords, perhaps you could discover much more than just 'contrast to an adjacent melodious input' (which guess what: It's yet AGAIN negative... The opposite of melodious input is... a non melodious input which in your book... beats you...)

Have a great morning there old chap! smile
Posted by: btb

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 03:23 AM

Who doesn't know Messiaen ... without his input to the
brilliant Hal movie 2001 ... we wouldn't have trembled
visibly as the astronauts approach the Slab.

I'm not hacking anybody ... the issue was the big chords in excess of an 8th ... which are strident ... and WHY?

My big hands pretty well match those of Rachmaninoff ... so the problem of "small paws" does not come into the picture.

PS The Gleeks is what the Chinese call the Greeks ...
also my admiration of the Golden Age Greeks has no parallel ... I have just been reading up in my bath the
words of Plato

"Let our artists rather be those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair sights and sounds, and receive the good in everything; and beauty, the effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a health giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the soul from earliest years into likeness and sympathy with the beauty of reason".

Wonder if Plato played the lyre?
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 03:43 AM

It's more respectful to the composers intentions to make a judgement call on how best to achieve a difficult to reach chord in a way that preserves the character of the music than it is to just roll anything you can't reach as default.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 03:46 AM

This is the piece I was talking about.

http://soundcloud.com/philipvenables/05-piano-studies-i-for-chords
Posted by: bennevis

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 05:29 AM

I often wish there're more Romantic and post-Romantic pieces written by composers with small hands (though if they're writing for other pianists - like Ravel and his LH PC-, invariably they make inexorbitant demands on hand sizes).

One of the appealing aspects of playing the Yellow River Concerto (whose piano part is written by a Tchaikovsky prize-winner who evidently has small hands) is that there's nothing in the whole work - despite its profusion of double octaves, rapid alternating chords galore à la Rachmaninoff - that requires more than an octave stretch in either hand. Would that other composers of big virtuoso works are more considerate of us small-pawed and inadequate pianists.... grin
Posted by: im@me

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 11:59 AM

I have extremely small hands but can still reach a tenth smile I just extend out my hand and use my wrist
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 12:02 PM

Bear in mind the sort of people these composers were writing for. Ravel may have had small hands, but most of his works were premiered by Ricardo Vines, who did not. When composers write small salon pieces aimed at amateur pianists, they tend to be less technically demanding in all respects.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 12:15 PM

I've just discovered I'm as guilty as many other composers grin- leafing through some of the pieces I wrote for myself to play last year, there was one that required several 10ths in the LH. The chords just sounded right like that. But I could (just about) play them because there is time to prepare for those chords, and the piece is slow.

But how does Mozart get away with not requiring 10ths in his piano music?
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 01:01 PM

You know this thread, after posting here a few times, started to feel rather silly:

Difficult music will be difficult music. I don't think anyone would ask, why the Chopin Balads are VERY difficult to perform properly. Or a Beethoven sonata. They just decided to do what they wanted! Same with anything that seems impossible for some pianists...

I don't think there's a need to ask any 'WHY' question about such huge composers as Messiaen, or any other monster of music! You just take what he's provided and treat it with respect. End of story!
Posted by: ChopinAddict

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 01:56 PM

I had to apply a couple of the tricks I mentioned to the Suite Bergamasque by Debussy yesterday... But it was fine.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: For all those small paws out there... - 11/13/12 04:01 PM

Why do composers write things that are difficult is indeed a boring question. Why do some composers write things that are technically impossible can be an interesting one. Case in point, Ferneyhough.