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How to approach the Moonlight Sonata with small hands

Useful tips to approach any kind of repertoire requiring chords larger than an octave

Released on April 30, 2013

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Kathleen * VSM MEMBER * on December 30, 2015 @2:10 pm PST
Needless to say, anything by Rachmaninoff requires he built a lot of redundancy into his chords so sometimes I just kind of invert where necessary or skip extra notes...I guess he had really big hands.
Milla Gotlib on December 30, 2015 @5:57 am PST
That's what I'm doing for Gershwin's C# min. Prelude, but it's hard.
Pat * VSM MEMBER * on December 30, 2015 @4:47 am PST
Thanks for posting this video. I too have a nine note span and I have always broken chords "beyond my reach" on either hand in order to play them.
I always felt a little uneasy playing the music this way but after viewing your video, I feel a lot more relaxed about approaching musical spans that are beyond me.
Thanks again for the video!
joyce on May 31, 2013 @5:07 pm PST
Downton Abbey has a lot of 10ths. This is the piece I am working on now.
Robert - host, on June 1, 2013 @12:02 pm PST
There are certain styles of music with 10ths such as stride piano that I avoid. While breaking large chords are a staple technique for people with small hands, there are practical limits as to what repertoire is ideal for small hands.
Annette * VSM MEMBER * on August 15, 2013 @2:54 pm PST
I have difficulty with chords especially those that are an octave width and include flats or sharps. I have small hands and can barely reach the note past the octave It is easy when the chord is broken up, but when you play the whole chord at once, my fingers hurt.
joyce on May 31, 2013 @1:15 pm PST
When breaking the chords does the base note have to be on the beat or does it matter.
Robert - host, on May 31, 2013 @3:40 pm PST
Broken chords are negotiated differently depending upon context. If you have a particular piece of music you have questions about, please let me know.
Millie * VSM MEMBER * on May 20, 2013 @1:19 pm PST
Lost sound for a couple of days - advised to turn off computer since wires were O.K. -- sound has returned and I could hear your advice.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 20, 2013 @4:49 pm PST
Great news! Thank you Millie for let us know about this.
Robert - host, on May 20, 2013 @5:17 pm PST
Millie * VSM MEMBER * on May 19, 2013 @5:01 pm PST
Sound is not coming through --
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on May 20, 2013 @11:55 am PST
I am sorry about that. Are you experiencing this issue with just this video? Please, tell me more, I am willing to help.
Helena boggia on May 8, 2013 @10:35 am PST
Bribied * VSM MEMBER * on May 2, 2013 @2:48 am PST
I was doing this anyway, thinking I'll never be a good pianist for that reason. Thanks for assuring me that there is nothing wrong with it.
Fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on May 1, 2013 @7:02 pm PST
My hands have always been very small, and now with arthritis set in even one octave is difficult if I have to play other keys at the same time. At that B note in the moonlight sonata, I have always used the left hand, and kept the pedal on. Mother who was a pianist could not tell the difference!
Robert - host, on May 2, 2013 @10:56 am PST

My reaction to your unorthodox technique is, "Whatever works!" No two people are built the same or have the same circumstances. I'm glad you found a solution to playing the Moonlight Sonata even with hand problems.

I would suggest that you try to play the piano every day to develop more strength. If you can get to the point where there is sufficient muscle tissue, it can protect the delicate joints. The challenge is being able to work up enough time without doing any damage. Try playing on a very regular basis and see if you can overcome the weakness of your joints. Good luck!
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