Robert Estrin - piano expert

Why is Your Left Hand Bigger Than Your Right Hand?

Discover why your left hand is usually larger than your right hand

In this video, Robert explains why the left hand is usually larger than the right hand, with a focus on hand reach and extension.

Released on August 11, 2021

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome everyone to, Robert Estrin here.

The question is why is your left hand bigger than your right hand?

Is your left hand bigger than your right hand?

This is a great question. And, my left hand is bigger than my right hand, and I bet a lot of you pianists out there find the same thing and you might wonder why. And, I'm really interested in comments from all of you to see if this is true, because I've talked to many pianists who find that their left hands are bigger than the right hand. It has nothing to do with being right-handed or left-handed either. Let me first show you that, to prove to you that indeed my left hand has a bigger reach than my right hand.

I can barely, barely touch some tenths, white key tents around the keys like this. That's my maximum reach. I'm going to talk a little bit more about how you can overcome small hands, why it doesn't really matter. And, some of the greatest pianists of all time have had very small hands, even smaller than mine. Now, what happens? You could see, I could reach, barely reach that 10th. I don't really depend upon it. I rarely play tenths because it takes so much time for me to grab this little tiny piece of key. It's not really very useful, but I'm just demonstrating this for you.

Now, on the right hand, if I try to do the same thing, I absolutely can't do it. I just can't make it. So you might wonder what the heck is up with that? And, you will find that most pianists, and this is an interesting test because in the comments you can find out how many. Now, it might have to do with how much you practice and how much you play the piano. And of course, natural physiology, I'm sure enters into it. I'm sure this is not a hundred percent universal. The reason is that left-hand parts tend to be more outstretched than right-hand parts. Right-hand usually has the melody left and as a competence and all kinds of stretching. So, your left-hand ends up being slightly, ever so slightly bigger than your right hand, generally speaking.

I'm very interested to hear from all of you. Now, I promised you some tips about small hands. I've got relatively small hands and I always wanted to play music beyond my reach. Now, I will say this if you don't have a solid octave, if you reach an octave like this, then you're going to have a hard time with a lot of repertoire. Fortunately, baroque music of Bach, Handel, Telemann and others Scarlatti. You don't really need much of a reach for baroque music and even classical period music octaves yeah, are somewhat prevalent, but really the reaches in earlier period music are not nearly as great as later period music.

So, you still might be okay, at least in some repertoire, if you don't have a good solid octave. Now, assuming you have a solid octave and you want to be able to play bigger reaches than an octave, or you can't really quite reach an octave as well as you'd like to. Well, perhaps what you want to do is to break the chords. And, I've talked about this before, and you know when you break chords very quickly on the pedal? It's hard to tell that you're not playing the chord. For example, if I wanted to play a chord like this, of course the right hand's no problem. With the left hand, I can't possibly reach this chord. So, how could I play it? If it's written, breaking the chord very quickly.

Now, here's what I found as a kid. My father once taught me the technique that he had heard about. I've tried to stretch by gently pushing on the keyboard and trying to get a little bit more reach. I didn't find that helped me at all. However, what helped enormously was just developing more strength so that breaking chords, rapid chords that were beyond my reach became accessible to me. And, you're going to find the same thing. So don't fret if you don't have a big reach, because if you develop strength in your playing, you can learn how to break chords successfully and you know what? They sound great.

In fact, a lot of pianists, even with large hands will choose to break chords slightly, because of the richness of the sound it creates. So, it's an expressive technique used even with people who can reach big chords. So, get your hands nice and strong, learn how to break them quickly and you'll be fine. And, it's an interesting note that just from playing music that has bigger reaches like the left hand repertoire, tends to be bigger stretches of the right hand in the piano, you will tend to find your left hand will be a smidgen larger in the reach than your right hand.

Love to hear from all of you again, I'm Robert Estrin here at Your online piano resource. Thanks for joining me and subscribing. Ringing the bell to spread the word to everyone who loves the piano. See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Jan VanDenBerg on October 23, 2021 @11:45 am PST
Very interesting! I understand the rationale for the left hand being a smidge larger than the right hand. I checked my hands on the keyboard several times and mine are equal. I can't reach the 10ths well but the 9ths are fine - not that you would play 9ths. However, your advice to strengthen the hands is spot on. As I play more and more, my hands are getting much stronger and so is my back. One uses the upper body quite a bit when playing. This increasing strength is also helping my golf ball to go farther. Hah!
Robert - host, on October 24, 2021 @11:04 am PST
Glad to see you are enjoying ancillary benefits from practicing the piano!
FULVIA M BOWERMAN * VSM MEMBER * on August 12, 2021 @1:38 pm PST
So glad to hear this lecture about the left hand being bigger than the right one, I thought I was the odd one with this problem. But I am quite sure that this is a genetic issue, and also that the left side of the entire body is not quite the same of the right side. I also believe that being right-handed develops the muscles of the right hand more, and that actually causes a shortening of the fingers. The muscles of the fingers are used more for grasping all sort of things in every day life, and that causes a contraction. I checked my hands by placing the creases toghether, both palms are the same length, only the fingers are shorter on the right hand. I would be interested to find out if left-handed people have their left hands smaller. And you are lucky to be able to reach 10 keys! As I aged, I struggled to reach one octave, enough to end up in therapy twice. Great to have a 6" keyboard now, and almost wishing to have the 5-1/2 !!
Robert - host, on August 12, 2021 @4:40 pm PST
No one is perfecty symmetrical. It is interesting how most people are right-handed. I think it has to do with the structure of the brain.
Douglas Johnson * VSM MEMBER * on August 11, 2021 @11:48 am PST
I can do 10 with both hands, but the fingers have to be at the end of the keys. No way to play oit like an octave. bedises I am 94
Robert - host, on August 12, 2021 @10:26 am PST
I can barely reach only some 10ths, and only on the edge of the keys. But learning how to break chords quickly and capture the notes on the pedal allows for playing music well beyond your reach. You can learn about this technique here:
Jenny Goff on August 11, 2021 @9:44 am PST
I played the cello for years, and found out when I was a teen my left hand fingers were longer, because I had to stretch my fingers along the board. But my right hand is always wrapped around the frog of the cello bow.
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