Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can You Stretch Your Hands For the Piano?

Discover the key to answering this question

In this video, Robert discusses a basic concept that will unequivocally answer this question.

Released on July 22, 2020

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Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to I'm Robert Estrin. And today I want to talk about something that is very dear to my heart. I've done quite a number of videos about how to play with small hands because my hands are not particularly large, unlike my father's, Morton Estrin, a phenomenal concert pianist and immense hands. So I had to learn how to get that sound with the smaller hands. And so today we're going to talk about, are there ways of stretching your hands? Well, I remember as a teenager, my father thought that maybe it would be helpful for me to stretch my hands. So I started doing these exercises, kind of like this, nothing that would possibly injure because you don't want to do that, of course. So this is kind of what I did, kind of just trying to get more of a straight line instead of the arching of the hands. And I learned that you can't do it by going straight, but if you kind of arch up a little bit, you can get a bigger reach.

And so I managed to just on the outside of the keys, I could just barely hit a 10th. But on the other hand, I'm not sure that that did any good, those stretching things I would work on. I'd work on them in various ways and ultimately, what I found is this, when you develop more strength at the piano, you're going to be able to negotiate bigger leaps. And as I've talked about breaking things very quickly with the pedal. In order to capture chords way beyond your reach with security, strength is the answer and you can work on arpeggios, and scales, and repertoire. So you'll be able to strengthen your hands to be able to achieve the sound you are after, even if you're not playing notes precisely at the same time if you capture them on the pedal. So strength is the answer more so than, at least for me, stretching never seem to do much.

I'm very curious to hear from all of you out there. Anybody who has any experience with this or has tried stretching and it's worked. I'm not saying stretching is a bad idea, by the way, I'm just saying that it didn't increase my reach, not that there aren't other possible benefits. Once again, I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano store. Thanks for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on July 23, 2020 @11:11 am PST
I have an exercise based on one of Robert's videos from a few years ago, using the "spider" pattern (1-3, 2-4, 3-5, 2-4, 1-3) on various chords: Xmaj7, X7, Xm7, Xm7b5, and Xdim (X means all keys). I also worked out the mirror images of these chords, so that both hands get an equivalent workout. The original purpose of the exercise was to build strength and independence, but I discovered quite by accident that I had gone from being able to play only white-note ninths, to being able to play white-note tenths! I would take this exercise up with your piano teacher, as there are risks. But for me, gaining the tenth was worth it.
Robert - host, on July 23, 2020 @12:30 pm PST
This sounds very interesting. But I don't understand what 1-3, 2-4, 3-5, 2-4, 1-3 refers to.
Ken * VSM MEMBER * on July 23, 2020 @5:24 pm PST
Joyce Beck * VSM MEMBER * on July 22, 2020 @5:58 am PST
I've always reckoned you can estimate the size of composers' hands. Chopin: not that big - usually an octave reach (my limit!) is fine for his works, Rachmaninov - huge, and I have a suspicion he had a few secret extra fingers too. This was confirmed by a teacher I went to briefly 35 years ago, who had seen Rachmaninov perform in London when she was young. She said he had 'hands like frying pans'.
The teacher I had from about 6 to 11 taught me how to break chords, sometimes using the pedal, and also how to choose which notes were just going to have to be left out, maybe substituting something else. It's never perfect, but if it isn't physically possible for you to play what's written, it's either that or don't play the piece at all.
Robert Estrin on July 22, 2020 @11:22 am PST
My father had huge hands and playing the music of Rachmaninoff came very naturally to him.;list=PLb9dheYKfknRW-F4QTI_v-GcsogwMkiJr I have seen many great pianists with small hands. You are right - breaking chords can work very well for people with smaller hands. Here is a video on this subject:
Anne Iams on July 24, 2020 @1:20 pm PST
I like Joyce Beck's ideas. and yes I have small hands and can barely reach octaves. Sometimes leaving out notes out helps. Always enjoy your instructional ideas, Robert. Thanks
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