The Splits!

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Hello,

I am, for the most, part a self-taught piano player. I don't have an exceptionally large repertoire and I have never performed in public. I have spent the last three years pretty much teaching myself how to play the piano. Quite ambitiously, I began with things like Rachmaninoff's prelude in C# minor and Ravel's Menuet from Sonatine and then moving on to the first and second parts of the same piece, and also the usual Mozart, of which I managed to learn to an above proficient level according a piano teacher I know. I have always tended to begin on pieces that are known to be hard and as I realistically understand that I will never play professionally I don't see a problem with this. I am, quite successfully I might add, working my way through Faux D' Artifice by Debussy and as I get to the last pages I usually begin to think about learning something else. Chopin, I havenít really learned something by him yet I thought, so I obtained various pieces by him and have a look to see which I might like to learn and seeing some of the chords in certain pieces I realise that I cannot play them by a matter of millimetres. I am not happy about this at all. I have a nine note stretch, and whilst I am aware that composers such as Liszt and Rachmaninoff had stretches of twelve and thirteen notes respectively, and I have always taken for granted that I would not be able to play various pieces written by such composers, this has not bothered me as I have heard that even the most respected of pianists have rolled certain chords throughout their career. However, to be denied the chance to learn and play certain pieces by a matter of millimetres has not impressed me at all.

I have heard about a technique called 'the splits' mentioned before. I think I have seen it done by Rubenstein on the cover of one of his records. So, if you know what this is and how it can be done, or if you think it's dangerous to attempt please warn give advice, because at the moment I feel like booking an operation to get my thumbs lengthened or something.

Ps I am a fully-grown male human adult so unfortunately there is no hope of my growing these extra millimetres in the next few months, despite all the spinach I am eating.

Yours truly, Gary Grumble.

-- Unhappy Larry (noname_poster@yahoo.com), June 10, 2002

Answers

Yeah, thanks, internet people for your helpful advice on this most pertinent of matters. I have now totally destructored my hand... like totally! Ever seen that scene from the 'Fly' with Jeff Golblum where he arm wrestles that guy and his wrist bone like pops out of his wrist of all places!

Just like that!

Terrible it was, blood everywhere. At least I can play those chords now though!

I f***in' rock!

-- (thanks@fornothing.com), January 29, 2003.


I really feel your pain. The frusteration of Having small hands is similar to rachmaninoff limiting himself to playing Thompson songs with a limit of 3 fingers per hand. In a lot of peices by Chopin, the left hand has a spreaded version of a basic elementary pattern for example: C G E G. One of many physical restrictions placed on a person with small hands, is the physical (and mental) ability to play certain patterns in one position. While Rachmaninoff plays "Swans on the Lake (Thompson first grade book)," you and I have to play "The Entertainer (original)." We can mentally see the pattern but we are physically often juggling 3. Jumping(a ragtime feel), Stretching(un- natural feel), 3 positions in a single measure often resulting in a loss of thinking and playing a piece in a broad way(line). I could go on for textbooks in length on this topic because I have small hands myself and my love of the piano is rooted in Rach's 3rd concerto (I can't play it) which is probably the thickest work in the repetoire. I hate rolling when it isn't written, I hate using my thumb for 2 notes when one of the 2 is the melody. If anyone out there wants to critisize me for assuming im not thankful for what I have or for thinking that the intensity I have about a couple keys, if not millimeters, on a box is out of line or not a main issue here, I hope that you would go to a piano and feel how much easier a 7th feels than an octave. I heard that Rachmaninoff could stretch a 14th. If that is true, then anyone with a stretch of a 9th should try playing a 4th with thumb and pinky to get a feel of what a 9th feels like to Rachmaninoff. He wrote for himself with gloves in the form of chords. It would be unatural for a midget to wear size 16 shoes. I believe that piano keyboard widths should come in different width sizes. Think of how much closer to the composer people would be able to get.

-- Benjamin James True (mldyls@msn.com), September 12, 2004.

If you can read piano musi so well why not rewrite the pieces you want to play.I though I know the answer is how.

-- Kenneth Ray Smith II (RedAutrey@sbcglobal.net), February 16, 2005.

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