I always cringed on the inside when someone examined a baby's hands and said, "Oh yes, she has piano hands!" or, "I guess he won't be playing the piano." You can't judge a pianist by the look of their hands, especially when they're babies.
When someone talks about piano hands and pianist's fingers, they're usually referring to a young child who has long, slender fingers. But as a piano teacher, I've seen piano hands in all shapes and sizes, and it just wasn't the main factor in whether someone was good at playing the piano or not.
In this article, we'll take a look at what piano hands are – and what they aren't. We'll also talk about what makes someone good at the piano and how playing the piano affects your hands. But first, let's take a closer look at the proverbial piano hands and pianist fingers.
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When someone talks about piano hands, they're usually referring to hand shape. They may be talking about larger-sized hands, but typically, they're just classifying a baby's long, slender fingers and tight grasp. This may be aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn't mean you're going to automatically be good at the piano.
And while it certainly doesn't hurt to have long fingers, it isn't the only thing that's important. There are a number of famous pianists, including Elton John, who were highly successful in their musical careers even though they didn't have large hands. In fact, check out this video for tips on how to play piano with smaller hands.
Many composers wrote music that suited their own physical characteristics and style of playing. For example, Rachmaninoff had very large hands, and the repertoire he composed reflects this. On the other hand, Chopin was smaller, and his repertoire focused more on the coloring of the music. Mozart had small, quick hands, and many of his piano pieces were showy and demonstrated his piano flare!
So while the aesthetic of piano hands is a nice idea, there are other characteristics that make someone good at playing the piano.
Some people are naturally good at the piano, but most of us have to work hard at it. And by working hard at it, I mean practice.
Mozart might have been naturally talented at all things music, but other musical greats, such as Bach and Hayden, worked very hard to achieve their distinct levels of musicianship. They spent hours perfecting their craft, practicing and working, and it shows in their incredible music.
Let's face it. Learning anything is hard work, and music is no exception. If you just work at music half-heartedly, those are the results you'll get. But if you work hard and practice well, you'll get much better results. But, of course, you have to be dedicated and consistent to get those results.
Having a good teacher that can teach you musical skills is another aspect of becoming an accomplished pianist. You need someone that can show you technique, answer your questions, help you choose the right music to play, and guide you on your piano journey. A good teacher can also help you find the right type of piano for your needs.
A piano or digital piano is an excellent place to start. You need an instrument that is touch-sensitive and weighted to help you learn good technique and musicianship. Without it, you won't be able to fine-tune your musical skills.
Check out our recommended weighted keyboard pianos
Musical talent or aptitude. A little bit of natural musical talent will go a long way towards helping you become a great pianist. Natural talent certainly helps, but hard work and practice make the bigger difference.
Playing the piano isn't going to change the shape of your hands. It can't make your fingers grow, or your hands get larger. And you aren't likely to see any bulging muscles coming out of your fingers, either. But playing the piano can improve your hand muscles' strength, speed, and dexterity.
The average person can usually reach an octave on the piano. And if you can reach an octave, then you can play most piano repertoire. Over time, though, if you are working on piano exercises that develop technique, your hands can stretch more, giving you the ability to reach even further.
Dexterity is the precision with which you can play quickly. Over time, with practice, your finger dexterity will improve so you can play trickier and trickier passages. Smaller hands may naturally have more dexterity, but everyone can improve.
Speed is how fast you can play a given passage of music. When you first start playing, you'll probably play very slowly! But as you work on your technique and practice scale passages, you'll be able to increase your speed.
According to Groove Wiz, you don't need strong fingers to play piano, and there aren't really a lot of muscles in your fingers anyway. So while you might not see the physical changes in your hands over time, you'll definitely be able to feel them.
Don't be concerned if no one thinks that you have 'piano hands.' The reality is that the shape of your hands doesn't determine whether you can play the piano! However, the shape of your hands may affect what kind of music you play:
If you have small hands, you might be more inclined to play music by Mozart, Chopin, or Elton John. And if you have larger hands, you might be better off playing Rachmaninoff. But either way, there is so much music available to learn. You're sure to find music that suits your hands, abilities, and style.
Do you have the proverbial piano hands? How has the shape of your hands determined the type of music that you play? Let us know in the comments how your hands have shaped your piano playing. We'd love to hear from you!
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