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Tenths and increasing your hand span |

OvoPiano -- 10/01/2008, 09:58:15 -- msg #42793

Hi all,
How can you play walking/running tenths if you can't reach a tenth?
And can you really do without being able to play full tenth chords?

Is there anyone here who succeeded with increasing his/her hand span or with improving his/her hand flexibility enough to be able to reach intervals that used to be out of reach before? If so what kind of exercises you did and how long it took?

Thank you

CynBad -- 10/01/2008, 13:54:24

I just don't play them.  I play things that sound good to me, in whatever way I can make them work.  It's not the long jump.

But if you're working towards a merit badge in 10ths-playing, by all means, knock yourself out.

knotty -- 10/01/2008, 14:50:26

Ovo,  

I have short hands. 2 years ago, I could barely touch the 9th white to white. Now I can do any 9th with the exception of Bb-C and Eb-F.

First time I saw a teacher, and I kid you not, he yelled to his buddy downstairs "Hey Dave, come see something funny" after seeing the size of the hand.  

My LH can somewhat stretch a minor 10th now, and I'll flirt with 10 white to white.  

You know what bothers me the most, it's not the 10ths, it's the octaves. Anytime I try to play Salsa or Garner, or Garland, my hand gets tense just stretching an octave. And that's just that much more tiring.  

So bottom line, it stretches. That much I know. I didn't stretch them, they stretched on their own. I think there's still some room, but I'm not gonna push it.  

Now, I did ask that question to another teacher. A highly regarded classical pianists, and he said 2 things:  
Do not try to do stretching exercices in a V. Don't use one hand to pull fingers apart. That's dangerous.
What you can do, gently, is push the fingers, one by one, against the piano, I do it at the beginning of this video:


For the story, the first teacher could easily reach an 11th. He guaranteed me that my hand would stretch, and said he could still remember when his teacher asked him for a wide stretch.
The classical teacher was a guy built more or less like me. No large hands, but he could stretch them to a point that it's almost gross. If you watch Keith Jarrett on youtube, you'll see what I mean. He could easily walk 10ths.  

As far as breaking 10th. They told me to do it, I don't believe a word of it, it's easy to say when your hand can just fall straight down ...

Dr. Whack -- 10/01/2008, 21:13:52

I don't have very big hands, but I have stretched out over the years to where I can easily play tenths.  I can even play some 11ths.  When stretched, my  thumb and 5th finger actually form a straight line.  I used to do a sort of "splits" with my thumb and 5th finger against the piano - much like Knotty in his video.  I never forced it or hurt myself, but in time they  definitely stretched out.

I think I also did exercises like playing Oct, 9th, 10th, 9th, Oct etc... (major and minor)

Good luck and don't sweat it.  Like Cynbad said - ya don't have to:)

7 -- 10/01/2008, 21:44:47

ado -- 10/02/2008, 08:40:53

grow your nails    just kidding

I  had the same problem  and I did R,5 pedal 10 and R,5,pedal -10  exercize every day around the circle (5min)and after a half a year I was doing R,5,10 and R,5,-10 arpegois without pedal quite confortably

wdennissorrell -- 10/02/2008, 18:28:25

Whacky at first I couldn't understand how playing on October 9th and 10th could help. LOL

Dr. Whack -- 10/02/2008, 22:13:19

LOL - Excellent

ferizbo -- 10/05/2008, 14:39:12

a while ago i was stretching farther than i was used to and my hand started to cramp up during the day on its own. the whole side of my hand would be indented for a few minuets it scared the hell out of me. I came to the conclusion that it would be best to let them stretch out on their own. You only get one pair. ;)

wdennissorrell -- 10/05/2008, 19:20:45

The difference between stretching and trauma is slight but very significant. You must determine the difference between muscular pain and joint/bone pain. Once you have violated the latter remember that that was too much. I hope that helps. Afterwards remember RICE = rest, ice, compression, and elevation along with NSAIDs.

JMurray -- 10/06/2008, 05:24:15

"Grow your nails"!  
LOL!

Hey, how about prosthetic finger extensions?

Dr. Whack -- 10/06/2008, 09:43:29

You could also try one of these:

OvoPiano -- 10/24/2008, 02:50:10

Hey Dr. Whack
Are the splits the only physical hand exercises you did to increase your span? How long you performed the splits everyday? Before the exercises and increasing your span, what interval was your max?

I also read an old post from "jazzvirtuoso"
He says that he increased his span through exercises because he wanted to play tenths. If you're reading this I wonder whether you could tell me what kind of stretching exercises you did and for how long each day.

Thanks everyone for your replies so far

jp_seattle -- 10/25/2008, 17:01:32

I stated playing tenths by just touching the tips of my fingers to the edge of the keys. The Brazilian pianist Manfrado Fest taught me this and it works. There are also exercises that will stretch yur reach.

Dr. Whack -- 10/25/2008, 23:31:23

When I was born I could only reach a third.  I just kept working at it :)

I also did the exercises I mentioned above...

CynBad -- 10/26/2008, 13:56:03

Holy moly.  do you guys stretch yourselves on racks to try to get taller, too???  Why don't you just create music that fits your own hand?

OvoPiano -- 10/29/2008, 11:07:53

There something no one has said yet about these exercises?

For how long you practiced them in order to increase your span?
Everyday? Each other day? For 15 minutes? For 30 minutes? For 1 hour?

Dr. Whack -- 10/29/2008, 11:54:19

Just a few seconds here and there.  I used to use my desk while I was at school.  Then on the keyboard I would do the Octave, 9th, 10th, 9th, octave. However when stretching my entire body on a rack, I would try to get in a couple of hours a day

kensuguro -- 10/30/2008, 05:47:10

heh, I laughed because this week, I got tenths written in my textbook!  Half the song was in tenths, and I'm stumped as to what to do.  I guess I could just play the normal voicings for now...  Gosh, if I could only master it in 2 weeks.  haha.

I do wish I didn't have to stretch or try to do things beyond my normal physical capability, but 10ths are just functionally so awesome!  So I guess I'll just start stertching.  I wonder if my hands are even capable of doing it though, since at nearly 180 degrees apart, my hand barely spans a 9th.  But I guess if you add an inch to that, 10th seems feasible.

CynBad -- 10/30/2008, 08:49:08

This is all so strange to me.  Although I can play minor 10ths with no problem, the whole 10ths issue never really came up.  It was just not an issue.  And I did a 4-year degree in Piano Performance.  
I just don't even remember hand size or 10ths or reach being an issue at all.  Generally the first thing you do with a piece of music is determine fingerings that work for you.  Sometimes you split things between hands differently. Sometimes you roll or break a chord quickly if you can't quite reach.  It was just never an issue.  I can't imagine somebody trying to artificially stretch their hands.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Dr. Whack -- 10/30/2008, 10:08:44

I'm surprised that you take such an issue with this.  

First of all, I don't think there is anything artificial about stretching any body part where there is room to do so.

Secondly, I agree that during a 4-year piano degree the subject of 10ths would not be much of an issue.  As you said, fingerings are sort of choreographed when learning to play a written piece of music and usually there is a way to roll or fudge things that seem unplayable.

However, being able to play 10ths comfortably when playing solo jazz piano can be quite an asset, especially in stride-like situations.  I love the sound of walking 10ths, so I worked at being able to do it.

At the same time, I do not think less of a player who does not play 10ths whether by choice or the limits of hand size.  Music is music with or without 10ths:)

smg -- 10/30/2008, 10:30:34

A lot of good ideas/insights above;here's my take on this-

I think for a player dealing with this,the head trip involved(i.e."I'm going to try to play 10ths which I can't execute physically yet but might be able to if I work on this or that",etc....)might be secondary to the following factors involved in any given player who COULD stretch to tenths' situation-

Voicings that use a "spread LH concept" which are unfamiliar in this form but mastered in a closer voicing concept using the same notes can be practiced as an alternate form of the 2-hand voicing type you already know..this way you're not just spending time trying to make the tenth but internalizing it's use in a given situation you're already comfortable in..........

CynBad -- 10/30/2008, 10:44:56

Dr. Whack, I don't take issue with it.  I just think people are way too concerned about it.  Regular technical practice is effective in stretching the hand as far as it will naturally go without injury.
But people here have been talking about special exercises outside of practice, and I remember one thread where someone talked about even getting surgery to cut the webbing between the fingers and increase the reach!  I'm just saying that you can end up crippling yourself if you're not careful with your hands.  And then you won't be able to play at all -- much less 10ths.

If you can manage to play walking 10ths, that's great.  But music is an art, and people should be expressing themselves in their own way, using their own bodies, not trying to make their bodies conform to somebody else's music.  Jazz in particular!  Jazz actually ought to be FREER than classical music!  You should have even MORE opportunity to finger and reconfigure things the way you want.

Dr. Whack -- 10/30/2008, 11:25:58

Okay - we agree:)

(And I was just kidding about stretching myself on a rack for two hours a day - I bought elevator shoes instead :)

CynBad -- 10/30/2008, 12:57:23

I have a friend who hangs upside down like a bat.

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