When pianists’ hands fly around the piano keyboards and produce wonderful music, do you wonder if they have magic hands? Seriously, pianist hands vs normal hands, what are the differences?
You may have often heard “piano hands” which commonly implies that pianists have large and thin hands with long fingers. This could not be further from the truth. Pianists’ hands come in many different shapes and sizes.
In reality, there is no structural or size difference in terms of pianist hands vs normal hands. However, there are some differences. In this article, we will demystify the differences.
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Hand Sizes vs Hand Spans
The average length of an adult male’s hand is 7.6 inches (19.3 cm) — measured from the tip of the longest finger to the crease under the palm. The average length of an adult female’s hand is 6.8 inches (17.27 cm).
The average width of an adult male’s hand is 3.5 inches (8.89 cm) – measured at the widest part where the fingers connect to the palm. The average width of an adult female’s hand is 3.1 inches (7.87 cm).
Most pianists have hands that are within the normal size range and there are also some ethnic differences in hand sizes.
The two-dimensional metrics do not equate directly to comfortable piano playing. The third measurement is the hand span. It is actually more important for any piano player to be able to stretch his or her hand over an octave and still maintain the agility to fluently play the music.
Australian independent researcher Rhonda Boyle presented a paper on Pianist Hand Spans. Her research includes 473 adult pianists, 216 nonpianists, and 49 children/teenagers. Rhonda found that highly acclaimed solo performers tend to have bigger hand spans than others.
In terms of hand spans, pianists have the ability to stretch wider due to constant practice.
Finger Length: The Longer The Better?
It is not necessary the longer the better. While long fingers may have a larger hand span, short or stocky fingers can also play piano beautifully. The basic here is to develop strong fingers and good techniques. Generally, any shape or size of hand can play the piano. Practice with right finger techniques makes real piano hands.
Regardless of the finger length or shape, you will need to develop your piano hands through practice which strengthens your fingers and stretches your hand spans.
Does Playing Piano Change Your Hands?
Playing piano does not change your hand size and shape. However, through practice, you will make your finger stronger and more flexible. Pianists’ fingers enjoy more agility and they can easily lift and press down one finger at a time, especially the 4th and 5th fingers.
It is worth noting that playing piano is not just using hands. The rest of your body is also part of the performance. For instance, when playing powerful notes, it is actually your forearms that apply the force, not your fingers hammering down. Incorrect use of force to play may cause hand injury.
Are Pianist Fingers Stronger?
Hand span, finger agility, and strength are essential for pianists. This is where the differences are in terms of pianist hands vs normal hands. Only through countless hours of practice do pianists condition their hands to play complex pieces with fine control and transition ease.
Hand strength allows pianists the freedom to play more expressive music from soft to forceful and anything in between.
How To Make Your Fingers Stronger
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Like any physical training, you’ll need to train your fingers. Obviously, practice is the way to go. But how to practice?
First of all, consistency is critical. Practicing 10 to 15 minutes daily is much better than practicing 1 to 2 hours once in a while. Of course, most pianists practice several hours every day.
Second, practice scales. Even though you may have already known the scales, regular repeating and practicing are still very beneficial, as we know that scales are behind all the chords and arpeggio. Additionally, through practice scales, you’ll have your fingers, ears, and mind immersed in these scales. You can recognize them quickly which will greatly enhance your ability to learn any new songs.
Third, systematically do finger exercises. The most common finger exercise book is Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist which includes sixty progressive exercises. These exercises will improve your transitions and controls.
Lastly, inject some fun into your daily practice. If you are using a digital piano, you can add some accompaniments or drum rhythms to your practice by using onboard features. Moreover, mix your favorite songs with your finger exercises.
Hands of any size can learn to play piano. When considering pianist hands vs normal hands, there is no difference in size and shape. However, pianists stretch their hand spans, and develop their hands in agility, flexibility, and strength through constant practicing and playing.
There are many ways to develop your piano hands. Consistently practicing scales and performing finger exercises are critical for your success.
Anyone can learn to play piano and become a pianist. Hand size is not the determining fact. Playing piano requires good hand-eye coordination, an understanding of music theory, and enjoying the music.
One last note: should you decide to use an electric keyboard to learn to play, be sure to use a keyboard with a weighted hammer action keyboard or at least a touch-sensitive keyboard which is vital to develop your finger strength.