Octaves with fingers 1 & 4 - need advice

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Hi everyone I need some help here. I have somewhat small hands and I am currently learning Beethoven 6 Easy Variations in G Major. I am having difficulty with Var. III measures 9-10-11-12. I have to example D-D octave with 1-5, connect C-C with 1-4 and slur. I cannot seem to connect my 5-4 while hitting the lower C. When I practice this alone trying to lift the thumb early and connect my thumb hits two notes and my hand hurts. My teacher says I am to stiff and need to relax, but I don't know how to relax when I have to stretch so much and feeling pain. I'm afraid to over practice because of the pain I feel.

If you can understand this thread any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Cathy

-- Cathy Morabito (cathym@videotron.ca), April 06, 2001


Here comes the "hate mail"...but I think the whole 4 to 5 fingering for octaves is over-rated and often unnecessary. I've read of too many professional, seasoned artists who have injured themselves this way. With careful pedaling and listening, you can often get the SOUND of the slur without actually connecting with your fingers. When it comes to actual injury, I'd rather have a student drop the lower note of an octave than risk doing any damage. You also need to find repertoire that is appropiate for your hand size...and none of us can tell what THAT is without looking at your hand and it's reach. Avoid prolonged stretching at any cost. I also wonder if your wrist is flexible during this slur. In college I had one professor insist that the RH octaves in the beginning of Schumann's Papillons had to be connected with 4 & 5; another encouraged me to use all 5's. You WILL get different opinions on this; ultimately you need to listen to your own body and experiment with what works best for you. If it hurts......STOP DOING IT! :-)

-- John Bisceglia (Bisceglia2000@yahoo.com), April 07, 2001.


your problem is very common. Many people have small hands. That doesn't mean that you have to get frustrated. There is even a book written on how to face problems in piano playing with small hands. In yoyur case, you don't need to make a real hand legato in your octaves. I would try the fingering, 1-5, 1-5. How can you make it sound legato? In many places in piano music we have to "cheat". You should try to use slide from one octave to another, stay as close as you can to the keys. With a very sensitive pedal (half or even quarter pedal) and some practice you can get an legato effect. I hope it'll help you. By the way, Josef Hofmann (Rachmaninoff called him the greates pianist of all times) had so small hands that he barely could reach an octave.

-- they call me "Andy" (amb7078@griffon.mwsc.edu), April 07, 2001.

Cathy, I have small hands too, and I always do octaves with 1 and 5, with occasional use of 1-4 on the black keys. Everyone is right, different teachers will give different opinions. But we have the pedal, and it's great for cheating. Actually, I think a lot of the legato effect comes also from listening to one octave, and imagining it blending into the next one. It's a matter of blending the sounds and making the 2nd octave the right dynamic level. So in a 2 note slurred octave, the first would be louder, hold the pedal, listen to how the resolution octave will blend in, and play it softer, but imagine it legato. If I try to play legato chords or octaves by using finger legato, it comes out sounding stiff and strained. I have found that by loosening up, using the pedal, listening to the sound, and pretending it's legato, everything comes out sounding better.

-- Julie2 (knerr@uiuc.edu), April 09, 2001.

Thank you everyone for your replies. I have been trying the suggestions and they are working. Let's hope my teacher will agree with them, she's one tuff cookie.

-- Cathy Morabito (cathym@videotron.ca), April 10, 2001.

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