Did Horowitz Play the Piano with Flat Fingers?

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If you’ve taken piano lessons and listened to your teacher, they undoubtedly told you to play with rounded fingers – having your hand shaped like you’re holding a ball. If this is true, then why did one of the greatest pianists of all time play with flat fingers? Did Vladimir Horowitz play with flat fingers? The answer is yes; there is some truth to this!

Difference Between Round Fingers and Flat Fingers

You may wonder why you’re supposed to play the piano with rounded fingers? It’s very simple: if you play with your fingers outstretched you don’t get the benefit of using all of your finger joints. First of all, some fingers are longer than others. So thumbs and pinkies don’t reach all the keys! When rounding the fingers, they all form a straight line so your fingers are all over keys. Also, when playing fast passage work, it is necessary to play with curved fingers in order to play with speed. However, in slow passages, you’ll see Horowitz and other pianists such as Glenn Gould sometimes playing with flat fingers. This technique can allow for different tonal gradations which are difficult to achieve with rounded fingers. On the accompanying video, you will hear two versions of the beginning of Chopin’s Prelude in E minor, one with rounded fingers and the other playing with outstretched fingers.

Can You Hear the Difference?

I’m interested in your impressions of this demonstration. Do you see the value of playing with rounded fingers for fast passage work? And do you hear a difference in the tone playing with flat fingers? How many of you have tried this technique? We would be very interested in your thoughts about this. Again, this is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store 949-244-3729 info@LivingPianos.com