Piano Music for Small Hands

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Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. What are good pieces of music for people with small hands? Many of you know that I have rather small hands. Fortunately I have a good, solid octave. I can even reach most 9ths. Although, I can’t quite reach a 9th from above the keys. I can only reach a 10th if I grab one key and stretch to grab the other. But that’s not very practical. I can’t quite reach it with my right hand. As many of you know, your right hand is a little bit smaller than your left hand, if you’re like most pianists, from all the years of stretching. The left hand generally has more outstretched reaches than the right hand.

You can play music beyond your reach, as many great pianists have in the past.

Josef Hofmann had such small hands that Steinway actually built a piano for him with a smaller keyboard! This is a technology that some companies are even working on today. I have videos on this subject for you as well. You can see one here.

What repertoire is ideal for people with small hands?

Early period music is perfect! During the romantic era, the pedal was utilized extensively. The reach was greater, generally. However, the key to being able to play music beyond your reach is capturing notes you can’t reach on the pedal and breaking the chords very quickly. You can hardly tell they are broken the way they’re caught on the pedal. That is a technique that many pianists use in order to play music beyond their reach. It’s very effective. It does not in any way hinder the music.

If you have really small hands, and you don’t want to struggle, the music of Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, or Haydn is great.

The instrument wasn’t as highly developed yet during the time these composers lived. It didn’t have the sustain pedal that we enjoy today. The music doesn’t demand a lot of big reaches. Think about Bach two part inventions. There’s never more than one note in each hand at a time anyway! That’s going to be splendid for anyone with a smaller reach. But even Mozart is really accessible for people with small hands.

There is a wealth of music that will fall right in your hands, even if an octave is all you can reach.

Now, if you don’t have a solid octave, it is more of a challenge. You might want to look into some of those smaller keyboards. It would be wonderful if this became a standard. It’s possible that if this became a standard, a pianist could choose among different sized keys. Why is this size the standard? It doesn’t have to be this way! It’s just what evolved. If you can’t reach an octave, a smaller keyboard could be just the thing for you. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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9 thoughts on “Piano Music for Small Hands”


  1. As a teenager the octave was not a problem, in fact I could reach 9 keys. With age and arthritis even the octave sent me to the therapist more than once. Now I am perfectly happy with my 6″ keyboard. But since my left hand has been cured completely, now I have to pay attention because of habit, it ends up reaching 9 keys. My right hand was not cured completely and it won’t attempt to go beyond one octave. I think it would be even happier with the 5-1/2″ keyboard!

    1. I too have to be very careful with my right hand. If I am at all out of practice, I must carefully build up muscle tissue to overcome weakness in my right thumb joint. That’s why I take a digital piano with me on vacation!

  2. The way you play tenths in Carnival doesn’t seem to be a detriment, although I can clearly hear what you are doing. The two notes are not simultaneous. But the fact is, it SOUNDS like your INTERPRETATION of the music and adds to your expressiveness in my opinion.

    On the other hand, different size keyboards may not work, even though you can pull the keyboard out of the piano, simply because the keys have to line up with the action, and if the keys are smaller, that might not happen, especially on the ends of the keyboard. While the construction could be designed to line up, it might represent an engineering problem.

      1. Checking link, thank you.

        I would seriously consider getting a slightly smaller keyboard for my Knabe, but at my age (78), I’m not sure I would be able to adjust to it, and I might start missing notes. But the incentive would be so I could play the last chord in the opening sequence of chords in Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto. I can play the others, but that one gives me difficulty because of the placement of the inner notes.

      2. Years ago, playing in bands, Casio had an affordable, programmable, digital synthesizer which was unheard of in the 1980’s! But it had smaller keys. I found it to be a seamless adjustment to the smaller keys! As for modifying your piano with smaller keys, it’s a really big job that is highly specialized. So you will probably stick with the normal size keys anyway!

  3. I remember seeing some of those synthesizers, but never tried one.

    I don’t know how difficult it would be to replace the keyboard on the Knabe since the keyboard can be pulled out readily enough. When I had my piano serviced, he did pull it out. If there is some technical problem I don’t know about, obviously I don’t know about it, and I don’t know what would be the case with other makes of piano. I did have considerable work done on the family heirloom piano when I got it, paid a lot of money for that, so doing that would not be beyond what I have already done, although they’d have to do it on site. But it’s not something I have considered up to this point. I will think about it when I have more time.

  4. There is no excuse for manufacturers of electronic pianos not to offer alternately sized keys on their instruments. Why they are not widely available is beyond me. I think their are one or two instruments with smaller keys but they are currently very expensive and not readily available to the general public….

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