Why is Your Left Hand Bigger Than Your Right Hand?

Piano Lessons / piano myths / Why is Your Left Hand Bigger Than Your Right Hand?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin. Is your left hand bigger than your right hand? This is a great question. My left hand is bigger than my right hand. I bet a lot of you pianists out there find the same thing. You might wonder why. I’m really interested in comments from all of you to see if this is true! I’ve talked to many pianists who have found that their left hands are slightly larger than their right hands. It has nothing to do with being right-handed or left-handed either.

My left hand has a bigger reach than my right hand.

I can barely play white key tenths around the front of the keys. That’s my maximum reach. I’m going to talk more later about how you can overcome small hands and why it doesn’t really matter. Some of the greatest pianists of all time had very small hands, even smaller than mine! I can just barely reach white key 10ths. I don’t really depend upon it. I rarely play tenths because it takes so much time for me to grab tiny slivers of keys. It’s not really very useful. On the right hand, if I try to do the same thing, I absolutely can’t do it at all. I just can’t reach tenths with my right hand. You will find that this is true for most pianists. So you might wonder why this is the case. It might have to do with how much you practice and play the piano. And of course, natural physiology enters into it. I’m sure this is not a hundred percent universal. The reason pianists’ left hands are usually a bit larger is that left-hand parts tend to be more outstretched than right-hand parts. The right-hand usually has the melody. The left hand has accompaniments involving all kinds of stretching. So, your left-hand ends up being ever so slightly bigger than your right hand, generally speaking.

What are some ways to overcome the limitations of small hands on the piano?

I promised you some tips about small hands. I have relatively small hands. I always wanted to play music beyond my reach. I will say this: if you don’t have a solid octave you’re going to have a hard time with a lot of repertoire. Fortunately, you don’t really need much of a reach for baroque music or even most classical period music. Octaves are somewhat prevalent, but the reaches in earlier period music are not nearly as great as later period music. So you still might be okay, at least in some repertoire, if you don’t have good solid octaves. If you want to be able to play bigger reaches than an octave, or you can’t quite reach an octave as well as you’d like, perhaps what you want to do is to break the chords. I’ve talked about this before. When you break chords very quickly on the pedal, it’s hard to tell that you aren’t reaching all the notes at once! So, if you want to play big chords that you can’t possibly reach, how can you play them? Using the pedal while breaking chords very quickly will create the illusion of playing big chords beyond your reach.

Can you stretch your hands to expand your reach?

When I was a kid, my father taught me a stretching technique he had heard about. It involved gently pushing your hands against the keyboard to get a little more reach. I didn’t find this technique to be at all helpful. What did help me enormously was developing more strength for rapidly breaking chords. Chords that were beyond my reach became accessible to me! And, you’re going to find the same thing. So don’t fret if you don’t have a big reach! If you develop strength in your playing, you can learn how to break chords successfully and it sounds great! In fact, a lot of pianists with large hands will choose to break chords because of the richness of the sound it creates. So, get your hands nice and strong and learn how to break chords quickly and you’ll be fine. Just from playing music that has bigger reaches you can develop a slightly larger reach. Since the left hand generally has bigger stretches than the right hand, you will tend to find your left hand reach will be a smidgen larger than your right hand.

Have you noticed this? I’d love to get a conversation started! Let me know in the comments how you feel about this! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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14 thoughts on “Why is Your Left Hand Bigger Than Your Right Hand?”

  1. Thank you very much for the playing broken chords to reach beyond the octave. Much appreciated. In my case I find that both hands are of equal length and if I play at the tip of the white keys I can reach the 9th with both hands. A bit more difficult though for the black keys when there’s a double white like in a B and a C in between but still reachable

  2. Well, my left hand reach is slightly longer than my right hand reach so I can play the opening chords of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. That’s why! Rachmaninoff obviously knew that about me when he composed the piece! 🙂 I have learned that musicians often have telltale signs of the instruments they play. Violinists have a callus in the skin above their jawbone next to their left ear. Guitarists have longer fingernails on their right hands than on their left. And so forth. It is probably true of anyone who develops a special skill, if you know what to look for. A martial artist carries himself differently, so that thugs know not to mess with him! I wonder what makes a trucker look like one!

  3. If I understood what you said, is that a right hand larger than the left one may be the result of some music for piano that requires more stretching of the left hand. I am not sure of that, I think it could be a genetic issue.
    Then it could also be due to some “works” that we do during out lifetime, and some definetely not suitable for musicians. In my case some 30 plus years of barn and horse works, which required a lot of gripping heavy items. Muscles thend to contract when getting stronger.
    And there is the problem with age. As a teenager I had no problem playing an octave with either hand, in fact even 9 notes. Recently with arthritis setting in (maybe thanks to all the heavy barn works), attempting one octave was like your attempting to reach 10 keys, at least with my right hand.
    It has been a blessing to be able to have a 6″ keyboard. And because of the larger left hand I have to watch out, because it still wants to reach the 8 keys like I did when I was a teenager. My right hand instead is very happy, and no mistakes. But as time progresses, I am at the point that my right hand wishes I had ordered the 5-1/2″ keyboard!!
    I would like to strangle whoever said that this is the “golden age”! 🙂

  4. Robert, what a pertinent topic for me! I have very small hands. I can reach a 9th with my left hand and barely an octave with my right hand. But if I consistently practice scales in octaves, my right hand does do better. Thank you so much for your tutorials!!!

    1. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t absolutely sure of how universal my observation of pianist’s left hands having bigger reaches was until I released this video. I have even heard from other instrumentalists such as violinists who experience the same thing!

  5. The first time I noticed this I was trying to play moonlight sonata 1st mvnt it was so easy for my left hand to reach more than an octave but not as easy as my left hand for my right hand and I didn’t know that’s a common thing between us humans :)) thanks for sharing.

  6. I have just started playing music but I also have the different hand sizes.
    However, in my case I know clearly the reason:
    I used to play a lot of RTS games in my youth. If you do not know, these games are played with keyboard and mouse, where the right hand just needs to move the mouse while the left hand stretches all across the keyboard to hit a lot of hotkeys in quick succession.
    First person shooters might have a similar effect, depending on the exact game.

    I bet something like this is going on with most people nowadays. Because our right hands are occupied by our mice, we tend to reach more on the left hand when trying one-handed text input because we don’t want to let go of the mouse.
    Over the years this trains the left hand to stretch, while the right hand has less of a reason to do so.

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