Are there any professional classical pianists with short stubby fingers? Would having short stubby fingers disadvantage someone from playing and if so, how much of a disadvantage would it be?
Short fingers (small hands) make it hard to play a chord spanning more than an octave. I suppose a good pianist could fudge a bit by rolling through from bottom to top (letting go of the bottom key to reach the top key), but they’d still be playing something different than is on the page.
I hear that Elton John has been able to scrape together a good living playing piano with short stubby fingers… but he’s not currently playing classical music.
A bit of searching on Google or YouTube reveals examples of children who can play pieces of the classical repertoire pretty impressively. And the hands of any child would probably be considered short by adult standards.
Someone with small hands or short stubby fingers might be limited in what they could play. For instance, they might not be able to stretch a tenth, and couldn’t play pieces that had been written by/for pianists with particularly large hands to take advantage of their long reach.
I was going to mention Sir Elton, both for his stubby fingers, and for the fact that, AFAIK, he’s never played classical piano professionally. I have no idea if playing pop music on the piano is less demanding of that reach or not. I’d also note that (at least since becoming famous) he largely plays music which he’s written himself – I would imagine that he’s rather unlikely to write a chord which he can’t, himself, play.
I have short fingers and can barely stretch to a cord so I have to be very selective about what music I play and often have to leave notes out altogether, particularly in chords. I’m by no means a professional pianist, but I have a Certificate in Pianoforte Performance.
According to Wikipedia…
“At the age of 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. According to one of his instructors, John promptly played back, like a “gramophone record”, a four-page piece by Handel that he heard for the first time.”
Not professional… but certainly classical.
I give you Michel Petrucciani, one of my favorite jazz pianists, sadly now deceased. His career was remarkable, since he was born with so-called “glass bones” disease (osteogenesis imperfecta).
This is only a guess…but it seems that a short stubby finger would be able to move faster and strike keys harder than a long slim finger (think shorter distance to the hinge point). So while a pianist with short stubby fingers might be at a disadvantage on chords and long reaches, he or she might have a comensurate adventage on trills or runs.
I don’t believe Alfred Brendel has very long fingers. He does have an extra finger, though, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice. I have no cite, but that was always my casual impression.
I also highly doubt many of the elite female classical pianists have hands of comparable size to their male “counterparts” – it didn’t slow my first serious teacher down at all.
There isn’t really a lot of music out there written with the assumption that you have more than a 10th.
And, yes, one could play pop music without too large a reach. One of the things you are allowed to do with pop music is revoice the chords so that you can play them. Do that to classical music, and you are perverting the piece. You are supposed to roll just the note you can’t play, although I think it sounds silly if you don’t roll the whole chord.
But, as I said, classical music written for the piano rarely goes above a tenth, which most players can stretch their hands to accommodate. The only time I’ve heard someone have to roll is when they were playing music written for other instruments (in my case, a choral piece.)
The late Alicia de Larrocha was less than five feet tall. Her fingers were not only short and stubby, but also arthritic. None of this interfered with her amazing technique.
I have no doubt that one can play nearly every piece with short fingers, but my guess is that there are simply some pieces that those professional musicians just don’t play. There are chords in Chopins music that are well over an octave. I have large hands and I can barely reach them myself. As was stated, one can play the notes sequentially fast enough that it is almost indistinguishable, but it is not what is written.
Josef Hofmann was a virtuoso pianist who had notably small hands, and had a piano specially constructed for him with smaller keys;
Yeah, I read that, as well. It does look like he studied classical music for several years as a teen, but by the time he was 15, he was playing popular music at a pub.