Training ten fingers to play among eighty-eight keys on a piano requires years of regular training. Many potential pianists are curious to know if the demands of playing the piano changes your hands.
Playing piano does not affect the structure of your hands. If you play a lot, over time your fingers will gain dexterity, become more agile, and be able to stretch farther apart, but the underlying bone structure will be unaffected.
While the physical shape of your fingers and hands may not change, there are other ways that piano playing affects your hands.
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How does piano affect your hands?
As a pianist, you might wonder if playing piano would make fat fingers skinny from all of the exercise, or if your fingers would get bulkier from gaining muscle.
While the tendons in your hands will strengthen, you will not see any noticeable change in the shape or size of your fingers.
There are players who report that the tone of their fingers and hand improved during periods of their lives when they were playing more. In truth, if you are playing the piano properly, there should not be any structural changes to your hand caused by playing.
Some also wonder if their hands might widen from stretching them apart frequently. Your hand will not physically widen, however, you will only be able to stretch your fingers farther apart more easily.
This is because the webbing between your fingers becomes more lax with time and consistent practice. It’s similar to how a string player’s fretboard hand may be capable of stretching wider than their bowing hand.
Be mindful that you should not force your hands to widen, and it is unhealthy for your hands to be hyperextended. The stretch of the fingers should happen naturally over time and should never be pushed.
Do your fingers get longer if you play the piano?
The term “piano fingers” is used often in reference to hands with long, tapered fingers. It would seem that these types of fingers and hands would be ideal for playing the piano, and many people believe that these types of hands were sculpted from playing.
While intensive piano practice can sculpt the muscles of your hands, wrists, and forearms, your fingers cannot get longer from playing the piano.
If you ever hear a pianist claim that their fingers grew longer from playing piano, the truth is that their fingers were going to grow regardless of whether s/he played the piano.
Pianists often begin playing at a young age, and as we age our fingers will typically grow with the rest of our body.
What is the difference between a pianist’s hand and a non-pianist one?
Regular piano practice develops muscles in the hand, wrist, and forearm, but not enough to visually distinguish a pianist’s hands from a non-pianist’s hands.
There are pianists that report having a noticeable muscle between the thumb and index finger. It is possible that pianists will have a more muscular palm, however, there isn’t any hard evidence of that fact.
For example, legendary pianist and composer Frederic Chopin’s left hand was casted in bronze after his untimely death. The muscles of his palm do appear to be more developed than an average hand, so there may be some difference in the hands of very serious players.
The strength of your fingers and hands isn’t particularly important to piano playing anyways. It is more about the speed and dexterity a pianist develops with practice, which is not visually apparent when just looking at the player’s hands.
A skilled piano player has incredible hand-eye coordination and a thorough understanding of the music and the instrument.
It is the pianist’s mind and diligent training that helps them play well, rather than anything to do with the natural size of shape of their hands or fingers.
Do pianists have more muscular fingers?
The muscles that move our fingers are in the palm and forearm of our bodies. There aren’t really any muscles inside your fingers aside from the arrector pili muscles, which serve no function in regards to piano playing.
“Strong fingers” is a phrase that is often affiliated with pianists, but it’s not really about strength. Contrary to what may appear, strength is not required to play the piano.
To facilitate difficult passages of music that are described as needing “strength”, agility and endurance are the actual requirements. Building stamina and control of the muscles is a huge part of playing the piano rather than physical strength.
For example, playing loudly on the piano is misconceived as requiring more strength, when in fact, it is the velocity of which you approach the key that actually affects the volume.
The power of a loud sound is created using this velocity along with the weight of the player’s arms.
A serious pianist might develop slightly noticeable muscle in the base of thumb on the palm, but it’s not enough to make any dramatic change.
Are short fingers a limitation for playing piano?
Those with shorter fingers might come across some obstacles in certain music, but as long you can reach an octave, there aren’t really limitations.
There are advantages to having larger or smaller hands, and this is dependent on the demands of the music.
A piece of music with a lot of large stretches is likely more challenging for someone with shorter fingers. On the other hand, a player with larger fingers may find that music featuring rapid scale passage causes their fingers to trip over each other more easily.
One advantage to having shorter fingers is that they lend themselves to rapid passages that involve more rotation of the hand and fingers.
Players with any size hands can train to overcome any obstacles encountered, and there are some aspects of piano playing that players with certain hand and finger sizes can master more quickly.
Composers tend to write piano repertoire that suits their personal hand size. In some music, it is apparent if the composer has/had large hands because the music has wide intervals and stretches to play.
If a smaller-handed pianist encounters music like this, such as a chord in which it is difficult to reach all the notes, they may learn to roll the chord to overcome the limitations of their hand size.
This is very common, and few players are really limited by having smaller hands.
Overall, hand and finger size isn’t a factor in how well you can learn to play the piano. There are great pianists with unusually large hands and there are great pianists with unusually small hands.
Does piano help with double-jointed fingers?
People with double-jointed fingers have a greater than average range of mobility in their fingers. This is also called hypermobility and can actually work to the player’s advantage if approached properly.
Proper piano playing involves keeping the fingers curved and the fingertips firm. Those with double-jointedness will need to ensure that their fingers don’t bend backwards, which occurs more easily in hypermobile fingers.
Not allowing the joint to turn over may require slow, deliberate practice to build consistency.
The joints of the fingers can build strength and endurance so that the joints do not collapse and the pianist maintains a curved shape all the way through the fingertips.
Playing the piano can assist in gaining control of your joints in your fingers. This would include helping those with double-jointed fingers control the direction their fingers bend.
There are studies that suggest there might even be some advantage to having double-jointed fingers and playing the piano.
More stability in larger stretches is thought to be possible, because those with double-joints have a greater range of mobility.
Virtuoso musicians such as Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff and violinist Niccolo Paganini were believed to be hypermobile. The flexibility and span of their hands is believed to have been caused by hypermobility, or double-jointedness, possibly giving them an advantage in their playing.