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Quick consensus: Who can play tenths?


konaboy

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HI there!

 

I'm really struggling to play tenths with the left hand (eg C and E an octave above). This is a very useful technique for blues and jazz for example. My problem is it really aches after a few minutes and I can't hit the notes with any accuracy.

 

I was just curious how many of you can achieve this, and if it is possible to train the hands.

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Your hands do stretch with time. I couldn't play tenths in high school very accurately, but now I can. I still have to play broken tenths between a D and an F#, for example, but there are very few of us who can play that without 'rolling' the distance. (The other solutuion would be to make a piano with keys that are less wide than standard.)

 

Oscar Peterson can play (as I've read) walking tenths with his left hand.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

Oscar Peterson can play (as I've read) walking tenths with his left hand.

Yeah, his lh is SICK! I read somewhere that Keith Jarrett has really small hands, that he can barely reach a ninth, so I guess anything is possible!
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In the foreward to the second edition of "Playing the Piano for Pleasure", the author, Charles Cooke [an amateur pianist, who, long ago, used to interview famous virtusos for New Yorker magazine], wrote, "Too late for inclusion, I heard a story in which a surprise artist revealed, in a rapier-pointed phrase, his conviction that, in the realm of pianism, mind is sovereign over muscle, brain over brawn. It was told to me by the late Moriz Rosenthal, a master of the acid epigram, about the late Leopold Godowsky, a master of the elucidating epigram. Godowsky, it seems, was at a party at which, among others Josef Hofmann and a large outspoken lady were present. The lady, an ardent amateur pianist, was excited at being in the company of these titans of the keyboard. She shook hands with Hofmann and exclaimed, ' What small hands you have, Dr. Hofmann!', then, 'and yours, too, Mr. Godowsky!' How in the world, gentlemen, do you play the piano so magnificently with such small hands?' Godowsky replied, 'Where in the world, madam, did you get the idea that we play the piano with our hands ?'

 

Great story, but I still would rather nail 10ths rather that have to walk them.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."
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I can play tenths. Tenths are really great in playing ballads and stride styles.

Doing stretching exercises will help improve your reach. Stretching the webbing between the index finger/thumb and the 4th/5th fingers has helped me increase my reach. But, it takes a while and you need to proceed with care and not overdo it.

I read that Dave Brubeck was frustrated with not having a longer reach and had the webbing between his thumb and index fingers surgically removed. :eek: As a result, he can now reach a 12th.

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

Oscar Peterson can play (as I've read) walking tenths with his left hand.

Too bad that a few years ago he had a brain stroke and was left with his left hand almost useless... :(
Korg PA3X Pro 76 and Kronos 61, Roland G-70, Integra 7 and BK7-m, Casio PX-5S, Fender Stratocaster with Fralin pickups, Fender Stratocaster with Kinman pickups, 1965 Gibson SG Standard
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Dave Horne we must have the same hands. White key 10ths are ok, but D to F# forget it. And I can't possibly play the opening chords of the Rach 2. The man's hands must have been massive.

 

..BTW good to see you didn't bike off a cliff or anything :D

"........! Try to make It..REAL! compared to what? ! ! ! " - BOPBEEPER
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Originally posted by konaboy:

HI there!

 

I'm really struggling to play tenths with the left hand (eg C and E an octave above). I was just curious how many of you can achieve this, and if it is possible to train the hands.

The usual answer - practice.

 

Two years ago I could not reach tenths. I started working on it when I shook hands with a top player who played tenths with ease and discovered his hands were no larger than mine - I had always imagined I had small hands.

 

Now I can reach white note tenths with comfort with my left hand and with slightly less comfort I can reach a white to black note 10th on a good day and slowly. I have some facility walking tenths at moderate tempos.

 

As well as playing straight tenths its real useful for patterns like a 12/8 feel pattern bass (ie root-tenth, third-fifth, third fifth) and funk rocking patterns James Booker style. And of course it makes a lot of Chopin playable since you can just go to the left hand position for the pattern instead of having to worry about rocking or otherwise shifting the hand.

 

To get there I worked on my hand flexibility. And I still am - my level of comfort and facility continues to increase. At the keyboard work on stretching intervals from one finger to the next - I can now reach a fourth comfortably between 4 and 5 and a fifth awkwardly - as well as your total stretch.

 

Away from the keyboard you can also do hand stretching exercises.

 

Don't overdo it, and don't force it. Like any stretching exercise it is important to avoid tearing anything as that will heal short and undo all your good work. Even micro injuries that you don't even notice can set you back so go gently.

 

BTW, I believe it is good for your putting and chipping too because it helps you to relax the hand.

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I can play 'em if it's a white key on both ends, but I have trouble hitting something like a Db tenth with a black key on one end and a white key on the other. It also depends on what other notes I have to voice inside of the tenth.

Stephen Fortner

Principal, Fortner Media

Former Editor in Chief, Keyboard Magazine

Digital Piano Consultant, Piano Buyer Magazine

 

Industry affiliations: Antares, Arturia, Giles Communications, MS Media, Polyverse

 

 

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..BTW good to see you didn't bike off a cliff or anything :D [/QB]

I biked in Prague, another city below Prague (whose name I can not spell), Salzburg and Wiesbaden ... two and half weeks of vacation - eating, drinking and biking. Only two days of rain the entire time. We returned yesterday and I still might take today off from practicing.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by gangsu:

wow Dave, did you leave your house on your bike, or did you have it strapped to the top of your car? ;)

Actually we travel in relative luxury. We own a VW Transporter and the bikes fit in the back area and attached to the VW is a mobile home (we call them caravans here). The caravan sleeps four but it's just my wife and me. We have a small kitchen, a table that seats four and a small bathroom. We usually just bike from the campsite to wherever we're going. You really see a lot more on a bicycle (I think).

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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isn't there a song about that... sixteen tons, what d'ya get.. ..something like that. anyway, sounds like fun!

 

And I've got to stop hitting that wink button before I'm in real trouble.

 

Good to see you back. :wave:

"........! Try to make It..REAL! compared to what? ! ! ! " - BOPBEEPER
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Originally posted by Dreamer:

Originally posted by Dave Horne:

Oscar Peterson can play (as I've read) walking tenths with his left hand.

Too bad that a few years ago he had a brain stroke and was left with his left hand almost useless... :(
This is too true unfortunately. I saw him a few weeks back in Montreal. For ballads he used the left, but when cutting lose, his left just rested on the keys.

What we record in life, echoes in eternity.

 

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I'm another one who can play tenths as long as there are no black keys involved.

 

Besides hand size, I guess a lot of it has to do with how wide you can stretch. I can open my hands up so that the pinky and thumb form a straight line - not that uncommon a talent, but I do know quite a few people who can't do that.

 

dB

:snax:

 

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Besides hand size, I guess a lot of it has to do with how wide you can stretch. I can open my hands up so that the pinky and thumb form a straight line - not that uncommon a talent, but I do know quite a few people who can't do that.

 

dB

I just tried that. Without effort, pinky and thumb form a "V" shape. But then, by slowly stretching, I very nearly got them to a straight line. I then put them on the keyboard and the tip of my thumb touched the E while pinky on the C. So that wouldn't exactly do much while trying to play a 10th. I do have smaller hands, shorter fingers though.
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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

I can open my hands up so that the pinky and thumb form a straight line - not that uncommon a talent, but I do know quite a few people who can't do that.

 

dB

Me, for one. :rolleyes::)

 

Anyway, if we're talking about left hand, I can reach every major tenth solid, with the possible exception of Bb-D and Db-F. For most of those, but not all, I can also play a major or minor seventh inside the tenth (with the index finger) at the same time.

In practical playing, I'm not able to to play stride tenth with alternating chords, Fats Waller-style, but I tend to use them in a more legato fashion. I use tenths a lot for jazz piano solo, interspersed with many other left hand comp styles (walking bass, arpeggios, fifth, quartal voicings). I find that you can use them in a very broad range of styles. For example, in a swing style you can alternate the bass note with the guide tones for a 'fake stride', only occasionally giving a syncopated accent in unison with the R.H.; for a modern style, you can play them with more rhythmic freedom, and superimpose alternate modes or upper structures with the right hand.

 

I don't have big hands. When I started studying tenth, I could barely reach C-E; I find that with time, I've gained at least one key worth of extension, probably more.

 

Some useful stretching exercises:

Take an open position chord, tonic-fifth-seventh-tenth from bottom to top (I know you aren't going to play the fifth in jazz, but bear with me).

Arpeggiate it, r.h. 1-2-3-5, l.h. 5-3-2-1, two octaves apart. *Don't* try to keep your fingers on every key; use a flexible wrist. After arpeggiating it in an up-and-down fashion, start breaking the arpeggio in various ways; for example, tonic-seventh-fifth-tenth, or tonic-tenth-fifth-seventh. Then, start playing two notes at a time. The easiest one will be tonic and fifth together, then seventh and tenth together. Play legato, and always with the aid of wrist and arm movement. Go ahead with the other combinations - the last, and harder, one will be tonic and tenth, alternating with fifth and seventh. If you can't do that yet, just stop - try to avoid any excessive stretching.

 

Very important: Do this on *every* chord, starting from every tonic. :freak::D

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I can play all the tenths quite handily. There are two that give me a little difficulty if I haven't warmed up: Eb-G (that pesky F gets in the way) and Db-F. Some years ago a teacher showed me some stretching exercises which greatly increased my reach. So you can increase your span with practice but you have to be careful to avoid injury. You don't want to end up like Schumann: "In an attempt to extend the flexibility of the fourth finger of his right hand he devised a means of suspending it in a sling while employing the other fingers. This only led to a paralysis of the right hand in 1832, shattering all hopes of a concert career."
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy, next to my wife; it is my most absorbing interest, next to my work." ...Charles Cooke
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Originally posted by Dave Bryce:

I'm another one who can play tenths......besides hand size, I guess a lot of it has to do with how wide you can stretch. I can open my hands up so that the pinky and thumb form a straight line - not that uncommon a talent, but I do know quite a few people who can't do that.

 

dB

Count me in too Dave!! :thu: Heyyyy, I thought that I was the only one :P , but I have big hands and long fingers so I am told. I use these chords all the time and with no problems in the black keys. But then again, I thought that everyone else could, until my peers started commenting and looking at me crazy because of my wiiiiiiiide voicings. It's sometimes funny cause, my hands and fingers never looked over-sized to me. However, my daughter has some long fingers...I wonder where she got them from? :D

 

OTOH, when I started playing years ago, I used to stretch my fingers daily to see if I could stretch over an octave. Now I'm able to comfortably reach a tenth. :thu:

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