I learning how to play the piano by myself, using an electronic keyboard and a software called Synthesia along with some books and online resources.

I am checking out some songs, and some have chords with a really long distance between keys. Like in this example:

enter image description here

As you can see, it is impossible for the average human hand to reach all these keys at the same time, the range between them is pretty big (11 1/2 keys).

So I have 2 questions. First is if there is a max limit distance between keys in piano chords, and secondly, if the image I posted is a correct and "playable" chord.

  • Do you have to play the chord with one hand? Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:28
  • Yes (blue lines represents one hand, green lines represent the other hand). Later in the song it becomes more obvious, see here: i.imgur.com/r2HGIxi.png
    – Pacha
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 13:35

3 Answers 3

  1. First question: there is no rule, no "max limit" between notes. Sometimes you'll have to figure out yourself the way you spread the notes between your two hands (try the Bach chorales... you're a conductor with four voices, the relative heights of the notes are written relative to the singer's tessitura, not the keyboard player's hands). You'll also face these problems in orchestra piano reductions or in pieces written by composers with notoriously large hands. Everytime you'll have to do your best, just as people with short handspan would do (usually: quick arpeggios, using the pedals, or skipping notes).

  2. Second question: to play the pictured chord I'd play the top F# with my right-hand 2nd finger, which will allow me to play the further coming E with the thumb. You don't have to follow your software colors for finger everytime, this is not what will help you in the long run.


Well, this is a stretch, but not all that unusual. Note that the distances on a typical electronic keyboard are slightly smaller than on an upright piano and those are again slightly smaller than those on a grand piano. Digital piano tends to be typically a bit larger than electric piano (like the Rhodes) or keyboard/synth.

Accordion keyboards are again smaller, with "lady accordions" being smallest. Of course, carrying a capsized piano around does not make a whole lot of sense in the first place: my chromatic button accordion puts five octaves in less space than a "full-size" piano accordion takes for 3½, and it has no keyboard parts sticking out into airspace (and I can barely span 3 octaves with the right hand). I digress.

So playability depends quite a bit on the exact type of piano. Pretty much the only keyboard which tries following some standard is the grand piano keyboard, and it's pretty much the largest size of all.


Yes, different kinds of instruments have different spacing and different pianists have different hand sizes. And yes, it's often possible to find a fingering that can accommodate wider-spaced harmonies such as in Bach chorales. But, notably, those chorales weren't written to be played on piano. There are standard ranges that are considered appropriate for piano writing (not including electronic keyboards) that are quite useful to know.

First of all, I would say that the odds are good that you should be rolling the chord in one hand in your example. It is very common for composers to write chords that are too big for the hand to play, and what they mean is that you should quickly roll the notes from bottom to top (probably with the pedal down). This is especially common in Brahms, Chopin, Schumann and other Romantic composers. The widest comfortable range for either hand is generally considered to be the octave, and the widest stretch generally used with any expectation that the notes can be played without rolling is a 10th. There are still a number of detailed considerations—including how many and what notes are to be played in between the 10th, whether the 10th spans white key to white key, white to black, etc.—but that's the general rule. There are plenty of pianists who would still have to roll chords that span a 10th, if its very important to you that they don't roll, you have to keep it within an octave.

But that is the span within one hand. The distance between the two hands is, for all intents and purposes, unlimited. I think that the answer to your specific question is that you should roll the chord and use the pedal to create the sustain of the lower notes that you can't hold down. I think that's especially the case with the second example you posted in the comments. That being said, some of the other solutions being offered here are also good—I just disagree with the assertion that there is no limit or rule for hand span on the piano.

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