For the measures shown in the picture, I am able to reach the notes if I spread my hand but I'm not sure if this is good practice. I tried also to use finger substitution but I can make it work only at slow tempo (especially the G-F♯-C).

Any suggestions?

UPDATE: Yes, this is the prelude from Bach's Cello suite no. 1. By finger substitution I mean to replace fingers while the key is pressed. (For example, use 1 for F♯ and replace with 5 so 1 can go to C)

passage with different intervals

  • As you noted, the finger substitution method is simply not fast enough. Stretching is definitely the correct technique and good practice.
    – user28
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 18:32

3 Answers 3


Finger substitution is not the way to go, unless you are playing an organ and not the piano. Absolute legato on the piano isn't as important as playing the notes with even tempo and dynamics.

If you have small hands you can play the whole passage fingered 5 4 1 2 1 4 1 4 5 4 1 2 1 4 1 4 etc. Learn to "jump" unobtrusively between 5 and 4. You can cover the small gaps with dabs on the sustain pedal if you really need to, depending how resonant the acoustics of the room are.

Even with normal sized hands, the above fingering (or even 5 5 1 2 1 5 1 5) is a good technical exercise, but something like 5 2 1 2 1 3 1 2 (or 4 instead of 3) would be more usual.

  • I use the 5 2 1 2 1 3 1 2 fingering.
    – lobi
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 16:58

Think outside the box - use two hands. I know that answer sounds trite (and chances are there is a RH melody over the top?)- so let me just add this - when you think about working up your own fingering (rather than using editors) you may often find yourself doing things outside the box (like hand crossing when not written in, alternative fingering, using your thumb on the downbeat even if its not the natural choice; and adjusting other fingers accordingly, using stronger fingers for trills etc etc etc, or using two hands for one line - to save thumb roles and leaps etc). The more variety of technique you get within your hands, the more you can get out of tricky situations (and helps sight reading). Keep up the great work! Play the low G with the LH (or 2 or 3) and the rest with the RH. It will assist getting a natural accent on stronger beats.

  • 2
    It's a transcription of a cello suite - solo cello = solo piano, l.h. mainly. So this is a greta idea to solve the problem. Some of the sections of some of the bars will work with pedalling - which is difficult on cello! There is NO point in stretching to something impossible for you, when there is an alternative that works just as well. Do that, and it may well bite you in years to come. +1
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 10:45

That is bach's cello prelude from suite no1? I used to play that on the piano, and I always stretched.

As you get more advanced, you will be playing pieces that require this kind of stretching, and you will learn how to quickly adjust your hand in order to allow your fingers to go where they need to go. I am not sure what finger substitution is in this context, but I imagine you mean to incorporate your right hand to hit those higher pitched notes?

I would recommend spreading your hand. With practice and starting slowly, it will come naturally just like everything else.

Or better yet, do both!

EDIT: I should note that after 10 years of playing (but only one year of lessons, so take my advice with a grain of salt) my left hand pinky tip to thumb tip is substantially longer than my right hand. Just like with guitarists, your hands over time will stretch out and be able to play those kind of passages, but you must practice obviously.

  • Over a year later, I now actually play this piece very consistently. I find that using my right hand when needed is the best option, but only when it is necessary. Important to only use your right hand when you need to; playing this piece consistently has done absolute wonders for my left hand dexterity.
    – lobi
    Commented Jan 17, 2017 at 20:56

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