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When I am learning a song I try to find a way to play a measure using a hand without having to move the hand. I watched a video where some guy was playing the same song as me but he moved the hand even though I would've just stretched my hand to try and make it work. Is his way of doing it better? It seems hard to play it his way, you'd have to move even faster I feel. However, my small hands often can't reach certain chords well.

Basically, how should I place my hands in order to deal with certain songs? I get uncomfortable putting my hands in stretched out positions for too long.

If you think it matters, the song I am talking about is comptine d'un autre été. The left hand part of it which repeats so many times, very rarely is the left hand anything else in the song. It is tough for me to play and yet I am required to play it for like 80% of the piece

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Here's a quick peek into basic technique.

Basically, how should I place my hands in order to deal with certain songs? I get uncomfortable putting my hands in stretched out positions for too long.

Basically, you should try to keep the (weight of the) hand "over the note(s) you're playing".

  • The left hand part of the piece you're talking about begins with an E-E octave, so you place your hand in such a position that when you release its weight, the thumb and pinky press the keys with equal force.
  • Next is B with the 2nd finger. Probably you can keep the hand where it was and now when you release the weight your hand will nicely balance on the finger and it presses the key. But now you don't need the octave stretch anymore so you can relax that.
  • Next is G-E, possibly with fingers 4-1. Now if you still keep the hand in the same position, the 4th finger gets more weight (because it's closer to the center of the hand) and to make the interval sound nice you have to add tension to counterbalance this. You start to "play with the fingers" and it becomes difficult. Instead, move your hand slightly to the right so that the weight of the hand will be distributed equally between 4 and 1. Then release the weight to play the notes.
  • Next is B, and because you moved the hand right for the previous beat, you now move it back, otherwise you'll have to use tension again.

In the end, you'll be moving your hand a little for pretty much every note you play. Even in a simple CDEFG-scale with fingers 12345: even though the tips of the fingers stay in the same place the weight of the hand moves for each note. It's similar to walking: you keep the weight of your body mostly over your feet. If you take a step without moving your weight you get into a back/forward lean and have to use tension to keep you from falling down.

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From a physical health stand point you don't want to do anything that is causing pain. If trying to stretch is too uncomfortable or is causing cramps and soreness this could lead to issues like carpel tunnel later on in life. A little stretching is good, but if it's too uncomfortable or causing sharp pains you need to re-examine your technique. As a musician staying relaxed and playing comfortably is your number one priority so that you keep your hands in good health so you can keep playing long term. In addition, staying relaxed and comfortable will allow you to play faster too. If you're playing a part that is more spread out than you can comfortably reach, then you should move your hands. Don't force it!

The piano is a large instrument so moving your hands and getting them to the proper place quickly is a necessary skill to learn. Great pianists can move all over the piano from one side to the other faster than you can blink and not miss a beat. So keep practicing, stay relaxed, and the speed will come. :)

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Too much stretching can cause tension, which can result in pain, bad habits, unmusical phrasing, etc.

I'm not sure why you are reluctant to use a fingering that involves moving around the keyboard to keep down the amount of stretching.

You may also want to consider adapting that part of the left hand part, to some extent. Wed don't want you ending up with tendinitis!

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