I started practicing the Lizst transcription of Beethoven's 5th symphony today and it is harder than it looks.

Some chords I just have to arppegiate because my hands aren't big enough to play it as a chord and the right hand is too high up to be used for that chord.

But I noticed with both my hands that my 5th finger got tense and it hurt to pop the tension away after I finished the first movement. I didn't go any further both for practice reasons and this tension and pain.

I wonder if the reason for the tension and pain to pop my 5th finger has to do with the fact that octaves are so common that I more often have octaves than anything else and I sort of lock my 5th and 1st fingers in position for an octave if I know multiple octaves are coming up and then only relax them when non octave intervals show up?

If so, how can I relax my hand when I only have 1 eighth rest to do it and I know multiple octaves will come up? Locking my first and 5th fingers in position makes sure that I don't make a mistake in for example playing a 7th interval when I need to play an octave and with so many octaves, it feels to me that it is required for me to lock my first and 5th fingers in octave position and only relax them when I'm not playing an octave.

  • You pop your fingers? This doesn't sound good....
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 14:06
  • Well sometimes my fingers just need popped. I don't pop them too much though. Like any joint, if I were to do that it would hurt so I don't pop them too much, just until it doesn't feel like it needs popped.
    – Caters
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


Locking your hand is fundamentally wrong. (Actually, it is valid technique for playing fast repeated notes on a harpsichord using only one finger, but that is completely different instrument from the piano.)

You only need your fingers "locked" when they are actually striking the keys. You shouldn't need an 8th rest to unlock them, you should be releasing the tension between every note of consecutive 8th-note octaves.

It might be worth mentioning that this sort of transcription completely refutes the idea that "you play the piano with your fingers". All the power should be coming from your arms, not from your hands and fingers.

See these videos, one on octaves, the other on avoiding tension.

Of course if your hands are just too small to play octaves comfortably, the only safe option is choose something else to play - but normal sized adult hands shouldn't have any problems with octaves unless the whole hand is stiff - i.e. because it's too soon to attempt this in your learning piano technique, or because you are practicing "doing it wrong."

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