I am trying to give my modest advice to a friend that is looking to start piano playing.

When I learnt to play, my instructor was very careful about teaching me the right hand position (and saved me a lot of pain), with the fingers curved and falling rather perpendicular on the keys, touching the keys at the tip of the finger.

Unfortunately, due to the shape of her nails, my friend cannot cut them short enough for this to happen. So, there are 2 possible positions: either she has a correct finger position, and hits the keys more or less with the nails (rather unpleasant, since it might slip), or she touches the keys with the fingers at an angle, not perpendicular. Also, her hands are quite small, barely reaching an octave.

What would be the best advice to give?

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    There is no single correct finger action, indeed some of the greats have played with very flat fingers. They have found what works best for them. – user48353 Mar 25 '19 at 23:35

Having long nails cuts the options down to flat(tish) fingers. While a lot of players prefer using the tips of their fingers to press the keys, it's by no means the only option, and if you watch carefully, you'll see just about every finger position possible used by great players. And a lot will vary how they play depending on what it is being played.

In your friend's case, it looks like the pads of her fingers will be the choice. It may mean she'll have trouble playing really quick passages, but that's about all. We tend to do what suits us as individuals, and while she may not make it to concert pianist level that way, will it matter that much?

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  • Tim, I‘ve short nail and I‘m not playing on a concert level neither. ;) – Albrecht Hügli Mar 26 '19 at 7:39
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    @AlbrechtHügli - yeah, and we're in the majority... – Tim Mar 26 '19 at 7:53

Alfred Brendel had all kinds of trouble with this, to the extent that he took to putting strips of adhesive tape on the ends of his fingers. He once said on the Dick Cavett show that "the joke was that I can only play when I'm plastered."

I don't necessarily recommend this, but it is certainly an option that may be worth considering.

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