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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

March 15, 2019

Small hands

evelyn @ 1:24 pm

There are two kinds of hand in my family – lovely big hands with long ‘piano fingers’, and small stubby paws with short fingers.  And of course I inherited the latter.  It’s always the way.

I can barely stretch an octave.  I can’t physically play legato octaves, and even staccato octaves are a strain.  Ninths and tenths have always been completely out of the question.

Learning the piano had real drawbacks.  I had to arpeggiate so many chords, or miss out notes, even when my hands had reached full adult size.  Maybe this was why, as a teenager, I was more interested in theory than performance.

In my twenties, everything changed.  I discovered THE ORGAN.  You need never play an octave on the organ, just pull out a 4 foot stop and your octave is ready-made.  There’s no sustaining pedal, of course, but the organ pedalboard can often free up one hand to help the other with big chords.  In fact, the bigger the organ, the better for small hands.  And organists are needed!  Whole congregations want you to play for them, rather than just doting grandparents and not-so-doting Associated Board examiners.   You might even get paid.

And because you are assisting in worship instead of having all the attention focused on you, it’s more relaxing as well. This has implications for small hands because nerves make muscles tighten up.  The day I decided to give up piano was the day when in an examination I turned a cascade of descending octaves into a cascade of sevenths.  The examiner came over and looked at my hands in silence.  Amazingly, I passed – just.

A lesser benefit, but one not to be sneezed at, is the ability of small hands to reach down between the organ pedals to retrieve dropped pencils, tissues and other debris.


And maybe this guy should be an organist!


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