Play Piano With Small Hands

Lisa Witt  /  Technique / Jul 3

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Can you play piano with small hands?


I hear so many people say they can’t play the piano because their hands are too small. But I have small hands.

It can be done. Yes, it’s a little harder, but there are things you can do to make playing easier.


This is the biggest challenge and the first hurdle for people with small hands.

You can’t reach an octave. And you know what?

This was a real struggle for me as well. I do have little hands. An octave is a good stretch for me.

The first thing to know is that you do NOT have to play the octave high up on the keys. You can play towards the bottom of the keys to reduce the distance that your fingers have to stretch.

The distance is shorter and when I play in this position I can actually reach farther than an octave. That’s something I could never do if I was playing higher up on the keys.

The important thing here is to keep your arm as relaxed as possible. When we get tense it’s harder to stretch and it can lead to injury.

You can (and should) practice this by playing octaves on the edge of the keys and then “bouncing” back up. This helps release any tension in your wrist and forearm.

Try playing octave and working your way up a scale, releasing off the keys with each octave:

Watch this lesson for more tips on relieving tension.


Arpeggios can be daunting because they can often span MORE than an octave.

And if you can barely reach an octave, how are you supposed to play them?

This comes down to a misconception that I hear all the time. People think that they have to keep every note pressed down during an arpeggio.

You can let go of the notes when you play an arpeggio.

Once you’ve played a note and have moved on to the next one, LET GO of the first note and move up the arpeggio with your hand.

Worried about how that will sound? Use the pedal!

Big Chords

You might be thinking, “Ok, but what about big chords, like 7ths? You HAVE to play all the notes at the same time in a chord. My hands are too small.”

Your hands might be too small to play big chords like this.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t play them.


Let me introduce you to the magic of inversions!

You can use inversions to change the order of the notes in your 7th chords. The chord will still be the same, but it’s now SO much easier to paly.

I do this ALL the time. It’s really hard for me to stretch out and play a 7th chord in root position, so I play it in 3rd inversion.

Like this:

This is a C Major 7 chord. The notes of a C Major 7 chord are C-E-G-B. That can be a stretch.

But if we take the B from the top and move it to the bottom the chord is much easier to play, and still sounds beautiful.

There is more than one inversion. Watch this lesson to learn them all.

Chord Extensions

Finally, we’ll look at chord extensions. This is a little more of an advanced topic, but they’re so beautiful that if you’ve never heard of them before they are worth at least being aware of.

Extensions are chords that extend beyond the span of an octave. The most common ones are 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths.

Let’s look at 9ths. A 9th chord is made up of the root-3rd-5th-7th-9th.

So an F Major 9th would look like this:

How could anyone play that with one hand?

So what we can do is split the notes up between the hands! Your left-hand will play some of them and your right hand will play the rest.

So what would our F Major 9th look like now? Like this:

This is a very simple example, but you could put the notes in ANY order. Go on and try it!

Try playing the F and C in the left hand, and then play E-G-A in the right.

This is a concept called open chord voicings and it’s another fantastic way to think about chording on the piano.

Your Hands Are NOT Too Small

Having small hands sucks (I know). But it’s not a reason not to play the piano.

You CAN play piano with small hands.

And you really should.

Have fun!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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