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Many factors determine how good a piano player is like how long they have been, do they have a good teacher, how much time they practice, etc. With this in mind, I have always wondered if gender is amongst these factors, considering males are different from females both physically and mentally. Join me to find out if gender matters when it comes to playing the piano.
Male pianists can be considered better because male pianists tend to have bigger hands and are stronger than female pianists. This means male pianists can easily reach further keys and play louder notes. With that said, using the appropriate techniques, any gender can play the piano well.
Continue reading to find out why having big hands and strength are huge advantages to a pianist, the advantages each gender has when it comes to the piano, and why gender doesn’t matter when it comes to playing the piano well unless you want to perform in concerts or enter piano competitions.
Finally, I’ll also discuss if one gender is better than the other at teaching the piano since being a great pianist doesn’t translate to being a great piano teacher.
What advantages do male pianists have?
On average, males are taller than females and tall people tend to have big hands. This is why male pianists tend to have bigger hands compared to female pianists.
Having big hands is considered a blessing for a pianist because playing large chords will become easier with big hands. The pianist can simply play the chord with their fingers positioned normally without having to tuck their fingers, shift their hands or roll the chord to reach further keys on the keyboard.
Not to mention techniques like tucking your fingers or rolling the chord can make the chord sounds sloppy if played quickly.
Male pianists tend to be stronger on average compared to female pianists. Being strong means a pianist can produce louder sounds from the piano, making the performance more impactful and intense.
Furthermore, male pianists can produce loud notes using just their forearms, while female pianists may need to move their upper bodies to produce sounds of equal volume.
Male pianists tend to have more stamina on average which helps them perform in long concerts without getting tired quickly, affecting the concert’s quality.
With that said, while on average, male pianists tend to be stronger, have bigger hands and have more stamina compared to female pianists, each person is unique and there are cases where a male pianist can have small hands or minimal strength.
For example, there are rumours that Chopin couldn’t play notes louder than mezzo-forte (medium loud) due to his illness.
What advantages do female pianists have?
Research shows that females are more focused and can concentrate better than males.
This means female piano players are more dedicated to the piano and will improve faster than male piano players by spending more hours practicing.
For example, if there are two piano students starting from the same level, one male and one female, the female student will practice the piano more and progress faster than the male student.
A piano teacher I know once told me that she noticed her female students tend to pass the RCM exams (a popular piano program here in North America) faster than her male students.
Female pianists tend to be more creative than male pianists, according to research.
Being creative helps with being able to play the piano expressively. Nowadays, it’s acceptable to have your own interpretation of a piece and play it differently than how it’s normally played by others.
This newfound freedom means that a piano piece can have 10 different ways of playings, breathing new meanings into the piece as different interpretations can evoke different emotions and thoughts.
While some interpretations can elevate the piece to a whole new level and others can ruin the piece’s structure, you can’t deny that it’s better to have a variety of different playings to choose from, rather than hearing the piece played the same way over and over for the 100th time. It’ll become boring real quick if that’s the case!
This freedom of expression means that female pianists who are more creative can take advantage of it, creating unique and memorable performances of a piano piece.
Being creative also helps with composing new piano pieces. This is why there are many great female piano composers over the centuries like Clara Schumann, who was a renowned German pianist and composer, considered to be one of the best during the Romantic era. She was also the wife of the famous pianist Rober Schumann.
Have a listen to her Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7. She composed this piece when she was only 14!
Female pianists tend to have smaller hands and slender fingers that can fit easily between black keys.
This is an advantage because pianists with thick fingers are more likely to accidentally press down on the neighbouring black keys when they only want to press the white key in between.
I can tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than accidentally pressing unwanted keys, creating an unpleasant sound in an otherwise beautiful and flawless performance. So it’s a good thing that many female pianists don’t have this issue.
With that said, there are different techniques that a pianist with thick fingers can use to successfully play white keys without also pressing the neighbouring black keys. I discuss more of these techniques in the article Can People With Fat Fingers Play The Piano?
Why gender doesn’t matter when it comes to playing the piano
Unless you want to enter piano competitions or perform at the highest level, where every advantage count, gender doesn’t matter too much if you only want to play leisurely.
This is because all disadvantages that each gender has can be remedied with the appropriate techniques and enough practice.
For example, have small hands? Then roll the chord, where you play each note in the chord quickly in succession, instead of playing them all at the same time.
Have thick fingers? Employ techniques that help you play in between black keys succesfully.
Low strength and stamina? Then it’s time to hit the gym.
Not creative enough? Guess what? Creativity is a skill that can be developed.
So on and so forth.
The fact that all genders can play the piano well reflects in this demographic research on piano players, where all employed pianists in the U.S are distributed close to 50-50 by gender, with 49.5% being female pianists and 50.5% being male pianists.
Which gender is better at teaching the piano?
This may surprise you but being a world-class pianist doesn’t automatically make that pianist a good piano teacher.
Understanding the ins and outs of piano playing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy for a pianist to relay that understanding and experience to someone else, although it does help.
This is why teaching is a separate skill that needs to be learnt if a pianist ever wants to start teaching.
This raises an interesting question, between two equally skilled piano teachers, one male and one female, who is better at teaching the piano or does it even matter in the first place?
Imagine there’s a piano student who’s progressing slower compared to other students and struggles at things that come naturally to other students like being able to play with both hands at the same time. A great piano teacher will keep calm at all times and patiently do their best to help their student conquer that hardship.
With that in mind, what science says is one thing, while reality is something completely different.
There are tender and caring male piano teachers and there are strict, cold, results-driven female teachers. It’s more about the environment where the piano teacher learns the piano that affects their teaching styles, not what science says.
Thus, it’s important to try out the piano teacher and see if they are a good fit for you. Don’t choose a piano teacher based on gender as you could be missing out on quality teaching that way!