Pianos For Smaller Hands
Erica’s Story: My Piano Keys Were Too Big!
Piano Keyboards – One Size Does Not Fit All!
As a smaller handed concert pianist and as a teacher, I have always been aware of developing and using a strong technique based on principles of good body mechanics, ergonomics, and relaxation in order to prevent pianistic injuries. I thank my wonderful teacher, Igor Hmelnitsky! My playing has also involved the omission of notes, changes of fingering, lots of rotation, restricted repertoire and more practice overall to master the physical difficulties of the piece before being able to master the musical aspects. Like Goldilocks, I always dreamed of a choice …
Since 2005, I have sought information about availability of smaller, reduced size piano keyboards.
My first small piano – 0.7cm shorter per octave
In 2006 I asked Ara Vartoukian, from Theme and Variations, if he could make me a piano with a smaller keyboard. He found that the Kluge keyboard company, which had been acquired by Steinway in 1999, made a smaller sized keyboard, which measured 0.7cm (approximately 0.25 inches) shorter per octave. He was rebuilding a model M Steinway at the time so agreed to put in a smaller Kluge keyboard. In July 2008 I took delivery of my beautiful piano and named her Miranda, which means ‘to be much admired!’
This was the first step.
In 2009 at the APPCA Conference, held that year in Sydney, I met Rhonda Boyle from Melbourne, who was lecturing about her new smaller keyboard and action recently retrofitted into her grand piano. The keyboard, a 7/8 size, (now referred to as DS5.5 inch octave keyboard,) was made by David Steinbuhler in USA who had visited Australia the year before to measure Rhonda’s grand. Rhonda had received her keyboard and action earlier in 2009, and it was fitted to her piano by Melbourne technician Warwick Dalton.
David Steinbuhler has engineered many sizes of keyboards, the most common being DS6.0 inch octave and DS5.5 inch octave. These are approximately a half key and a full key respectively smaller per octave than the regular sized keyboard. Ara had also given me some information about David Steinbuhler in Titusville, Pennsylvania and I devoured the information I found on his website – www.steinbuhler.com
My second small piano keyboard – DS5.5 inch octave keyboard (7/8 piano keyboard)
I made plans to visit to see David Steinbuhler that same year. My first playing of Steinbuhler’s Steinway grand, with a 7/8 keyboard fitted, brought tears of absolute joy as I found the remarkable ability of being able to play with ease the repertoire which was previously difficult for me. David’s adjacent piano with a traditional sized keyboard immediately felt wrong and so strenuous to play. I could not wait for David to again visit Australia to measure up my pianos for a retrofittable smaller keyboard and action, so I immediately bought an upright from David’s collection which was already fitted with a DS5.5 inch keyboard, and began the process of air-freighting it to Lindfield as soon as possible. So, little Serena, the Charles W Walter upright piano with a DS5.5 inch keyboard built in, arrived in Sydney January 2010.
My third piano for small hands – Kawai GM12 small key model
For years I have been speaking to Kawai Australia about producing a smaller keyboard model. In 2012 they agreed, and on May 2nd 2013, I received my GM12 small key model from Japan, named Georgie Mai. Sadly, only three such pianos were made, two of which are in Sydney owned by me and Mrs Jill Heffernan, another Suzuki Piano Teacher Trainer. The other is in Reykjavik, Iceland, owned by Berglind Bjork Jonsdottir, a Suzuki Piano teacher.
I now have 4 pianos at my home studio – each one of them is a different size!
More Information about smaller keyboard pianos
Smaller sized piano keyboards are often referred to as ESPK – Ergonomically Scaled Piano Keyboards. Here are some useful links to help you with any further research:
On Facebook, PASK (Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards) https://www.facebook.com/pask.piano/