I had the opportunity to meet the founders of P.A.S.K., Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards at the NAMM Music Trade Show. They have developed a new size keyboard which is smaller than the standard piano keyboard for pianists with smaller hands. There is a rich tradition of smaller piano keyboards going back generations.
The great pianist Josef Hoffmann had Steinway & Sons manufacture 2 custom made pianos in the 1930’s with narrower keys to accommodate his smaller hands.
Unfortunately, the practice of manufacturing smaller keyboards never became a readily available standard. Fortunately, a growing chorus of pianists with smaller hands are vying for a standard 7/8 size keyboard which is referred to as “DS5.5”. However, there are other standards that exist. The hope is, that by having one alternatively sized keyboard standard, there could potentially be actions manufactured to this specification which could be used in different pianos. Since the Steinway Model D concert grand is the piano model found in the vast majority of concert halls around the world, the hope is there could be actions available that could be used in different pianos with some adjustments.
I had the experience years ago of playing on smaller keyboards. In the 1980’s, there was a cutting edge digital synthesizer, the CZ101 manufactured by Casio. It was a unique instrument for the time being a very affordable, programmable digital synthesizer, something that didn’t exist at the time. I bought 2 of them! They had smaller keys. Much to my surprise, I had absolutely no difficulty adjusting to the smaller keys. In fact, it was a pleasure playing on smaller keys.
There are many concert pianists with smaller hands, myself included.
We learn how to break large chords we can’t reach very quickly catching the notes on the pedal. It creates the illusion of being able to play larger chords than we can reach! While this technique works very well, it requires developing tremendous strength in order to achieve. I spent countless hours building strength in order to play music which years later I discovered students of mine could play on a high level with minimal practice!
For people who have difficulty reaching an octave, smaller keyboards are essential in order to be able to play vast amounts of the piano literature successfully. My hope is that this standard smaller keyboard catches on so it provides an alternative to countless pianist the world over putting them on equal footing to pianists with larger hands.
We would love to hear from all of you how you feel about having the availability of smaller sized keyboards on pianos.
Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729 info@LivingPianos.com