Target:
Piano manufacturers, including Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway, Pearl River, Hailun, Parsons, Kurzweil, Korg
Region:
GLOBAL
Website:
www.paskpiano.org

Have you ever considered that we only have one choice of piano key width, despite the enormous variation in human hand sizes? The difference between the smallest and largest hand spans of adult pianists alone is estimated to be around 4.5 inches (more than 11 cm) – close to the width of five white piano keys!

There is strong evidence that today’s piano keyboard is too big for a substantial majority. It best suits those with the largest hand spans. A recent survey of university piano students found that 75% wished they had larger hands, but what if they could play on keyboards with narrower keys instead?

Piano keyboards with keys narrower than the current ‘standard’ keyboard are now becoming available in a limited way (most via Steinbuhler & Co.) and are being used in ten universities in the USA. At SMU Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, Texas, Dr Carol Leone, Chair of Piano Studies and performer, teacher, recording artist, speaker, and author on alternatively-sized keyboards says:

'I often witness pianists place their hands for the first time on a keyboard that better suits their hand span. How often the pianist spontaneously bursts into tears. A lifetime of struggling with a seemingly insurmountable problem vanishes in the moment they realise, "It's not me that is the problem; it is the instrument!" Following on that, the joy of possibility overwhelms them.'

How many people who learn to play the piano fail to realise their dreams due to an instrument that does not suit their hands? How many are driven away due to pain, injury or sheer frustration? How many young people, who may aspire to be great pianists, are held back, waiting in vain for their hands to grow?

If you play the piano, have you ever felt that:-
• You cannot play all the piano repertoire you’d like to, and sometimes wish you had a larger hand span?
• You often have to omit notes or have difficulty leaping quickly to play large chords because your fingers are stretched to their limit?
• You struggle to play a tenth or even a ninth, and extended fast octave passages cause pain and tension?
• Much of your practice time is spent overcoming technical challenges and devising ‘work-arounds’ due to hand span limitations?

Today, we expect so much in our lives to be available to fit our individual sizes and needs – shoes and clothes, prescription glasses, sporting equipment. In the music world, many stringed instruments come in different sizes, and even with pianos, we can adjust the height of stools, and provide small children with pedal extensions.
What percentage of the population – including men, women and children of all nationalities – do you think have hand spans that are ergonomically suited to the conventional piano keyboard?

The evidence for change from recent research

• The proportion of adult pianists (assuming equal numbers of men and women play) with hand spans that are too small for the current keyboard exceeds 50%.
• Only 13% of women have hand spans large enough to play a wide range of advanced repertoire with comfort and ease, compared with a majority of men (76%). The rest are likely to fail to reach their full musical potential. These proportions are even smaller for Asian pianists, who generally have smaller spans than Caucasians.
• Pianists with smaller hand spans are more likely to suffer pain and injury, with women being more affected than men.
• A growing number of pianists (mostly in North America) have found playing keyboards with narrower keys to be a revelation. They discover the wide-ranging benefits including reduced tension and pain, improved tonal control, increased power and speed where needed, greater technical ease and security. They can adapt to the different size very quickly and are easily able to swap between keyboards when needed.
• Teachers using these keyboards find that children benefit greatly from not having to learn on a keyboard designed for large-handed men, in the same way that children use smaller-sized violins.

These findings make sense when we consider that late 19th century European male virtuosos, such as Liszt, had a strong influence on deciding what became the ‘standard’ piano keyboard well over a century ago. Before that time, keyboards had narrower keys and different sizes were available. It is also not surprising that males, due to their larger hand spans, dominate the ranks of competition prize-winners and elite soloists.

David Steinbuhler and Chris Donison from North America have pioneered the production of keyboards with narrower keys since the 1990s. David conducted extensive trials using sample keyboards in multiple sizes; he invited pianists to use them and decide which sizes best suited their needs. His work shows that the addition of two smaller sized keyboards (no one wanted a larger one) provides the vast majority of pianists with a good fit to their hands. Recent statistical research into pianists' hand spans supports the conclusion regarding the need for two extra sizes.*

Personal stories

Boston pianist, Anna Arazi, played a keyboard approximately 15/16 normal width (DS6.0TM)* in the 2015 Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition after just one day of practice on the smaller-sized keyboard. She found that all of the pain she had been experiencing disappeared and she won third prize! See her performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1:

Roger James, jazz pianist and composer from Colorado, owns a keyboard of that same size (DS6.0TM) in an upright piano. See his story here:

For other videos of alternatively-sized keyboards in action, see the PASK (Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards) YouTube channel: PASK YouTube

So why do we persist with a single sized piano keyboard? Please sign this petition and pass it on to others. Even if you are not a pianist yourself, you will be helping many others around the world who love the piano and want this revolution to come soon. We need to tell the manufacturers that there is a huge potential market for these keyboards!

Further information

Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards
Alternatively Sized Piano Keyboards
Steinbuhler & Co
Carol Leone

To download PASK summary documents designed for the media, pianists and teachers, and the piano industry, visit PASK documents. The 'Collection of Quotes' document provides many more personal stories. Here you will also find a copy of the recent cover article: Size is Key, by Dr Carol Leone published in the magazine Clavier Companion.

Please like us on Facebook: PASK Facebook Page

We also have a Facebook page for technicians, keyboard makers and others with an interest in the technology: TASK Facebook Page

On Twitter, use the hashtag #smallpianokeys


*Steinbuhler & Co uses the DS (Donison-Steinbuhler) nomenclature for the alternative sizes: DS5.5TM and DS6.0TM, reflecting their octave sizes in inches. The current ‘standard’ keyboard (DS6.5TM) has a 6.5 inch octave.


Today’s piano keyboard is too large for too many people: hands cannot be made larger but piano keys can be made narrower. We call on the piano industry to do just that!

PASK (Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards) is specifically asking piano manufacturers around the world – both digital and acoustic – to produce keyboards in three standard sizes so that purchasers of new pianos have a choice. The three sizes are the current ‘large’ keyboard with 6.5 inch (16.5 cm) octave, plus two smaller sizes with 6.0 inch (15.2 cm) octave and 5.5 inch (14.1 cm) octave.*

These two new sizes are currently only available in a very limited way through small keyboard makers. Only mass production and wide availability of pianos with the additional sizes can meet the needs of an under-served market comprising the majority of pianists. Offer us pianos with keyboards that fit the range of human hand sizes! Recent research and anecdotal evidence suggests that, given a choice of keyboard, around 75% of adults, not to mention children, would most likely benefit from a smaller size.

Having these alternative sizes as mainstream options would effectively make the ‘small hands’ problem among pianists disappear and open the piano world to millions more!

The PASK summary document: An opportunity for the piano industry (available for download from www.cicadabay.com/pianos) provides more information and ideas for the piano industry, including:
• Keys to success for the ‘piano keyboard revolution’
• Increased sales potential
• Barriers to change
• How three sizes can work in different situations
• Marketing messages.

*Steinbuhler & Co uses the DS (Donison-Steinbuhler) nomenclature for the alternative sizes: DS5.5TM and DS6.0TM, reflecting their octave sizes in inches. The current ‘standard’ keyboard (DS6.5TM) has a 6.5 inch octave.

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