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#685797 - 02/19/09 08:09 PM Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
gnu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/09
Posts: 39
I've been googling the topic of hand size and pianists and I'm surprised this niche hasn't been filled yet.

On the one hand researchers have investigated a Steinbuhler 7/8 size keyboard and found that it reduced technical difficulties and injuries in pianists with small hands. But the Steinbuhler keyboard costs $5400 .

On the other hand, it seems that piano teachers wonder what to do with young students whose hands are too small to play their piano exams properly. Most other large instruments (like cellos) come in multiple sizes so that younger pupils can start on something more suited to their size and then move on to larger sizes as they grow up. A problem with small acoustic instruments is often lower sound quality because there's less to resonate, but that wouldn't apply to a digital piano.

Now correct me if I'm being stupid, but wouldn't an affordable 7/8 scaled digital piano solve these problems and consequently find itself with a sizable market niche among smaller handed pianists and teachers/music examining authorities who deal with young students?

Given that the Privia is often mentioned on these forums as an affordable DP with good action, maybe I should write to Casio and suggest they make a smaller model?
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#685798 - 02/19/09 09:53 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
88Key_PianoPlayer Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/02
Posts: 1906
Loc: El Cajon, CA
Actually.. for me even a 7/8ths keyboard would still be too big. I can play some 10ths so long as it's a white-key-to-white-key 10th, but many white-to-black 10ths, and white-to-white 11ths I have some difficulty with, or almost can't play at all. And a white-to-white 12th? While I like the sound of them, the only way I can "play" one is by pushing down one key with one hand, sliding my finger around to the front so it's barely gripping the key, push down the other key with my other hand, then push against the very edge of the front of the key with the thumb to push it against the front rail key pin. Not very useful in normal playing, if you ask me.

This is about the widest interval I feel I can play normally - while playing a song, and not breaking it (although I occasionally do anyway).





You can see how difficult the 12th is on a normal sized keyboard.
However... on one of the mini 2.5-octave keyboards... it's a little easier, as you can see:

On one of those I can even play a double octave somewhat comfortably (about as well as I can play a white-to-white 10th on a normal keyboard):

It looks like a 17th is just out of reach. I can hit the keys, but not without simultaneously hitting adjacent notes.


I'd actually like to see a keyboard (preferably not in that color or style - I'll take a black one tyvm) with that size key spacing, fully weighted hammer action keys, and at least 97 keys (so I can play the low notes on a Bosendorfer or Rubenstein). So who's going to step up to the plate?
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#685799 - 02/19/09 09:59 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
lizcovedale Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/09
Posts: 22
Loc: South Carolina
...Long time lurker here appearing for a few posts...

I believe that Carol Leone at SMU has started a few students with the 7/8 piano and then switches them over as they grow.

Personally, I think it would be an excellent idea, as I have played the 7/8 keyboard and loved it. However I think most of the hesitation comes from whether the market is really big enough for it. While some personal testimony and preliminary studies have shown that switching from one keyboad to the other really poses very few problems, I think some would be reluctant to adopt (and spend money on) the 7/8 piano because it is not currently an accepted standard. Learning repertoire on a 7/8 keyboard and then performing on a standard size keyboard may have some issues.

For example, suppose you have a young talented student playing Mozart sonatas. He cannot yet reach octaves on a standard size keyboard, but can play them fine on a 7/8. What do you do when you send him to competition? He will be unable to play the pieces as he has learned them.

Now, I realize that perhaps examples like that may be few and far between. I simply raise them as those are the criticisms I've heard. I believe most piano companies are likely familiar with the 7/8 keyboard but wouldn't put the money into producing digitals until they become more widely accepted (which I hope does eventually happen).

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#685800 - 02/19/09 10:33 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
gnu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/09
Posts: 39
 Quote:
Originally posted by 88Key_PianoPlayer:
Actually.. for me even a 7/8ths keyboard would still be too big. I can play some 10ths so long as it's a white-key-to-white-key 10th, but many white-to-black 10ths, and white-to-white 11ths I have some difficulty with, or almost can't play at all.[/b]
Aren't there professionals who have to break up 10ths? I was thinking more of pianists who have trouble reaching an octave. Ideally there would be a range of sizes. But while there would be advantages to being able to reach bigger intervals, for someone with normal sized hands mightn't the key size you are suggesting cause other problems, e.g. make it difficult to play chromatics?

 Quote:
Originally posted by lizcovedale:
For example, suppose you have a young talented student playing Mozart sonatas. He cannot yet reach octaves on a standard size keyboard, but can play them fine on a 7/8. What do you do when you send him to competition? He will be unable to play the pieces as he has learned them.

Now, I realize that perhaps examples like that may be few and far between. I simply raise them as those are the criticisms I've heard. I believe most piano companies are likely familiar with the 7/8 keyboard but wouldn't put the money into producing digitals until they become more widely accepted (which I hope does eventually happen). [/b]
The thing is, digitals are portable (and a small scale digital would be even more so) - he could take along his own instrument and play on that. This may sound strange to many pianists (and organists), but when you think about it, musicians who play other instruments - even harpists - almost always take along their own instruments to play with.

I'm sure there are downsides, but I think the benefits will outweigh them in many cases. A large part of the problem is probably societal inertia, but I think awareness of the importance of ergonomics is rapidly increasing (mainly thanks to the prevalence of computer related injuries...)

If instrument makers can produce different sized cellos they can certainly do the same with digital pianos (where the influence of size on acoustics isn't a problem.) And it's surely better to fit the instrument to the player than to contort the player to the instrument \:\)
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Public domain scores: scanned (IMSLP) · typeset (Mutopia)
Free open source software: notation (MuseScore) · workstation/sequencer (LMMS)

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#685801 - 02/19/09 10:47 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
lizcovedale Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/09
Posts: 22
Loc: South Carolina
[/QUOTE]The thing is, digitals are portable (and a small scale digital would be even more so) - he could take along his own instrument and play on that. This may sound strange to pianists (and organists) but when you think about it, players of other instruments - even harpists - almost always carry around their own instruments to play on.

I'm sure there are downsides, but I think the benefits will outweigh them in many cases. A large part of the problem is probably societal inertia, but I think awareness of the importance of ergonomics is rapidly increasing (mainly thanks to the prevalence of computer related injuries...)

If instrument makers can produce different sized cellos they can certainly do the same with digital pianos (where the influence of size on acoustics isn't a problem.) And it's surely better to fit the instrument to the player than to contort the player to the instrument \:\) [/QB]

Agreed. I really do hope that people will become more aware of the possibilities. Really all it would take would be some area to get a retrofitted performing instrument and make it available for recitals/performances/competitions/festivals. I think it would provide some much needed accomodation in the sense that small-handed pianists could play more technically advanced pieces that fit their hands. Very few things in life are One-size-fits-all. So either we adapt, or the product adapts. Or we can do both.

Edit: My apologies that I don't know how the quote function works yet.

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#685802 - 02/20/09 08:33 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
lsmith Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 12
Loc: Alabama
I have small hands, and there are lots of solo arrangements I couldn't possibly play as written. I play them anyway and improvise, I just have to leave notes out or break chords. Personally I think I'd rather do that than try to play on a different size keyboard. Smaller keys throw me off because the distance between keys is different. Maybe I'm weird, I never look at my hands while playing but I know how far to reach to hit a key. Anyway, jm2c!

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#685803 - 02/21/09 04:59 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
Wumpletoad Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/16/08
Posts: 13
Loc: England
[QUOTE]Originally posted by gnu:
[QB] I've been googling the topic of hand size and pianists and I'm surprised this niche hasn't been filled yet.

Actually, it has. And some time ago.

I am not a pianist per se, although I enjoy my Kawai CA71. However I also own a double harpsichord and a five-octave clavichord, both having the "French" keyboard, the dimensions of which were established in the 17th century. The key width of these instruments is less than the current piano and organ standard and regardless of hand size, these are very much easier to play.

However, I do not have a pianists technique so cannot assess how these reduced dimensions might work with someone, for example, like Chopin but I see no particular reason for not universally adopting the French standard; of course, it won't happen . . . .

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#685804 - 02/22/09 08:01 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
gnu Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/09
Posts: 39
 Quote:
Originally posted by lsmith:
I have small hands, and there are lots of solo arrangements I couldn't possibly play as written. I play them anyway and improvise, I just have to leave notes out or break chords. Personally I think I'd rather do that than try to play on a different size keyboard. Smaller keys throw me off because the distance between keys is different. Maybe I'm weird, I never look at my hands while playing but I know how far to reach to hit a key. Anyway, jm2c! [/b]
Out of interest, do you think you would have felt the same if you'd learned on a smaller keyboard to start with? Or if you found you could acclimate to a smaller keyboard after, say, three days of practice? If smaller keyboards were available everywhere, so you didn't have to consider switching back to standard size, would that change your decision?

 Quote:
Originally posted by Wumpletoad:
Actually, it has. And some time ago.

I am not a pianist per se, although I enjoy my Kawai CA71. However I also own a double harpsichord and a five-octave clavichord, both having the "French" keyboard, the dimensions of which were established in the 17th century. The key width of these instruments is less than the current piano and organ standard and regardless of hand size, these are very much easier to play.

However, I do not have a pianists technique so cannot assess how these reduced dimensions might work with someone, for example, like Chopin but I see no particular reason for not universally adopting the French standard; of course, it won't happen . . . . [/b]
Do you know why the French standard was dropped in the first place? Maybe it was too small for large handed/thick fingered players. I wonder if it was just the expense of keyboard instruments that made it impractical to have more than one size for things like concert grands and organs. Whatever the problem was, does it still apply with digital pianos?
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Public domain scores: scanned (IMSLP) · typeset (Mutopia)
Free open source software: notation (MuseScore) · workstation/sequencer (LMMS)

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#685805 - 02/25/09 04:08 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands?
Wumpletoad Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/16/08
Posts: 13
Loc: England
 Quote:
Originally posted by gnu:
[
Do you know why the French standard was dropped in the first place? Maybe it was too small for large handed/thick fingered players. I wonder if it was just the expense of keyboard instruments that made it impractical to have more than one size for things like concert grands and organs. Whatever the problem was, does it still apply with digital pianos? [/QB][/QUOTE]

Interesting question about the French standard - I don't have the answer but I can conject.

The various evolutionary genres of harpsichord building; Italian, Flemish, French, German and lastly, English, had distinctive styles of construction but with the exception of the French, they all shared substantially the same keylever width. Much of French music and certainly, French instruments (those by Taskin and the Blanchets are very different from the instruments of Ruckers and Dulcken for example), developed in isolation from Italy and Northern Europe. The French repertoire was quite different from elsewhere with the "prestissimo" works of the Couperins, Balbastre etc. only being properly realised on a harpsichord. Given that over most of the instrument's development, the compass did not extend beyond five octaves (although it did have 4 and sometimes 16 foot pitches) and the music usually had the notes beneath or close to the hands, (allowing fingers to be kept curled), there was little need for great hand spans and certainly no leaps requiring the use of a sustaining pedal. In fact, there was no need to have a keylever width greater than the comfortable standard adopted by the French.

The French school effectively ended with The Revolution which, in the manner of such uprisings, burned many of superlative instruments owned by the aristocracy and others. It was never revived as by the time things had settled down in France, the harpsichord had been eclipsed by the fortepiano.

Mr Beethoven brought us his revolutionary sonatas and concerti and the piano moved into the world of fast, disconnected contrary motion over more than seven octaves. It was with this in mind that I mentioned Chopin in my last post - perhaps these flying fingers need a wider target to hit?

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#1179608 - 04/13/09 02:08 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands? [Re: lizcovedale]
TroyR Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/07/09
Posts: 5
Originally Posted By: lizcovedale
[/QUOTE]The thing is, digitals are portable (and a small scale digital would be even more so) - he could take along his own instrument and play on that. This may sound strange to pianists (and organists) but when you think about it, players of other instruments - even harpists - almost always carry around their own instruments to play on.

I'm sure there are downsides, but I think the benefits will outweigh them in many cases. A large part of the problem is probably societal inertia, but I think awareness of the importance of ergonomics is rapidly increasing (mainly thanks to the prevalence of computer related injuries...)

If instrument makers can produce different sized cellos they can certainly do the same with digital pianos (where the influence of size on acoustics isn't a problem.) And it's surely better to fit the instrument to the player than to contort the player to the instrument smile [/QB]

Agreed. I really do hope that people will become more aware of the possibilities. Really all it would take would be some area to get a retrofitted performing instrument and make it available for recitals/performances/competitions/festivals. I think it would provide some much needed accomodation in the sense that small-handed pianists could play more technically advanced pieces that fit their hands. Very few things in life are One-size-fits-all. So either we adapt, or the product adapts. Or we can do both.




I've been looking into this idea for a month now, and have contacted several Chinese digital piano manufacturers to start the design. My main problem right now is getting the necessary funding to get the manufacturing process underway. Using my own money and possibly a bank loan, the fund is just barely enough to get a few midi keyboard/controller with the 7/8 keyboard manufactured. If I could only get more investors, and hopefully Mr. Steinbuhler to join me on this venture, I would be able to get my contact in China to manufacture digital pianos with fully graded hammer key-action instead of midi keyboards/controllers with semi-weighted keys.

If anyone on this forum knows of anyone who would be interested to invest on this project/business proposal, please get them to contact me at tramos at shaw dot ca.

Mr. Steinbuhler, if you are reading this, I am hoping with all my heart that you are reading this favourably. I will be sending you an email very shortly regarding this project.

I am not a greedy person. If somebody will be willing to step up to the plate with me, I am more than happy to share it with him/her. Hey, I would be more than glad to hand over the reins to him/her if s/he wants to take over. As for myself, I just want to be able to get my hands on a couple of these 7/8 digital pianos, learn a little bit about the keyboard business, and maybe help in my own way to spread these reduced-size keyboard standards.

Troy

~~~

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#1179708 - 04/13/09 04:51 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands? [Re: TroyR]
Richard Stark Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/06
Posts: 278
Loc: Hälsingland, Sweden
I do believe I've read someplace that the Yamaha NP-30 has a slightly smaller key width than standard.


Peace.


Edited by Richard Stark (04/13/09 04:51 PM)

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#1180264 - 04/14/09 01:57 PM Re: Digital piano with 7/8 size keys for pianists with small hands? [Re: Richard Stark]
TroyR Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/07/09
Posts: 5
Originally Posted By: Richard Stark
I do believe I've read someplace that the Yamaha NP-30 has a slightly smaller key width than standard.


I did a Google search on this yesterday. What I found so far is that, save for Yamaha's acoustic pianos and 88-key digital pianos which are full-sized (165mm to the octave), Yamaha's electronic organs, Tyros, PSRs, Motif7, and certain arranger workstations (which usually have less than 88-keys) have 160mm to the octave. This is only a difference of 5mm for each octave. In my opinion, in spite of reduced octave width, this keyboard, for all intents and purposes, can be considered full-sized.

On the other hand, according to Mr. Steinbuhler's research, pianists with small hands tend to gravitate toward keyboards with octave width of 152mm or 141mm.

The digital pianos I would like to build will have 88 graded-hammer-weighted keys with octave width of 141mm, and a design that keeps the width of the black keys close to the conventional width while maximizing the space between them for the white keys.

But like I said, if I did not get additional capital or funding, certain features will have to be dropped or replaced. For example, the graded-hammer-weighted keys will have to be replaced with semi-weighted keys; after that, the 88 keys may have to be reduced to 76 keys; after that, certain bells and whistles might have to go like having its own sound module and reduced polyphony. Without much capital, I can only produce midi keyboards/controllers.

While it is admirable what Mr. Steinbuhler has done to introduce two new keyboard size standards, the fact remains that not everybody will become concert pianists; not everyone will want to buy or even afford a grand piano or an upright; not everyone have a space in their house or apartment for a grand piano or an upright. The sad part is, unless we explore other avenues for promoting or commercialization of these two keyboard standards into the mainstream culture, they will simply die away.


Troy

~~~

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