My New Steinbuhler small keyboard

Posted by: Barbara G

My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 05:45 PM

My New Steinbuhler Small Keyboard[/b]

After several months of waiting, we got the Steinbuhler, reduced sized keyboard (7/8 of normal sized keys) for our Feurich grand piano. It arrived in February of this year (2008).

We were so eager to get it because it sounded like something that would renew my passion for playing the piano and enable me to play tenths and reach wide chords that my hand could not normally reach due to their size. My husband had learned about Steinbuhler about a year ago when he was searching for a grand piano on the Internet and doing a lot of research on pianos.

Like anyone, we had several questions about the project of replacing a normal keyboard with one having narrow keys. We had bought an amazing tier one, German made, grand piano with a very precision Renner made action and a wonderful keyboard. The original keyboard had very expensive genuine ivory and ebony keys and played with unsurpassed precision and touch. We wondered if the piano would play as wonderfully now. Could I really play complex and large chords better? How long would it take me to adjust? Would the new keyboard be made with the same precision, quality materials, and play ability? Would I lose some of the touch and sound which I loved about my piano? How much would the new keyboard cost after all of the purchase, shipping, and fee from my local tech to install and fine regulate it?

We had bought the piano in May of last year and my husband had called David Steinbuhler in June to order the new keyboard. David told him that he was finishing his orders and then retooling his factory shop with new equipment so that he could make new keyboards quicker. He said that we could have the first keyboard from his new equipment but it would be a few months. He was upgrading his computer guided router equipment. As it turned out, it was the first of January of this year before he was ready to build our keyboard.

(If you only want to know the answers to these questions, then skip to the end of our current story. If you want to know the story of our searching to find a grand piano, then read the full Piano World thread of "Our Adventure to A New Grand with Pictures" HERE Or, read along if you want to know more about last year and this year as we waited for and got our new keyboard.)
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 06:28 PM

Why Buy a New Keyboard?[/b]
Why did we decide to get a new keyboard? When we married 35 years ago I was finishing my Masters of Music in piano pedagogy at Southern Methodist University, and my husband heard my complaints about my hand size limiting my choice of repetoire and having to adapt to playing large chords by rolling them, which is something many pianists must do. Over the last few years my hands and wrists have begun to hurt from use and my age (which is, if you are wondering, in my fifth decade.) When he read about the small keyboard conversion last year, he told me about it and we decided to look into it. We hoped that it would enable me to play with more comfort and open the door to learn music that was "beyond my reach" in the past (pun intended.)

Soon after we married, we bought A Yamaha U1 console piano like one my college piano professor, Steven Anderson, owned and had told me was similar to the action and touch of the pianos that the Romantic composers had owned and performed on. The Yamaha was the one I wanted.

We moved the ebony studio piano into our tiny one room apartment that was in the graduate school apartment building. When we opened our sofa bed each night, it opened all the way to the piano. We had to crawl over the bed to get to the bathroom or kitchen. I loved my piano and it served me well during the years as I taught private piano lessons and raised our four children.

I became an elementary school teacher after moving to Texas about 22 years ago, and that, in addition to being wife, mother, and the other "hats I wore," crowded out my time and energy to stay connected to being a pianist, except for the occasional opportunity I had playing at church or school and practicing for those few and far between opportunities. During the first 14 years of our marriage, we moved around several times due to my husband's profession. Each time, I had to start over with new piano students and build my reputation as a piano teacher in a new community or city. That, along with being a busy mother, took its toll, and when we moved to Texas, I was burned out. I did not have the energy or desire at that time to start over, yet once again. I had gotten my teaching certification before moving, and wanted to begin my career as an educator, which I did. I have had piano students from time to time over the past 22 years, but would only teach them a while before needing to cut back again.

I had lost my passion for playing the piano as a result of all of this. My husband decided he wanted to do something that would light that spark once again and give me the passion I once had for being a pianist. (If you're interested, you can read of how my husband desired to inspire my love for playing the piano again by buying a grand piano for me and of our shopping adventure searching for the right piano in our earlier "Adventure story." I had not asked for a grand piano or even thought about owning one. I was delighted and surprised when he told me he was going to buy me a grand piano!
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 06:47 PM

Buying Two Grands[/b]
Before we buy most things, we research the item and compare different brands or kinds. This was a natural process for us, but because a grand piano is such a major object and I knew, or thought I knew this would be a "once in a life time choice," I had a hard time choosing. We ended up choosing an ornate Feurich, a gorgeous instrument that played like a treasure. In the search I had played a Mason and Hamlin, which I liked almost as much.

My husband found that he loved learning about pianos and shopping for one. So in May we got our Feurich ---- but he kept shopping for a walnut Mason to go with my walnut Feurich, unbeknownst to me. His plan was to put the new Steinbuhler keyboard in the piano that I loved the most and also have a grand with the normal size of keyboard for me to have as well. He searched web sites for a walnut Mason as well as newspapers and Craigslist in many cities. Finally after two months he found a walnut Mason A on Craigslist. It was at an estate sale. The problem was that it was 1600 miles away in Boston. It had been completely rebuilt 6 years ago for an elderly couple.

He talked with two technicians in Boston until he was convinced that it was a very good piano. He then negotiated with the estate and widow until they had agreed on an acceptable price. Then he had to arrange pickup and shipping to Texas. After it arrived at the piano dealer's store, he told me about it and took me to see it. The piano dealer was touching up the case and regulating and voicing it to suit m; then it was to be delivered to our house. Wow, it was beautiful! Sort of a "simple elegance" look. It currently sits perpendicular to the Feurich and looks great there. He then arranged for our local RPT to further tune and voice the piano in our home to see just how very nice it could sound and how I liked the touch.

So which piano do I like best? Both the Feurich and Mason are very fine pianos, but the Feurich clearly has a better base section and a more rich treble which I adore. So the plan continued to be for me to get the new keyboard for the Feurich and to have the Mason here for me to practice on when preparing to play for church or school (on a standard sized keyboard) and also for friends to come over and play duets with.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 07:38 PM

as Paul Harvey would say..and now the rest of the story! how is the narrow keyboard working out?
I know they carry 2 sizes.. Bob
Posted by: JonBrom

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 08:30 PM

I am very seriously thinking of getting the reduced scale Steinbuhler keyboard. Please post your experiences asap!
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 08:58 PM

"The rest of the story" is coming, but in the mean time, to put it briefly, I am very pleased with the Steinbuhler keyboard. Switching to the smaller keys isn't as hard as switching back to normal sized keys. I am currently working on a piano accompaniment for our church choir for in the morning (I'm subbing) and I have to remind myself to stretch my hand to the fullest size when playing octaves. Evenso, it isn't what I would call very difficult and I think I'll be fine. It hasn't been a real problem so far --- as long as I remind myself...
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 10:00 PM

Research and Decisions about the Keyboard[/b]

We found David Steinbuhler to be such a nice and knowledgeable man and my husband continued to talk to him over the phone and via e mail from time to time. David feels that perfecting and making a smaller keyboard for the many pianists who have smaller hands is a calling by God. For eighteen years he has been working on this project. The project began when a professional pianist friend, Christopher Donison, who had small hands for a man, showed him a 7/8 sized keyboard on his grand piano that he had created. David is a mechanical engineer and plays the piano. His family has owned a textile factory for generations and David designs parts and machines for his factory. Many of the parts are made of wood. He asked David if he could make such keyboards. David spent several years learning how to create a computer program to design and build conversion keyboards. He feels that time after time God has opened many doors, directing him by inspiration and coincidence to meet many piano technicians and piano professionals to help him develop this project. He has often gone to RPT conventions and piano educator conventions to learn and promote his project.

Our keyboard was the 67th keyboard that he made. David has created keyboards for many different brands and models of pianos, both grands and uprights. Today six universities have his keyboards in their pianos and are studying the benefits and testing both the 7/8 size and the 15/16 size keyboards, and promoting their adoption. For instance SMU has several 7/8 sized keyboard pianos and Univ. of N. Texas has some in the 15/16 size. The universities have had masters students write their master's thesis on the testing and benefits of the smaller keyboards. Their research is showing that many pain and fatigue problems which come from piano practice can be solved by using smaller keyboards.
Link To Research

Another very interesting bit of information we learned is that the very famous pianist of the early 20th century, Joseph Hoffman, had small hands. He had Steinway build him 3 concert grands with smaller keyboards. I read that after Hoffman died, Steinway collected up the pianos and destroyed them!!! Imagine that. I guess that Steinway did not want anybody else to have such a piano. Does anybody know more about this story, I would love to have the more complete story.

Let me describe the process of getting a new keyboard. David sent us much literature on the keyboard and a large cardboard sheet with the two sizes of keyboards for us to see and "play on". He also sent research about testing on the size of hands that different people have and which of the different sizes of smaller they prefer, or whether they prefer the normal size. I also went to SMU and tried a Steinway B with the 7/8 size keyboard and really liked it. The research says that hands the size of mine do best with the 7/8 size keyboard, so that is what I ordered. Hand Size Research

Just after Christmas a custom made box came from Steinbuhler. It was for shipping my keyboard and action to Titusville, Pennsylvania, where Steinbuhler has his factory. My husband took the keyboard out of the piano which he found easy after watching techs do it. He then took some measurements and pictures of the piano to help Steinbuhler and then put the keyboard and action into the box and sent it off by Fed Ex ground. David had provided the custom shipping box and box shipping straps to secure it closed. Even though everything was carefully done, I was still a little nervous about sending my beautiful keyboard away in a large cardboard box!!
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 10:22 PM

Building A New Keyboard[/b]

In a few days David called to say that the keyboard had arrived safely and he would start on the complicated process. He began with a complicated measurement process and then entered the measurements into a computer which designed the keyboard, which is custom sized and designed for each brand and model of piano. My husband and David talked with Julius Feurich in Germany who made our piano 20 years ago. Since the new keyboard is smaller, then it is not as wide, and the blocks on the ends of the keyboard are too small. Called "cheek blocks" or "key blocks" the old ones can be reused by adding matching blocks as extensions on each end, in the correct size, to the old ones. (See the pictures.)

Julius Feurich agreed to make the custom blocks and veneer and finish them to match our current blocks. So David designed what he needed and shipped the old blocks and design to Germany. Julius made the matching new blocks in about a month and shipped them back to Pennsylvania. He did a perfect job! They match perfectly and look beautiful on the piano. On an ebony piano David can finish the blocks to match himself.

David can also sell a new Charles Walter grand to anybody with the smaller keyboard factory installed. He also sells a new upright with the keyboard installed. This can save money as the nice Charles Walters grands are a bargain and they can have the Steinbuhler keyboard factory installed instead of retrofitted. We seriously considered doing this.

We had decided that we wanted to reuse the old Renner action. This saved us $2,500 as Steinbuhler did not have to buy a new one. If one wants, one can have two keyboards, each with an attached action, which can be changed out in a very few minutes. Dr. Carol Leone of SMU even has a 7/8 keyboard and action for her Steinway Model D which she takes out and puts in Steinways in other cities where she is performing. She hires a local tech to do fine adjustments and regulations on the action, before the concert. After the concert, she herself can take out her keyboard and action and put the original action back in. When she gets back home she puts her keyboard and action back into her piano and returns the regulation to the markings set for her personal piano. This takes her about 30 minutes. My husband has reassured me several times that if ever I want to put my original keyboard back in our piano it would be easy to do. Someone (preferably a piano tech instead of my willing husband) would just have to pull out the keyboard and take off 10 small screws and move the action from the new keyboard to the old keyboard.

Each new brand of piano can present design problems which David has to solve. Our piano's keyboard was connected to the piano differently than most pianos and he had to replicate the design. He also had to build two action stack metal rails to replace two on the action which would not fit on the keys which fanned out more than the original keys. He worked on our keyboard for about a month and was ready to ship it back before Julius Feurich finished with his parts. By the middle of February he was ready to ship it back to us. We received two boxes back. One was for the new keyboard with the action stack on it. Another box was for my original keyboard. David had already worked to level the keyboard keys and regulate the action. However, he explained that the keyboard would need more regulation after we had it put in.
Posted by: kenny

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 11:12 PM

How very fascinating.

Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: hotkeys

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 11:30 PM

I saw this bulletin on Mario Ajero's YouTube Channel a few months ago. I found it interesting as the customized action is only available for grands; you would have to buy a custom upright piano from David Steinbuhler if you wanted the smaller keyboard.

- Mark
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/24/08 11:35 PM

I do not think that you are correct. He will put his action in other uprights. For instance he has put them in Steinway uprights and other brands for universities to put in practice rooms. U. North Texas wanted them in some low priced Asian uprights.
Posted by: hotkeys

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 12:03 AM

Very interesting....Am I to assume that the information on David Steinbuhler\'s customized keyboards has a misprint?

My information is based on the above website link where he states what is available. I gather the information provided is erroneous if it is true that a technician can install this keyboard in an upright. I also found this page in the website that may be misleading as well. :rolleyes:

- Mark
Posted by: JonBrom

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 12:34 AM

Thanks for the informative posts, Jordang! Keep 'em coming!

And God bless Mr. Steinbuhler!

I'm an engineer and it confounds me that piano keyboards are not available in different scales for different size hands. It is a principle of ergonomic engineering that one adapts the machine to the user, NOT force the user to adapt to the machine!

Other musical instruments are available in smaller scales, why not the piano? I suspect just for the same reason we still use the QWERTY typewriter system, sheer pedagogical inertia! We're taught QWERTY because our teachers were taught QWERTY, even though other far more logical and effective schemes are available.

It would be even easier to fit different scale keyboards to digital pianos, so why don't we have them? Eh, Roland? Yamaha?
Posted by: doremi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 07:21 AM


Can you please elaborate a little in what ways the narrower keyboard helps you? You said that your reach on a conventional keyboard was one octave and 10th on the narrower 7/8 keyboard. Is it a comfortable 10th or do you have to hang on the edges? What about 1368 chords on the conventional and narrower 7/8 keyboards?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 07:32 AM

what's amazing is how little is "shaved off" each key..they don't look that skinny yet when its over an 88 keyspan it becomes quite a bit judging by the first pic..and closup of the cheek block!
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 10:41 AM

Hotkeys. We will have to talk to David about this. What I know is that to install a keyboard in an upright David must have the piano in his workshop. He can not leave it to a local tech to install it. I also know that he has put them in pianos which are not the brand that he is offering for sale new. But they have been shipped to him and he makes and installs the keyboard himself in the piano.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 03:35 PM

Changing Touch weight[/b]

David asked us what touch weight, also called down-weight, I wanted on the keyboard. (Touch weight, down-weight, is changed by how the keys are balanced with weights. It is the amount of force that it takes to push the keys down and complete the movement of the action in the down stroke.) I had already learned a great deal about this as I played on many pianos last year. I had learned that Steinways are usually set up with a heavy weight of around 57 grams. Many European pianos like mine had a 53 gram setting. I had long preferred Yamaha pianos because they are set to a lighter weight of around 48 grams. Many Chinese are set lighter at 40 to 45 grams. Actually this is a little more complicated as pianos are usually set up with the treble weighted less than the bass. My Feurich was weighted at 53 grams in the treble and 51 grams in the bass.

David explained that research tests showed that many people with small hands prefer light weighting. I decided on 48 grams in the trebel and 46 grams in the bass for my new keyboard. This can be changed within some limits on any piano. I learned that most classic piano music was composed and played on European pianos in the 18th and 19th century which had light Viennese actions. Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, etc. preferred these light weighted actions so that they could play repetitions faster. They also believed that these actions allowed more tone control. I also learned, last year, that Horowitz had his Steinways changed to very light weighted actions. By the end of the 19th century most pianos went to the English action and used the heavier weighting which the English and Steinway used. Steinway had invented their own action which had heavy weightings. Students were told that heavier actions would strengthen their fingers and allow them to play louder. I personally don't believe this now. A piano which plays with less force required allows me to play forte with the less force on my lighter weighted keyboard. Why do you think Horowitz put a very light weighting in his Steinways? Could he play with greater tone control? Could he practice longer with less fatigue? Did his old hands need less force?
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 06:14 PM

Questions Answered[/b]

When we opened the two boxes we were disappointed to see that that UPS had damaged the box in shipping and 5 of the hammers had been broken off the shanks. We called David Steinbuhler and he assured us our local tech could replace the hammer shanks and put the hammers on new Renner shanks. We carefully looked at everything and were amazed at the perfection and complexity of what we looked at. David had told us the keys were made of better wood than the original Kluge keys. He uses solid hard Maple instead of the softer pine which Kluge and most other manufacturers use. Their softer pine is easier to cut and shape but has more flex. The larger the piano is the more this is an issue. For instance concert grands have much longer keys to reach further into the piano, and pine keys can have too much flex in the keys to be as precise in playing as is possible with more stiff wooden keys. This is even more critical on the 7/8th size keyboards as the keys angle out, fan out, more than a normal keyboard. The more rigid maple keys of the Steinbuhler keyboard solve this problem. Steinbuhler makes his keys more rigid on the most curved keys by a design which uses more maple wood in the curved area of the keys.

My husband then got an appointment for our local RPT to come and spend the day fixing the broken Renner hammer shanks and installing and fine regulating the action. This was the first time he, Dale Probst, had worked on a Steinbuhler keyboard, although Dale had met David and seen the keyboard at RPT conventions. So I went to school and taught my second graders, and Dale spent most of the day installing and regulating my new keyboard and tuning the piano. He had to cope with all of my husband's questions. He finally told my husband he usually worked alone and in quiet, so my husband left and went to work. (I think that he collected up more questions at work that day and brought them back home that afternoon.)

After school I rushed home to try out my new keyboard. Dale had just finished, and he and my husband were waiting for me. They were excited to know what I thought. I sat down and started playing the second movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and a Rachmaninov prelude. I could play them immediately. It's true that I had to concentrate and remind myself I was playing a smaller keyboard, but I quickly learned how much to extend my hands for the larger chords. Finally, I could play 10ths and full chords with ease. Within ten minutes I was playing music that had frustrated me in the past. When I play a tenth on the Steinbuhler, I am at the front of the keys, but I'm not hanging off and touching just the tip of them. I can play an inverted I 6/4 chord with an interval of a tenth between the top and bottom key, as well as a I, IV, and others.

My piano sounded as wonderful as it had before. Now I loved it even more! The keyboard played the same as the old keyboard as far as touch precision but David had followed my instructions and weighted the touch weight lighter than the old keyboard. I believe that this allows me to play faster, grander, and with more control and dynamic range. Finally I have a piano which was sized for my smaller hands, an action that is better for me than a Yamaha, and a very beautiful grand piano which sounds better to me than most any piano. Now I can play longer with less hand fatigue and less stress and pain. And I can finally play complex and wider chords without rolling them. I hope to develop a better technique and enjoy playing a larger repertoire of piano music than ever before. I have rediscovered my passion for the piano and have found the joy of "losing myself" in the beautifully and challenging piano music that the great composers have given us.

The cost of the Steinbuhler keyboard: The keyboard cost $7,500, plus about $300 shipping (cost for two ways.) We paid the tech $660 for installation, regulation and tuning. Steinbuhler paid for the hammer shank replacement and filed a claim with UPS ($240). So our total cost was $8,460.

Here is a picture me playing a tenth on the new keyboard for comparison. It is easy.

Here is a picture of me playing an eighth on a conventional keyboard which is about all that I can play comfortably.
Posted by: JonBrom

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/25/08 11:51 PM

Thanks for your continuing posts. Please keep us informed on your progress with the 7/8 keyboard.

You've inspired me to look into finding a Tier One piano that needs restoration and having the smaller keyboard fitted as part of the process. I also like the idea of a new Charles Walter grand with the Steinbuhler keyboard and action already installed.

I've email David and am making arrangements to visit him sometime this fall. I'd like to try out the 15/16 scale, too.

Funny, but just today I met a young man who had the best piano hands I've ever seen. Long, thin fingers, narrow palm, looked as if he could easily span a 12th! Didn't play the piano and had no interest in music at all.

I have passionately loved music and the piano since I was four-years-old. I can barely span an 8th.

Why does God do this
Posted by: Mark...

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/26/08 12:03 AM

Here is two videos of the reduced keyboard...
Posted by: David Steinbuhler

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/27/08 11:06 PM

JordanG recently directed me to this thread, which I read with great interest. Let me address the confusion about smaller keyboards for upright pianos. At this point it is not practical for me to offer a retrofit on an upright piano. I am offering new uprights pianos with smaller keyboards. In addition to the imported Chinese upright piano which is showed on my website, you can also purchase a Charles Walters upright with a smaller keyboard.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/28/08 08:30 AM

What a terrific thread! Thanks, Jordang, for taking the time to write about your adventures in such detail. The pictures were very helpful as well.

p.s. You realize you have a dreamboat of a hubby, don't you? \:\)

p.p.s. Welcome to the forum, David. Your keyboards are amazing.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/28/08 09:44 AM

Using Jordang's photo illustration of F# to F#
I can reach F# to G#..would I'd better suited to
the 15/16 model rather than the 7/8? Bob
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/28/08 10:20 AM

This is one of the most intereting threads I've read in some time.

I can see why is is so expensive. It is almost unbelievable that detail work and accuracy necessary for this to work can be executed.

I am really impressed!
Posted by: ToriAnais

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 07:30 AM

I want one I want one I want one!!!!!

What's the story with getting one of these babies in Australia?
Posted by: David Steinbuhler

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 12:57 PM

To answer Bob Newbie's question on what keyboard size a pianist should use I offer the following suggestions.

First stretch your hand over a ruler and measure your hand span in the same way as pictured in the Hand Gauge below.

Then compare your hand span with the hands and zones in the chart below. The data in the chart was collected at the 2004 MTNA National Convention. A red dot shows the hand span of a female pianist and a blue dot shows the hand span of a male pianist. Below the dots I have created three zones for three keyboard sizes that represent all of my observations of pianists playing many keyboard sizes over the past 10 years. Notice the three keyboard sizes are divided into three overlapping zones allowing for differences in finger thickness and personal preference. But there is no substitute for a pianist actually experiencing the keyboards.

Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 02:25 PM

Thanks! Its 8 1/4.. where do I "fit" in ? Bob
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 02:54 PM

Bob. Your hand size puts you in the top range of the 7/8 and the mid range of the 15/16, as I understand the presentation.. Please consider that your hand size might be only 7 3/4 inches. When I put a ruler up to my computer screen, the picture above is out of scale. 7 3/4 puts you more into the 7/8 range. So you need to use a ruler and then look carefully at the zones of the above picture. Also it is my understanding that finger size has something to do with which you would like the best. Think about how thick your fingers are.

As we wrote about, the Dallas area has universities using both sizes.

Thanks David for contributing. Please tell us about your efforts to make it easier for people in Australia and Europe to get the keyboards.
Posted by: Innominato

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 06:06 PM

Jordang, thanks so much for the time and energy you spent in describing all your journey. One has the impression that you lead a happy life with, among other things, a husband that after 30 years marriage is still full of attentions and devotes a lot of energy in your common "projects". Beautiful to read and best wishes and congratulations to both of you!

On the more "technical" side, I'd say that costs in excess of USD 8k for a retrofit will confine this extremely interesting solution to a niche market, particularly in bespoke quality-rebuilds for people with smaller hands. Still, an extremely interesting idea and it surprises that only Charles Walters offers it from the scratch seen with how many personalizations fine pianos can be ordered.
I have a question for you: do you think that such a keyboard, after allowing for the necessary adjustments, may be beneficial also for people with no particular hand problems?

I am thinking about the following:

1. I can take a 9th, and next years hopefully a 10th. Still, no doctor has ever prescribed that I have to stretch my hands more than perfectly comfortable (situations of partial "discomfort" do happen to me, it certainly does not help the playing).

2. I have, like you, thin fingers; is it fair to assume that a 7/8 keyboard would allow me *greater speed* and *greater ease of playing* even by smaller intervals, whilst the thin fingers would avoid the problem of "overcrowding"? I was astonished at how easily you adapted to the new keyboard, so this 7/8 must fall very "naturally" under the hand of people with thin fingers, right?
Or to put it in a different way: if one has thin fingers, why should the 7/8 keyboard not be beneficial to him even if his hands would allow him to use the standard keyboard?

Food for thought, really... I cannot avoid thinking how would it be to play all the pieces I now know on such a keyboard for ease of learning and speed, irrespective of hands span...

Thanks again. God bless you.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 06:21 PM

Jordang: I measured in 2 ways..first with a ruler..then I placed my hand on my piano keys
and measured my hand on the keys I can reach a 9th
(no strain)would I be looking at a 15/16 model?
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 09:59 PM

Bob, I was expecting that David would get back today, but he has not. So let me try to give my much less informed opinion. Your hand size is in the lower part of the 15/16 zone, I believe. If you were playing on it you could play another key or two in your stretch. You could play wide interval chords more comfortably. If you have small fingers you could also play the 7/8 keyboard very well and gain another key. Some people prefer the 15/16 keyboard because there is less difference from the normal size and they can switch easier between keyboards with less adjustment. SMU, etc. research shows that when people practice and learn pieces on small keyboards, and then perform on a normal keyboard, they usually do fine. The extra stress and stretching of practice is greatly reduced and people learn pieces much easier and have much more confidence.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/29/08 11:14 PM

Jordang, thanks so much for the time and energy you spent in describing all your journey. One has the impression that you lead a happy life with, among other things, a husband that after 30 years marriage is still full of attentions and devotes a lot of energy in your common "projects". Beautiful to read and best wishes and congratulations to both of you!
You are most welcome. We are glad that you are getting good information that you're interested in from our thread. Yes, I do lead a happy life right now and am truly thankful for my husband. Relationships and marriage is not always smooth sailing, as we all know; and one has to go through that tunnel of tubulence and problems and get to the other side to find a smooth patch in the road again. But it is worth it when you get there.

Do you think that such a keyboard ... may be beneficial also for people with no particular hand problems? ... I have, like you, thin fingers; is it fair to assume that a 7/8 keyboard would allow me *greater speed* and *greater ease of playing* even by smaller intervals, whilst the thin fingers would avoid the problem of "overcrowding"?... So this 7/8 must fall very "naturally" under the hand of people with thin fingers, right? Or to put it in a different way: if one has thin fingers, why should the 7/8 keyboard not be beneficial to him even if his hands would allow him to use the standard keyboard?
My opinion is that the smaller keyboard would be beneficial for people with thin fingers. It should allow one to play with greater speed and comfort, if that person has the ability, technique and talent to do so. I have been playing the piano since I was about five years old and, obviously adjusted to the standard key size. Since Joseph Hoffmann had keyboards that were adjusted to the size of his hand and he was such an amazing pianist, other people would excell as he did, don't you think? I found the 7/8 keyboard easy to adjust to, as I said earlier. I don't know how difficult it would be for a person who learned on a 7/8 keyboard to adjust to the larger key size. That is a question, perhaps, David or Dr. Carol Leone could better answer for you. I would be interested in their answer. Be sure and read Dr. Leone's lecture which is referenced on Steinbuhler's web site.

I am currently a public school teacher with plans to become a private and class piano teacher again in a few years when I retire. I plan to teach young children, especially 3, 4, and 5 year olds, on my Steinbuhler keyboard. Until then I have no personal data or experience to know how easy or difficult switching to a larger keyboard size would be for children. However, the universities are reporting how very easy and helpful the switching is for older people. Dr. Leone is now trying it with children in their Piano Preparatory Department. Be sure and read the story about the young boy performing Rachmaninov at a convention.
Boy at Convention
Posted by: 88Key_PianoPlayer

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 12:20 AM

This idea of a reduced-size keyboard sounds very interesting. I don't have very small hands, but then they are still probably only 3/4 the size of Rachmaninoff's. There have been times when I've wanted to play 12ths, 13ths, or even 15ths, but have been unable to. \:\(

This is my hand playing an easy 8th (octave)

Here is a 10th, the largest I play on a regular basis.

(White to white is easier than white to black, but I can do some white to black. One of the hardest for me though, of the white to black, is C# to F separated by an octave+.)

Just for fun, I took this pic of me attempting a 12th. I have to press down the one key with one finger, use a finger on my other hand to press the other key, and SSTTRREETTCCHH my thumb to grab onto the corner of the other key.

That's my old upright that has a conventional size keyboard. If it weren't for the fact that I'm looking for another upright on a less-than-$500 budget AND the fact that David Steinbuhler said in an earlier post that he doesn't retrofit into just any upright, I'd consider getting it installed into either a 1950s Baldwin Hamilton, or a 147cm/58" or taller upright.

FWIW, on the cheap 2-3 octave toy keyboards that Casio & Yamaha have made (the ones designed for kids with narrow & small keys) I can reach a 13th fairly easily, and a 14th with a bit of a stretch. I suspect I could reach a 15th with a similar stretch to what I did with the 12th on my full-size-keyboard piano.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 01:11 AM

So what you need is a bunch of tuning jobs to pay for the best Charles Walters vertial console with a small keyboard. Then you could quit dreaming and play 10ths and 12ths easily. \:D And have a much better piano to boot. Even play 14ths in your edge playing way which I have used... can't do it very fast though.
Posted by: 88Key_PianoPlayer

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 01:30 AM

Actually, I'd rather have it installed in a Baldwin Hamilton (one of the older ones - pre-1960).

oh well... wishful thinking...
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 07:47 AM

88 key..i did just what you did..I didn't consider
that an easy 10th..that's why I said a 9th comfortably.. I think our hands are of a similar size..which I believe is large for me,I'm only a 5'5 adult... \:D Bob
Posted by: 88Key_PianoPlayer

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 05:33 PM

I'm about 5'11" to 6'0" or so - haven't measured recently though. :p

I guess my hands are too small to comfortably play 15ths, though. \:\(
Posted by: doremi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 07:43 PM

Originally posted by David Steinbuhler:
But there is no substitute for a pianist actually experiencing the keyboards. [/b]
When that means that I had to travel to David, Charles Walter, or SMU then I'm out of luck. They are all so remote, sigh...
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 05/30/08 09:35 PM

So doremi. I guess that you need to get in touch with David and see where you can find a university or individual who has it. Where do you live? David does send out full sized cardboard keyboard in the two sizes. They are fun to play with.
Posted by: David Steinbuhler

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/01/08 09:17 AM

I never know how a pianist will react when they actually experience the different keyboard sizes. At the 2004 MTNA convention the man with the largest hand, measuring 10.2 inches, absolutely loved the 15/16 keyboard saying for the first time he felt at home at the piano. And then there was a piano teacher with an average female hand of less than 8 inches who preferred to have just a little change in keyboard size. She struggles with pain and strain and can only play for about 30 minutes on the conventional keyboard before she has to stop due to pain. She came to Titusville and played all weekend on the smaller keyboards pain free. In the end she chose the 15/16 as the jump to this size keyboard was not too great but it did relieve her pain and strain.

Generally, if pianists have hand spans of 8 inches or less they are very comfortable on the 7/8 keyboard. This includes most women. At universities around the world, 70 to 80 percent of the students studying piano are female and in my view they struggle to learn their repertoire on instruments that no not fit their hands. I believe there is a crying need for the world to adopt the 7/8 size keyboard and level the playing field and then in a perfect world there is a need for the 15/16 as well.
Posted by: doremi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/01/08 02:37 PM

I believe there is a crying need for the world to adopt the 7/8 size keyboard and level the playing field and then in a perfect world there is a need for the 15/16 as well. [/QB]
I have always wondered why conventional pianos have been designed with such wide keys. In the olden days of piano development, I would surmise that hand spans were even smaller than what they are today.

P.S. I don't have a big problem in this regard, but I wouldn't mind trying out a small keyboard.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/13/08 06:24 PM

I was talking to David Steinbuhler on the telephone. He is working to make it easier for people elsewhere in the world to order a keyboard. He has been working on a way for a piano tech to do the measurements for him. He is developing a jig which is an instrument to help a tech do the measurements. Then a person who wants a new keyboard can a local tech to measure and order and install the keyboard. David then would not have to require a person to ship their old keyboard to him. So shipping would be only one way.

David is also planning to go to Australia at the end of summer to visit with some techs there and teach them how to make measurements for him. In October he is planning to again be at the World Piano Pedagogy Conference in Dallas, TX. People could play a new keyboard then.
Posted by: doremi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/13/08 06:34 PM

Can David not get the measurements he needs from the manufacturer? With final regulation by the local piano tech? I would think that at least some manufacturers would be happy to expand their user base and cooperate. Charles Walter does.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/13/08 06:48 PM

He is installing them in older grands, mostly Steinways, but also other brands. He finds that each piano is a little different even among Steinways of the same model. So that is why the measurements.

He developed a version for Steinway D which can be adjusted by a tech to fit any D. This is how Dr. Leone takes her keyboard to where she is going to play a concert. She has a local tech adjust her keyboard to fit the local piano. So far no other brand of piano but Walters is willing to work with him. Kraig Gilliam, a M&H dealer here in North Texas, has asked M&H to sell their pianos with a Steinbuhler keyboard. They said they were selling all the pianos they could build and were not interested at this time.
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/13/08 06:56 PM

doremi, You asked why 19th century pianos adopted the current size keyboard. People then had smaller hands. I have wondered the same thing. Early 19th century keyboards were smaller like harpsicords. So My GUESS: Chopin was only 5'2" tall and had small hands. But piano makers were interested in getting the approval of the men virtuosos like Liszt. Men did the public performing, had the money and did the buying. So makers made one size keyboard to suit the large hands which big men had. \:\(
Posted by: doremi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/14/08 12:47 PM

He developed a version for Steinway D which can be adjusted by a tech to fit any D.[/b]
Looks like such an adjustable version would facilitate marketing of the small keyboards. For example, send such a version around dealerships with a week for each dealer. Or sell such an adjustable version as a 'quick install by local tech' version.
Posted by: apple*

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/14/08 04:01 PM

Jordang, this is the most fascinating thread i have EVER read at Piano World. I am in awe of your household situation with two marvelous pianists so immersed in the world of music with two pianos.. one retrofitted. I am so happy that this venture worked for you. I bet you both are ecstatic.

Frank, i suggest a commemmorative forum of the best most informative threads ever... suggested by nomination.... simply for the pleasure of reading.

Many people should have the oppurtunity to read threads like these

-apple, also a church musician \:\)
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/16/08 09:30 AM

Thank you apple. I emailed your suggestion to Frank. He asked that we start a thread talking about your idea. Could you please start one. I really like your idea. Maybe you could start a similar thread on several forums where different people hang out.
Posted by: Zormpas

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/16/08 11:56 AM

Jordang, did you ever consider a Janko keyboard? Not that anyone makes them anymore, but I'm curious as it was supposed to solve these kinds of problems. I'm not at all suggesting that it would have been better - I'm just curious.

For those who haven't heard of the Janko - it was an "abandoned" attempt (at the turn of the 20th century) at a totally different type of piano keyboard that supposedly made playing quite a bit easier. Google is your friend!
Posted by: Barbara G

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/16/08 12:32 PM

I have seen pictures and read about them in some of my piano books. They look very odd to me, and they require a complete piano made just for them, I'm assuming from those pictures.
Posted by: miaeih

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/16/08 03:07 PM

Just curious, is there R&D for the future? For example, going into making smaller sized keys or is there a particular reason in stopping at 7/8? I ask because I am on the low end, 6.7~7.0, depending on the hand; this is at absolute max stretch. 7/8 would still be very limiting.

Until it becomes more popular, do those who play on the smaller keyboard give up their repertoire when going to a venue without the smaller keyboards? Would one have to learn two versions of the same piece? Switching with ease I assume is only possible if what you are playing actually fits under your hands on both pianos.

BTW, thanks for the detailed report!
Posted by: David Steinbuhler

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/18/08 11:12 AM

miaeih, let me say more about keyboard size.

One of our initial challenges was to see how small we could build keyboards that maintain the feel and response of the conventional. The conventional keyboard measures about 48 inches overall and 7/8ths of 48 is 42 inches. Our very first customer wanted to be able to walk 10ths like Oscar Peterson and had calculated to do it she would need a 38 inch keyboard. At the time this size seemed way beyond what was possible, but after the development of our brace and a couple of other tricks, we were able to do it!

For the first time in the history of the piano, this gave us the opportunity to observe how hands of every size respond to a complete range of piano keyboard sizes. You can read about our “study” at Our Research on our website. We have concluded that there is an overwhelming need for a 7/8 keyboard. In addition, there is a desire for a 15/16 keyboard, which would also provide comfortable jumps between sizes. We have built a keyboard that is the next size smaller down from the 7/8 keyboard and think that young children might have an interest in it.

miaeih, you are welcome to come to Titusville and try this smallest keyboard. One of the biggest surprises we have found is the ease with which a pianist can go between keyboard sizes, however, you will only be able to play the repertoire that actually fits under your hands as you suggest.
Posted by: stevenr004

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/25/09 02:53 AM

thanks for all of this information - i'm already looking into these keyboards, and this is helpful.

steven r.
Posted by: SeilerFan

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/25/09 08:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Barbara G
[b] David had told us the keys were made of better wood than the original Kluge keys. He uses solid hard Maple instead of the softer pine which Kluge and most other manufacturers use. Their softer pine is easier to cut and shape but has more flex. The larger the piano is the more this is an issue. ...

I don't buy this one. There is a purpose that spruce or pine are used for the keys. The slight flexibility is actually something desirable. The larger the piano, the better this flexibility. Also, I think it only comes into play when playing forte. There is not enough pressure or force to trigger the flexibility of pine when playing piano. I've been told this by a German piano technician. Maybe he is wrong, who knows. However, Steinbuehler's argument that this results in reduced control of the keyboard is speculative at best.

Also, with respect to your post on touch weight, there is no unanimous agreement that lighter is better. Some pianists prefer it this way, others like a heavy touch. Rubinstein, so I have read, loved to dig into the keys. The argument that someone made (and that you mentioned) that when training on a heavier keyboard it is easier to play on a lighter one, has been holding true for me. I have a heavy touch on my grand (55g throughout except for keys 1 to 13 which have 57g), and I love it, and it has given me some strength. I feel very, very comfortable when playing on a lighter, say 51g keyboard. Of course, if I had to play on an extremely light keyboard (usually only found in some uprights or some specially prepared grands), I might have problems.

Thanks for your enjoyable story. David Steinbuhler's work is great, no doubt.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/25/09 12:14 PM

Originally Posted By: SeilerFan
Originally Posted By: Barbara G
[b] David had told us the keys were made of better wood than the original Kluge keys. He uses solid hard Maple instead of the softer pine which Kluge and most other manufacturers use. Their softer pine is easier to cut and shape but has more flex. The larger the piano is the more this is an issue. ...

I don't buy this one. There is a purpose that spruce or pine are used for the keys. The slight flexibility is actually something desirable. The larger the piano, the better this flexibility. Also, I think it only comes into play when playing forte. There is not enough pressure or force to trigger the flexibility of pine when playing piano. I've been told this by a German piano technician. Maybe he is wrong, who knows.

I would say your German tech is incorrect.

A flexible key is not a good feature in any size of piano.
Posted by: SeilerFan

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/25/09 01:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Rod Verhnjak
I would say your German tech is incorrect.
A flexible key is not a good feature in any size of piano.

Rod, can you elaborate? By flexible I don't mean true flex but a slight dynamic behavior when extreme force is applied. We all know that properly cut spruce keys are incredibly strong and light when they're cut properly with the grain running in the same direction as the key. If hardwood such as maple would be an improvement over spruce, why don't all premium manufacturers use it? Maybe David Steinbuhler's choice of wood is an improvement over the standard choice. I haven't played hardwood keys yet. Just wondering if there is actual evidence that hardwood is better. Methinks, the increased sturdiness comes at the price of increased weight, or am I wrong?
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/25/09 05:06 PM

His keys need the added rigidity because they are smaller. The angles at the extremes are also greater. Increased weight, if that would even be a problem on normal sized keys, is offset by the fact that the keys are smaller. Anyway, I got to play both versions at a piano pedagogy conference last month... GREAT work! I was able to play a 10th!! smile
Posted by: MrLiszthoven

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 11/29/10 03:33 AM

I think the keys of all pianos should be easier to reach.
I'm curious if piano makers even take into account the existence of 10ths and 11ths, i.e. the music of Chopin and Liszt, for example. I'd like to play a piano on which I could play an 11th.
One piece I know of that has an unbroken chord spanning 11 keys is Liszt's Sonata in B minor.
I hope that the keys' reduced size doesn't give the pianist the issue of fingers getting caught in between any keys. And I hope the custom built piano would sound and feel as great as any piano.
I wonder how I could get one of these pianos in Britain.
Posted by: MrLiszthoven

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 11/29/10 04:01 AM

I'm not sure if Chopin was 5'2. I think I've heard otherwise.
Posted by: MrLiszthoven

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 11/29/10 07:43 AM

@JonBrom, I agree 100 percent. The product should be accustomed to the user.
Posted by: MrLiszthoven

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 11/29/10 09:51 PM

Hi David. Have you any idea how somebody in Britain could get one of these custom built pianos?
Posted by: Rhonda B

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/02/11 04:13 AM

I have just joined Piano World Forums. I also acquired a 7/8 keyboard for my grand piano from David Steinbuhler two years ago. David Steinbuhler came out here (Melbourne, Australia) late in 2008 to measure my piano and train a couple of technicians to do future measurements and installations. (He came with his wife, Linda, and made the trip into a holiday!) There is a bit about this on his website under 'first international sale' (

I am amazed at how much easier everything is - not just large chords and octaves, but arpeggio-type figures and broken chords, broken octaves, etc...There is also much less uncomfortable stretching (on the conventional keyboard, I'm hanging off the edge of the white keys to play octaves), much greater power and feeling of security. It also makes me realise how much tme I spent trying to conquer technically difficult passages in the past. A fundamental issue here is whether something is 'under the hand' or not.

As others have said, the adjusting process is very quick. To get around the problem of performing elsewhere, I bought an electronic piano with standard keyboard for practice - this is more convenient than swapping keyboards in the grand, as I'm often practising different repertoire on the two keyboards. I have also watched even large handed males try it, and the most talented adjust almost immediately.

I did a survey of American pianists using 7/8 or 15/16 keyboards in early 2009 - results are written up in a conference paper I presented in Sydney that year. (

This year, I've just completed a website as a repository for relevant information - research, teachers, univeristies ec....For those interested, the address is:
Posted by: gnuboi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/02/11 01:44 PM

Thanks for resurrecting this thread, Rhonda, and thanks for the research you compiled. I had thought "modifying" my grand was the only option but perhaps a new Walters upright (or whatever else Steinbuhler & Company offers these days) could work, too. I have contacted them to see if there's any keyboard close in my area that I could try.

My son has a toy 1-octave plastic piano (lots of cool features like a drum sensor, folds out to a guitar, etc.) from Target. It's definitely a more manageable keyboard wink
Posted by: Rhonda B

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/02/11 06:59 PM

The only other 7/8 in Australia is a Walter upright owned by Sydney teacher, Erica Booker. It's fine (I've tried it), but it cost her as much to import as a 7/8 action/keyboard (her freight costs were higher than for me).

If you look under 'resources' on my website you'll see where the various universities and private teachers are located, so hopefully there is someone near you. Of course there will be others who have bought them but are not teaching, and David S is the ony one who will know where they are.

By the way, what is your hand span? If you can't play a 10th then a smaller keyboard is definitely an advantage. But if your fingers are a bit chunky then you may prefer the 15/16 rather than the 7/8.
Posted by: gnuboi

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/03/11 01:58 PM

Hand span at about 7.5 inches / 19 cm. I can reach 8th. Can only reach 9th on left hand. No can do with 10th. A stretch of an 8th with some notes mixed in the middle starts to get uncomfortable. Do that in rapid succession in forte or fortissimo and the hand/wrist gets tired from being so tense from the stretching. Something fun like Scott Joplin is only fun the first pass through and then it gets painful cry.

Talked to the wife about buying the Walter 1500 and selling my (1-year owned) grand... I think she's a bit pissed off that I didn't buy the right piano to begin with!

My plan now is to wait and just deal with the conventional keyboard until one day I am allowed to purchase (or I can stop pretending to be the victim and just take matters into my own, er, small, hands, argh).

Throw into the mix my children's eventual piano education. I have a feeling the teacher would not approve of a non-conventional keyboard. Their hands might grow to be bigger than mine but I doubt more than a span of 8.5 inches (their mom's).

In the meantime I will look for the Steinbuhler keyboard locally, or find some time to get to Titusville. There is a potential family trip to the Dallas area so maybe I should go visit SMU or UNT there smile

A possible parallel course of action would be to get myself a teacher, someone preferably a professional player who knows proper mechanics and technique. It's possible I can mitigate some or even most of my problems with proper technique in spite of hand size.

Thank you so much for your help!
Posted by: Rhonda B

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 06/07/11 02:23 AM

I'm not sure what level you're at, but having a decent teacher who can teach good technique is very important - even more so if you have small hands. My own technique has changed dramatically in the last decade since I went to a decent teacher - this was mostly before I got the 7/8. I generally don't suffer from pain or any injuries, though I notice a lot less discomfort from stretching on the 7/8.

However 7.5 inches is quite small, and you'd undoubtedly enjoy a smaller keyboard far more and play at a higher level, especially if you're attempting advanced Romantic or later repertoire. It's a pity to give up a grand though for a Walter upright. If your kids are young then they would enjoy a smaller keyboard initially...but you'd have to decide later on having an alternative if their hands get too big. A this stage however, most of us need to have some sort of conventional keyboard in the my case it's just an electronic piano.

By all means get to Dallas or wherever convenient to try it out!
Posted by: stevenr004

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 08/12/12 07:54 PM

That looks like a nice shop.
Posted by: musicalman

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 03/17/16 02:13 PM

Hi all,
I realize I'm bumping a pretty inactive thread so I apologize if this isn't the best idea. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this, since it has been something I have been at least a little interested in ever since I was a child. Also a little disclaimer: everything I'm saying here is based on my own personal experience alone and what I've read and seen. Therefore it's not scientifically backed up or anything.
I've been playing piano since I was 4. I was always taught on an acoustic piano, and I also had one at home pretty early on to practice on. At various times, people would buy cheap toy keyboards for me when they heard how much I liked playing the piano. While they were often just fun little toys for me to play with and didn't entertain me musically, I did notice pretty quickly that they had smaller keys. I remember sometimes, even when I was 10 or 11, practicing on my good keyboard or my piano, which both had very similar key sizes, but I would then also try to play some of the stuff on my small 37-note toy keyboards just for fun. Immediately, my hands just felt more relaxed on them. Passages which I had to fight through a little on conventional keys felt only maybe half or a third as awkward on smaller keys. While I could reach a ninth back then if I pushed it, I was able to do tenths on those toy keyboards with less effort than ninths on conventional keys. Since I love the sound of tenths and almost always use them in the bass section when I improvise, I knew that was my goal, to at least be able to play them. I didn't want to roll them either.
In the end, I ended up getting half. I can reach all minor tenths with mild effort. Major tenths I can do if they're white-key tenths like C-E, F-A, etc. Black key tenths like F#-A# are also doable, though I don't do them much because I'm always afraid I'll slip off one or both keys since I need to do a lot of anchoring to hit the correct notes. What I cannot trust myself to do are the white-black tenths like D-F#, which are extremely iffy, or even worse, Db-F, which I absolutely must roll. While I can touch the correct notes, I can't press them down without my palm coming in contact with keys in the middle. I never use large intervals in performance either, I only do it when improvising, when I can take time to prepare for them. I also tend to like slower, floaty playing, such as jazz ballads
, and so I'll purposefully try impossible chords which I have to roll, but in that music it is more acceptable to roll things, even when you don't have to.
When I started lessons, I almost exclusively played on acoustic pianos like I said, and not keyboard. I was told growing up that practicing on piano is essential when starting out, as you would quickly get accustomed to the physical demands of the instrument early on. Supposedly if you start on keyboard, you'll never fully adapt to the piano later. Furthermore, if you start on piano, you will supposedly hate keyboards for their plasticky or extremely light touch.
For a while I believed every word, but I now have changed my opinion. Starting when I was around 15, I started seriously playing with synthesizers. My fascination with music technology and different types of synthesizers has led me to enjoy geeking out with them just as much, if not even more, than playing and performing on a piano. I also immediately fell in love with the different synth action. I particularly like Roland's synth action on their keyboards, which feels virtually weightless. It's not even semi-weighted. I only know one other person besides myself who would kill for an 88-key synth action keyboard that felt like the Roland 61-key synth action. While I feel like I have more control on an acoustic instrument and that playing one is refreshing and exciting, I feel like I also have to fight more with it, where as with synth action, I can literally gloss over the keys with a bare minimum of effort. By carefully moving my fingers where I want them, I can make the lightest and floatiest glisses on a synth action keyboard, particularly if it has the feel I like and am used to. I can also play a lot faster and more fluidly than I can on a piano. I do not like synth action for things which I am used to playing on piano, but I still don't mind the transition, since I see the two actions as two completely different animals which have their own strengths, and I feel comfortable adapting. In truth I never really did fully acquaint with acoustic action, even when I was little and had exclusive exposure to it.
What does this have to do with the topic at hand? Well, the fact that I first dismissed synth action and then later fell in love with it illustrates how I am beginning to feel about reduced sized keys.
When I first learnt that these reduced sized keyboards were made, my first reaction was, "They're only for toys, they can't do that for concert or professional instruments, right?" I almost scoffed at the idea. I'd grown up practicing on strictly normal sized piano keys, and snuck in some fiddling with smaller keys when I was alone. But, always trying to diversify my playing has taught me something.
My piano playing encompasses several genres. I can do classical pretty well, and I use the word classical loosely to mean Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc. I don't really like doing it as much, since my knack for improvisation gets in the way, and I constantly have to remind myself that I can't phrase things exclusively how I like, I do have to stick with what's written, which I feel often doesn't give me room to do my own things to them without directly violating some of the score. Nevertheless I still play that music sometimes and I have a deep respect for it.
My real passion though is jazz, whether it be playing piano or synth. I even love exclusively electronic music, and am becoming more and more comfortable composing and working with it, since I can combine jazz and some classical influence with it.
The reason I mention the different styles I play is because they all lean toward different technique. Classical requires a smooth, measured approach, with only occasionally needing large reaches. It's acceptable to sparingly roll chords in classical literature, as the goal is performing and interpreting the music, not on focusing on physical limitations of the player. Jazz requires a very precise direct touch, but relies on larger, and more dense chords, as they have a bigger, fuller sound. Now, you can make nice-sounding chords with small intervals, but it isn't quite the same. Synth work as I said is a completely different ball game, which pretty much exclusively focuses on tight chromatic or diatonic work on a very different style of keyboard, which rarely jumps more than an octave at a time.
As has been said a million times over, the ideal hand for piano would be slender with long fingers. That way they could reach wider intervals but could still play in small distances, particularly between the black keys or when doing rapid chromatic passagework. I've been told by more than a couple people that I "definitely have piano hands," especially when they see me play. Because I love wide intervals in my left hand combined with chromatic runs in my right, I end up showing both ends of the spectrum while improvising. For most people, my hand size would probably be considered adequate.
So does someone like me really need a reduced size keyboard? While the question has already been posed in this thread and I feel it has been answered very well, I want to bring up a few minor points.
Only a few people have had hand spans wide enough to really reach 10ths and 11ths comfortably. As it stands, I think even going to a 15/16 keyboard would put me in that league of pianists who could do that. Just before typing this post, I tested myself on a toy keyboard I still had, which had smaller keys, to see if I now felt the keys were too small. The action was about as horrid as it gets, since it wasn't at all regulated. Some keys were floppy while others were very tight. But it is only a toy for heaven's sake. That aside, I found I could still manage the keys well, and could reach a 13th at max. I could walk tenths with relative ease, all the way up the chromatic scale, which got me kind of excited and is really all I asked for. I couldn't try technically difficult material since the instrument was only 37 keys and like I said the action was awful, so it wouldn't really be a fair trial. I think it would be cool to test though on a better keyboard.
I did notice that playing a chromatic scale was actually pretty difficult, because I'd always overcompensate. My thumbs felt just a bit too broad, as they would always cross under my fingers too much and hit the keys next to the ones I meant to hit. They did feel a little crowded. But the rest of my fingers adjusted well. Then again, the keys on this keyboard don't give much room lengthwise, so on a more professional instrument, I might have better results. I'm not great at chromatic scales anyway, so maybe with practice this would no longer be a problem on the smaller keyboard. I'm not sure what the size of these keys were, though I suspect the 7/8 size.
So the ultimate question. Who really *needs* a reduced size keyboard? Should it be a matter of choice, or should it be restricted to those who really need it? I feel the former is really the way to go now that I've thought about it. But if, hypothetically, I got a smaller keyboard, I'd be able to do my walking tenths I like, which a lot of people can't do. Would that give me an unfair advantage, or would it just be a way for me to open up more possibilities for my improvisational mind that's always trying to open itself up farther? Would we really want that? Would I be regarded as a showoff with an unfair advantage, or a fake who isn't really a proper musician because he chose to use a petty accommodation he may not necessarily need, but has instead elected to use by choice perhaps to take shortcuts? I know a lot of people would be in support of using what you like and could care less really what size keyboard you use, but then there are those, like me in the past, who think it sounds like a bunch of people complaining and finally getting their way. But now that I'm breaking the rules I was taught as a child and teenager, I've quite drastically changed my view, and I actually now am starting to think that everyone should be able to at least try a smaller key size and see if they like it. I know I'm at least intrigued, if not looking forward to a time when I could eventually own a smaller keyboard, whether it be electronic, or an action installed in an acoustic piano.
There is science to support that reaching across smaller distances is better for the hands, size aside. So in that respect, smaller keys could make everyone better off.
But is there still a reasonable need for the conventional keyboard size, other than it just being standard? Are there people which can't physically negotiate a smaller keyboard and so need them to be wide like this? I'm curious.
For the purposes of argument, let's imagine we're at some point in the future where all pianists at least accepted a new smaller sized keyboard standard, and the conventional size we use now was rarely if ever made. If everyone all of a sudden had smaller keyboards, we'd still have a problem. Next thing we know we'd have this mess all over again, as composers will still push boundaries and make even the smaller keyboards inadequate for a lot of people. If we leave keyboard size as a matter of personal choice, we can't really win. some people would get one just for bragging rights, no doubt. I have to confess I tend to do that myself. But making personal choice never makes a win-win situation for everyone. The best we can do is just try to make smart choices and learn from the consequences, both good and bad.
I'm personally in support. Steinbuhler, keep doing what you do. I hope some day to be able to at least try out what you've done!
Posted by: DrewBone

Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard - 03/17/16 09:08 PM

I have large hands and own a MicroKORG synth, which don't go particularly well together considering the keys on the Korg are, well, micro. Now, if I were so inclinded and could justify the expense, I would much rather prefer to have a normal sized keyboard on a synth. But in the meantime, do I have a valid gripe? No, because I purchased the Korg, despite knowing of its small key size and the fact that I've been playing the piano for 51 years. So what do I do? Well, I can whine about it, deal with it, put it away, sell it, use it for target practice, etc.; I must basically accept what I now consider a shortcoming and just live with it if I want to continue using it. Should I "have" to? No I do not, because full sized keyboard synths are thankfully available.

It seems that the physical size of piano keys have changed little since the inception of the standard piano, much like tennis balls, golf balls, baseballs, softballs, footballs, soccer balls, ping pong balls, etc., have remained the same dimensions, to develope a worldwide standard that's easily recognized and duplicated across the globe without one side declaring the other has an advantage due to their players physical size, weight, height, reach, or any number of other conceivable differences.

Now then, does the country of Rwanda have a Pygmy Olympic basketball team? What about the Watusi from the same they have a 4 man bobsled team that will fit into an Olympic regulation size 4 man bobsled?

My point being that for purposes of fairness, sometimes things aren't fair.

The Pygmy basketball team would mostlikely not do too well considering the height of the regulation basket along with their obvious height disadvantage when playing against the average basketball players towering 6'-8" to over 7' height, nor would the Watusi 4 man bobsled team ever dream of shoehorning themselves into a regulation Olympic size bobsled. So what are they to do? Well, the Pygmy's could form their own league, with regulations more suited to accomodate their size, and the Watusi's could create their own organization complete with suitably sized vehicles and course designed to operate not down slippery ice cold channels, but down through carved hills on a maintained regulation course made of concrete.

In the end, the above is no different than a person with small hands seeking some relief by purchasing a reduced size keyboard piano. The outcome is the same; the players have a chance to enjoy themselves without struggling or feeling as if they're at a disadvantage, resulting in personal satisfaction, and perhaps even engage in some competition, which will help drive their ambitions and skills to new heights.

So what if it's not a "regulation" court. So what if it's concrete and not ice. These new basketball hoop heights and winding courses could be sanctioned and regulated, and if a basketball team of 7'+ giants wants to take on a team of Pygmy's playing on a court with 6' tall baskets against players who could dribble a ball between their legs then have at it! And if a four 5'-6" average height man bobsled team from Sweden wants to ricochet around inside a bobsled with the interior size of an empty extended Ford E-250 van designed for four 7'-2"+ tall Watusi's, then have at it!

So much for any preconceived advantage, you're in my world now Jack!

Personally I think it's a wonderful thing that such instruments are available with reduced size keyboards, as noone should feel left out or be made to have a more difficult time learning or enjoying what others take for granted simply because of any physical or proportional limitations.