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Right Size: Pianos

There is no one size fits all when it comes to shoes: no one would pay for shoes that don’t fit, and compared with only having to cater for shoes in only one size, creating shoes in a range of sizes costs manufacturers a good deal more. They do this because having one size means only a small group of people is able to enjoy and use the product the way it was intended, and as a result, fewer shoes would be sold.

This doesn’t apply to pianos though – keyboards only come in one size, and if your hand doesn’t happen to fit, you’re out of luck. This state of affairs discriminates against those with smaller hands, and the struggle against ergonomics these pianists persevere through to play the instrument they love is something those with larger hands don’t experience. You were simply out of luck – until relatively recently.

I was grateful to discover David Steinbuhler’s smaller keyboards four years ago – in keeping with his philosophy, he offers not just one, but four alternate sizes with increasingly narrower keys – and when I first received my upright, I never enjoyed playing music so much. Everything was unprecedented: I was doing things on the piano I’d never been able to do before – in particular, playing previously impossible chords cleanly – and doing the things I’d done before felt more effortless and natural.

DS5.5 keyboard on my Walter studio upright – note the large empty blocks on either side, space which would normally be taken up by keys on a bigger, regulation-size keyboard. Steinbuhler partners with Walter to produce upright pianos with his keyboards you can order from his website, which I’m incredibly thankful for, and how I got mine.

Over time, you accept that the world is a certain way, but in the age we’re fortunate to live in, suddenly Lasik comes around and changes your perception of life forever – or a piano that fits your hands arrives, and profoundly transforms your ability to create and enjoy music.

Update: David tells me their company became a non-profit a couple of years ago, and is dedicated to furthering awareness and adoption of alternative keyboards; in addition, the growing movement and community has a website, which is a comprehensive resource for anyone wanting to find out more, including information on piano manufacturers and technicians.

2 replies on “Right Size: Pianos”

Soo good to read of your experiences Josh. I am the happy owner of a similar piano and my experience is like yours. I first tried the DS 5.5 keyboard in David Steinbuhler’s Steinway grand, and burst into joyful tears at being able to play my favourite difficult pieces with musicality and relative ease. I immediately bought a Walter upright which was set up with the DS 5.5.
I’m also fortunate to have the whole family of keyboards- papa bear ( 6.5 inch octave), mama bear ( 6.0) and baby bear ( my DS 5.5)
Good luck! Keep playing and keep writing!

Erica, thank you for writing, and for the kind encouragement! It was great to learn of your journey with smaller keyboards on your website, and the amazing collection of pianos you’ve assembled – your students are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about these options. I hope one day to experience playing on a grand outfitted with a DS 5.5 🙂

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