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#1566663 - 11/29/10 09:51 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: David Steinbuhler]
MrLiszthoven Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/28/10
Posts: 63
Loc: Scotland
Hi David. Have you any idea how somebody in Britain could get one of these custom built pianos?
www.steinbuhler.com - Keyboards with narrower keys.


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#1689005 - 06/02/11 04:13 AM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Barbara G]
Rhonda B Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/30/06
Posts: 10
Loc: Melbourne. Australia
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' (www.steinbuhler.com/html/our_story.html).

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. (www.appca.com.au/2009proceedings.php)

This year, I've just completed a website as a repository for relevant information - research, teachers, univeristies ec....For those interested, the address is: www.smallpianokeyboards.org
Rhonda B


#1689271 - 06/02/11 01:44 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Rhonda B]
gnuboi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 2703
Loc: USA
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

#1689449 - 06/02/11 06:59 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: gnuboi]
Rhonda B Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/30/06
Posts: 10
Loc: Melbourne. Australia
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.
Rhonda B


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#1689933 - 06/03/11 01:58 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Rhonda B]
gnuboi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 2703
Loc: USA
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!

#1691751 - 06/07/11 02:23 AM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Barbara G]
Rhonda B Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/30/06
Posts: 10
Loc: Melbourne. Australia
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 house...in my case it's just an electronic piano.

By all means get to Dallas or wherever convenient to try it out!
Rhonda B


#1941614 - 08/12/12 07:54 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Rod Verhnjak]
stevenr004 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/24/09
Posts: 2
That looks like a nice shop.

Best Regards,

Steven R.

#2522041 - 03/17/16 02:13 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: Barbara G]
musicalman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/09/14
Posts: 2
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!

#2522137 - 03/17/16 09:08 PM Re: My New Steinbuhler small keyboard [Re: musicalman]
DrewBone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/15
Posts: 302
Loc: In the mountains of NC
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 region...do 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.

1979 Yamaha C7D - Yamaha P115 - Korg MicroKORG synth. - Korg Kaossilator Pro synth.

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