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Pianos for Smaller Hands: The New Wave

By Michael Vincent on July 3, 2024

Narrow keys, broad minds, and no boundaries…

Meet the stretto piano — an instrument designed for pianists with smaller hands. The brainchild of Hannah Reimann, founder of Stretto Piano Concerts, the stretto piano features a keyboard that’s about 7/8 the size of a standard one, catering to musicians who’ve long struggled with traditional pianos.

This May, Reimann hosted the fourth International Stretto Piano Festival, showcasing the benefits of these pianos across 16 global concerts

The 4th International Stretto Piano Festival: A Global Celebration

From May 25 to June 4, music enthusiasts from San Diego to Stuttgart and Latvia experienced the Festival which happened worldwide across 16 concerts. The festival is all about highlighting pianos that better suit the smaller human hands.

The Case for Piano Equity

Despite the modern piano’s century-old design, the notion that “one size fits all” is being challenged. Smaller-handed pianists, often facing discomfort and technical limitations, are advocating for a change. The evidence supporting this movement is compelling:

  • Gender Bias: Studies reveal that the average hand span of those assigned male at birth is approximately 1” larger than those assigned female, impacting playability.
  • Health Risks: Research indicates that pianists assigned female at birth face a 50-80% higher risk of pain and injury from playing on standard keyboards.
  • Ergonomics: A 2021 Australian study using EMG data confirms that small-handed pianists endure greater strain on standard keyboards.

A new paradigm for piano design

Leading the charge are pioneers like Reimann and companies like Pask Piano, which advocates for alternatively sized keyboards. Their motto, “If everyone plays the same size, most are playing the wrong size,” underscores the need for options in keyboard sizes. The Klavins Piano company’s Una Corda Stretto is one such innovation, featuring:

  • A 5.8” octave width, compared to the traditional 6.5”.
  • Narrower strings and optimized touch control for better playability.

Acceptance and Change

While smaller-sized keyboards have been around since the 1990s, widespread adoption is far from the reality. Reimann’s custom-designed keyboard for her Steinway demands significant changes in manufacturing, making it an even more expensive process.

Hear the stretto piano in action here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVV-9UwTuGY?si=eBnUxLNAsnWmFw4d]

Michael Vincent
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