'Wonderful' keyboard innovation for small hands helps Calgary pianist play
'It was one of those, 'Where has this been all my life?' kind of moments,' says Monique Fournier
The first time Monique Fournier sat down to play at a small piano keyboard, her fingers finally felt no pain.
The Calgary-based piano teacher and composer typically could play only 10 to 15 minutes on a standard grand piano before the strain forced her to stop.
Her hands are too small for a regular-sized piano keyboard. They barely stretch an octave.
But then she tried a small keyboard, modified to be 7/8ths the size of a regular one.
"I have so long wished that I could just stretch a tiny bit further, just have slightly bigger hands — or the piano could be smaller.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't do those first two things, so it was wonderful when the third one came to me."
Fournier has had her grand piano retrofitted to have the small-sized keyboard.
Instead of an octave being a six-and-a-half inch stretch, her new one is only five-and-a-half inches. She's no longer missing notes.
"It's much easier to reach," she said.
"The one thing I always notice when I go back to the regular keyboard after playing my small keys is that the keys look like giant marshmallows."
She shipped her grand piano to a U.S. business in the small city of Titusville, Penn.
The owner helped create the Donison-Steinbuhler Standard for pianists with smaller hands.
For $10,000, David Steinbuhler replaced her piano's keys with smaller ones. Other times, he replaces the action — the mechanism that holds the hammers that strike the piano strings — with a smaller one he made, as well.
"I'm wanting to encourage the world to adopt them. There is a profound discrimination," he said by phone from Titusville.
"Very often, it is life-changing for them."
Steinbuhler has sold at cost only 125 such adapted keyboards in 26 years.
One helped a piano student who was suffering carpal tunnel syndrome return to studying.
Steinbuhler started building the keyboard as a hobby after seeing one played in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in 1991.
- Listen to Monique Fournier playing her small grand piano keyboard
Since then, he's developed two standard small sizes, and several universities are teaching with his product.
Now he's aiming to change his business into a non-profit to bring costs down.
Fournier says if anyone is interested in getting an adapted keyboard, she would be open to letting them try hers first.
She's holding a 7/8 keyboard demonstration at Michael Lipnicki Fine Pianos Ltd. on Friday at 7 p.m.
With files from Kathryn Marlow, Monty Kruger and the Calgary Eyeopener
- Previously this article said her piano's action was replaced. In fact, her piano keys were replaced with smaller ones.Nov 06, 2017 7:17 AM MT