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Appca Presentation R Boyle July 2009


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Presentation for Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference, July 2009, Sydney.

Title: Hand size and the piano keyboard

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Appca Presentation R Boyle July 2009

  1. 1. Hand Size and the Piano Keyboard Presenter: Rhonda Boyle Co-author: Robin Boyle APPCA July 2009
  2. 2. ‘There are two great secrets in the world of piano playing. The first is how much easier the instrument is to play with larger hands and the second is how impossible it can be with smaller hands.’ ‘If one can divide the world into roughly two constituencies; a smaller half and a larger half, one can see that the larger half never really knows what the difficulties of their small-handed counterparts are, and the smaller half never really finds out how much easier all the difficulties are with larger hands.’ Christopher Donison 1998
  3. 3. Today’s presentation covers: Review of data on hand size in relation to piano keyboards Review of epidemiological and other literature on pain and injury risk for small-handed pianists Published personal accounts on the benefits of reduced-size keyboards Results of a survey of adult pianists using these keyboards – conducted by the authors Potential areas of improvement (based on my initial experience) – with examples from the piano repertoire Conclusions and suggestions for further research 3 © R. Boyle
  4. 4. Review of data on hand size in relation to piano keyboards 4 © R. Boyle
  5. 5. Males v Females – Hand span data Steinbuhler and Wagner found an apparent significant greater hand span for males compared to females Females Males Further, there is an apparent significant variation in spans among males and among females 5 © R. Boyle
  6. 6. Males v Females – Wagner, Steinbuhler Steinbuhler (2004) and Wagner (1988) found similar differences for hand spans (inches). About 75% of About 75% of males were Steinbuhler Wagner were females ABOVE this Male Female Male BELOW this Female Respondents 66 90 110 104 Minimum 7.7 7.0 7.8 7.2 Maximum 10.2 8.9 9.9 9.3 Arithmetic mean 8.9 7.9 8.9 8.1 Median 8.9 7.9 8.9 8.1 First Quartile 8.5 7.5 8.6 7.8 Third Quartile 9.3 8.2 9.3 8.4 On average, male hand spans 6 were about ONE INCH greater © R. Boyle
  7. 7. Two hypotheses Hypothesis 1: That the average hand span of an adult male is approximately one inch greater than One inch? for females Hypothesis 2: 75% of females have hand spans smaller than 75% of Females? 75% of Males? the 75% of males with the largest spans 7 © R. Boyle
  8. 8. Hand span v maximum stretch on white keys Name Gender Total hand 2-5 finger Hand ratio [2-5 Maximum interval played span (inches) span (inches) span/total span] Rhonda F 7.00 4.70 0.67 8 - on edge, not comfortable Pat S F 7.40 6.00 0.81 8 - comfortable Pat M F 7.60 6.00 0.79 9 - on edge Janet F 7.60 6.00 0.79 9 - on edge Hiroko F 7.60 6.30 0.83 9 - on edge Deborah F 8.00 6.10 0.76 9 - on edge Barbara F 8.00 6.70 0.84 9 - on edge Jennifer F 8.10 6.80 0.84 9 - on edge Stephen M 8.20 6.10 0.74 9 - barely comfortable, 10 - on edge Darryl M 8.20 6.60 0.80 9 - barely comfortable Maire F 8.40 6.20 0.74 9 - comfortable, 10 - on edge Mickey M 8.50 6.10 0.72 9 - comfortable, 10 - on edge Louise F 8.80 7.00 0.80 10 - on edge Lester M 8.80 7.20 0.82 10 - on edge David M 8.90 7.50 0.84 10 - on edge Max M 9.00 6.40 0.71 10 - on edge Ray M 9.00 7.40 0.82 10 - on edge Robert M 9.20 7.30 0.79 10 - on edge Rohan M 9.50 7.00 0.74 10 - comfortable, 11 - on edge
  9. 9. Zones for comfortable playing Approximate hand span zones for comfortable playing of a given interval Seventh Octave Ninth Tenth Males Females 9 © R. Boyle
  10. 10. Impact of one extra white note Estimated that females could play the same A 7/8 keyboard enables standard keyboard range as males on the players to play one 75% Males standard keyboard extra white note What would be the effect on individuals and 75% Females standard keyboard the population at large of an extra note? 10 © R. Boyle
  11. 11. ‘You need to allow yourself at least a couple of days with a DS keyboard to begin the journey of discovery of exactly what it is that you have been missing, and the unnecessary obstacles you have been facing all of your life. Trust me when I tell you that it is lot more profound that merely "stretching" a distance between any 2 digits.’ ….email from Christopher Donison, 31 Dec 2006
  12. 12. Review of epidemiological and other literature on pain and injury risk for small-handed pianists 12 © R. Boyle
  13. 13. Hand size and piano-related pain & injury Most of the literature linking hand size to piano playing is in the field of performing arts medicine Studies in 1980s-1990s are mostly about a mix of instruments; more recent work on pianists Mix of clinical studies; surveys of students and teachers Females more affected by pain and injury, and hand size nominated as a risk factor for pianists Bragge review (2005) – limitations of previous work e.g. lack of statistical significance testing 13 © R. Boyle
  14. 14. Hand size and piano-related pain & injury Further studies since 2005 – using multivariate analysis – established hand size as a statistically significant risk factor for pianists Clinical studies – suggest that octaves and large chords are associated with pain and injury Biomechanical and ergonomic research - identified risky wrist and hand motions – females more susceptible Brenda Wristen (US) – small-handed pianists at greater risk – large chords, octaves and arpeggios force small hands out of ‘anatomically 14 neutral’ position © R. Boyle
  15. 15. New research using reduced-size keyboards Small-handed pianists defined as having a 1-5 span of 8 inches or less – approximately 50% of female pianists Wristen et al – used electromyography with small-handed pianists - indicated greater comfort as well as accuracy on the 7/8 keyboard – expert assessments agreed with pianists’ perceptions Yoshimura & Chesky – current research using motion cameras and sensors to capture pianists’ movements – computer animation measures speed, force and velocity of each key-stroke – hand size linked to pain
  16. 16. Published personal accounts on the benefits of reduced-size keyboards 16 © R. Boyle
  17. 17. Reduced-size keyboards: Personal accounts Observations by professional pianists/academics in North America, including Carol Leone (Texas) and Christopher Donison (British Columbia), include: Ease of adjustment and swapping between keyboards Reduced hand position changes and more logical fingering Less rolling of chords and pedalling to mask notes not held Chords, octaves much more ‘under the hand’ – less stretching (cont)
  18. 18. Reduced-size keyboards: Personal accounts Faster learning – especially for technically difficult sections Improved legato and musical line; legato octaves possible Increased power Improved voicing of chords and balance Easier memorisation and sight-reading More time to spend on musicality rather than getting the notes
  19. 19. Results of a survey conducted by the authors of adult pianists using reduced-size keyboards 19 © R. Boyle
  20. 20. Survey of players of reduced-size keyboards Questionnaire survey by email – early 2009 Adult pianists who play a 7/8 or 15/16 keyboard Aim was to gather information about their experiences Focus on musical and technical benefits, in addition to relief from pain and injury 14 responses received Results published in this paper
  21. 21. Survey of players of reduced-size keyboards All respondents were female, many were piano teachers, academics, some professional performers Hand spans (1-5) – from 7.1 to 7.9 inches 50% had significantly increased their practice time Most adjusted to the reduced size within hours Most could adapt a piece learnt on the conventional keyboard within a day or one practice session Most reported positive feedback from others 13 reported previous pain and/or injury – most problems had disappeared Most had increased their repertoire – generally incorporating more Romantic works Respondents rated improvement for 22 skills as: ‘Negative’, ‘Nil’, ‘Slight’, ‘Considerable’ & ‘Dramatic’
  22. 22. Survey results – Skills surveyed Respondents were surveyed on 22 pianistic skills: Sight-reading Double thirds Time to learn new repertoire Double sixths Scale passages Trills & similar ornaments Legato playing Ease of memorisation Holding down notes as Accuracy intended - not releasing Overall feeling of security early/masking with pedal Time taken to master Leaps technically difficult passages Fast passages of octaves or Feeling of power where large chords needed Broken octaves General tone quality Broken chords/arpeggios Balance Changes of hand position Evenness of rhythm and Awkward/non-ideal fingering tone
  23. 23. Survey results – Improvements reported All respondents rated degree of improvement as ‘Considerable’ or ‘Dramatic’ for:- – Ability to hold down notes as intended – Feeling of power where needed 13 out of 14 rated degree of improvement as ‘Considerable’ or ‘Dramatic’ for :- – Fast passages of octaves or large chords – Time taken to master technically difficult passages Wide variation in responses for some skills Level of improvement was similar regardless of hand size (no relationship found between hand size and the number of ‘considerable’ or ‘dramatic’ improvements)
  24. 24. Survey examples of improvement in skills Trills and similar ornaments Broken octaves 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 Negative Nil Slight Considerable Dramatic Negative Nil Slight Considerable Dramatic Evenness of rhythm and tone Overall feeling of security 6 8 7 5 6 4 5 3 4 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 Negative Nil Slight Considerable Dramatic Negative Nil Slight Considerable Dramatic
  25. 25. Survey – Other feedback Overall benefits reported – – ability to play larger repertoire – octave passages and large chords – performance excellence – Relief from pain, tension and stretching ‘My small hand size is no longer a handicap or the main criterion in choosing a piece of music to play.’ ‘For me, the most enjoyable aspect of playing on the reduced-size keyboard is how it felt: finally I was playing on a piano that was the right size for me. It was if I had been trying to walk around in shoes that were a size too big and then at last I got a pair that was the right size.’ Disadvantages of smaller keyboards – mostly practical issues, such as playing elsewhere
  26. 26. Potential areas of improvement – some examples from the piano repertoire 26 © R. Boyle
  27. 27. Fast octave-based passages Chopin Scherzo no 2 in B flat minor
  28. 28. Broken octaves Beethoven Fantasie opus 77
  29. 29. Broken chords Beethoven Fantasie opus 77
  30. 30. Stability of rhythm & tone control Mozart Sonata K570
  31. 31. Holding down notes as intended (9th) Chopin Nocturne opus 15 no.2
  32. 32. More compact hand – greater security & faster learning Chopin Preludes - no. 3 in G major - no .18 in F minor
  33. 33. More compact hand – greater security & faster learning Beethoven Fantasie opus 77
  34. 34. Awkward fingering & changes in hand position Chopin Scherzo no 2 in B flat minor 2 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 21 1 5 LH LH 1 1
  35. 35. Fingering/improved legato Brahms Intermezzo opus 117 no. 1
  36. 36. Rolled chords (LH) and complex RH Chopin Prelude no 10 in C# minor
  37. 37. 2-5 fingering/less hand movement/increased speed and security Chopin Etude opus 10 no 5 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
  38. 38. Conclusions and suggestions for further research 38 © R. Boyle
  39. 39. Conclusions and Further Research There is significant variation in human hand spans, in particular: Most females have hand spans smaller than most males On average, adult females may have a 1” smaller span, equivalent to about one white key There is an apparent significant variation in spans among males and among females. Some ethnic groups may have hand spans significantly smaller than others Research is required to quantify the extent of differences in hand spans (and other relevant characteristics) according to gender, ethnicity and also age. 39 © R. Boyle
  40. 40. Conclusions and Further Research A one-size-fits-all keyboard does not allow many pianists to reach their full potential – Pain and injury linked to small hand size – based on evidence from different fields of study Pianistic benefits for those using smaller keyboards appear to be wide-ranging – technical, musical, repertoire choice More than 50% of females plus some males likely to benefit from playing reduced-size keyboards Availability of reduced-size keyboards means research can be conducted to determine how hand size directly influences pain & injury, 40 performance excellence, repertoire choice, etc. © R. Boyle
  41. 41. Final words Humans have many options available in most aspects of their lives Different sizes are available for shoes, skis and tennis racquets Violinists and many other musicians have a choice of instruments to best fit their size Pianists have a choice of piano maker and model, upright v grand, piano size At piano competitions, contestants often have several pianos to choose from But keyboard size is not a practical choice for anyone 41 © R. Boyle
  42. 42. Thank You The 7/8 keyboard and action
  43. 43. Relevant websites perfectfit_piano.htm research,0,2330879.story owflat/Forum/1/topic/022437/Number/0/site_id/1#i mport