For The Ladies: Why You May Never Become A Great Piano Player

You may have even learned to play a musical piece on piano and you have tried your darnest, you have watched countless hours of YouTube tutorials, maybe even hired a piano teacher and still, no matter how much time and effort you put in, it seems like you just can not improve. Even though you really want to learn this instrument, it feels like this is the most difficult task you ever had to do. And how is one supposed to reach composer levels if you can’t even get at the hang of the basics? Bad news: you can’t. Good news: it is not your fault. Let’s dive in 😉

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I remember being in 4th grade learning about the big classics when one story struck me as very weird and interesting at the same time to say the least. It was the story of Robert Schumann. A German composer, pianist, and influential music critic. Widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Long story short: he messed up his whole career by having injured permanently his right hand. And he did that by stretching them with a device he himself invented using a cigar box and wire. The device was designed to pull back one finger at a time while the other fingers were able to move. He ended up paralyzing most of the right hand fingers and had to give up his pianist career.
The question that came to my mind was: WHY a white European male who was perfectly fine and physically adapted naturally to play the piano would go to such extreme measures to lengthen his fingers? So I began the research years later after numerous attempts to play the piano better and faster and failed repeatedly.
The reason I mentioned his race and nationality above is because the inventor of the piano was a WHITE EUROPEAN MALE himself: the Italian maker of musical instruments Bartolomeo Cristofori. He was born on May 4th, 1655  and died on January 27th, 1731. There were other earlier variations of the piano before his invention but he is the one that created the piano as we know it. In case you didn’t know, all composers you know the names of, they all excelled on Bartolomeo’s piano: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy and many others.
The piano was played by men and perfected for men. Now, is there a physical difference between a man’s hand and a woman’s hand? ABSOLUTELY. Women almost always have shorter slimmer fingers. Only a few taller ladies are lucky enough to be able to play the piano without risk of injury. Oh yes, the danger is real for short people (as we have shorter fingers whether you’re a man or woman). One of the earliest studies reports the alarming news that out of 98 high school instrumentalists involved, 63% of females and 49% of males suffered from injury. Most studies that looked into gender and instrument variation found that more women than men report injury, and more keyboard and string players than other instrumentalists report injury. If you play the piano but are not naturally long fingered, you are at high risk of developing finger arthritis before your time and focal dystonia.
There is a solution to this but not yet available worldwide. In 2012, I discovered a japanese company online that made smaller pianos for Asian pianists because they also struggle a lot with the standard European sized keyboard. However those smaller pianos had a starting price of $8,000. A year later, in 2013, Erica Brooke was the 1st pianist in the world to receive her smaller keyboard model from Japan (you can read more about Erica’s experience on her blog https://ericabookerpiano.com/piano-for-small-hands/ ) and on eBay the cheapest model you will find retails at $7,000. Not much of a change since 2012.
In conclusion, it is NOT YOUR FAULT if you are not able to pick up piano as fast as you would have liked or if you just fail at it continuously. Learning an instrument should be one of life’s pleasures, not a mental and physical torture.

If you want to make a difference and help the world get smaller key pianos faster to the market, please do consider signing the petition for it: https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/need-piano-keyboards-that-fit-our-hands.html An excerpt from A LOT of useful information on the petition’s page ‘ Boston pianist, Anna Arazi, played a keyboard approximately 15/16 normal width (DS6.0TM)* in the 2015 Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition after just one day of practice on the smaller-sized keyboard. She found that all of the pain she had been experiencing disappeared and she won third prize!’ Kinda scary what a difference a smaller key piano makes, right?

Article written by Mariana Berdianu
Blue Rhymez Entertainment © 2020

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