You can adapt quickly!
For the increasing number of pianists who play alternatively sized keyboards, there is overwhelming evidence that practically everyone can adapt to an alternative size very quickly.
Adapting to the DS6.0 size (6.0 inch octave) is almost instantaneous, while adapting to the DS5.5 size (5.5 inch octave) generally takes less than an hour. Pianists then have no trouble going back and forth between different sizes.
‘Our expectation was that it might take days or weeks to adjust to this keyboard. In fact, we found that it generally takes a pianist less than an hour….Those who regularly play both keyboard sizes, as I do, are familiar with both, much as one might be if driving two family cars. Organists and harpsichordists regularly deal with this phenomenon without problems, Violinists who also play the viola experience the same type of dual ability.’ Dr. Carol Leone, Chair of Keyboard Studies, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA, 2003.
While some fear that they would lose their ability to play the conventional (6.5 inch octave) keyboard, this does not happen. On the contrary, pianists report that they actually improve their playing when they do have to play the conventional keyboard again, having developed a more relaxed technique on narrower keys. According to Linda Gould, Steinbuhler & Company’s first customer for a DS5.5®:
‘Practising on the narrower keys actually makes it EASIER to play a large key piano (but you won’t want to anymore, unless you have to). Playing a piano that ‘fits your hand’ allows the pianist to release a tremendous amount of subconscious tension. It simply changes the way you approach a piano. This new knowledge is transferred to the large keys and you play with much less tension and more accuracy. The notes you can’t reach… you let them go.’
Because no-one alive today was around when different keyboards were available prior to the 1880s, pianists are often unaware of our flexibility regarding keyboard size. It’s a bit like climbing stairs of different sizes – our brain copes with this task automatically.
Take a look at the two videos below that show how these pianists can readily swap between different keyboards.