The modern science of ergonomics developed out of the military's need to improve the safety of equipment during and after World War II. Although many musical instrument makers have attempted to reform traditional instruments during the last three centuries, most of the changes were intended to alter or improve the sound or to introduce novel construction materials, rather than to make musical instruments less strenuous to play. One early exception was an invention by Paul von Janko, a Hungarian mathematician, engineer, and musician, who developed a piano keyboard in 1882 that reduced the hand stretches required of the player. In addition, Janko's ergonomic keyboard made it possible to play scales in all keys using the same fingering. Unlike the conventional piano keyboard, Janko's design included 6 key levels with interlocking manuals. Each note on the piano could therefore be played at three different, vertically aligned points on the keyboard, making it easier to reach larger intervals, as is often required in the Romantic keyboard works of Chopin, for example. The traditional coloring of the sharp keys in black and the natural keys in white was retained primarily as a visual aid. The Decker Brothers introduced Janko keyboards into their pianos in 1891, but their production of the new ergonomic pianos was short-lived--the company went out of business in 1895.

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  • Title: Janko Upright Piano - Image 1
  • Creator: Decker Brothers (1865-1895)
  • Date: c. 1895
  • Location: New York, New York
  • Original Source: photographer: Bill Willroth, Sr.
  • See on Institution's Site: http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/Keyboards/JankoPiano/JankoPiano.html
  • Rights: National Music Museum, University of South Dakota
  • Other Makers: Paul von Janko (1856-1919)
  • Medium: stringed keyboard musical instrument
  • Credit: Gift of Mrs. Merritt A. Williamson, in memory of her husband, 1987

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