MIKHAIL NIKS (1935-1996)


Mikhail Niks was a native of St. Petersburg, Russia. He immigrated with his family (wife, Inessa; son, Dimitri; daughter, Marina) to the US in 1979, finally settling in Redlands, California in 1982. Mikhail was an electronic engineer by training and for several years had studied voice in the vocal studio of Elizabeth Ginsburg in St. Petersburg, who herself was taught by a student of Umberto Masetti (teacher of legendary Russian singer Antonina Nezhdanova). He studied piano and musicology with Inessa Niks. His research centered on piano technique and led to the development of the principle of the forward force of the shoulder to reduce the exertion of the wrist. In 1989, he invented and patented his first piano device, the “Hand and Wrist Exercising Means,” that demonstrated this principle; that same year a medical experiment conducted by the Pathokinesiology Department at the Los Amigos Medical Center, Downey, CA tested and approved this principle. Further research focused on the usage of finger muscles in piano playing and led to the invention of the second piano device, the “Hand Guide,” in 1991. The “Hand Guide” combined the principle of the forward force of the shoulder with the usage of effective finger work and became a teaching aid for the tension-free piano technique. For this achievement Mr. Niks was included in the 1992-1993 edition of Who’s Who of American inventors (Hooper Group Publishing) and in 2011 a copy of the “Hand Guide” was acquired by the Robert Schumann Museum in Zwickau, Germany. In 1991, together with Inessa Niks, Mr. Niks founded the Niks Hand Retraining Center in Redlands, CA helping musicians with hand complications. The same basic principles were subsequently applied to the process of typing, resulting in the book, “Type Without Tension,” published by Northwest Publishing, Inc. in 1992. Enriched by the discovery of the essential principles in piano research, Mr. Niks conducted his vocal research in the last three years of his life. During this period he developed the concept of muscle work in the process of voice purification and breath control specific for singers, thus laying the foundation for continuing research by his son, Dimitri Niks and his wife, Inessa Niks.



After graduating from Redlands High School in 1988, Dimitri entered the US Army where he served for three years, distinguishing himself in the 1st Gulf War. In 1996 Dimitri received a Masters' Degree in Biochemistry, Summa Cum Laude from the University of California at Riverside. He is currently employed as a Staff Research Associate in the Biochemistry Department at the same institution; he is co-author on more than 30 peer-reviewed papers. Starting in 1993, Dimitri began studying piano and musicology with Inessa Niks. He also became a co-researcher in vocal technique under the guidance of Mikhail Niks (1993-1996). He continued the research, collaborating with Inessa Niks after the passing of his father (1996-2014). Dimitri’s research focused on the muscles of the vocal tube and how their manipulation can affect resonance.




Inessa Niks is a graduate of the Special Music School for Gifted Children, Piano Department, and the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Department of Musicology, Russia. She concurrently studied voice with Elizabeth Ginsburg for more than seven years. In 1985, Inessa established a Piano and Musicology Studio in Redlands, CA. In 1991 she also become a co-founder of the Niks Hand Retraining Center. In 1998 she wrote, “Play Without Tension,” a supplemental manual for the device, “Hand Guide.” She also worked with her husband on the vocal technique and after his passing continued to collaborate with her son, Dimitri. Among many awards her biography was included in the “2000 Outstanding Musicians of the 20th Century” (2000-2001 Edition, IBC, Cambridge, England) for her contribution to the field of “Art and Science of Piano Playing.” She was included in the Who’s Who In America: Music Educator (2008-2009 edition, Marquis Publication) and received the International Mozart Award for Musical Achievement (2008-2009 edition, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England). In 2010-2014, along with Dimitri Niks, she participated in the development of a course for singers that includes a series of exercises for muscle work to convey concepts of voice purification, breath control, and vocal tube resonance.