A very unique instrument

Posted In: Coffee Break

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    Andelin on #192836

    I was browsing around youtube (actually, I was watching videos about harpsichords) and I came across this video:

    (In case the link doesn’t work, search “fluid piano” on youtube.)

    The harp gets a very brief mention, but I thought, what if it could be constructed with pedals to move the stops? Much like how a lever harp has been developed into a pedal harp.

    What do you think? Does an instrument like this have real potential, or do you think it is a “passing fancy?” There are many designs of instruments that didn’t really catch on, which I think are fascinating.

    I was surprised at the amount of negative comments this video got (Beware, there is vulgarity).

    Anyway, I just thought it was interesting. 🙂

    duckspeaks on #192889

    we can tune each string to our liking, no skiding though. in the video the string tension sounds v low. ot is hammer struck, sounding a bit like a harpsichord and not pkucked intimately with fingers.

    I think it will be good for non western music with microtones if they can assimilate the instrument. The lowish tension sound is not for everybody though, even though not uncommon in folk instruments.

    And I don’t expect hundreds of thousands of youngsters learning this

    Janis Cortese on #192901

    There’s certainly some application for it, I have no doubt. But as a pianist, I really have to doubt its usefulness as anything that could be played like a typical piano at least. One of the big advantages of the piano is the sheer scope of what you can do on it — gobs and gobs of notes at once. As an example, Liszt scored all of the Beethoven symphonies just for that one instrument. That’s music typically requiring 100 people to realize that can be made by only one person.

    When you do that sort of thing, you do have to kind of put the notes in one place and leave them there. A trumpet player or a violinist who plays one note at a time can adjust intonation finely for that one note, but that’s only because they only play one note at a time, or at most two in the case of strings. (Strings can only play more by playing a fast arpeggio.) When you do that sort of thing, you can focus on just that one note and get its tuning dead on.

    When you could be playing as many as ten notes at once with a compass of seven octaves, it’s not really manageable to make exceptionally fine adjustments in tuning with the fineness and rapidity you’d need to play even an intermediate piece — and you’d have to make the adjustments with your hands when your hands are already busy.

    What I can see being useful is something that works a little differently — a computerized piano that dynamically adjusts the tuning in real time depending on automatic sensing of the key of the piece or how the piece modulates. Virtual pipe organs can already do this — play in just intonation and move the “sweet key” around on the keyboard so that you are always dancing around the weirdnesses of equal temperament. The organist has to do that consciously, though.

    A piano that can somehow tell by the struck keys where the player has modulated to and just adjust the tuning to sweeten that key automatically might be fascinating. I imagine it could get confused, though — I’ve written pieces that had major chords played against relative minors in the left hand, and I can imagine dynamic tuning software not being able to suss out what key I’m in in a situation like that.

    Now, it might work for simple pieces, just by detecting tonic and dominant in the left hand. I mean if you keep returning to D-A-D or a D-F#-A-D arpeggio in the left hand, you could write some kind of software that could guess you were playing something in D Major and then sweeten that key automatically. You could also conceivably run through a piece slowly and set adjustment point in it where you basically tell the piano, “Okay, at this point, optimize the tuning for G Major, then at this point as I play, optimize it for C Major.”

    That’s very different from this, though. I guess I’m envisioning this sort of thing where the little slides inside the piano move around automatically, either by chugging on real-time data or by virtue of presets.

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