When most people think of a piano a few specifics come to mind. You expect 88 keys split 7 white to 5 black, 3 pedals, and either a traditional upright/grand shape. The materials comprising the instrument are wood, metal, plastic, wool, and .
More technical attributes of the piano might include how the strings contact the bridge and the shape of action parts.
Stuart and Sons have two keyboards which expand the tonal range of the instrument- from 88 as a standard for over 100 years they have created 102 notes! From sub contra C (CCC or an octave below the lowest standard C) to F5 (an octave above the highes F)! There is a truncated version in production which still boasts 97 notes, adding 4 to the bass and 5 to the treble.
Their most impressive innovation from both companies is the bridge agraffe which harnesses up to twice the vibration energy from the strings and transduces the frequency more efficiently. Conventional piano’s system for harnessing vibration energy capture a mere 3% for sound production, their instruments captures 6%.
When there is such an increase in efficiency of sound there is an opportunity to apply greater dynamic contrast through standard performance practices. Even so, the designers thought they needed more control and therefore have added a fourth pedal for volume control. The new pedal shortens the distance for the hammers to strike from, barring an exuberant amount of sound.
Steingreaber-Phoenix build their soundboards from carbon-fiber which is lighter in weight, stiffer, and structurally homogeneous. Because it is lighter and stiffer, the soundboard is more responsive to vibrations and transducing them into sound. The homogeneous structure ensures the energy is distributed evenly across the plane, creating a larger, more robust sound from a smaller surface. This also cuts back on the expense in materials and labor required for production. Perhaps the greatest benefit from this innovation, in the minds of a general consumer, is the tuning stability it offers. Owing to the fact that it is not made of wood, and carbon-fiber is unaffected by humidity changes, the soundboard doesn’t alter tuning as weather changes.
A manufacturer of piano parts in the states is leading the industry in the mechanical parts, Wessell, Nickel, and Gross. Their parts are also a carbon-fiber composite. This provides stability and the ability to slightly redesign the action for more power and efficiency. A limitation of traditional wood parts is a requirement to build with deference to the grain. Composite material can be formed into virtually any shape which allows a more direct transfer of motion from the key to the hammer. And, like the soundboard, humidity does not effect the structure resulting in more stable regulation of the instrument.
Artists and designers have created “modern” or “new age” cases for pianos but, rather than describe them, I’ll have a photo post later. Maybe I’ll even open a Pinterest account!