A New Kind of Piano

I have many problems with the modern piano. I value its range and resonance, yes, but the flaws outweigh the benefits. Some history for context: composers in the 18th century performed music on two different kinds of pianos, the Vienna build and the English build. Vienna pianos were light, had a smaller key range, but had a large range of distinct colors of sound. English pianos were larger and broader, with greater key range and resonance, but flatter colors. Come the 19th century and the English piano builders defeated their Viennese rivals. The grand piano of today is an English piano with small changes.

What a pity! Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and other composers relished the Vienna piano for its range of color, and much of their piano music imitates the orchestra. Yet now composers once more demean the piano to a harp turned on its side. I would prefer a fortepiano to my Yamaha piano at home, but I do not want us musicians to return to an older instrument. I would like to build a new kind of piano, even though I only have imagination at the moment.

First, let us shrink the key range: the base end from A0 to F1 and the treble end from C8 to F7. Let us use the key of F to build the range of the piano, not A or C. In regards to tuning, let us keep it flexible, but for my personal piano I would use meantone tuning with A3 at 415 Hertz. Let us make the keys of our new piano lighter, thinner, shallower; this will reduce some loudness and resonance but will return lost nuances in dynamics and range. Let us, somehow, bring back orchestral sounds to the piano: the lowest range of double base and timpani, the base range of bassoon and brass, the middle range of strings, the treble range of woodwinds, and the highest range of piccolo and triangle.  

We did little more than restore the Vienna piano at this point, though our new piano has somewhat more loudness and resonance, but with pedals of different kinds we can unlock new potential. Let us add two knee levers: the right the classic sustaining pedal and the left a “displacer”. The right knee lever gives the musician more grace and control over such an important pedal sound. The left knee lever can lock into place or be released as we please. It acts as a “displacer” by putting pieces of metal among the piano strings, like how Philip Glass put screws in his piano to create a remote dissonant sound.

Let us create three pedals for our right foot, moving from the center to the far right. The centermost pedal sustains notes of the treble range, the middle pedal causes only one or two strings of a note to be struck by the hammer depending on how hard you press it, and the rightmost pedal creates a plucking sound on the strings. Let us create three pedals for our left foot, moving from the center to the far left. The centermost pedal sustains notes of the base range, the middle pedal puts leather between the strings to create a muted sound, and the leftmost pedal places silk over the base strings to create a raspy buzzing noise.

Lastly, let us place two stoppers near middle C, used by hand. The right stopper adds an extra octave note above whatever treble note you play. The left stopper adds an extra octave below whatever base note you place.   

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