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Pianos are expensive, heavy, and just loud enough to be
distracting to roommates and neighbors but still too quiet
to hear in concert without amplification. For churches and
productions, long magnetic pickups similar to those used
in electric guitars are placed underneath and above all the
Let's make the piano strings smaller, down to about a foot
long (mean length). A set of strings has a magnetic
pickup. Then electronics downshift the frequency and
provide hi-fi audio output to headphones or amplifiers.
Each modular piano covers four octaves. You can put
together two to get a normal size piano, or more to get a
church organ, turning the knob to change the frequency of
each module as needed.
It's likely that shorter strings will vibrate for a shorter
period of time. That's why we seal and pull vacuum on the
string chamber. The vacuum sealed chamber is immune to
the moisture and temperature changes that otherwise
necessitate seasonal re-tuning. The stronger the vacuum,
the quieter the instrument becomes. This muting is
absolutely necessary because the high-pitched direct audio
could sound silly.
How do you play a piano in a vacuum chamber? Use
hydraulics to transfer keypresses to the inside of the
chamber. The hydraulic links decouple the size of the keys
from the spacing of the strings, a boon to the big-fingered
With this mostly-physical setup, you should retain more
control over the sound than you would with an electric
piano. Or maybe it would sound terrible. But who can say
no to a piano that can be played on the beach or in the rain
Electric piano [piluso, Apr 09 2013]
||I suspect that it will sound less like a piano than an electric piano does. There's no reason why it shouldn't sound good, though.
||They make some great-sounding Clavinovas these
||Antonino von Gambolt baked this in 1823. His
patent describes a piano (the "Magnetopaphon") in
which all the strings were between 7 and 10cm
long, and composed of steel wire coated with
iron-impregnated latex. Amplification was
accomplished by means of magnetized metal
reeds tuned to match the frequency of each
string, and vibrating in sympathy with the strings
between gold-plated contacts; these reeds, in
turn, controlled a current which flowed through a
primitive but functional loudspeaker.
||The resulting sound was a rather harsh square-
wave, but this was mellowed somewhat by passing
the sound through a large coiled boxwood
||The Magnetopaphon enjoyed a short but
spectacular career on the concert circuit, only to
sink without trace six years after its conception.
Only 9 were ever made, one of which was
presented to George IV. The only surviving and
playable example is on display at the West
Arbroath Museum of Musical Anthropology in
||von Gambolt died in poverty, disillusioned, in
1841 in the Andaman islands, where he had failed
to convince the Catholic church to adopt his
Magnetopaphone. Although he had patented the
device, he was unable to pay the renewal fee on
the patent, which consequently lapsed. A slightly
interesting fact: a Magnetopaphon was installed
at Charing Cross railway station, where it was used
from 1831 to 1954 to play a six-note jingle as a
prelude to announcements.
||//where he had failed to convince the Catholic church to
adopt his Magnetopaphone//
||//For churches and productions, long magnetic pickups
similar to those used in electric guitars are placed
underneath and above all the strings.//
||Really? Huh. When I worked as a theater tech we just set a
mic pointing into the grand piano and called it a day.