Piano Street Magazine

The TransAcoustic Piano – Silent Piano Technology Taken One Step Further

May 8th, 2014 in Piano News by | 5 comments

In the past, many pianists have contended with cantankerous neighbors who complain about loud practicing during the day or late-night schedules that preclude practicing for fear of waking even reasonable neighbors.
This led to the development of the technology referred to as Silent Piano (Yamaha) or Anytime (Kawai) which is an acoustic piano where there is an option to completely silence the strings by means of an interposing hammer bar, preventing the hammers from touching the strings.

In the silent mode, sensors pick up the piano key movement. It is then converted to a MIDI signal which links to a digital sound module with headphones. The silent/anytime pianos also have full MIDI capability for sending signals and can be linked to a computer for use with notation software for example.

The new TransAcoustic concept

Instead of pitting acoustic and digital against each other, Yamaha now has brought the concepts together combining the two worlds in an attempt to create a completely new kind of experience. The TransAcoustic technology is an experimental endeavour that most certainly only a large company could afford to develop and present to the international market.

At its most basic level, the new technology transfers the digital sound of the Silent Piano into the instrument’s soundboard instead of the headphones. Two transducers attached to the piano’s soundboard convert the digital signal into electromechanical impulses that set the soundboard vibrating – literally turning the soundboard into a loudspeaker membrane which means that the sound is actually delivered through a naturally resonant piano component.

This component allows the player to adjust the volume of this “half-acoustic” piano sound but also to play with other instrument sounds in TransAcoustic mode, such as harpsichord, marimba or electric piano. It is also possible to layer any of the 19 digital sounds on top of the standard, hammer-striking-string piano voice – a feature that assumingly will increase the demand for piano tuners. Another advantage over pure digital sound is, according to Yamaha, that when using the damper pedal in TransAcoustic mode the piano strings will pick up some of the digital sound in an acoustic phenomenon called sympathetic resonance. (Try this yourself by depressing the right pedal in an acoustic piano and sing or shout into the piano.) This is one of the parts of a natural acoustic piano sound that standard digital piano technology still struggles to convincingly recreate.

Time will tell how useful and popular the TransAcoustic technology will become. The first model, the Yamaha U1TA PE Professional Upright Piano has just started shipping.

Reader question:
What is your opinion about the usefulness and future of this kind of digital/acoustic hybrid pianos?

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  • Oscar Lasprilla says:

    The Silent Piano Technology is a very welcome device for any pianist of any level,having the freedom of quite-practice at all hours,is a great bonus,so is the facility of sending piano Midi-Data to a computer,fabulous.
    On the other Technology,TransAcoustic Concept,so much have been done already in similar areas,Morph-Synthesized Audio ,hundreds of software Virtual Keyboard alternatives;now,I personally do not enjoy the sound of a decently tuned grand piano,made to sound like a trombone or a Hawaiian-guitar,why try to distort the beauty of a true piano?,let the piano be a piano,so much effort and craftsmanship has gone into it’s production,why try to disturb the order of it’s nature?.

  • Mike says:

    I’ve had a QuietTime system on my piano for over 15 years and it has worked wonderfully. I’m guessing it could be quickly adapted to provide soundboard coupling rather easily.

  • Roger Jones, P.Eng. says:

    Interesting, but you still have to maintain the acoustic side (and have the space for a grand piano). I’m putting my faith in the new virtual piano technology where the sound in synthesized from a range of stored parameters for various types of piano and room/hall (not stored samples). It seems that acoustic keyboard vibration can now also be emulated.

  • Hale Roberts says:

    I saw the transacoustic piano at the NAMM show. It was pretty startling to hear a grand piano sample coming from an upright piano. I thought it might work in our church….where we have a microphone behind our upright piano.

  • Surangika says:

    Transacoustic piano will be very popular in the future with smaller houses and apartment living. An acoustic pianists one concern is about ‘disturbing’ the others. It would encourage more people to learn the piano and enjoy.

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