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The TransAcoustic Piano – Silent Piano Technology Taken One Step Further

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?


Yamaha and Bösendorfer Collaboration Intensifies

The new Bösendorfer Selection Center in Wiener Neustadt

The new Bösendorfer Selection Center in Wiener Neustadt

In January 2008, Yamaha purchased Bösendorfer Pianos, one of the most prestigious brands in the piano industry. Last month, a plan was announced that will intensify the collaboration of sales and marketing activities between the two companies. Integrated within a multiple-brand strategy, the strengths of both brands will be more intensively leveraged in order to capture new market share. Together, Yamaha and Bösendorfer are able to offer complete solutions to every pianist, every teacher and every audience. Bösendorfer grands, available in a wide array of unique designs and finishes, have a European flavour that renders a full, warm sound and special interpretation possibilities for pianists. With the support of Yamaha and its infrastructure, artist management should be expanded worldwide and collaboration with concert halls and renowned educational institutions accelerated. Bösendorfer headquarters and manufacturing will remain in Austria.

According to Paul Calvin, Vice President and General Manager of Yamaha’s Keyboard Division, “We look forward to the integration of this historic and well-regarded brand. Bösendorfer’s instruments are famous for their fine sound and craftsmanship since 1828. As such, they make a wonderful addition to the Yamaha family of products.”

Bösendorfer was founded in 1828 and is a manufacturer of premium pianos, especially concert grands. As a symbol of Vienna’s musical culture, Bösendorfer pianos sustain the city’s legacy of unique, warm, and rich sound-creation combined with top-quality production, based on a long tradition of craftsmanship, and have many fans principally among pianists and professional musicians. After becoming a subsidiary of Kimball Piano and Organ Company, a U.S. piano manufacturer, in 1966, Bösendorfer was acquired in 2002 by the BAWAG an Austrian financial group. Yamaha began the manufacturing of pianos in 1900 and has built a position as a full-line supplier, offering a wide range of pianos led by the top-of-the-line concert grand CFIIIS. In addition, Yamaha maintains a branch of its European subsidiary in Vienna and has nurtured close ties with the musical community in Vienna. Over the years, at the request of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, along with the decrease in the number of local instrument manufacturers, Yamaha has developed, and is continuing to manufacture, instrument groups that inherit Vienna’s sound and musical tradition, including Vienna oboes and Vienna horns in the wind instruments section. Bösendorfer pianos, too, have a uniquely Viennese resonance, and the traditional methods of manufacturing have been preserved. In its management role, Yamaha believes that, going forward, it will be possible to support the healthy growth and development of Bösendorfer and contribute to sustaining Vienna’s musical culture and traditions for future generations.


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