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New material to revolutionize pianos (Read 2130 times)

Offline faulty_damper

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New material to revolutionize pianos
« on: April 01, 2004, 02:45:35 PM »
Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber has been used to make automobile body panels, Aerospace equipment, violin bows, bicycle frames, wheels, disc brakes, toilet seats (yes, toilet seats!)...

Why hasn't this material been used to make the keyboard keys and hammer actions?  Think about it.  From Yamaha's website, it says that pine (or spruce) is the best wood material to make keys with and the hammer actions because it has a good weight to stiffness ratio.

Carbon fiber is even lighter, stiffer and stronger than steel!  Imagine what could happen if it was used to make piano parts.  Because the material is stiffer,  energy loss from striking a key will be significantly reduced meaning a faster action.  Because it is also lighter, it will also allow for a faster action.  Because it is harder than wood, durability of the keys will be significantly improved.

The possible down sides to using carbon fiber for the keys and hammer actions would be the cost of making it - at least initially.  Because of the costs, it would be too expensive to produce for only a handful of buyers.  Another downside is the limited range of possible parts it can be made.

 Carbon fibers' properties also include absorbing vibrations which mean that the lid probably wouldn't be the best made out of carbon fiber since it directs the sound waves.  But the opening hatch for the sheet stand, the sheet stand, the fallboad, bench, piano legs, and possibly the piano casing, can also be made of the material.  Lighter, stiffer, and stronger than steel (and wood)!

Imagine the possiblities of what carbon fiber can do to piano technology!

Offline jr11

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #1 on: April 04, 2004, 07:59:47 PM »
An interesting point, but it opens up another question... is the piano obsolete?

A piano is a huge, cumbersome, complex, and ridiculously expensive instrument. Though the design has changed little in more than 200 years, we consider the concert grand the standard to which all keyboards are measured. Technology exists to produce a superior action in a digital keyboard. Coupled with a good sound system, results from digitals are impressive. But, you say, does it sound and feel like a real concert grand? Well, if it works just as well (though different), who says it has to?

Mind you, this won't be popular food for thought with classical musicians. We continue to play all manner of centuries-old music on centuries-old-design instruments. Thinking outside the box is a little too liberal a concept for many of us.

Offline Joffrey

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #2 on: April 05, 2004, 11:48:19 AM »
Just like Yamaha said, the strenght to weight ratio of birch is perfect. Spruce is for the soundboard.

The strenght to weight ratio for carbon fiber is crap for piano keys. Actually if you'd start making piano keys out of carbon fiber the action would be heavier to play. Imagine your piano key being a lever with on one side your finger and on the other side the hammer (which cannot be made out of carbon fiber thus will stay the same weight). Actually the weight of the key (plus added lead) will help you push the key down. you'd have to put a lot of lead in a crabon fiber key to restore the balance. This is labour intensive plus the key is more expensive because of the carbon material. There is nothing more durable than wood, if treated right. Carbon fiber keys will break because of their stiffness. Wooden keys kan take a lot more beating.

The weight of the piano is essential for its tone. I a Steinway the entire body vibrates with the sound board. If it were to be made of Carbon it would lose a lot of strength.

As for digitals. how can anything that is trying to simulate the real thing ever be better than the thing it tries to simulate?

anyway, just my 2 cents.

Joff

Offline jr11

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #3 on: April 05, 2004, 05:32:32 PM »
I played a guitar a while ago made of carbon. It was well crafted and very light, but a quite a bright sound. A beautiful instrument, but it did not feel, sound or play like a wooden guitar. But that's because it was NOT a wooden guitar, and shouldn't pretend to be. It was a fine quality instrument; the problem was MY attitude in comparing it to what I felt was the standard.

Pianists consider the Steinway concert grand the "real" thing. But looking at it objectively, it is the most impractical instrument imaginable. Pianists are at the mercy of the venue owner to provide a worthy instrument, and we have all found ourselves in front of hopelessly inadequate instruments. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to bring along your own, familiar instrument, as other musicians do?

Again, it is strictly our attitude that holds us back. Even if a digital came out that played and sounded better than a concert grand at a fraction of the price, it wouldn't be accepted in the stuffy world of classical music. The piano SHOULD be obsolete, but we won't let go... perhaps that is a good thing  ;D


Offline Axtremus

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #4 on: April 05, 2004, 10:17:30 PM »
Interesting thoughts.

While not "carbon fiber," there are manufacturers who use synthetic material to build piano parts. Kawai, for example, uses ABS Styran for many of their action parts (goto www.kawaius.com and click on ABS Action Parts and see what they have to say about it). Unfortunately, they get bashed at times for using "plastic parts" in an accoustic piano.

I have also read about soundboard built out of glass/crystal instead of wood. (See http://www.stemco.nl/ for example.)

I suppose there are parts that's supposed to enhance vibration, and there are parts that's supposed to absorb vibration, so if a material is known to absorb vibration, it's not automatically bad for the piano (the damper, for example).

There hasn't been that many drastic change to acoustic pianos' designs or material for a long time. The piano people can be a very conservative bunch!

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #5 on: April 06, 2004, 10:53:03 AM »
Quote


There is nothing more durable than wood, if treated right. Carbon fiber keys will break because of their stiffness. Wooden keys kan take a lot more beating.


Carbon fiber keys won't break because of its stiffness.  Carbon is really strong stuff if made right.  My bicycle frame and most of the components are made out of it.  It's stiff but not hard - glass is really hard, so are diamonds, but they shatter with minimal force.  Not so with carbon fiber.  They don't make bicycles out of wood anymore since there are superior materials for its purpose.


"Imagine your piano key being a lever with on one side your finger and on the other side the hammer (which cannot be made out of carbon fiber thus will stay the same weight)."

The wool of the hammer can't be made out of it but everything else can.  So there will still be some weight savings on the action side of the keyboard.


Another great feature of carbon fiber:
It won't swell because of moisture.  Wood does so to a very high degree.  The wood in the action and keys, frame, etc. will swell causing the sound and touch to be diminished in capacity.  The tone usually won't be as bright, the touch a bit out of skew...

---

Maybe I'm too liberal but many great things have been enhanced with technology.  I think most "classical" instruments are antiquated because we are too conservative.

The main reason why I thought about carbon fiber is because it is pretty much a miracle material if it is ever used.  The weight of the keys can be compensated by weights but the benefits of having a stiffer, stronger key far outweigh its initial downsides.  A lighter instruments allows for easier mobility of parts.   Another thing about keys made of CF is that when it hits the bottom during depression, the dud from the contact of whatever is under it will be diminished - it's very audible on the upper two octaves like drum beats.

Carbon fiber has a far superior life for its purpose.  And over the years of ownership, it has the potential of being more cost-efficient because the material is not affected by the elements as much as wood.

If it's good enough to help launch astronauts into space, then it's more than good enough to make parts for the piano (and then launch it into space.)

Offline comme_le_vent

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #6 on: May 08, 2004, 05:24:23 AM »
about the relevance of acoustic pianos - nothing can ever replace the live sound of a real piano - plus - prepared piano and string techniques would be impossible......
http://www.chopinmusic.net/sdc/

Great artists aim for perfection, while knowing that perfection itself is impossible, it is the driving force for them to be the best they can be - MC Hammer

Offline Axtremus

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #7 on: May 09, 2004, 08:40:16 AM »
Quote
about the relevance of acoustic pianos - nothing can ever replace the live sound of a real piano - plus - prepared piano and string techniques would be impossible......

I think I can agree with the part about "nothing can ever replace the live sound of a real piano." The second part about "prepared piano and string techniques would be impossible...," while true in the context of the first part, can be counter-balanced with digital filters and digital sound effects. The whole purpose of prepared piano is to give a piano different sounds, and in that department, digital filters would give you more freedom, wider pallete, and more possibilities than stuffing foreign objects into the piano. ;)

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #8 on: May 09, 2004, 11:02:33 AM »
I may be wrong when I said that sound quality would suffer.  In fact, wood resonates even less and when a frequency is applied to it, it tones it down.  Carbon fiber, which is incredibly more stiff, would not dampen the vibrations as much and therefore would provide even sharper and crisper sound if used on the lid.  And it will be incredibly lighter, under 6 pounds for a 6-7 foot grand.  That means that the construction, compared to wood, would not need excess support like in some concert grand pianos which takes away from the aesthetics.  And since it's so much lighter, no one would strain themselves from lifting it open or closing it.  No more slam shuts!

And because it may have better sound producing qualities compared to wood, it could replace the entire sound board.  If that ever happens, you won't have to worry about the sound board warping with climatic changes.

I wonder if any manufacturers have ever considered it as a material?  I'd like to know what they found.

Offline faulty_damper

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Re: New material to revolutionize pianos
«Reply #9 on: May 09, 2004, 11:07:01 AM »
Quote
about the relevance of acoustic pianos - nothing can ever replace the live sound of a real piano - plus - prepared piano and string techniques would be impossible......


What are you talking about?  This is just about replacing wood as the primary material for construction.

Some aspects of digi-pianos are better than accoustic ones.  Like when you apply the damper, the felt that comes off the strings causes the strings to vibrate.  This is annoying.  Or another thing about the damper is the what I call the "crashing of the dampers".  I hate it when it falls back down onto the strings and you hear that "buff" and all sounds immediately stop.  I hate it!