The current Version 3.0 operating system for the Mark IV includes the ability to make audio recordings of the piano and anything coming into the mic input, and enables control of the Mark IV via a PC or Macintosh computer through the use of a Web browser.

The performance level of the standard Mark IV Disklavier is the same as formerly found in the Mark III PRO series. The Mark IV PRO provides the highest level of performance in the Disklavier line. The PRO series has a much higher internal recording resolution and a greater dynamic range in playback.

Introduced this year, the Disklavier E3 offers many of the most popular capabilities of the Mark IV at a lower price. The E3 is offered only on Yamaha's smaller grands, from the 4' 11" model GB1K through the 5' 8" model C2, and on the 48" U1 upright. The following are the differences between the E3 and Mark IV Disklaviers:

  • The E3 has no internal hard drive. However, it does support a user-supplied USB hard drive.
  • The E3 has no floppy-disk drive, though one can be added.
  • The E3's ensemble electronic voices do not include Yamaha's Articulation Element Modeling (AEM) voices.
  • The E3 has flash memory.
  • The E3 does not have a dedicated digital piano sound chip, instead using the piano sound in the XG tone generator.
  • The upright version of the E3 (DU1E3) does not come with built-in speakers.
  • The E3 has only 2-track record-ing capability instead of 16-track.
  • The E3 does not support Silent Mode, Quiet Mode, or Quick Escape Action.
  • The E3 does not come with headphones.

Models DGC1B and DC2B, recently discontinued, are Mark III Disklaviers with some limits in their functionality. They don't support Silent Mode, Quiet Mode, or Quick Escape Action, and headphones and a digital piano sound chip are not included (instead, they use the piano sound in the tone generator). The playback-only model DGB1CD is being discontinued in favor of the E3 version, the DGB1KE3.

For simple playback, most player-piano systems now on the market are probably equally recommended. The Disklavier, however, has a slight edge in quality control, and its recording system is more sophisticated than most of the others, especially in the larger grands. For this reason, it is often the system of choice for professional applications such as performance and teaching, and much of Yamaha's marketing efforts are directed at that audience.

Two examples are especially note-worthy. Yamaha sponsors regular piano "e-competitions" in which contestants gather in several cities and play Disklavier concert grands. Their performances are recorded using PianoSmart Video Synchronization, then sent to judges in another location, who, rather than listen to recordings, watch and listen to the music reproduced perfectly on other Disklavier pianos.

A similar concept is a technology called Remote Lesson, a prototype of which has been demonstrated and may debut in the near future. A student takes a lesson on one Disklavier while a teacher located far away teaches and critiques on a second Disklavier connected via the Internet, student and teacher communicating with each other in real time via videoconferencing. In 2006, the Disklavier received the Frances Clark Keyboard Pedagogy Award from the Music Teachers National Association. Typically awarded to a music educator who has made significant contributions to the field of keyboard pedagogy, this marks the first time the award has been given to a music product.

Yamaha maintains a large and growing library of music for the Disklavier, including piano solo, piano with recorded "live" accompaniment, piano with digital instrumental accompaniment, and PianoSmart arrangements. The system will also play Standard MIDI files types 0 and 1.

Yamaha also makes a line of Silent Pianos, formerly called MIDIPianos. Technically, these are not Disklaviers because they don't use solenoids for playback; they're included here because they are closely related products that have some similar features. Like the Disklaviers, Silent Pianos have sensors associated with the keys, hammers, and pedals that record their movements in MIDI format and output the information through a digital piano sound chip to headphones or speakers, or to a computer for editing. With the addition of Yamaha's piano mute rail, the acoustic piano can be silenced and the instrument used as a digital piano with a real piano action. A new vertical silent system, called SG is now available. The SG system offers nine additional sounds, can record, and has USB capability to preserve recorded performances. See also the article on "Hybrid Pianos" in this issue for additional information.  ¤

Mike Kemper, a Los Angeles-based piano technician and expert on electronic player-piano systems, contributed to this article.


FALL 2009 -- page 144

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