In addition to the accompaniment function, it turns out that these hybrid systems in which the acoustic piano can be silenced potentially have another very practical function. If your playing is likely to meet with objections from neighbors or family, being able to silence the piano and then play as loudly as you want, while listening through headphones, can be very handy. Realizing this, the major player-piano manufacturers make the MIDI controller feature available — without the player piano — relatively inexpensively. These MIDI controllers include a MIDI sensor strip under the keys, or optical sensors for keys and hammers, but no hardware and electronics that would make the piano keys move on their own. Usually, these systems come with a “stop rail” or other mechanical device to prevent the hammers from hitting the strings, an internal digital sound source, and headphones. When you move a lever to stop the acoustic piano sound, you turn on the digital sound source, which is heard through the headphones. Yamaha calls this instrument Silent Piano (formerly MIDIPiano). PianoDisc calls their add-on system QuietTime; QRS's version is called SilentPNO.

Yamaha's Silent Pianos have sensors associated with their 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 Silent System, the acoustic piano can be silenced and the instrument used as a digital piano with a real piano action.

Two new Silent Systems are now available. The SG2 system is available in the b1, b2, and b3 vertical models and the GB1K grand. This system offers a CFIIIS concert grand piano voice, nine additional voices, can record and playback MIDI files, and has USB capability to preserve recorded performances. The SH system, used in all other piano models, offers a piano voice that uses binaural sampling of the CFX concert grand, 18 additional voices, can record and play back MIDI and audio files, and has USB capability to preserve recorded performances.

In mid-2014, Yamaha will begin offering TransAcoustic pianos. Like the Silent Piano, the TransAcoustic (TA) is an acoustic piano that can also send digitally sampled sounds, including Yamaha's CFX Concert Grand samples, directly to headphones, sound systems, mixers, etc. The TransAcoustic differs from the Silent Piano in having two transducers attached to the piano's soundboard. The transducers convert the digital signal into an electromechanical impulse that sets the soundboard vibrating — literally turning the soundboard into a loudspeaker. The soundboard, strings, and case provide a natural acoustic resonance for the digital samples, which can be played at even the softest volumes without the use of headphones and, when combined with the piano's normal acoustic sound, can produce a more richly textured sound. The 48" TransAcoustic U1TA upright model is expected to be released in Summer 2014, the 5' 3" TransAcoustic GC1TA grand model in early 2015.

QuietTime, from PianoDisc, can mute an acoustic piano and let the user hear his or her performance through headphones via sampled sound. The QuietTime MagicStar V5 S Series, introduced in 2013, has a slimline control unit that includes a touchscreen and iDevice compatibility. It also supports all three pedals, has a port for a USB stick, and comes with 80 demo songs. The control-unit sound module contains 128 sampled instruments, including a full General MIDI (GM) sound set, as well as 11 popular instrument presets, such as piano with strings. It also includes a built-in, adjustable metronome. A MIDI key-sensor strip is installed under the keys, and a padded mute rail prevents the hammers from hitting the strings while retaining the motion and feel of the piano action. The mute rail is activated by moving a small lever under the keyboard, which also turns on the sampled sound. MagicStar comes with a control unit, power supply, MIDI cable, MIDI strip, pedal switches, headphones, and mute rail. When the piano is to be used as a MIDI controller only (i.e., with no sound module or with a separate sound module), the MIDI key-sensor strip can be purchased from PianoDisc separately as ProScan, with or without the mute rail and headphones.


The Chinese and U.S. Piano Markets
In 2013, grand-piano sales in the U.S. increased 5.1%, while sales of uprights fell by 9.1%. A total of 35,734 pianos were imported into the U.S. Piano sales in China will reach about 340,000 units in 2014. While the size of the North American market for new pianos has shrunk over the years, sales and transfers of used pianos are estimated to be four to six times the number of new-piano sales, accounting for 140,000 to 215,000 instruments. China does not currently have a significant used-piano market.
For more information, call or e-mail:
Vienna International, Inc.

The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for

Buying New, Used, and Restored Acoustic Pianos and Digital Pianos

Spring 2014    Page 142

Spring 2014    Page 142

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