Did you know player systems could do all this?

I’ve been working with a lot more player systems over the last year. Here are some of the fun things you can do with these systems.

  • You can download performances from the web and play them back. Many piano competitions make the MIDI files available.
  • You can add the recording capability (sensors under the keys), a very powerful component. You can play pieces, save your performance, and play them back later.
  • Even without the playback component, the recording component turns your piano into a perfectly-weighted MIDI keyboard. You can connect it to a computer and run software that writes your sheet music for you as you play, or changes your piano into a pipe organ.
  • You can get a piano lesson remotely by hooking up your piano over the Internet to your teacher’s piano. As you play, his piano also plays. He can then play your piano remotely, to show you ideas.
  • Several of my customers have found that the only time they get to practice is when their baby is sleeping, and the piano wakes them up. With the recording component and a sound-generating module, you can listen to your piano through headphones. A “stop rail” can be added so that by pulling a cable, rubber bumpers pivot down to prevent the hammers from hitting the strings (but the keys move all the way down).
  • You can also activate the stop rail and play the sound output through speakers. Most modules generate hundreds of sounds, from harpsichords to trombones.
  • Some player systems have Internet connections, so you can tune to player piano Internet radio channels! I’ve seen this on Yamaha DisKlavier systems.
  • Player systems often include amplifiers and speakers under the piano, so you can hear vocal and orchestral accompaniment to your piano’s playing.
  • Another customer of mine has a whole-house sound system, and routes that audio output to it. You hear Sinatra and the orchestra from the living room, and then the piano comes in to accompany from the foyer. Very cool surround sound!
  • One of the latest developments is a unit that synchronizes your DVD player to your piano. You can watch a concert performance, and see Norah Jones play your own piano. Locally, there’s a demo system on display in Cottonwood Mall.
  • There are systems with a flat-panel screen in the music desk, to show your music.
  • Top-end systems can be controlled remotely with a wireless tablet. I never thought I’d see a WiFi router in a piano, but I have! (My piano has an IP address!) Change the volume or song selection from upstairs with the tablet, or with an iPhone app.

I think this kind of integration is what will keep acoustic pianos fresh and interesting in the future. PianoDisc has just released a high-definition version of its system, so the playback quality is more subtle. QRS and DisKlavier are also actively improving.

If you’ve had a player system for a while, ask your technician what upgrades and enhancements are available. Here are some links to get you started.