Thursday, January 7, 2016

Take a Technical Tour of the Disklavier’s Record and Playback Features

The Yamaha Disklavier piano features sophisticated record and playback features that set it above any retrofitted player piano systems. To understand these features, first let’s delve into some of the details about how a standard acoustic piano creates sounds.

A piano key functions as a lever. When you depress the key, you set the hammer in motion. At some point, the key no longer controls the hammer and flies toward the string freely. The volume of the note you hear is a function of the speed or velocity of the hammer at the moment it strikes the string.

Yamaha Disklavier Grand Pianos include sensors that measure the actual velocity of each hammer during a performance.

Retrofitted player systems record with simple key sensors that measure only the speed of the key movement. While it's true that key movement effects hammer speed, it isn't reliable enough for accurate measurement. This is because the relationship between the key and hammer constantly changes with temperature, humidity and normal wear of the piano's many moving parts. Therefore a truly professional recording system must measure actual hammer velocity.

The Disklavier captures even more expressive subtleties by measuring the speed with which the key is released or key release velocity. Key releases are part of the rich pallet of tonal colors that make piano music so unique. Pianists may choose a quick release for a crisp sound, or a slower release to dampen the strings gradually.

Although typical player systems do not record key release, standard Disklavier Grand Pianos achieve the greatest realism by recording and reproducing key release velocity. With their combination of key sensors and hammer sensors, standard Disklaviers today are so sensitive that they even record & reproduce key movements that do not result in audible sound.

Want to see all of this in action? Watch the video below and Pianist and Music Technologist George Litterest will take you on a technical tour of the Disklavier’s Record and Playback Features.