our journey

The Piano

Our piano will be special in two main ways. The first is that it is a hybrid of traditional and advanced materials, designed to maximise the sound whilst minimising the weight. We have calculated that our first Standing Grand piano will weigh 82kg - less than a regular upright. It is designed to be lifted up stairs by two average adults and to stand in the space of an upright piano. 

Sarah's existing prototype

The second is that it is the only piano in the world designed to give the player access to every part of every string. This means we have made key design decisions, which are all about the technical detail.

First, the piano is straight strung, which means that the strings run in parallel. (Almost all modern pianos are ‘cross-strung’, meaning the strings cross over themselves.) Second, the piano is ‘under-damped’: this means the dampers now sit behind the strings. Third, our design will remove the need for extra structural struts, which on most pianos sit in the way of the strings. Fourth, our action is ‘back-striking’, so that the hammers also come from behind the strings.

These four decisions together mean that our piano is totally unique in the world and could help thousands of performers to find new music using the entire piano, not just the keys. A note about action: Although we recognize that our action will be vertical, we will be using bespoke solutions to increase repetition, to be as like a grand piano as possible. These solutions can't be detailed in the public domain but rest assured we are taking every technological step towards the best results, in every regard.

Our Journey So Far

This timeline aims to show what we have already undertaken and what remains to happen during the crowdfunded period of Jan-Dec 2020.

2008: First Prototype

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Testing of the basic shape idea in live performances

2014: Second prototype

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Proper rebuilding of a 1900 straight-strung, under-damped Erard piano by Pierre Malbos. New back-striking action designed and built. New frame designed which enabled Sarah to move the piano herself.

2016: Set up of Future Piano Ltd

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Future Piano Ltd established.

2016-7: Design project with Keechdesign UK

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Funded by Innovate UK (Design Foundations Round 2). Interviews and questionnaires undertaken by Noriko Ogawa, Jane Sebba, Roderick Chadwick, Leon Michener, Terry Lewis (Jacques Samuel Pianos), Simon Markson (Markson Pianos), Rolf Hind,Magda Mayas, Steve Beresford, Philip Thomas, Hauschka, Sebastian Berweck, Xenia Pestova and Mary Dullea, Martins Baumanis and an anonymous survey undertaken by 45 people. The final images were developed by integrating structural proposals with piano designs from David Klavins, where the new stringing system was drawn up in accordance with Sarah’s existing piano and the new, extra requirements, such as the barless (uninterrupted bridge) design.

2017-19: Structural Analysis

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System FEA, Shell FEA & Stress Sizing Reports: stress and normal modes analysis (FEA) concluding with the necessary sizing and materials inputs for the component design drawings. Critical Design Review: All Partners’ agreement to move into manufacture. With the crowdfunding money: 2020.

Nov-Dec 2019: Work Package 1

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With amount achieved now known, full configuration, component detailing and assembly drawings created and finalised (Future Piano).

Dec 2019: Work Package 2

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Process plan created for piano build (Future Piano and Klavins).

Jan–May 2020: Work Package 3

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Manufacturing of Frame Components (Future Piano overseeing third party composites manufacturer) and Soundboard Manufacture (Klavins)

Jun-Aug 2020: Work Package 4

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Piano Assembly (Klavins); assistance and progress oversight from Future Piano team.

Sept-Oct 2020: Work Package 5

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Piano Evaluation (Sarah Nicolls and other invited pianists) leading to initial demonstrations. Piano tested ergonomically and musically to discover benefits, issues, playability, acoustic and haptic properties. Demonstrator validated structurally by Future Piano technical team.

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