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The trade name Disklavier (DIS-Klah-veer) refers to a family of piano-related products originated and continuously manufactured by Yamaha Corporation, based in Hamamatsu, Japan, with branches and subsidiaries worldwide.
The Disklavier is, in essence, a player piano system utilizing electro-mechanical solenoids and an array of optical sensors connected to powerful light-emitting diodes (LED's) which allow the Disklavier to play notes and pedal strokes independent of any human performer.
Disklaviers have the capability to record data in the form of human input (as in a piano performance) and to replay that input accurately as a piano. Additionally, they are able to receive MIDI data, transmitted by floppy disk, CD-ROM, via serial or USB cable or even directly from the Internet.
The Disklavier was introduced to the US market in 1987 through Yamaha Corporation of America.
Disklavier and Acoustic Piano
In spite of electro-mechanic and electronic components inside a disklavier, the way it produces piano sound is exactly the same as acoustic piano. Pressing disklavier's key causes a hammer hitting the strings thus the sound is formed. Disklavier contains 88 keys, hammers, strings, iron frame, wooden soundboard, dampers, etc. just like other acoustic pianos.
The disklavier's sensor systems enable it to sense which keys are pressed, how much pressure is applied and the details of player's touch. When the "silent" feature is turned on, a bar (motor-driven hammer shank stopper) is activated to stop the hammer from reaching the strings, effectively silencing the piano to outside ears. Sophisticated electronic components then take over, reproducing the same rich tones through stereo headphones. This allows the pianists to play without intruding on those around them.
Disklavier's ability to record music depends on the system sensor installed inside the piano directly by Yamaha at the factory. Some disklavier "playback only" models do not have this sensors. Mark IV Key Sensors: non-contact optical fiber/grayscale shutter sensing system for 88 keys (senses the key position, keying velocity, and key releasing velocity). Mark IV Hammer Sensors: non-contact optical fiber/grayscale shutter sensing system. Mark IV Pedal Sensors: non-contact digital optical sensing system (continuous senses the pedal position). With the grayscale key sensor, the Mark IV monitors every motion of the key and hammer, even rapidly repeated notes, with meticulous precision and the softest touch. This technology also allows the Mark IV to calibrate itself as the action matures. Mark III (for upright DU1A piano) key sensors: single-beam, on/off optical sensors; hammer sensors: single-beam, four-point, optical; pedal sensors: sustain and shift, incremental, position-sensing, optical.
To move the hammer and press the keys down, the following drive system is installed. Mark IV: DSP servo drive system (high-power servo-controlled solenoids for keys, and servocontrolled solenoids for pedals). Mark III: Self-calibrating solenoids for keys, and trapwork-integrated solenoids, incremental response for pedals
Connecting to other instruments
Midi IN/OUT termintals let players control other electronic musical devices from the piano keyboard or access the piano's digital sound from external equipments like sequencers or computers. Mark IV piano also has the following I/O connections: S/PDIF, USB, Midi, Ethernet.
Disklavier Control Unit
Disklavier is a set of piano and a control unit that functions to control the electronic parts of the piano. The control unit has a 3.5" floppy disk drive to play or record music, and a CD drive. Yamaha's commercial piano software (packaged as floppy disk or CD) may play not only piano music but also other instrument accompaniments produced by the XG tone generator installed in the control unit. For example, it is possible to have a jazz piano trio as the sound of bass and drums are from the speakers. The XG tone generator contains 676 sampled AWM2 voices, 21 drum kits, and is capable in playing 64 or 32 (depending on the disklavier model) note maximum polyphony.
With more advanced hardware, disklavier Pro grand pianos set the highest standards of accuracy in acoustic reproductions that normally demanded by professional recording studios. Key drive units integrate servo feedback control and high-speed processing for precise, high-performance playback. Pedal drive units are servo controlled with their own dedicated CPU for meticulous reproduction of every motion. Optical continuous-action key motion sensors register exact keystoke speed, depth, and release speed. Optical hammer speed sensors work in conjunction with key motion sensors to record performance data with outstanding precision.
Disklavier Midi File
For Disklavier Pro, the recorded midi file format (XP SMF) constitutes a high resolution file that goes beyond the boundaries of a typical MIDI file. This file uses a scale of 0-1023 to record hammer (note-on) velocity, key-on velocity, and key-release (note-off) velocity. Pedal data for sustain and una corda are recorded as continuous data from 0-127. This type of file should be played from the disklavier control unit, not from computer.
For other disklavier series, the format conforms to the normal MIDI specification but includes data that is not often recorded or played back by other MIDI instruments, such as key release velocity (from 0-127). As with the XP SMF, pedal data for sustain and una corda are recorded as continuous data from 0-127.
The current Mark IV series of the Disklavier has wireless networking capability which enables the user to control the piano via either a PDA-style remote or a Tablet PC-style remote. The Mark IV series also features an 80 gigabyte hard drive and a slim console, known as the Media Center, located under the left side of the keyboard.
Installation of Disklavier
The Disklavier system is incorporated into the piano only at the Yamaha factory, and Disklavier PRO can be ordered into the full line of Conservatory and Concert Series grand pianos, up to and including the CFIIIS 9' concert grand. A limited number of upright models are also available, often based on the U1 - although in Japan U3 based models have been made available, and several models based on the non-professional uprights have been released in the UK. These smaller models often have smaller feature sets - for example, some do not have the pedal sensors or recording capability. A limited edition Elton John Piano Signature Series was also released to commemorate Elton John's long standing use of the Yamaha CFIIIS piano. The Limited Edition Elton John piano is distinguished by its distinctive red color and additional Elton John songs in its memory, utilizing both audio and MIDI information.
In 2002, the first-ever International Piano-e-Competition, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, became the first such competitive musical event to utilize the Disklavier PRO in transmitting and storing live performances. In fall 2005 the first compact disc appeared of works entirely written for the Disklavier, Kyle Gann's Nude Rolling Down an Escalator.
- Yamaha Company
- DUG / Disklavier Groups Wiki
- Art of the States: Disklavier American classical works featuring the instrument
- Zenph Studios Specialize in re-creating live performances from past recordings
- Peter Taussig plays Bach on Disklavier Musical Sculpting - computer assisted piano performances