Pidato Box Adds Vibrato Effect To Digital Pianos


[Joren] likes his digital piano, but it was missing one key component that he wanted to use: the ability to produce vibrato while playing. Vibrato can be done in several different ways on regular pianos, but it seemed as if there was not a lot of consideration given to the effect when designing digital pianos.

He enjoys playing all sorts of music, including solos from Franz Liszt which suggest using vibrato at times, so he decided to build himself a vibrato box. Constructed with a bit of assistance from the friendly folks at Hackerspace Ghent, his “Pidato” incorporates an Arduino and three-axis accelerometer to get the job done.

The Arduino is connected to both the MIDI output of the piano as well as to the accelerometer, which he has mounted on his wrist. While playing, all he needs to do is simply move his hand rapidly to produce the vibrato sound as you can see in the video below. The Arduino code filters out any other sorts of movements to ensure that he does not accidentally trigger the effect when it is not desired.

Check out the video below for a quick demonstration of the Pidato box.


9 thoughts on “Pidato Box Adds Vibrato Effect To Digital Pianos

  1. The amount of vibrato is way to much, like an old singer with a wild vibrato. Turn down the amount and it may work. This is a great hack, but with piano it is simply unnatural. Brian Eno did some treated piano.
    Vibrato is a human thing and must be natural. I modded into a Casio a pitch bender where you bend a flat spring left or right. Inside the case it moves a slug in the clock oscillator coil. There is no dead zone at the center, unlike all the crap on the market which I find useless. The point is; wiggling the handle imparts the perfect vibrato amount and feeling.

  2. lol nice gnossienne version

    not too bad actually, could be useful for ondes martenot stuff
    you could use a ribbon controller or pitch/mod wheel too, but then you’d only be able to play with one hand

  3. I would be interested to hear the “several different ways” vibrato can be done on normal pianos.

    When a piano key is struck, the hammer strikes the string and then falls away; string length and tension also remains constant (unless you physically reach into the piano, not recommended). Conventionally, there isn’t anything to create vibrato in normal pianos. The vibrato motion that is sometimes used is more for the benefit of the pianist than the listeners. It has no direct effect on the sounding of the note.

  4. There is indeed no way to do vibrato on a real piano. To avoid confusion I added this to my blog post:

    “Since there is no way to perform vibrato on an analogue piano there are all kinds of different interpretations. Interpretations of the ‘vibrato’ instruction include: vibrating the pedal, vibrating the key, ignoring it, a vibrato like wiggling with a psychological sounding effect, …”.

    More background on

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