Like a lot of people, [Jacques] doesn’t think a big hunk of plastic light enough to carry under your arm is a piano, even if it does have 88 keys. A piano is supposed to be a hefty piece of furniture that you have to buy people pizza to help you move. So he bought a used baby grand piano. It wasn’t in very good shape, though, so while restoring it, he also added MIDI to it. You can see the finished result in the video below.
At $100, the price was right, although it cost more to move it. Between water damage, moth attacks, and storage in a garage, the piano — an old Zimmerman — needed a lot of tender loving care. When it came to MIDI, [Jacques] found a used Disklavier — a very expensive piece of kit — but it didn’t fit the Zimmerman or another piano at hand. The solenoids and optical sensors are set up for a particular piano, so what can you do? Easy! Rebuild the bar that holds the solenoids and sensors.
Doing anything that you have to duplicate 88 times is sure to be a challenge. But it was even worse than that. The keys are tightly and irregularly spaced. The solenoids have to be very closely packed and any error means redoing the whole assembly. Luckily, the new bar design groups the solenoids so you can remove some of them without taking out all of them.
So far, only the output solenoids are working. Reading the keys is future work, but we think that might be easier than what he’s already accomplished. We’ve seen a lot of takes on pianos over the years. We’ve even seen the solenoid trick done on a smaller scale.