Continuous Excitation Piano Machine Looks Nervous, Sounds Grand

It’s not every day we see a grand piano with a Raspberry Pi inside, let alone one with 96 motors, but sometimes we get lucky. The contraption in question is one developed by [Konstantin Leonenko], as part of a collaboration with composer [Patricia Alessandrini] for a piece she created inspired by Ada Lovelace. Specifically, [Patricia] was inspired by Ada’s idea that an “analytical machine” would, someday, be able to create music on its own. [Konstantin] and [Patricia] worked together to make a machine that would learn from it’s human co-performers and create music with them.

Their creation, rather than just one tricked-out keyboard, is actually a portable attachment that can be easily fitted to any grand piano. Each of the device’s 96 motors drives a plastic “finger” that excites the piano’s strings. The result is a sound unlike any other — and you really need to experience it so click through that link at the top for the demo video.

Rather cleverly, the fingers are designed such that their dynamics help to mask the sound of the motor (a must for performances) while simultaneously enhancing the string’s timbre. Like any project, this one went through a number of iterations over the two-year design process, and even spun off into an entirely new, glove-based version.

We’ve seen some awesome music tech hacks, and this one fits right in with the rest. It’s always exciting to see an instrument as ubiquitous as the piano be used in new and refreshing ways. Be sure to check out the link at the top for a video of this incredible instrument in action!