The Ultimate Piano (™)

Questions and discussion on technical, teaching and performance matters
User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by fredbucket » Wed Sep 16, 2009 3:47 am

I was away yesterday and when I got back late in the evening I dropped a note to a couple of people that I was about to relate something rather mind-blowing about pianos. So, to kick off the Piano Forum, here it is...

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) :)

Now before anyone jumps up and down me for having been injected with a near fatal dose of marketing jingoism of the worst kind, let me assure you that that is not the case - I am a trained research scientist and able to make reasonably objective judgements about things, especially music. So let me repeat in totally non-emotional and objective language -

I have just played the Ultimate Piano (™) :)

I visited the Stuart & Sons Piano factory in Newcastle to play their latest pianos - and let me tell you these are something to behold. These are the world's only currently manufactured 102-key grand pianos. The new Reference series Stuart & Sons Concert Grand Piano (2.9m) and Studio Grand Piano (2.2m) have pushed the frequency boundaries for the acoustic piano to the limits CCC (or C0) @ 16.3516Hz to f5 (or F8) @ 5587.6517Hz. These ultimate grand pianos are designed and handcrafted not only for a new and exciting experience in the interpretation of the 'standard' piano repertoire, but also, and uniquely, for the vertical dimension of sound which has been the bedrock of music composition since the Impressionists. The extended frequency range, the dynamic sensitivity and sustain opens the way to a whole new experience in piano performance craft not possible on any other piano. Stuart & Sons recognises that since 1900 and the introduction of the Bosendorfer Imperial grand that C0 is the lowest key to be found on a piano. There is repertoire which embraces this lower frequency range but until now only Bosendorfer have met the keyboard challenge. Stuart says that the successful employment of special wire from Stephen Paulello in France has enabled the design of the 2.2m 102-key piano as modern high-tensile music wire can not be used successfully for low tension scales.

The first three ultimate grands are hot off the press with two instruments 'seasoning' in the performance room where they will undergo further adjustment and refinement as they settle and acclimatise to their environment. Even at this early stage the sound was quite extraordinary and certainly much better than any piano I have played to this point in time.

What do they look like? Like all of his pianos, beautifully finished and absolutely stunning in a satin finished East Indian rosewood. Veneers up to 500mm wide are quite magnificnetly matched across the lid.
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano.jpg
The studio grand piano is the only 2.2m 102 note piano ever to have been built as a serious musical instrument.
stuart & sons 2.2m 102-note piano.jpg
A close up of the sub-contra octave bass strings is provided here
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - bass strings.jpg
With the interior view, it can the clearly seen that the bass strings really do take up all of the length of the piano.
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - interior view.jpg
The whole instrument is an imposing and incredible piece of work. This is a piano that up to now people have only dreamed of, and to have experienced it in reality is a life experience for me.

But even better than it looks, is the way it plays and sounds. I'm still working through the recordings I did, but I will post very soon - including another recording of one or two of Malcolm's favourite pieces.

This piano puts to the sword the contention that innovation in the acoustic piano is moribund. It further redefines the possibilities of the acoustic piano for the 21st century and provides the final nail in the coffin of the incessant reproduction of proven form that has dominated the acoustic piano for the past century. When Nietzche said 'God is dead' many would say he was wrong. If I were to say that 'Steinway is dead', I don't think I would be.

Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

Regards
Fred
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
klavierelch
Site Admin
Posts: 204
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:27 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Recorder
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Germany

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by klavierelch » Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:19 am

I am curious to hear how it sounds!
Ars opus est hominis, non opus artis homo.

John Owen, Epigrammata (1615)

User avatar
mballan
Site Owner
Posts: 1928
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:35 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Cornwall, England

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by mballan » Wed Sep 16, 2009 10:22 am

Looks a beautiful piano...curious also to hear [I want one.......!!].

Malc :P

HullandHellandHalifax
Site Admin
Posts: 789
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:19 pm
Instruments played, if any: piano organ harmonium
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Zeist, The Netherlands

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Wed Sep 16, 2009 9:43 pm

This reminds me of the 7th edition I have of Cramers guide to playing the pianoforte which came out at about the same time as 7 octave pianos were being introduced, around the mid 1830's. There he states quite categorically that such beast with 7 octaves had been made but would not catch on with the public, presumably people were so small that they could not reach the extremities of the keyboard even though they only had 6 octaves then. How wrong he was of course so I will not say that this 102 note beast won't catch on but wait with bated breath for the first composer or arranger to write somthing for it.
Looking forward to hearing your recordings Fred.
regards
Brian

User avatar
passthesalt
Site Admin
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 11:59 pm
Instruments played, if any: piano
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Dallas-Ft Worth area, Texas

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by passthesalt » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:32 am

Are they giving out samples so people can test them? :)

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by fredbucket » Fri Sep 18, 2009 3:16 am

When it comes to discussing sounds from a piano, it is wise to note that what you hear in a recording is the work of the sound engineer, not the natural tone of the instrument. This is because the characteristics and placement of the microphones is important, and also post-production has a habit of both compressing and equalising out the treble and the bass.

In the case of the Stuart piano, there is no commercial recording I know of to this point that comes close to matching the natural sound of the piano as played. This is exacerbated by the annoying extra bass notes (OK, so I'm kidding, scrub that one) which not only test out the limits of recording and playback technology but also the limits of the human ear, both in terms of hearing and pitching the sound.

Middle C (which is notated as C4 and given the A440 standard) resonates at 261.626Hz. The Ultimate Piano (™) goes down to C0 (that's four octaves below middle C) and resonates at a whopping 16.352Hz. If you're fast enough, you can count the beats, and watching the string vibrate at that frequency is quite instructive. You may think that that would be impossible to tune, but the bass notes on a Stuart are very clear (much clearer than any other piano) and having seen Wayne tune one of these I'm amazed at how easy it really is if you know what you are doing.

So, firstly, how does the bass sound? I was afraid that when I played it it would only sound good if I included the octave above as well, but I was wrong - very wrong.
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - the bass #1.mp3
The power of the instrument is enormous - particularly in the bass as may be imagined. If I was into prepared pianos (which I'm not really) and if I wanted to pluck the strings a la John Cage, George Crumb or whoever, it would sound like this...
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - the bass #2.mp3
And when you put the extra bass notes together with the extra treble notes, the effect is quite unique - since no other piano has these notes :)
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - the bass+treble .mp3
And finally for this post (more to come later) my recording of part of La Cathedrale Engloutie by Debussy including extra bass notes wherever possible. This will give a good idea of the power and dynamic range of the instrument (as long as you ignore my intrepretation!!)
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-note piano - debussy - la cathedral engloutie - the loud bits.mp3
It is best to use good speakers for all of this, and also to turn up the volume. That will give you some idea of the sound I was experiencing as I recorded these.

Regards
Fred
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
giwro
Member
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:31 pm
Instruments played, if any: Organ, Piano
Music Scores: Yes
Location: WI, USA
Contact:

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by giwro » Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:10 am

Holy Smoke.

I think I just soiled myself....

Wow.

fleubis
Pianomasochist
Posts: 1939
Joined: Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:42 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by fleubis » Wed Sep 23, 2009 5:25 am

Thundering bass, YES. But more important to me would be how the registers blend and how easy or difficult it is to produce various levels of pianissimo (not using the 4th pedal) and how responsive is the action. These instruments have been around for a while, yet no major artist seems to have made a recording using a Stuart piano. Having visited Stuart Piano's website several times, question like these are yet to be addressed. It is one gorgeous looking instrument.

James

User avatar
arglmann
Pianophiliac
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 12:28 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Glass Organ, Honk
Music Scores: Yes

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by arglmann » Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:34 am

Maybe my hearing is a little bad, but at the bass1.mp3 beginning bit I really couldn't make up which notes you were playing. When it came to "A", I noticed, aha! But maybe that's also due to my bad laptop loudspeakers...

Cathédrale sounds nice though.

Arglmann
Listen, die die Welt bedeuten.

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1902
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: The Ultimate Piano (™)

Post by fredbucket » Thu Sep 24, 2009 12:31 am

fleubis wrote:Thundering bass, YES. But more important to me would be how the registers blend and how easy or difficult it is to produce various levels of pianissimo (not using the 4th pedal) and how responsive is the action. These instruments have been around for a while, yet no major artist seems to have made a recording using a Stuart piano. Having visited Stuart Piano's website several times, question like these are yet to be addressed. It is one gorgeous looking instrument.
I'm including a couple more sound files that may help - we were testing out various combinations of notes and the decay patterns of each, and I think these will go some way towards answering your questions here.
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-notes piano - chords.mp3
stuart & sons 2.9m 102-notes piano - arpeggios.mp3
The arpeggios include (at the end) various combinations of the pedals (I can't remember which is which). The overall tone gradation is very even - and there are no noticeable gaps between the string sections.

With regard to recordings there are a fair number around now. In fact Iano (on this board) did the first commercial recording on a Stuart piano in the late 1990's and the Dutch born pianist Gerard Willems did the complete Beethoven sonatas and concertos some years ago now. However, no commercial recording to this date has gone close to capturing the true sound of this piano.

Regards
Fred
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Post Reply