What is a Disklavier piano?
In the 1970s, solenoid-based player systems were added to pianos for the first time. In 1987, Yamaha took that concept to a new level of quality and ease of use by introducing the very first ‘Disklavier’ reproducing piano. The term Disklavier is a combination of the words disk, a nod to the 3 ½ inch floppy disks on which the recordings were first stored, and Klavier, the German word for keyboard.
The Disklavier is first and foremost a traditional acoustic piano, but has a built-in record-and-playback system meaning that the piano will play itself for you, bringing the possibility of piano ownership and enjoyment to a whole new audience – you don’t have to be a pianist to have a piano! Now in its eighth generation and known as ‘ENSPIRE’, the record-and-playback system of Disklavier and its related features has changed substantially over the years, but the fundamental concept has always been the same.
How does it work?
The Disklavier system utilises a system of electromechanical solenoids positioned at the back of each key and in the pedal mechanism, triggered by an electronic signal to ‘play’ the piano. Optical sensors positioned under the keys, on the hammers and within the pedal mechanism detect every movement made and ensure that each note is reproduced accurately. The Disklavier ENSPIRE is the only piano that can truly reproduce every nuance of a piano performance, precisely recreating all the minute details that other player pianos cannot. For example, a player's key release timing controls the exact timing of each individual damper coming down on the string and contributes to the overall musical message that the pianist is trying to convey.
Other player systems rely on predetermined programming to control the release of the piano keys, which results in every key releasing at the exact same speed during playback. This programming equates to half of the original performance being altered, which means half of the human element of the piano performance is removed. The Disklavier, by contrast, can reproduce all articulations of the performance, including the speed by which a key is released, meticulously reproducing what even other high-end systems cannot.
Couple these unmatched reproducing capabilities with advanced AccuPlay DSP technology, and you have a piano that not only recreates every nuance of the original performance but is intelligent enough to verify and adjust itself during playback to ensure accurate performance reproduction.
How do you control it?
Previous generations of Disklavier have had a control unit mounted under the keyboard which acts as the user interface, enabling the user to select the songs they want the piano to play, or indeed set the instrument to record. Speakers positioned underneath the piano (on grand models only) provide backing tracks to give the piano an orchestral backing to play along with and even vocals on some later models.
The latest ‘ENSPIRE’ generation however is controlled completely wirelessly by your iOS or Android device and there is no visible control box mounted on the piano, everything is hidden away. It comes supplied with a wireless LAN dongle which plugs into the piano and joins your wireless network via WPS. Simply download the Disklavier ENSPIRE Controller app, select your piano and the intuitive menu of the app will allow you to select a song, start and stop the playback and adjust the volume of both the piano playing and backing tracks.
What music does it play?
There are 600 built-in songs, from solo piano tracks to ones with MIDI backing tracks and even real audio tracks. Alternatively, you can select Music Shop on the app to access a library of thousands more titles from contemporary recording artists and jazz to classical masterpieces.
A subscription streaming service, ‘Disklavier Radio’, enables the piano to continuously stream music from Yamaha’s database. Select a playlist and the piano will keep playing related titles until you tell it to stop! Content is being updated all the time, and the latest innovation is Original Artist hits – the piano plays itself along with the original artists record, from soundtrack albums to contemporary chart hits and jazz.
What else does it do?
Built into the Disklavier ENSPIRE is an SH Silent system, so that the piano can be played privately via headphones. Alternatively, the speakers built in underneath the grand piano can be used to play the piano at a lower volume, making it ideal for dinner parties or playing at unsociable hours.
The Disklavier ENSPIRE can be connected to Yamaha’s MusicCast system enabling multi room listening, the piano can be playing acoustically in your living room, but the digital sound of the SH Silent system can be heard in other rooms around the house, all transmitted wirelessly via Wi-Fi.
What models are available?
Disklavier ENSPIRE is available on all models of Grand piano, and selected uprights. There are two versions of Disklavier available, ST and PRO. The PRO system offers an even more accurate playback than the ST system and is as such perfect for stage and studio use. This is available on CX series grands C3X and above, while ST is available on everything up to C3X, including uprights as follows:
Disklavier ENSPIRE ST:
- U1: 121cm
- YUS1: 121cm
- GB1K: 5’0
- GC1: 5’3
- GC2: 5’8
- C1X: 5’3
- C2X: 5’8
Disklavier ENSPIRE PRO:
- C3X: 6’1
- C5X: 6’7
- C6X: 6’11
- C7X: 7’6