The Soundboard Transducer

Steingraeber Creates New Artistic Possibilities With Electronics

Electronics are not always used to serve artistic and creative expression in the world of music. They are often used for muting, or in ‘player pianos’ for example, and in pop music where, of late, the sound just booms out directly from the piano’s soundboard. A musical enhancement? Hardly!

However there are a multitude of professional applications that electronics can offer music and Steingraeber & Söhne has demonstrated just that in a series of trial runs* by composer Robert HP Platz from the University of Musik Würzburg, and pianist Clara Murnig from the Beethoven Institute at the University of Music Vienna. This particular transducer technology was born out of a collaboration between Robert HP Platz and IRCAM Paris, and subsequently optimised in SWR’s (Südwestrundfunk) Experimental Studio in Freiburg. The startlingly-authentic grand piano sound is thanks not to out-dated sampling techniques, but to the physical modelling approach of piano sound ‘Guru’ Philippe Guillaume and his firm Modartt/pianoteq.

Transducer + Physical Modelling = Possibilities

Without Strings / With Hammer Stop
  • Play in all registers (e.g., 415 hz, 435 hz, 442 hz, 460 hz) switching from one to the other instantly at the click of a mouse
  • Play in all temperaments, including historical or non-European, switching from one to the other instantly at the click of a mouse
  • Play other instruments (Harpsichord, Synthesizer, etc.)
With Strings / Without Hammer Stop
  • Play on 2 levels
    • e.g. live performances of quarter-tone music, by Charles Ives and Alois Hába for example, can be created easily, as the sound of the piano’s own strings is mixed flawlessly with that of the transducer, all within the same soundboard. The Transducer Grand Piano is controlled by both the pianist themselves and the sound engineer at the computer.
    • mix the sounds of the real piano and any other instrument
  • Play on 3 levels (2 levels plus the playback of a previous recording = improvisation to a previous improvisation)
  • Compositions requiring a piano with live electronics no longer need an external loudspeaker.
  • The transducer increases the soundboard vibration (strings + piano transducers) and, thus, acts as a ‘volume booster‘ to the sound of a live piano, perfect for open-air concerts.

Part 1: Introduction – Contemporary and Historical Tuning and Temperament

Part 2: Harmonics, Resonance, and Microtonal Music

Part 3: Acoustic Piano and Synthesized Sound

Part 4: Acoustic Piano with Transducer Amplification

Part 5: Interview with Michael Acker, SWR Experimentalstudio: Transducer Background and Concept

The application of transducers to provide access to a variety of piano temperaments has already aroused the interest of pianist and Professor of Piano at the University of Arts in Teheran, Dr. Pooyan Azadeh, during a visit to Steingraeber in September 2015. In order to adapt ancient Persian music to the piano, he needed pianos with Eastern temperaments and microtones. Especially in Iran, Western instruments must also be capable of authentically performing Eastern music.

The first grand piano of that kind was presented on May 20, 2017 in Stuttgart’s Liederhalle at a concert involving artists from the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. The concert was titled “Self-playing and alternately tuned pianos: how modern technology can creatively expand the artistic possibilities of classic pianos: A live demonstration of the Steingraeber & Söhne D-232 Transducer Grand Piano in concert”


Our Transducer Showroom

Come and visit our Transducer Showroom in the Steingraeber Haus Bayreuth to learn all about the countless possibilities. Undisturbed and without obligation, you can test the grand piano and the sound software.

* Visitors to the VdM Congress in Stuttgart in May 2017 as well as the Cremona Piano Festival in September 2017 organised by Roberto Prosseda, and the ‘Zeit für Neue Musik’ Festival in Bayreuth in March 2018 were able to witness the trial runs at first hand.

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