Fluid Piano: the microtonal keyboard instrument

Each of the Fluid Piano's notes can be individually tuned.
Each of the Fluid Piano's notes can be individually tuned.

If you're a guitarist, changing the tuning of your instrument is as easy as twisting the machine heads at the end, but pianists are restricted to the static 88 notes that they're given. Or rather they have been, for things have now changed thanks to the invention of the Fluid Piano.

The brainchild of British composer and performer Geoff Smith, the Fluid Piano has microtonal tuning on every note. This means that it's possible to alter pitches at will, giving acoustic pianists access for the first time to non-Western scales.

Revealing his invention to The Guardian, Smith said: "The fluid piano is a western piano as we know it, similar to an early fortepiano, but because of the tuning mechanisms, suddenly, musicians can explore scales from the Middle East, from Iran."

The Fluid Piano will get its official unveiling at the University of Surrey this Saturday. The event will feature performances of the first ever compositions for the instrument - these will come from Matthew Bourne, Nikki Yeoh, Pam Chowman and Smith himself.

Commenting on her first encounter with the piano, Chowman told The Guardian: "It was really scary, it is even now. I'm mainly a classical pianist and you kind of know what you're doing, you know how the piano is going to respond and you spend ages and ages on tone control and knowing how it is going to sound.

"Suddenly I've got a piano which sounds like nothing I've heard before. It opens up so many choices that you become almost paralysed."

Smith says that his ultimate aim is to get the Fluid Piano into production. If it happens, it could be the catalyst for composers to start writing a genuinely new type of music.

(Via The Guardian)

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.