When I think of the most unusual piano, though, I don't think about looks. I think about the experience of playing it. Hands down, I think the Bosendorfer Model 290 Imperial Piano truly gives the most unusual playing experience.
Unusual Pianos and Piano Playing Experiences
I have had the privilege of playing on many pianos during my life. And it is true that every piano plays differently. It takes a little time to get adjusted to each one. And it is no secret to those who know me that I prefer the Steinway piano to any other.
But outside the traditional piano there are many other varieties. The ones I’d like to discuss in this blog post are those pianos which fall into the “unusual” category. There is already a blog post out there on unusual LOOKING pianos and it’s true: I have seen some very unusual looking pianos.
When I think of the most unusual piano, though, I don’t think about looks. I think about the experience of playing it. Hands down, I think the Bosendorfer Model 290 Imperial Piano truly gives the most unusual playing experience.
The reason this piano provides such an unusual playing experience is because there are extra keys which extend the normal 88-key keyboard into a 97-key keyboard. Why do they do this? The extra strings’ main purpose is to create a more full sound. And, from my experience, think of a “more full sound” on this Model 290 Imperial piano as something similar to the sound of a blue whale underwater. Even though there are only a few pieces of music actually composed using these extra low notes, they give a greater resonance to the other, higher strings when they are played. For example, if you played a C in the middle of the piano, the extra low C-string at the bottom would also pick up those vibrations and vibrate some itself, known as sympathetic vibration (this also occurs on a regular piano as well).
When playing on this piano, I was thrown off by the extra keys in the bass. A pianist is used to seeing a certain amount of keys while playing. You feel “off-balance”, which makes it very difficult to play. Because these extra keys have the potential to interfere with your piano playing if you’re not accustomed to seeing them, the Bosendorfer company has taken some steps to differentiate them from the other 88 keys. Some of these pianos have a small lid that covers the extra keys while others reverse the color scheme of these keys, making what would typically be the white keys black. I personally prefer the small lid which covers them to the reverse color scheme.
Now for a bit more of the unusual…
There are pianos turned into cars, pianos made of glass or chrome, and piano tables. They can come any color or design imaginable. The famous pianist Liberace, who was known for who was known for his flamboyance, even played a piano that was completely covered in rhinestones!
There is also what is called a “silent piano,” which puts a barrier between the strings and the hammers of an acoustic piano and instead converts what the pianist is playing into an audio signal to be listened to through headphones. The company Schoenhut has begun making what they call “toy pianos” that have only 44 keys. They are genuine acoustic pianos, just in miniature form. Yet another invention is the “transposing piano,” which uses either a lever under the keyboard or an extra pedal to shift the keyboard to play other strings. This could be really helpful if you have a piece written in the key of C# but it would be a lot easier to play it in C!
I’m sure these examples only scratch the surface of what sorts of unusual pianos have been made to suit individual people’s desires, but hopefully it gives you a small sampling of what is out there! And, if you get the chance, definitely try out the Bosendorfer Model 290 Imperial Piano which will give any pianist quite an unusual experience!