The soft piano

Imagine you’re playing the piano in a concert hall. You want to hold a single note for as long as possible. A traditional piano fades quickly; a synthesiser must be programmed to hold a note for a set time.

Now try using the Seaboard. This ‘reinvention of the keyboard’ promises any number of additions to the pianist’s palette, from tone-mixing to pitch variation. The great thing about it is the way in which it can be controlled manually: that is, by the player’s very own hands.

The designers, London-based Roli, argue that their new keyboard is the first invention that re-imagines the classical piano as a continuous keyboard.

Responsive silicon material is the key to the design here. Electronics are hidden within the keyboard’s body, while the exterior is covered by silicon. This has two advantages.

The material is thin and malleable, so that a player’s gestures are instantly translated and recorded by the computer within. As the musician’s hands move, the pitch, timbre and even volume of the notes played also changes.

Besides this feature, the silicon covering is shaped to allow the player’s fingers to glide across the keys. This adds a level of musical inventiveness to the instrument that hasn’t previously been available.

Seaboard is designed by Roland Lamb and Hong-Yeul Eom. With it, they are promising a revolution in the music industry. So far, it seems to be doing the trick, with famous contemporary composers such as Hans Zimmer giving the silicon keyboard a nod.

Because the silicon combines sensual experience with digital technology, the Seaboard promises a new form of musical expression.

Info and images via the designers. This video gives a better look at the keyboard (though it doesn’t explain much about the instrument).