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MMD > Archives > January 1997 > 1997.01.02 > 10Prev  Next

Re: Australian Stuart Piano
By Michael Waters

For those interested in the Stuart Piano, I was speaking to Wayne Stuart today in regard to his new piano that was on the ABC here recently.

The picture that I have of this new innovation in piano construction is still a little sketchy. My conversation with Wayne didn't delve very deeply into the refines of its construction, except to say that the action hasn't changed that much but the rest has. I did mention to ask him about how much down-bearing it has (as asked in a previous digest) and he said "None" and that it doesn't need any! I'm no piano tech and don't profess to know all the mathematics behind piano construction, but I can't wait to see this instrument.

Peter Braun gave a perfect description of the changes in string vibration in an earlier posting:

> That is, the bridge pins are not offset relative to each other in the
> horizontal plane. The string passes into the new "bridge pin" in a
> straight line. This allows the string to vibrate in the vertical
> plane for longer. The normal bridge pin causes the string vibration
> to shift, over time, from the vertical plane (the plane in which it
> is struck by the hammer) to the horizontal plane, creating a circular
> motion. The relatively disorganized vibration is what causes the
> sound decay. With the vibration in a plane vertical to the sound
> board the energy is maintained for longer.

There has only been four uprights and two 9'-6" concert grands been made to date, so don't expect to see them in the US in any hurry. It is still in the development stage as the first piano was only built in mid-1993, being an upright. He is currently in the process of stringing his third concert grand. Most materials have been sort here in Australia, the cabinet being veneered in Australian Huon pine.

Development and research started in 1989 with Wayne heading it. I think he would be regarded as the top tech in Australia on pianos. Until last year he used to run the only course in Melbourne for under- graduates in piano construction. Now there isn't any such course available here in Australia, which is a sad day for piano owners here -- "What can we expect of our technicians of the future if there isn't appropriate education available."

The Conservatory for Research and Development is where the main funding is coming from for this project, I think. They have the first concert grand piano in their Conservatory at Newcastle (on the east coast, south of Sydney).

Wayne tells me that it has been their for 18 months now, and that there is a very new Steinway there as well. Artists have the choice of either instrument to play, the prefered choice now being the Stuart piano. He said both were being used for a while but now the Steinway hardly gets used!! Maybe this piano could become a real rival -- "Look out, Steinway".

Having not heard it I can't give you much of an idea what it sounds like yet, except to say that he has pointed me in the right direction towards purchasing some CD's with performances played on this piano. Apparently there is about five of them, but I will keep you posted and let you know what they're like.

For those who are in Australia, "Beyond 2000" is screening as part of their program a segment on the "Stuart" Piano this weekend; I think it's on channel ten, but check your TV guide. If someone could tape it for me I would appreciate it, as we don't have the program here!

Overall I am following this with great interest and hoping to get to hear the piano in person in the near future. "Fancy a new innovation in piano technology coming out of Australia instead of the US!!!" ;-)

I know some of you are skeptical about this, but in my opinion don't be a knocker until you know all the facts, just as John Tuttle said:

> I think we have to remain very open minded when it comes to new
> technology and not simply judge a book by it's cover. Where would we
> be today if we listened to everyone who said, "That can't be done!"
> It's really not so inconceivable that a better mouse trap has been
> made. Thank God! I hate fixing split bass and high-treble bridges,
> and it's expensive too! Give the company a fair chance to prove
> themselves. I feel certain that many piano builders were initially
> sceptical of Joseph Chickering's over- strung scale but it
> significantly changed the way pianos are constructed. Maybe it's
> time for another BIG change. I would be thrilled to say it happened
> in my lifetime.

Well! That about does me; I think I have said enough. "You's can all make your own judgment," but please.... be condesending when making comments.

Michael Waters

[ Thanks for the interview report, Michael. Has the piano performed
[ yet with a small symphony? I'm interested in the critic's reviews
[ of the piano in live concert without electronic aids. Has Mr. Stuart
[ published any technical papers about the design? -- Robbie

(Message sent Thu 2 Jan 1997, 12:38:08 GMT, from time zone GMT+1100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Australian, Piano, Stuart

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