A Piano That Plays Itself: Music Technology in the 21st Century

27 March 2018

I can’t imagine that it’d be particularly difficult to picture an Elton John performance; he is well-known, to say the least, for his distinctive voice, ostentatious outfits and his trademark piano that always accompanies him on stage. However, at one performance in 2013, a few lucky fans were able to hear Elton John’s playing live and in person without even having to leave their living room.

One of the Yamaha Disklavier’s many features allows any piano performance on any Disklavier to be reproduced in real time on any other Disklavier around the world—and, might I add, reproduced perfectly, note for note, pedal for pedal, nuance for nuance. Elton John’s performance in Moscow was thus transmitted to other Disklaviers around the world, resulting in what looks like a grand piano simply playing itself.

This isn’t to say that the Disklavier merely resembles a grand piano in form; it is, in fact, a real piano, with all the hammers and wire cords that make a regular piano work. However, inbuilt sensors beneath the keys as well as extensive wifi capabilities enable it to be used in far more versatile and innovative ways.

Leon Blaher, Yamaha’s head keyboard demonstrator and Disklavier support specialist, is a music educator who is extremely passionate about the opportunities made available by such technology.

“Yamaha’s Disklavier pianos enable teachers and students opportunities that are not possible with a conventional acoustic piano. A wide range of applications includ[e] articulate recording and playback with tempo control, audio and midi accompaniment, video recording and synchronisation, silent practice, internet connectivity and so on.”

This presents, for example, opportunities for students to record their playing and watch the piano reproduce it perfectly, or even play additional layers of music on top of the original recording. Not only that, but online access to a broad database of pre-recorded songs means that students are able to become more independent learners as a result.

Synchronisation with other Disklavier models also facilitates the possibility of remote learning; just as Elton’s performance was replicated on other pianos around the world, a student’s playing may also be thus shared with a teacher thousands of kilometres away.

Whether you’re a student or an educator, Elton John or a living-room amateur, music is evidently thriving like never before thanks to innovative technologies such as the Disklavier.


The Disklavier is available in a range of sizes and configurations starting from ~AUD$30,000. Yamaha’s new Premium Piano Centre is open for appointment and website is here

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