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#1125969 - 06/16/04 12:47 PM Carbon Fiber Piano  
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How about a carbon fiber soundboard? Or a piano made entirely of composite materials? Never happen, right?

Go to www.luisandclark.com. That's a website about carbon fiber cellos and violas made by a member of the Boston Symphony cello section. Click the "Sound" button and view (and listen to) the little videos. Even allowing for tinny computer speakers, and the vagaries of internet sound, you will be astonished by how good these instruments sound. And they are not made by a craftsman with years of esoteric training, but by an artisan who makes three pieces in a mold and bonds them together.

If fine cellos and violas can be made this way, why not pianos?

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#1125970 - 06/16/04 02:55 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quite astonishing! I would so love to see a trial piano made that way!!!!! Think of the weight savings! It could use more stable tuning systems. Warantee problems would be greatly reduced. Precious resources would not be used to build soundboards. What posibilities!! wow wow laugh laugh laugh

#1125971 - 06/16/04 03:27 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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You mean carbon fiber doesn't grow on trees?

heres a link for soundboards made of crystal. (though its use in Methodist churches has been banned by the FDA)

http://www.stemco.nl/index.html

#1125972 - 06/16/04 03:51 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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If carbon fiber doesn't grow on trees, then where does it come from, if I may innocently ask?


Write about what you know, research what you don't
#1125973 - 06/16/04 04:06 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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4ever, this link (a page on the site given by MichaelP above gives a simple description of the process:

http://www.luisandclark.com./theinstruments.html

and THIS link, which is embedded in the first link's page, gives a much more detailed explanation.

http://www.chem.wisc.edu/%7Enewtrad/CurrRef/BDGTopic/BDGtext/BDGGraph.html

#1125974 - 06/16/04 04:22 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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I have been trying to interest a friend of mine who won Japan's highest honor in materials science last year and who specializes in carbon structured materials and who also is a very fine musician and instrument maker (violins and guitars) to make me a carbon fiber soundboard for a trial. Too many irons in the fire. What I'd like to try is carbon nanotubes oriented in parallel lines like wood grain. (Expensive.)

#1125975 - 06/16/04 04:49 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Our friends who posted about starting a new piano company could take this and run. I have been reading the Steinway Saga and the Steinways made themselves into a successful company in 4 years and industry leaders in less than 10 if I remember correctly. This was in some large measure due to innovative technology. In that case it was overstringing and good use of cast iron. With immagination, what could be done today?

#1125976 - 06/16/04 04:52 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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RKVS1

Thank you for the links, I am now able to research for knowledge. I also found google was able to provide links for "carbon fiber". An interesting material. Again, thank you.


Write about what you know, research what you don't
#1125977 - 06/16/04 05:05 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Chickgrand wrote: "What I'd like to try is carbon nanotubes oriented in parallel lines like wood grain."
Great idea! Copy from nature and than improve upon it! thumb

#1125978 - 06/16/04 05:55 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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For some reason I seem to remember Del discussing this last year here. then again...I might be hallucinating!!!

Del... are you out there??


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#1125979 - 06/16/04 06:10 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Ovation has been making fibreglass guitars for thirty five years. they don't sound exactly like wood, but they don't sound bad, and they project a lot more volume. maybe a one piece molded rim and soundboard could be done with composite, thus saving a lot of labor.

#1125980 - 06/16/04 08:26 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
For some reason I seem to remember Del discussing this last year here. then again...I might be hallucinating!!!
Yes, we did have this very same discussion this time last year amid the discussion about the "crystal" soundboard, during which I asked Del about composite carbon soundboards, partly in an effort to get info to bolster my argument for the innovation I want my friend to pursue with me. Del's response was generally that the industry is stuck in tradition and that it won't be any major label promoting such a radical change. Kawai's use of ABS in the action was mentioned in reference to the criticism they've taken from competitors in the industry, for doing what I consider logical and progressive. I want to see more such innovation. What would be wrong with a piano that we might even love more? Del even alluded to some experimentation, as did Don Mannino, regarding soundboards. I've been curious all this time if they'd either one experimented with carbon fiber even while no one is likely to market such any time soon. Barring some mutant spruce virus or such.

#1125981 - 06/16/04 08:29 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by foreversilent:
RKVS1

Thank you for the links, I am now able to research for knowledge. I also found google was able to provide links for "carbon fiber". An interesting material. Again, thank you.
Yes, two of the most important products are made from the growth of the carbon fiber tree. The stealth bombers and my bicycle. wink


There are few joys in life greater than the absence of pain.
#1125982 - 06/16/04 10:13 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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I was impressed with the sound. It would be interesting to compare the sound of a good traditional cello and the carbon fiber instrument in the same environment. Those fine cellist's endorsements says a lot already.

It seems that the main objective in using carbon fiber in a piano would be to get a great sounding instrument that is unaffected by humidity change.

Chris, if you were to experiment with a carbon fiber soundboard it would seem that you would have to consider making the ribs and bridges out of the same material too. Either that or engineer a method for allowing expansion/contraction of the wooden components (humidity change) that interface the soundboard. Your thoughts?

JP


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-- Claude Debussy
#1125983 - 06/16/04 10:35 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by JPM:
Chris, if you were to experiment with a carbon fiber soundboard it would seem that you would have to consider making the ribs and bridges out of the same material too. Either that or engineer a method for allowing expansion/contraction of the wooden components (humidity change) that interface the soundboard. Your thoughts?
I don't see a Chris around here (I'm Rick, rhymes with Chick), so I'll take a stab. My thoughts would be to the extent that it's possible, the soundboard could be "floated" if in the plane parallel to the strings it remains fixed in the vertical orientation and if the strength of the crown is adequate such that it may not need compression assistance from the rim--so, perhaps, slotted points along the outer perimeter of the board with a bolt arrangement that allows a conventional rim of wood to expand and contract at a different rate from the board, while keeping the board at that precise height in relation to the strings that optimizes downbearing. As far as it goes, the most important relationship is between the plate and strings and the board. I'm not persuaded by either the "circle of sound" attributed to contributing tone with a massive rim "recirculating" vibrations back to the board, nor by the Boesendorfer philosophy about a light rim that contributes in conjunction with the soundboard by transmission. Some data points on some of the acrylic or lucite rim pianos might be interesting. I know nanostructured carbon materials can be both very strong and lightweight (perhaps too strong in conventional thickness dimensions--remains to be seen, but could be engineered to be just right for impedence). What I don't know, is what result that would have on tone. And that's the end goal, so it's critical. Until it's done, we won't know. Until it's competitively affordable, it won't much matter.

#1125984 - 06/17/04 05:29 AM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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#1125985 - 06/17/04 05:34 AM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Thanks Rick for the follow-up. Sorry for calling you Chris. I think the idea would work. Once the basic soundboard manufacturing process is in place, then piano designers could continue to refine the soundboard design to come up with the optimal transmission area. If different soundboard sections (each with their own orientation of the nanotubes) could be fused together somehow, this might provide a mechanism for optimizing the sound transmission area. If this materiel ends up producing a good sounding instrument that is unaffected by humidity change, I think it would have a lot of appeal in the marketplace.

JP


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-- Claude Debussy
#1125986 - 06/17/04 12:03 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by Steve Cohen:
For some reason I seem to remember Del discussing this last year here. then again...I might be hallucinating!!!

Del... are you out there??
Oh, yes, I'm here.

Much of what is being written about graphite (or, less specifically, composite) soundboards is quite correct and all if it is intriguing. And, yes, it is a subject Iíve given some thought to. But thereís nothing Iím yet prepared to go public with. Mostly because to date I have far more questions as answers.

Developing a new material to replace a traditional material is difficult. It has to be Ďbetterí in all aspects. Witness the complete fiasco that has been made of one promising technology, the laminated wood soundboard.

Hopefully, the transition to composites will be handled with somewhat more finesse.

Del


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#1125987 - 06/17/04 12:10 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by JPM:


Chris, if you were to experiment with a carbon fiber soundboard it would seem that you would have to consider making the ribs and bridges out of the same material too. Either that or engineer a method for allowing expansion/contraction of the wooden components (humidity change) that interface the soundboard. Your thoughts?

JP
Why would you want to use ribs? One of the advantages of composite construction is the ability to form a panel with carefully controlled stiffness characteristics. Ribs are really not necessary with this construction.

Bridges can be made of most anything, including wood. The expansion and contraction of wood longitudinally in nominal.

Del


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#1125988 - 06/17/04 12:43 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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How come Steinway &Sons doesn't make the bracing ribs on the lids of their concert D's a little more aesthetic, like beveling the ends down a little bit? Right now with the lid open, it looks like a crate on the unclaimed freight dock at Union Pacific. (or which ever railroad is currently out of receivership)

Was this off-topic? :rolleyes:

bob

#1125989 - 06/17/04 01:05 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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I think the use of carbon fiber will be the most exciting innovation in pianoís since the iron frame. Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking about how this would work, but thatís because Iím a dork.

The difficult thing will be the transition between the different materials. Some metal would need to be used in areas of acute stress, like string mounting points, and bonding that to the fiber with their different rates of thermal expansion would be problematic. Also, the weave of the fabric would have to be experimented with, as different weaves would probably produce different effects. The structural properties of different weaves are well known but acoustics would be a whole new ballgame. The exciting thing is how stable the piano would be. There would be a big learning curve to making things like soundboards and of course it would get into the realm of art as much as science but the payoffs would be enormous.

I would see carbon fiber pianoís start to change the way pianoís looked as form changed to follow function. The straight vertical sides of a grand piano would begin to be curved around at the edges as this would be a stronger extruded shape than the classical vertical side. The lid could be curved slightly parabolic to better transmit the sound (I suppose this could already be done with wood).

Exciting subject.

Kirk

#1125990 - 06/17/04 01:21 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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The thing tht blew me away was the viola. I am a violist myself. I have a very fine Italian viola, with a wonderful tenor sound. Like all violas with a wonderful tenor sound, it is about the size and weight of a Buick. Fortunately, I am only am amateur player. If I were a professional, playing the viola for hours every day, I would probably be in a wheelchair by now.

What makes that viola special is the very fine sound that comes out of a small, ultra-light instrument.

The implications for piano re-design are probably far-reacing.

#1125991 - 06/17/04 02:13 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Mike, do you know the actual weight of your wooden viola? If I remember the website stats correctly, the carbon fiber viola was only about 1 lb 8 ounces or so. Is that half your weight, or 1/3 or what?


bob

#1125992 - 06/17/04 02:58 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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RKVS1:
You know, that's a good question. I've never weighed the thing, but it's probably close to 4 lbs.

That doesn't sound like much, I know, but the fact is that much of the weight is concentrated at the end of the lever (one's shoulder being the fulcrum). The neck of any good instrument is made of maple, and the neck of a big viola is a good-size piece of wood. And then, there is the decorative scroll, which is also made of maple; on a large instrument has to be large to look proper. Maple, as I am sure you know, is heavy.

And your arm is way out there, in a position where it easily tires.

#1125993 - 06/17/04 06:40 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Having a soundboard that wasn't subject to humidity and temperature changes would be a huge relief. Additionally the environmental cost of saving all those beautiful Sitka Spruce trees.

Especially exciting would be the possibility of making a better, more consistent piano. Why must we audition our piano before we buy it? Wouldn't it be better to just be able to order a piano sight unseen, and be confident that it sounds basically the same as the shop model?

I imagine most of the variation in pianos is due to the SB's. Rib crowning removes a lot of the uncertainty, going to carbon fiber is even better.

Wow -


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Why are you reading this? Go play the piano! Why am I writing this? ARGGG!
#1125994 - 06/17/04 07:22 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Dan M,

You mean Siberian Spruce trees. wink

Synthetic materials don't always last. Thirty years ago several major pipe organ builders substituted "perflex" for leather in the pneumatics. Since leather deterioration was the major headache in older organs this seemed like a good idea. It wasn't. The most reputable builders replaced the perflex with real leather in every single organ--at their own expense.

Will a synthetic material last as long as the wood in a Stradivarius or del Gesu? I suppose a composite violin for 20K which sounds just as good would be a bargain if it were to last fifty years.

#1125995 - 02/10/05 07:38 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Might as well throw in a foamed metal frame to reduce weight and increase acoustical deadness. And an acoustic bandgap reflector on the underside of the piano lid to increase the reflected sound output and equalize the volume over the frequency range.

#1125996 - 02/11/05 03:37 AM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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Quote
Originally posted by Dan M:
Having a soundboard that wasn't subject to humidity and temperature changes would be a huge relief. Additionally the environmental cost of saving all those beautiful Sitka Spruce trees.
I have a guitar with a laminated soundboard. It's a layer of Nomex in between two cedar veneers. It's made by John Dick of West Branch, Iowa. John was one of the pioneers in bringing this technology to America. He learned the technique from Gernot Wagner in Germany.

Anyway, the soundboard is about a third lighter than a traditional soundboard and just as strong. The volume is amazing for a guitar. Here's some info on what guitarists call doubleetops, or sandwich tops.

http://www.classicalguitars.ca/

on edit: Bleh I see this thread is about 8 months old.


Kuan

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#1125997 - 02/11/05 04:31 PM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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i know absolutely nothing about what the sound potential of carbon fiber is, but as a cycling geek i can tell you that carbon fiber has made enormous technical strides & market penetration wrt bike frames and components. many of the top end frames marry carbon fiber with titanium or aluminum to produce greater strength, and many of these frames are way under the UCI weight limit. the techniques of weaving & layering the carbon fiber must be quite advanced now as well, because component manufacturers are even making cranks out of the stuff, and a tremendous amount of stress (and potential fatigue) is exerted on those parts.

i believe the competitive nature of world class pro cycling, as well as the multitude of other uses for carbon fiber, has evolved it to a point where it can be applied to musical instruments (the sound from the cello video is quite amazing). it will be interesting to see what piano mfgr takes a shot at it, where they chose to implement carbon fiber and how they blend it with other materials to produce sound quality, strength & durability. perhaps one of the bigger questions will be -- will it be cost effective in the production of a piano?

#1125998 - 05/24/05 06:15 AM Re: Carbon Fiber Piano  
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While we're replacing the wooden sound board, why not dump the cast iron frame and replace it with steel? Then, how about replacing the heavy wooden beams and other structural parts with more fabricated steel parts? With calculations and verification from finite element analysis, I bet even the wooden rim could be replaced, and become part of the steel structure. I don't know if any of this is economically feasible, but with the right materials and processing, imagine how stable and reproducible such a piano would be. It might be a challenge to keep the weight down, but hollow-section parts would be a big help.

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