Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Toy Piano

In Garlic Theatre's new show, There's A Monster In My Piano, there is a toy piano.  It's a wonderful little thing with a wooden body and beaters with an 'old-fashioned' plastic look.  It's French made and, without knowing the make and model off hand, I'd guess it was built in the 1950s.    The 'strings' are metal rods and there are no dampers.

I have been sampling the instrument, note by note, with varying attack and collecting various sounds for use as effects. Playing the piano softly is a challenge as too little force fails to throw the hammers against the rods. My favourite sound effect is created by tipping the piano backwards so the hammers fall against the rods in a random fashion.

To give a flavour of the instrument I recorded a snatch of Bach (I ran out of notes with which to play further) and a 12-Bar.  Perhaps I should have picked it up off the floor first; my piano playing is generally bad but seldom this awful  The battery on top of the piano in one of the pictures is AA, just to give some idea of scale.


  1. I have never heard a sound like thatbefore, it perfectly captures my idea of "toy" Wonderful!

  2. It's a Michelsonne. The company built toy pianos in a factory in Paris from 1939 until it burned down in 1970. According to Wikipedia, anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelsonne

  3. Thanks for the great pictures ... i have never had a michelsonne one ... what really surprised me is that all the pianos of these brand are very good in tune? Do you have an idea hey?

  4. I just posted a short video of still photos with a piece of music I wrote for this piano. I sampled the piano notes individually and played them on a MIDI keyboard. I haven't retuned the samples so you can hear how well tuned is the instrument. I confess I took the accurate tuning of the Michelsonne for granted but it must have taken careful work to make it so. The video is on my blog: http://playwithsound.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/fare-well-monster.html Please be patient as it takes a little time to load.

  5. Hello,

    I have one to sell if some one interested ;)