A new quarter-tone piano acquired to the Sibelius Academy

The quarter-tone scale has become more and more common in contemporary music. For pianists, the situation has not been as simple as for - for example - string and guitar players, although compositions made for two pianos tuned in quarter-tone distance from each other can be found.

- About 10 years ago, in the Sibelius Academy student dorm Clavis, we started to play with the idea of implementing the 24-tonescale chromaticism into just one piano in a way that is ergonomic also for the player, says DMus, pianist Elisa Järvi.

So, an idea of a quarter-tone piano was born. Järvi and composer Sampo Haapamäki begun to develop a new instrument, testing different versions first with paper and felt. A couple of years ago, the Sibelius Academy Development Centre together with the piano music department provided the funding for producing a prototype. A one-octave model was created by piano technician Matti Kyllönen. It was further developed with the support from the Finnish Cultural Fund. In 2014, carpenter Otso Haapamäki in Toholammi built the first full-scale keyboard prototype. He also built the one issued by the Sibelius Academy a year later. The electronics and the software needed for the instrument have been developed by music technologist Libero Mureddu, during his studies at the Centre for Music & Technology.

The new quarter-tone piano is now available for Sibelius Academy tuition across faculties and departments - pianists, composers and music technologists; students and staff can now get new creative inspiration for their artistic work.

- What is unique about this instrument is that the keyboard can be either attached to a computer and speakers, using the computer internal sounds, or to two Yamaha Disklaviers tuned a quarter-tone apart. In the second scenario the sound is produced acoustically, Järvi explains.

Playing the instrument developed by Järvi and Haapamäki, one can immediately recognise and perceive the traditional piano keyboard, even when played for the first time. For a pianist, the instrument offers opportunities to challenge one's own musicianship and also one's ears.

- The familiarity of the keyboard hopefully proves useful in for example teaching solfège. A pianist can be challenged to think about new fingering possibilities, Järvi anticipates.

The new quarter-tone piano was first introduced at the Pasimusic festival in October 2015 by Mikro Ensemble.

- In the future I'm hoping that I could issue new solo pieces for this instrument, says Järvi.



More information:

Elisa Järvi


Technical information:

Libero Mureddu