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#2196189 - 12/11/13 05:04 PM Convert old upright to electric
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
My Grandmother has an old Starck upright that is currently not playable. It's horribly out of tune, and with a cracked bass bridge. If it's unable to be repaired, I'd like to consider converting it to an electric piano. I had a few ideas about this, and was hoping some here had some experience with it.

First, I really like the action on the keys. It's nice and light, very tactile....just right. Is it possible to keep the action in place, and have the keys still trigger MIDI data? I'm sure I could figure out a custom setup that kept the action, but I'm wondering if it's been done before.

Second, I want to do this cheap. Instead of just squeezing an electric piano into the wood, I'm thinking about either keeping the action like above, or inserting a cheap-ish MIDI controller to replace the keys. I would then set it up to connect to external synth modules, and likely have a basic good sounding general MIDI module in the piano, along with some speakers and a small amp all housed inside so you can get basic sounds without external devices.

I might even incorporate a Raspberry Pi (very small computer for those unaware) and see about making it a sequencer as well.

Any thoughts on this?

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#2196395 - 12/12/13 02:50 AM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
Adypiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/02/12
Posts: 40
Loc: Surrey, UK
Have a look at the PianoDisk website. I'm pretty sure they sell a non contact (won't affect the action in any way) MIDI transmission rail. As far as muting the strings, maybe a double thickness of celeste felt in front of the hammers would do the trick - you'll probably have to adjust the setoff to accommodate this.

This installation would be very simple, and could be undone in the future if you decided to have the piano fully rebuilt.
_________________________
Started work at the Blüthner piano re-building workshop in Perivale, UK, in 1989. Self employed since 2000. Learning something new about pianos every day... smile

http://www.hamiltonpianos.com/

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#2196455 - 12/12/13 08:51 AM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3006
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Joeywhat

First, I really like the action on the keys. It's nice and light, very tactile....just right. Is it possible to keep the action in place, and have the keys still trigger MIDI data? I'm sure I could figure out a custom setup that kept the action, but I'm wondering if it's been done before.



I'm skeptical.

The organ hobbyists do this all the time. They use reed switches to trigger a signal and wire them all to a MIDI module.

But they don't need velocity data. Organ keys are on-off. I think it would be a huge undertaking to retrofit a piano that way.

I'd buy a stage piano and insert it.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2196495 - 12/12/13 11:14 AM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3297
Originally Posted By: Joeywhat

Second, I want to do this cheap.


_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#2196539 - 12/12/13 12:39 PM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
musicbased Online   happy
Full Member

Registered: 09/23/12
Posts: 97
Loc: UK
I've fitted a few 'pianodisc magicstar' systems, they do exactly what you describe, and work very well actually.
Unfortunately though, i'm just a drone worker bee and don't buy/sell the stuff, so haven't got a clue how much it costs.
_________________________
Technician UK
www.soundcloud.com/musicfield

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#2196560 - 12/12/13 01:35 PM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
Joeywhat Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/11/13
Posts: 18
I've found a few conversion options for MIDI output, cost might be a factor. A real nice system is about $2000, which is good keyboard territory anyways. I'll still look around a bit.

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#2196597 - 12/12/13 03:43 PM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
iLaw Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 114
Loc: Chicago
Originally Posted By: Joeywhat

... Is it possible to keep the action in place, and have the keys still trigger MIDI data? I'm sure I could figure out a custom setup that kept the action, but I'm wondering if it's been done before.


You might see if you can still find a Moog PianoBar around used. It did exactly what you're talking about, using a sensor rail that ran along the fallboard and a pedal sensor.

But hard to find these days.

Larry.

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#2196615 - 12/12/13 04:19 PM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
SMHaley Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 337
Loc: Seattle
Originally Posted By: Joeywhat
I want to do this cheap. Any thoughts on this?


Many thoughts... doing things "on the cheap" never bodes well. So are you going to leave the plate and strings and so on and so forth? Not very practical having a 500lb. beast just for a fake piano and speakers. And yes, converting the action with velocity sensitive tech isn't going to be like picking up a cheap weighted action Casio an plopping it in.
_________________________
AA Music Arts 2001, BM 2005
Pipe Organ Builder
Practitioner of piano technology
Church Music Professional
Curator of instruments - Chancel Arts
Baldwin F 1960 (146256)
Zuckermann Flemish Single

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#2196634 - 12/12/13 04:55 PM Re: Convert old upright to electric [Re: Joeywhat]
TecFlip Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/16/12
Posts: 122
Loc: Kansas City, MO
What I would do is buy a Yamaha YPG-235 from your local music store (100-300 dollars US), remove the key assembly, exposing the sensors. I would then creat a mount under the keys to hold the sensors into place. Then create a contact point for the key by adding a wooden dowel, so the key only strikes a certain area. Here are some pictures of the inside of the keyboard I mentioned.

http://tecflip.tumblr.com/post/69277531106/yamaha-ypg-235-teardown

Hope that helps!
_________________________
-Jon Lee
YouTube Channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/JleewSongs
Yamaha P-35b

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