What is PNOScan?
We’ll get to the much more part in a second, but first, what exactly is PNOScan? PNOScan is a simple and unobtrusive optical sensor, about as thin as a dime, that can be easily installed under the keyboard of a piano, any piano, from a clunky old upright to a $100,000+ Steinway Grand, such as the Henry Z. Steinway Limited Edition, shown on the right. Once installed, the PNOScan sensor picks up the sound and “keystroke velocity” (from soft to loud presses) of each individual key. The output is a standard USB cable, which in turn connects to a computer, such as a MacBook® or MacBook Pro®. (We here at Daynes like the Mac particularly, because it comes equipped GarageBand®, which has everything you need to translate any notes you play into musical notes on a staff, as you play them, and it will print your piano compositions, plus help you create your very own multi-track recordings. Windows-based computers can do this too, only that you have to purchase additional software.)
A Bit of History
PNOScan was developed by QRS Music. Decades and decades ago, as you may remember, QRS was famous for the promulgation of piano rolls, i.e., rolls of paper with little holes punched in them, which, when hooked onto a player piano, would roll across a little bar with 88 little holes to match the keys on the piano. And when the little holes in the roll matched up with the holes in the little bar, the player mechanism would play corresponding keys on the piano. Your job was to pump the player piano, which would blow air through the little bar and turn the roller. As long as you kept pumping, the roll would keep rolling, and the music would keep playing. Ingenious, fun to watch, and a good workout too. You can still find QRS piano rolls in antique stores (ebay too), and occasionally, we’ll get an old player piano in our warehouse. But today, QRS has gone all-digital, and they’re still inventing ingenious devices for the piano. They’ve created a whole line of PianoMation® Systems, which Daynes Music carries (we still call them player piano systems), complete with a vast library of titles played by artists such as Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Billy Joel, Elton John, and many more, all of which you can purchase online.
So What’s Different? Education!
What’s different about PNOScan as opposed to an old piano roll is that you are creating music, not merely listening to it (while pumping like a grampus). PNOScan distinguishes itself from all of the other PianoMation devices because, owing to its simplicity and versatility, it’s an ideal educational supplement. For teachers, a PNOScan-equipped piano with a laptop sitting on the piano’s music desk can enhance the learning experience. Teachers can improve their ability to teach students how to read music, and how to make music too. For example, teachers can create exercises in advance, or on the fly, they can create accompaniments for elementary students, and they can save their work. Students can use these exercises for practice at home. In addition, both teachers and students can enhance their skills in ways never before possible with third party software, such as Home Concert Xtreme, and other great teaching tools. A PNOScan-equipped piano is another very powerful tool for teaching and learning the piano, in addition to existing teaching methods.
And You Won’t Disturb Anybody Either
Another aspect of this system is the optional “mute rail”, a device that prevents the hammers from striking the keys. The result: a system that allows you to practice in silence, and, in combination with PNOScan, enables your piano to create sounds that until now traditional pianos have never been able to create. We’ve created a video that demonstrates this awesome capability, and we’ve written an article entitled, “Mute It!” that more fully describes the mute rail, and how it works.
One would think that an “old school” music company, like Daynes Music, which has been selling pianos since the mid-1800′s, longer than any family-owned music store in America, would resist the digital age. Not so. Every new Steinway and Story & Clark piano we sell is equipped with PNOScan, and we will install a mute rail for you as an option. If you are a traditional player, you will still experience the touch and feel of a real piano, with nothing whatsoever lost in terms of the action, tone, and everything else that you love about pianos. In fact, you won’t even notice that PNOScan is there. But if you are willing to experiment and stretch your boundaries, our PNOScan-equipped pianos will be there to give you the best of both worlds. Be sure to take a look at the video we’ve produced, and we invite you to contact us for more information about this subtle but marvelous transformation of a 19th Century technology into the 21st Century.