The Disklavier is essentially a player piano that uses electromechanical solenoids and optical sensors connected to LEDs that allow it to play notes and use the pedals independent of any human operator. It can store data, such as a performance played on it by a human pianist, and replay it accurately. Disklaviers also have inputs for data from MIDI and from several storage devices including floppy disks, CD-ROM, serial cables, and USB.
Disklaviers come in upright, GranTouch, baby grand, and grand piano styles (including the nine-foot concert grand), along with a professional line of Disklaviers called the Disklavier Pro. Yamaha claims that the Disklavier Pro reproduces key and pedal strokes with greater precision than does the standard line of the instrument. It is the official instrument of the Minnesota International Piano-e-Competition, now in its 6th year. The next competition is scheduled for the Summer of 2009.
Mark II, Mark IIXG, Mark III
Since its inception, Yamaha Disklavier has been under constant development. Major features added to the instrument line have included the ability to record and play standard midi files from and to a floppy disc, the XG Tonebank, the addition of synchronous audio tracks (combined with analogue midi) via CD Rom (for playback), the SmartKey system of learning and entertainment for beginners, Karaoke functions, and various multi-tracking recording options. Additionally, from the inception of III, Disklaviers have had, as a standard feature, the ability to play silently, using headphones to hear sampled notes and pedaling, at which time the hammers never strike the strings.
In 1999, Yamaha introduced the first "Disklavier Pro" to the American market. The "II Pro" was its first incarnation, marked by a decidedly more accurate playback over anything preceding it. The Pro utilized both an "Enhanced" and "XP" mode - the latter utilizing special "XP data" which subdivided the standard commands associated with traditional midi. Thus, 127 degrees of midi velocity were converted to 1015 such degrees. Additionally, pedal data was vastly increased to measurements of 256 increments of measurement allowing for fine half and quarter pedaling by the artist. This enhanced detail of servo-controlled measurement gave the Disklavier Pro playback a much-greater "human" sense of musical reproduction.
The current Mark IV series, introduced in 2004, of the Disklavier and Disklavier Pro has wireless networking capability which enables the user to control the piano via either a PDA-style WiFi-connected remote or a tablet-shaped touch-screen TFT-color remote. The Mark IV series also features an 80 gigabyte hard drive and a slim console, known as the Media Center, located under the left side of the keyboard. Users may connect midi devices to the Disklavier, utilizing the Disklavier as a midi controller or having the Disklavier controlled by midi data sent from an outside source.
In the most effective guise of technological demonstration, a user may also connect a video camera to the Disklavier IV and without any additional equipment utilize v-sync capabilities made possible by on-board SMPTE time code. With it a player may be recorded visually in perfect sync with all key and pedal strokes recorded during a performance. In general, users of the IV system benefit from the use of special "Hi-Def" midi files which make use of over 1000 gradations of touch measurements, even exceeding the range of human touch limitations, under certain conditions.
In 2006, Matthew Teeter and Chris Dobrian, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, developed the first third-party Disklavier software controller. The software runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and replicates the functionality provided by the PDA/Tablet PC remotes. The software and its source code is released for free at http://music.arts.uci.edu/dobrian/disklavier/. In November 2007, Kevin Goroway used that example code to create DKVBrowser which is an open source project hosted at http://sourceforge.net/projects/dkvbrowser. It is also multiplatform, and provides features that are not available on the proprietary interfaces provided by Yamaha, including wildcard searching.
Disklavier IV and IV Pro are under constant development, and the software is entirely updatable, thanks to the use of an on-board Linux computer which the user may update with firmware provided by Yamaha.
Disklavier remains the most advanced self-regulating system of piano reproduction in the world and is, hence, sought for use in modern composition.
Yamaha Disklavier IV has naturally found its way into music teaching studios across the United States and, to a lesser extent, abroad. Experimentation and development is now underway on a new, revolutionary system of teaching called "Remote Lesson" which allows the literal connection of two or more Disklaviers via hi-speed Internet connections, permitting intimate collaboration between two or more pianists from and to any points on the globe where the technology exists. Additionally, chatware - visual and audible may be added and synchronized to afford total communication between or among the individuals participating in the connection. Disklaviers have also been used, frequently, as a feedback tool for teachers and students wishing to illustrate strengths and weaknesses in a performance.
Since the notes played are easily edited, Disklavier is also being utilized in recording studios for economical playback, negating the need for numerous takes per recording track.