August 13, 2021

Elyris, a modern redesign of the grand piano.

Elyris is my love letter to the Piano. I grew up playing, but with school, I felt that I simply had little time, and stopped. Early in my junior year, I had a great personal loss in my family, and turned back to piano for solace. In that time, I poured myself into design projects, and I found myself yearning to design a piano that reflected the emotions I was feeling. I found several projects that inspired me further - a modern redesign of the piano from Hungarian pianist Gergely Bogányi, and a novel string arrangement from Belgian pianomaker Chris Maene. Both of these projects had strong influences on my eventual design.

Elyris is an analog piano, rethought and redesigned for the modern world, though preserving a balance between the past and present. While the form expresses a modern sentiment, the flat faces and sharp edges echo a classic elegance. The timeless gloss black finish and simple silver hardware allow the eye to negotiate the terrain effortlessly, and while the shape is non-traditional, it still retains an odd familiarity, which I felt was somewhat lacking in the Bogányi. It also utilizes the Chris Maene straight-strung harp profile, which 'combines clear sound, transparent bass and richly colored registers, so typical for straight-strung instruments, with the action, stability and power of contemporary piano-playing.'

I developed the shape of Elyris over the period of a month, through countless sketches and analysis. At first, my designs leaned too heavily into either the modern or the classic, or were generally unattractive. I found my way into some more balanced and attractive forms, and some of these I quite enjoyed, but most were impractical or excessive. My final design borrowed from previous iterations to create a sweeping, elegant shape. There was adequate room for the piano mechanism, and the dimensions were practical if not ideal.

My next step was to convert this idea into a solid model which I could use to produce renders and more detailed work. Using the loft feature of SolidWorks, I created the base geometry of the part. Then, I used a series of features to build Elyris into a full model. I wanted to prove that Elyris was a fully-fledged design, which could accommodate an actual piano mechanism, strings, a soundboard, etc. I also conducted static load simulations through Finite Element Alaysis (FEA) on both the legs and lift points to ensure strength.

Elyris’ final CAD model contains over 1,600 parts.

The final form of Elyris is sculptural and elegant. Its lightness counters the dark richness of the gloss black, straight grain maple, renowned for its acoustic properties. The structure of the piano is supported by machined aluminum spars, similar to the construction of an airplane wing.

The mechanism, modelled off of the Chris Maene straight-strung piano, is said to more closely resemble the sound of the pianos used by masters like Beethoven and Debussy. Unlike the modern arrangement of strings invented by Henry Steinway, the strings in Elyris don't overlap the base and tenor sections, rendering a clearer and more sonorous note when played.

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