Zorba's "Secret" Piano Page
The MusicReader System.
8 August 2011
These spacers were fabricated from a stake used to hold concrete forms!
Cut, sanded and painted.
Inside of the old player doors...
Modified (top) and stock trapwork springs...
Were used to hold Tablet PC against the felted spacers.
Topside of PC.
Side view, showing slight slope of PC. Top to right in this view.
Reassembled piano looks the same as it always did.
But open the doors and...
Music in digital format.
This is the DC side of the power supply wiring strapped onto the underside of the music shelf.
The power supply lives behind the left cheek.
Wireless pedals - these are used for turning the music pages.
Top down view of inside. The USB wireless pedal dongle with the PC's power jack seen below.
An overall view. Power cord exiting from the left is temporary. The stool was "visiting"
for a few days - I picked it up for a dance sister and delivered it to her a few days
later. Looks really cool, but is very uncomfortable - I'll stick with my artist's bench!
Computer wallpaper - a 1923 Knabe Grand.
Grand piano screen saver, complete with floating notes and clefs!
Stylus (right) and micro-wireless keyboard/trackpad for computer control. See text.
I had been thinking about this project for a long time - but wasn't in any particular hurry as it would be on the expensive side. However, when this tablet notebook became available to me at a good price, I snapped it up. Its an older Gateway "convertible", which means that the screen rotates around and can be used in either a standard notebook configuration, or a tablet configuration. Its a model M285-E - older as I say, but with plenty of horsepower for this project.
I had originally intended to use the old felt that was originally removed from the nameboard as padding for the PC - however I didn't have enough to pad both top and bottom, so it ended up padding only the top, while some new felt pads the bottom. I had to pad both the backside, and the top of the bottom spacer, as the PC screen rests on the top of the bottom spacer, and is held against the back. This also gives the PC a slight backwards lean, which helps a bit with readability.
Its touchscreen can only be activated by the included stylus - which makes using Windows a bit of a pain, but is perfect for navigating the Music Reader software. Normal page turns (forward and back) are accomplished with the wireless Air Turn USB device, coupled with a pair of Yamaha pedals. So, in normal usage, the user simply selects their desired music from the library using the stylus, then can turn pages as desired with the foot pedals! No more piano clutter!
There is also an Air Turn device that works directly with Bluetooth, negating the need for a USB dongle - but at this writing the Bluetooth product shares the usual "Bluetooth halo effect" one finds with Bluetooth devices everywhere: Its far more expensive (+$30!) even though no dongle need be provided! I've never understood this phenomenon...
The only downside is the fact that the first generation type touchscreen kinda sucks for computer maintenance chores and other Windows tasks. In looking for a wireless keyboard and mouse combo, I found the pictured device which is just perfect for the very occasional use that it will see. It was about $33 from Amazon, and it too comes with its own wireless USB dongle. Its about the size of a medium sized TV remote control, is rechargeable from any USB port or charger, and even has a built-in laser pointer. Its called a "Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad". Such a deal!
Adding music to the PC is very easy, and can be accomplished via its built in Bluetooth, wireless ethernet, or through a USB port; the latter of which requires opening up the piano - Bluetooth is really the way to go here! The MusicReader software is entirely PDF based, so scans of any sheet music, plus downloaded sheets from the 'Net will work "right out of the box".
Digital music stands are better off, obviously, in a "portrait" orientation, and indeed the Gateway M285-E can do that. However, its a bit harder to get the opening in the piano into a similar orientation, so the whole system is run in "landscape" mode - the PC fits the opening perfectly! The music reader software has a "half page" mode that allows the displayed music to be larger, taking advantage of the wider display in landscape mode. The music reader people thought of everything! The software even has a built-in metronome and music recorder.