Brighton Magazine

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Friday 27 September 2019

Brighton-Based Musician Set To Revolutionise One Hundred & Thirty Years Of Grand Piano Design

A Brighton-based entrepreneur and musician is creating a new, lightweight grand piano in what is set to be the biggest revolution in the instrument's design for over a century.

Pianist and company founder Sarah Nicolls is raising £40,000 via a Kickstarter campaign to build a prototype of her Standing Grand, which will weigh less than a quarter of a traditional Grand and occupy the same floor space as a standard piano.

"We are using technology and science from the aerospace sector to upturn centuries of piano history," says Nicolls.

"Our version of a grand piano, an instrument which traditionally weighs about as much as a baby elephant, instead weighs the same as an average sized man. 

"This is going to be the biggest change to how a grand piano has been made in over 130 years." 


"Anyone who has ever had to move a grand piano will know that it is not something you want to do very often. 

"I want to play and gig more and it would be a lot easier for pianists like myself if our pianos could be moved around and were smaller. 

When I was a student and lived in a flat, it took up so much space I had to sleep under mine." 

The idea came when Nicolls was leaning over to 'play the strings' on the inside of a traditional grand piano. 

She conceived of a new kind of grand piano, which points upwards, making it lighter, more compact and able to fit into a small room.

Nicolls made some early attempts to design the new instrument by sawing apart traditional pianos and rebuilding them upright with the strings on the outside.

"The sounds you can get from playing the strings are magical and need to be heard more. I was so determined to get to them that I ended up sawing up my old piano," explains Nicolls.   

Her company Future Piano Ltd gained £60,000 from Innovate UK and she recruited aerospace veterans Tim Evans and Christophe Vaissiere. 

They'd invented a new super-strong, lightweight composite beam originally intended for the construction industry.

Nicolls spotted their patented invention and realised the beam could be used to replace the traditional cast iron frames and wooden braces that usually hold the thirty tonnes of tension created by tuned piano strings.

"It's incredibly strong. You could use it to lift six double decker buses. Funnily enough, so far, my piano is the best use they've found for it," says Nicolls.

The Standing Grand acoustic piano will weigh just 82kg and will have the same footprint as an upright piano. 

So far, Nicolls' Kickstarter campaign has gained celebrity backing from record label boss Ahmet Zappa, son of rock musician Frank Zappa and from the Oscar-nominated sound designer on Bladerunner 2049. 

Others who pledge £250 or more can join Zappa in having their name on one of the new piano"s 88 keys.

"This will be the biggest transformation since Steinway perfected the grand piano in the late 19th century," says Nicolls. 


by: Mike Cobley




Share    


Creature Creature can, via the imminent release of their first collection of self-penned tracks, Two Finger Tantrum, be labelled the new flag bearers of rock. The Brighton-based five piece have furrowed a new burrow at the summit of an age old genre. With this debut album they will be looking over their shoulders at the also-rans for many years to come.


Migrate Art, the art organisation fundraising to support displaced and homeless people, has partnered with ten major contemporary artists and illustrators to create limited editions of re-usable, reversible face masks.

Romesh Ranganathan is Straight Outta Crawley, in West Sussex, and on his last nationwide tour, Irrational, he was pondering whether he has an irrational viewpoint on the world or whether that can be attributed to absolutely everyone else.

Returning after four years away, Aidan Knight's penchant for astute observations and personal reflections remains a compelling component of his songwriting.


Young people across the UK will have the chance to find out what it's like to be a record label boss, a film director or a theatre producer through a new podcast series from Lookout that brings together industry professionals from stage, screen and music to share their invaluable insights and experience on how to get into the creative industries.
Credit J. Taylor

Extinction Rebellion Brighton held a socially distanced protest on Hove seafront calling for a bigger public say in how society rebuilds following the coronavirus crisis.
Credit Andrew Gambling

The South Downs National Park photo competition is now open, with a first prize of £250 on offer to the amateur or professional photographer who best captures this year's theme of 'My tranquil haven'.

"In rock music, it's really easy to talk about partying and shagging girls and all that kind of stuff," says Skunk Anansie vocalist Skin. "But for us, what we were singing about had to be deeper, it had to mean something. We had to talk about our experiences and what we were going through."

Throughout COVID-19 isolation, everyone has become aware of the supportive and stimulating power of music. Although many people want to learn, they have no access to musical instruments or tuition - especially with schools and shops currently closed. 
Credit: Andy Sturmey

Barely a year since their debut album Dogrel, Dublin's Fontaines D.C. are set to return with A Hero's Death.

The Rec Rooms is an independent music and comedy venue in Horsham, West Sussex, which was opened by three locals just over eighteen months ago. 

This Saturday, 30th May, Together Co, the Brighton & Hove based charity that exists to end loneliness, is hosting a virtual music festival that will see more than twenty bands perform for free to raise money to help the most vulnerable and isolated.  

Following Brighton Festival's digital programme during lockdown, poet and author Lemn Sissay MBE has confirmed he will return as guest director in 2021. 

Archive search

Search our archives for what's on and gone for the best of this city's theatre music comedy news and much more...







Organising a conference or event in Brighton?
See our Brighton Conference section.
Brighton web design by ...ntd