Toy Upright

Acoustic Piano

This inexpensive, unbranded toy upright was purchased new from a local music shop. Its design is quite similar to Schoenhut's "My First Piano II" model, though I'd imagine the build quality of the Schoenhut may be considerably better, especially considering it costs over twice as much as one of these. In any case, it provides the toy acoustic piano sound to my satisfaction, being, of course, a toy acoustic piano.

Features

  • 25 medium-sized keys (C4 to C6 / 2 octaves + semitone)
  • metal cylindrical tines as the sound generating elements
  • almost entirely plastic action parts, with a very simplistic action

The Hardware

As mentioned earlier, this piano is essentially an unbranded copy of a Schoenhut design, at least in terms of its outward physical form. There are a few minor differences to note, however. For one, this unit has a black paintjob, whereas the Schoenhut model is currently only available in white, red, and pink. Another external difference is that rather than a Schoenhut logo on the front, there is a treble clef (but sadly no staff) and some note letters. The paint used for these letters is literally quite flakey, being easily able to be flaked off by accident. After removing four screws (two on either side panel), the top panel can be removed, revealing the insides:

First, let's discuss the sound generation. This acoustic toy piano is typical in that it uses cylindrical metal tines to produce its sound, which are secured to a (somewhat rusty) metal block near the top, and the block is bolted to the back wood panel, which acts as a soundboard. If you know about the Rhodes series of electromechanical pianos, you may be inclined to draw comparisons with its tine-based tone generation, but these tines are considerably thicker and stiffer than Rhodes tines, and with a much different sound as a result. Note as well that the tines have an interesting taper near where they attach to the metal block, the purpose of which I'm not yet sure of (tuning, perhaps?) If anyone knows, I'd be interested to hear.

Anyway, of course, in order for the tines to produce any sound at all, they must be "enticed" into doing so in some manner. Here is where it gets particularly interesting. This piano contains the most rudimentary mechanical key action I've ever seen. A plastic key lever presses one end of a curved plastic hammer piece against a wooden bar, forcing it (through some class 1 lever action) to rotate and strike the tine. At rest, most of the length of each hammer piece sits horizontal in a recession in the key lever. Note that the wooden bar is only secured at both ends, so the keys in the middle especially have a tendency to bend it upwards a little when played. It also seems to have some sort of thin foam material applied to the surface that the backs of the hammer pieces push up against, perhaps to reduce noise and friction, although it isn't very carefully applied (as can be seen in the image below).

You may imagine that such a simplistic action has its flaws, and, well, it's true. Key dip is very shallow across the board, especially on the black keys. In fact, because of the small keypress distance over which the stroke must be completed, coupled with the ridiculous hammer-lever design, it takes a large amount of force to play these keys, which makes them difficult to play consistently. On the white keys that are beside each other (B and C, E and F), pressing one key often results in the adjacent key being pressed since the clearance and separation between keys is not sufficient. Also notice in the below picture that one of the hammers didn't quite get enough plastic in its injection mould, which admittedly doesn't seem to have any effect on the sound.

There is no damping or sustain mechanism. The tines are allowed to ring freely after being struck, although they do not sustain for very long, having rather a sharp attack which quickly decays. Again, this is not atypical for this type of piano, even on the "high-end" models such as the Schoenhuts.

The Sound

There's really not much to say here; it sounds pretty much like any other toy piano of its type, although with perhaps a bit more clunky plastic noise than some others. Quite a nice "metallic" plunking sound, really. If you'd like to hear it, well...

It has been used in the S.F.A.T.B.H.S. releases Third II, Colonel Salt's Bandly Bands Band Band, Songs From, The Age of Nusic, and Novoful Vyffm. In non-nusical context, it has been used on the last track of Jesse Acorn's release Demos, or perhaps not..., called "Hypersensitivities Unhampered".

Links

Schoenhut "My First Piano II" - The type of toy piano that this unit most clearly imitates.

If you notice any errors or have additional information that you would like to add, please contact me!


Last Updated: 7/21/2016