The Piano That Doesn't Need a Player

Once there was the pianola, an instrument that played itself was dead by the late 1920s is back as the Spirio piano system.

Published: 02nd May 2015 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd May 2015 04:09 PM   |  A+A-

Once there was the pianola, an instrument that played itself and enabled you to hear great music as if performed by a real-life musician. Sales peaked in 1924; then declined owing to improvements in recording methods. By the late 1920s, the instrument was dead. Now, almost a century later, it’s back as the Spirio piano system that’s offered exclusively on select Steinway grand pianos.

A masterpiece of artistry and engineering, the new piano from Steinway enables music lovers to enjoy performances by great pianists—played with such nuance, power and passion that it is indistinguishable from a live performance—in the privacy of their home.  On the face of it, the piano seems to faithfully recreate every intention of the artist with astonishing accuracy, even with the musician missing. The truth is the Spirio contains inbuilt hardware and is accompanied by an iPad preloaded with an application that provides listeners easy access to artists, ranging from Beethoven to Billy Joel. All they need to do is swipe, tap and listen.

As with the earlier pianola, the hardware is integrated into the Spirio at the time of manufacture, with the components completely hidden from view. The iPad that comes with the piano connects with it wirelessly, and controls the system and the integrated volume control. Since the design is modular, the core system can be updated in the future to address new interface technologies as they are created. With over 1,700 artists ‘on tap’, Steinway plans to record a completely new catalogue for the Spirio. This catalogue will be provided to the piano owners at no additional charge, which is said to be a first in the player piano industry. Plus, says Steinway, new music files will be added automatically to the app listings as they become available. Genres will include jazz, classical and contemporary.

Every Spirio comes with the assurance of four annual services. For now, the product is available only in the US, UK, Canada and Singapore. Prices begin at $110,000. More details at


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