Japan’s next generation of piano looks different. It has no flat keys.

By on May 18, 2017

The Japanese culture’s pursuit for mastery is world renowned.  From cars and electronics, to alcohol and food, Japan has a knack for improving what already exists.

Sara Kovner, a Japanese history teacher at the University of Florida says, “It’s true in traditional arts, it’s true of young people who dress up in Harajuku, it’s true of restaurateurs all over Japan.”

Japan’s love of refinement extends even to musical instruments.

82-year old Kunihiko Sugano, dubbed as ‘the only genius pianist’ in the Japanese jazz world, invented a future piano keyboard with no flat keys. A traditional piano keyboard has 88 keys composed of 52 white and 36 black (flat) keys. As you can see from the photo above, what Sugano likes to call ‘the future generation of pianos,’  has no flat keys by design and for good reasons.

Harumi Hosono, one of the best bassists in Japan says, “playing the bass is like cutting tofu.”  “You need to give it a gentle touch for a perfect cut just as what this future keyboard with aligned white and black keys can do to sound,” says Hosono. “The keys’ structure being different from the standard keyboard was in a way, the secret to producing a crisp and clear sound.”

Unlike an ordinary piano where some degree of finger pressure is needed, Sugano’s keyboard requires just a gentle finger contact and correct positioning in order to produce a beautiful sound with a punch. “The idea is not to overwork the fingers,”  says the proud inventor.

It took Sugano 70 years to create the future piano keyboard.

“We started with prototyping a pianica, 5 electronic pianos, and 4 grand piano keys.”

“Three years ago, I finally achieved what I could call the final finished form,” Sugano said in an inteview with Toyo Keizai.

But there are two problems.  One, there’s only 1 piano with the new keyboard that exists, for now. Two, only Sugano can play it.

“It is my wish and hope for more people to know about my piano, play with it and enjoy,” says the genius.

While the intriguing keyboard has no name yet,  the cost of owning one is 100 million yen    ( US$901,104).

The future has just begun for the piano industry.

Catch Sugano play the piano of the future at Shimoda View Hotel where he performs live seasonally.


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