This piano staircase social experiment revealed how music makes everything better

10 May 2022, 16:37

The Fun Theory 1 – Piano Staircase Initiative | Volkswagen

By Siena Linton

Users of Swedish public transport were treated to a musical interlude in their journeys, snubbing the escalator for a tuneful trip up the stairs.

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Faced with the choice of taking the stairs or escalators, which would you choose? Some days, it’s just easier to stand still and let the escalator do the hard work for you. But what if taking the stairs could somehow be made more fun?

Enter, Sweden’s musical stairs. In 2009, creative advertising agency NORD DDB and car manufacturer Volkswagen noticed that the stairs at the Odenplan metro station in Stockholm, Sweden, were largely being ignored in favour of a neighbouring escalator.

Fuelled by the idea that having fun can “change behaviour for the better”, they set about finding ways to revolutionise the step experience, hoping to encourage more commuters to use the stairs by making it fun.

After what must have been a bustling brainstorm session, filled with a flurry of weird, whacky and wonderful ideas, the winning suggestion was agreed upon: turn the stairs into a fully-functional piano keyboard.

Read more: Hospital installs ‘piano staircase’ to boost exercise

Musical stairs at Odenplan subway station in Stockholm, Sweden
Musical stairs at Odenplan subway station in Stockholm, Sweden. Picture: KJ Vogelius / Flickr

Overnight, the usually conventional staircase was transformed into a black and white musical mural, with each step sounding a different note when trodden on.

On footage recorded by a nearby camera, the first few travellers of the day can be seen tentatively tapping their way up the keyboard.

As the station gets busier, commuters and tourists in their plenty can be seen opting for a more tuneful exit to the station, and the escalator alternative is ignored.

Listen on Global Player: Hear more piano music on our Calm Piano playlist

Commuters use piano stairs in Stockholm, Sweden
Commuters use piano stairs in Stockholm, Sweden. Picture: KJ Vogelius / Flickr

The video, which has been viewed nearly 10 million times on YouTube, shows everyone taking part in the fun, from toddlers to dogs.

Some commuters went for the avant-garde approach, tapping out an atonal cacophony as they scaled the stairs, whilst others accompanied their commute with a major scale. One pair even hopped in tandem to create a tuneful procession of major thirds.

Andreas Dahlqvist, who was part of the creative team behind the project, said: “Everyone has the choice of the escalator or the stairs.

“You know you should be taking the stairs, but it’s easier to take the other route… If we make it a fun experience, a good experience, then people will do it”.