This piano doesn’t have any black keys. How will it sound?

30 July 2020, 11:43 | Updated: 30 July 2020, 12:10

This piano has no black keys
This piano has no black keys. Picture: Micronet Co., Ltd. / YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

It’s just like a regular grand piano… but all the keys are white.

A full-size grand piano has 52 white and 36 black keys. But what would happen if you took away all the accidentals?

This curious Sinhakken model, spotted by a pianist at a Musical Instruments Fair in Japan, does just that.

With no black keys fitted, the 52 white keys take up the full space of the keyboard. With no tail to allow space for black keys over the top, the keys are ‘all head’, so to speak – full oblongs, the same width from top to bottom.

It looks rather sleek and beautiful, if confusing to play.

But can it achieve the same depth and colour without the black keys?

Read more: Why do pianos have 88 keys? >

In the video above, uploaded to YouTube by Japanese software company Micronet Co., Ltd, a pianist plays an arrangement of ‘Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum’ from Children’s Corner Suite by Debussy, which develops everything in C major.

The pianist, who blogged about her find in 2014, says: “I can play almost all songs in C major without a black key.

“But I can’t help but feel that it’s quite different from the original song.”

According to her blog, the instrument has the same number of strings as a normal piano, but with the black key hammer action removed. So, you can literally only play in C major.

With no 24 major and minor keys – let alone so many rich colours – any change in tone can only be achieved by playing the white keys. And with no separation of black and white keys, you must have to relearn all your note references.

Innovative though it might be, this just seems like a piano tuner’s nightmare...