It all started with an idea....
I didn't like digital keyboards that sit on an "X stand" for live performance. Live performance is so much about perception and the visual aspect to a performance is a critical part of peoples appreciation of live music.
But, what if I created a piano that could transport around with me, but looked like the real thing live. I looked around for evidence of this idea on the internet and found nothing.
I saw a tweet from Tom Odell showing three people struggling with his piano onto a stage. I thought there must be a better way. I have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, I'm a Chartered Engineer and an Engineering Fellow of the IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers), I figured I'd have to solve this if only to ensure I justified all those fancy words and the letters after my name that come with it!
That's where the idea for the STACKS piano started. I wanted something that looked the part, yet was easy to transport for one person. I've been inspired by many videos on YouTube like "The Piano Guys" who transport real grand piano's (apparently), to all kinds of locations and film them. I wanted something that could be used for live performance as well as look the part for YouTube type videos.
I spent many months wondering how best to go about this. At first I thought of buying an old piano, gutting it (there is something called a "harp" in a piano, it is an iron harp that holds all the strings that the hammers hit, it is the heaviest part). I thought if I remove all the insides and keys, I could insert a digital piano into the unit, and drag it around. The problem with the idea was that even with all the insides removed, the wood elements themselves were still pretty heavy, and it would still be very difficult to get into a general vehicle for transportation.
At this point, I decided I had to design my own piano. I spent weeks sketching ideas of what they could look like. As I began, I realised I had a clean sheet of paper, as my piano was going to be digital, I wasn't going to be constrained by strings, that meant I could design anything I wanted. I got excited and drew up many ideas. In the end, I gravitated towards a design style that still had influences of the grand piano, whilst moving in a contemporary design direction. The bit of the STACKS piano I really like is how the top of the piano keeps flowing until it hits the floor.
In July-August 2015, I started searching for materials, ideas on the internet and in many shops (like DIY shops). Once I had a selection of materials, I started. I didn't know exactly what I was doing or how it would end up, but I pushed. From September 2015 to December 2015 I spent nearly every evening in the garage sawing, sanding, nailing, glueing, painting, vinyl wrapping. I had a full time day job and 2 children to look after, so all work started when they went to bed, and I would go often until near exhaustion through the weeks and then struggle to sleep for over tiredness.
At the end of January 2016, I had a final push to finish the final touches, and hey presto, the prototype and first ever STACKS piano was complete!! Swiftly followed by a bit of video of me playing it!