The Standing Grand Project

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Mid-August (2019): Sarah Nicolls launches a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Standing Grand Project. The aim is to develop an upright piano that has a grand’s fullness of sound, but which is also compact, lightweight and portable.  

A visualisation of the Standing Grand

A visualisation of the Standing Grand Piano, produced by Keechdesign UK

Nicolls, a pioneering experimental pianist and composer, has considerable experience in this area. She has already developed the Inside-Out Piano (with the help of Pierre Malbos). This is a vertical grand (acoustic) with a specially constructed back-striking action. The format allows easy access to the strings, which Nicolls plays/activates directly. This vastly extends the range of sounds produced by the instrument. Nicolls regularly performs with the Inside-Out Piano at music festivals around the UK. 

A grand piano has longer strings than an upright, and this generates a much better sound. But with greater length comes greater size and weight. And taking a grand piano on tour is not for the feint hearted.

The Inside-Out Pianos 1 and 2 in performance

Sarah Nicolls’ Inside-Out Piano 1 (left) and Inside-Out Piano 2 (right)

Nicolls has set up a new company, Future Piano Ltd, which also includes two aerospace engineers Tim Evans and Chris Vaissiere and prominent piano builder David Klavins. Klavins is famous for having built the massive M450 Vertical Concert Grand—the world’s largest upright piano.

The team plan to produce an acoustic grand piano that weighs just 82kg and has the same footprint as an upright. A typical grand weighs over 400kg.

Crowdfunding the Project

To realise the project they will use a combination of traditional materials (wood and metal) and advanced hi-tech composites. They have already developed a super-strong lightweight strut capable of coping with the 30 tonnes of tension required to keep the strings of a piano taut.

Using composites is an expensive business, and consequently the team turned to crowdfunding finance the project. A timeline on the Future Piano website shows the completed and projected development stages.

The Standing Grand funding campaign went live on 17th August and runs until 15th October, 2019. The target is £40,000 (approx. $48,000). As this is an “all-or-nothing” campaign, the project will only be funded if the target sum is reached by the end date. After 4 days nearly £2,500 ($3,000) had been pledged.

If you feel you’d like to help do visit the Future Piano teams funding page. Various “Rewards” are available.

Sarah Nicolls is a UK-based experimental pianist and composer. She was previously a Senior Lecturer at Brunel University. Now Artistic Director of BEAM Festival, she also works regularly with the London Sinfonietta and is often heard on BBC Radio 3.


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One thought on “The Standing Grand Project

  1. Stefan

    What is the soundboard size of these upright grands? The reason I ask is that unless I’m mistaken, the largest standard size upright piano already has a larger soundboard size than a baby grand which has always made me wonder why a person would want a baby grand from a sonic perspective. That being said, obviously I’m not speaking of concert size grand pianos. Would this upright have a compatible soundboard size to a 6.1” or 9” concert grand?

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