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Princeton University

Reinventing the Piano

Princeton University via Kadenze


The piano remains one of the great achievements of musical instrument design and has long served as a primary creative tool for musicians worldwide. In this course, we will look at how the piano’s design touches on a range of diverse topics, like: where musical scales come from and how the piano’s design impacts creativity; the expressive relationship between various keyboard instrument designs; the extraordinary range of color that emerges when we listen closely to how various intervals can be tuned, and in turn the choices we need to make when tuning a keyboard instrument. We will also consider how the piano can be reinvented, both acoustically and digitally. This will include study of the prepared piano, the autonomous piano, and the digital piano, as well as Trueman’s own prepared digital piano, which itself raises a host of questions regarding rhythm, meter and groove, music perception, adaptive digital systems, and the creative process.

This is not a history course, but it is course that uses the piano to bring together a range of subjects that are often ignored or under developed in traditional music curricula. Nor is it a composition course, but students will be asked to create in a variety of ways, and it should be of use to both experienced and aspiring composers, not to mention pianists. We will engage with a range of music, going back to Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach, through Schubert, all the way to more recent composers like Conlon Nancarrow, György Ligeti, and John Cage. And finally this is in part an “artist practicum” course, focusing on the creative process and how composers today might invent, and reinvent, instruments to create new work; some of Trueman’s own work, including the Nostalgic Synchronic Etudes for prepared digital piano, will come in to play.


  • Tuning and Temperament
    • A tour of all the chromatic intervals and their flavors; tuning and temperament; Bach’s temperament; Inharmonicity; with Cristina Altamura, guest.
  • The Prepared Piano—the Autonomous Piano—the Digital Piano
    • The prepared piano, with Adam Tender; the player piano and Conlon Nancarrow; the magnetic resonator piano; digitizing the piano, input, engine, and output.
  • The Synchronic Piano—Rhythm, Meter, and Groove
    • The genesis of the synchronic piano; entrainment; perception and cognition of rhythm and meter; case study: the Norwegian telespringar.
  • The Piano
    • The keyboard layout, hammers and strings, timbre, overtones; clavichord, harpsichord, with Gavin Black; pitch and perception.
  • The Prepared Digital Piano—bitKlavier, the Adaptive Piano, Performance Practices, and the Nostalgic Synchronic Etudes
    • Nostalgic, Tuning, and Direct preparations; adaptive tuning; adaptive tempo; the Nostalgic Synchronic Etudes; performance practices, with Adam Sliwinski and Cristina Altamura

Taught by

Dan Trueman


5.0 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Reinventing the Piano

  • Anonymous
    This course was quite a pleasure. Dan Trueman's instruction is fascinating, incisive, and informative, and the project/quiz components were an excellent complement to the course material. I would highly recommend this course!
  • 杨玥
    I finished much courses from university , but I think these courses must understand teacher's thought and exchanged with your teacher and let them understand your thought , and then teach yourself according to your course.
  • Anonymous
    This was a great eye opening course, everything was spot on and very inspiring . I highly recommend it to any musician.
  • Anonymous
    If you are interested in music/computer music, this course is a must. The content and quality of the videos are outstanding.

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