Steinway innovation keeps player pianos in tune with the future of high-resolution replay.

As the maker of the world’s finest pianos, Steinway & Sons has reached its pinnacle through Spirio | r – groundbreaking technology which provides artists with the capabilities to perform, record and perfect their performances. (Photo: Steinway of the Carolinas)

The piano is an instrument that can take a lifetime to master. Still, the beauty of its sound and versatility find a place in the heart of every musician. The instrument resonates with the talent and passion of the pianist and reflects careful practice through beautiful melody. Throughout much of the instrument’s history, innovators have tried to replicate the same stunning sound without a person at the keys.

With Spirio | r, Steinway & Sons offers high-resolution piano performance capture and playback with mastery honed through more than a century and a half of Steinway craftsmanship and artistry.

The modern piano

From its 18th-century origins onwards, the piano has had a rich history of continual musical innovation. Each passing century has shaped a more refined sound for a wider breadth of musical expression. The piano itself was a refinement of earlier instruments, including the harpsichord and clavichord–what made it distinct was its ability to support a greater dynamic range and volume.

The 19th century brought innovations that transformed the piano into the instrument we know today. A longer keyboard stretched musical expression to seven and one third octaves, while the creation of the sostenuto pedal enabled notes to be sustained. In turn, an iron plate and steel piano wire allowed the piano to fill concert halls with its resonance, while dampeners and new stringing techniques helped to maintain the instrument’s intimate character.

In 1867, Steinway & Sons unveiled what would become the prototype of the modern piano at the International Exposition at Paris, marking the start of their long history of continuous innovation.

Player pianos

As Steinway & Sons refined their design for the piano, musical inventors were figuring out ways to get a piano to play itself. At the turn of the 20th century, the first practical pneumatic piano player, the Pianola, was popularized.

These early player pianos functioned by reading rolls of hole-punched paper and they reached the height of their popularity in the mid-1920s. However, as radio usage became more prominent and jazz began taking the place of the classical repertoire, player pianos faded into the background.

Nevertheless, enthusiasts and hobbyists kept player pianos rocking and rolling through a resurgence of interest in the 1960’s, with technology improving all the while.

Eventually, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) developments, electronic sensors, and electromechanical solenoids all set the stage for high-resolution digital capture and playback, shaping acoustic player-piano performances in the style of concert greats.

Spirio | r

In 2015, Steinway & Sons announced the marriage of its industry-leading piano craftsmanship and cutting-edge automated music reproduction technology by introducing a new player piano, Spirio.

Like every Steinway piano, Spirios are hand-built by craftsmen and women in Steinway’s historic factory, and they are identical to any other Steinway in practice and performance capabilities. However, through the creation of a unique and precise player system, Spirios can bring performances from some of history’s greatest classical and contemporary artists into any living room. Performances from historical greats including Vladimir Horowitz and Arthur Rubenstein are captured and reproduced exactly as they played, while new recordings from Steinway artists are added to Spirio’s digital library every month.

This spring, the company unveiled a further evolution — Spirio | r — available with its Model B and Model D pianos. Spirio | r allows pitch-perfect reproduction and uses non-intrusive lasers and sensors to capture every part of a performance for later replay. In other words: live performance capture.

The system records each note that is played at the exact volume and intensity that it is played at, and through the iPad-based Spirio app, users can edit every aspect of their performance to their liking. From there, the performance can be replayed on the piano, or shared as a MIDI or mp3. The Spirio | r boasts an array of connectivity options: WiFi & ethernet, Bluetooth, USB, MIDI in and out and HDMI video out.

The vast library of music available over the cloud grows as each month the content library expands, and Steinway introduces new features that can be software updated as they are released.

 Steinway Piano Gallery-Charlotte/Greensboro/Greenville, SC, is independently owned and operated by Mark and Katherine Love. The Love family and their gallery associates are committed to ensuring that every client receives an experience worthy of the instruments they represent. Visit, or call (704) 817-2877 to make an appointment.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

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