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Turning a Staircase Into A Piano

Posted on Wed June 4th 2014 by Dan

We recently featured a story about a designer who managed to take an old piano and turn it into a stunning staircase. Well it seems that was just the latest episode of a stair-piano love affair that stretches back decades.

Older visitors may remember the old PG Tips adverts with a team of removal men played by chimps trying to shift a piano down some stairs, with the famous punchline of: “If you hum it, I’ll play it!”

Well it would seem some talented folks have decided to combine the two, by turning staircases into fully-functional pianos! Inspired by the scene in the Tom Hanks film “Big”, there have been several cases of staircases being transformed into touch-sensitive musical instruments.

One example was located in the Swedish capital Stockholm, where a staircase was turned into a large piano, with people’s reactions filmed as they took to the musical stairs for the first time. The result was a mixture of bemusement and delight but some, particularly those with some kind of musical gift, really took to the challenge of trying to be creative with their new toy, managing to hop between steps and produce some kind of tune. Others simply enjoyed the fact they were able to make random noises with each step and would run up and down, giddily.

A more recent example was conceived by students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This version was much more basic, using a simple stone staircase, some wires and tape, and took just five hours to set up. Put together by members of the Hopkins Robotics Club, each step had its musical area marked out with tape, with the wires and sensors attached to the spindles to prevent any obstruction on the stairs themselves.

The sensors are linked to a micro-controller positioned on the side of the staircase with emits the sound. It can even be customised to produce the sound of other musical instruments, meaning if you have a few friends with you, you can form your own staircase-based string quartet!

If this story has given you ideas about transforming stairs into musical instruments, bear in mind those who have carried out these projects are highly skilled experts, with the knowledge of exactly what is needed to bring such an idea to life. So before you start turning your handrail into a didgeridoo, just stop and think whether you’d be better off keeping your staircase for its intended purpose instead.

Written by David Chapman of UK Stair Parts