Maqiano – detailed info

It works a bit like the Capo in guitar – it shortens the ringing part, so called “speaking length” of the strings, making the tuning go up. A specially shaped mass is attached to the choir of strings, and the tip of the mass is determining the new speaking length / new tuning level for that note. You need one piece of Maqiano for every pitch (=choir of strings) you want to tune. For example, if you need a B-half-flat, you just tune the B-flat up a 1/4-step. If you need it in many octaves, you have to tune all the B-flats separately. Once installed, you can easily fine-tune the note to any desired tuning level, usually up to half step up the original pitch. You understand now, that when you tune a note up, for example a B-flat to a B-half-flat, you don’t have the B-flat in that octave anymore. If you need to play a B-flat, you have to change the octave, or remove the Maqiano unit.

The operating range is 2,5 to 3,5 octaves, depending on your piano. In Steinway models B, C & D it’s from the lowest F up to the F or G above the middle C. About the same range in Fazioli 212. You can go a bit more upwards on most of Yamaha grands, usually up to B-flat above the middle C. In general it works from the low range with 2 strings per pitch, to mid-range as long as there’s enough space upon the strings between the tuning pins/agraffes/v-bar and the dampers/hammers. I will soon post a detailed sheet for operating ranges in some of the most common grand and upright pianos. The sound, as well as the easiness of use is at its best on plain wire strings, the copper-wound strings are bit less convenient, specially on upright pianos, and the sound is also thinner, and more likely to buzz / crack on heavily accented notes.

With the old version of the Maqiano that I used for my solo album and for the video you’ve seen, the timbre of the micro-tuned notes is quite different from the other notes. I used some other preparations to soften that difference. The new version is much better, but still the timbre changes a little bit. This depends on the piano, range, dynamic level etc. Listen to the difference here in this new home recording without any other preparations (all C’s and F’s are tuned about 1/4-step up). 

Also, please note that the best dynamic range is from piano pianissimo to forte, depending on the range and the piano model. Heavy fortissimo accents are likely to cause distortion / buzz / crack in the sound, specially on the low copper-wound strings, and also a bit in the highest register. Listen to this sound example, and then you can decide if this is a pro or a con 🙂

Installing one unit of Maqiano takes a few seconds. When I practise it, I can do it in 4 or 5 seconds, sometimes having to adjust it a bit after trying to play. Removing is faster. Tuning for example 2 notes per octave in the whole operating range of your piano takes less than a minute, should be possible in concert during the oud intro 🙂 Fine-tuning is very fast, when you want to adjust the micro-tuned note a tiny bit up – it takes a second or two. The abovementioned times are for grand pianos. Some uprights are easy too, but some smaller ones are more tricky. Might take more time, specially in the lower register. You can tune as many pitches as you want, but placing the Maqiano on two adjacent choirs of strings (e.g. D and E-flat) is very difficult.

It’s quite awkward installing the Maqiano with your grand piano’s music stand on its place. However, if you need to read music, you can re-install the music stand after installing and adjusting the Maqiano pieces. There will be enough space to do that in most of the pianos. The same thing with upright pianos – it might be possible to install the Maqiano with the front lid on its place, but it would certainly be very difficult. In most pianos you can re-install the front cover after installing and adjusting the Maqiano, this takes time of course.

I have used the Maqiano a lot on my own Steinway, and on at least 100 different pianos around the world, and no damage has ever happened to any piano or to their strings. No piano has ever got out of tune – after removing the Maqiano, it’s always in its initial tuning again. I have got a statement from a top class Finnish Steinway-, Bösendorfer-, Yamaha-, Fazioli- & Kawai-authorized piano technician, that the Maqiano “when used properly for its intended use, causes no harm to the piano, its strings or its tuning.” However, since the device has strong magnets and heavy metal parts, you have to read, understand, and follow all the instructions & watch all tutorial videos I’ll be sending, and be extremely careful when using the Maqiano.

The construction of the Maqiano is modular – you can add and remove different parts according to the piano model and register. All this will be easy and fast, but of course better if you do that in the soundcheck, so installing will be faster during the concert.

My plan is to sell the Maqiano in sets of 5 units = you could micro-tune 5 pitches. Let me know if you’d need more. A wooden box will be included. The lid removed, the box is used as a stand for the Maqiano units. You just place it on the grand piano’s tuning pins, or in another horizontal level, or on a chair/table next to your piano. Will be easy and safe to use. 

The pricing is still a bit of a question – now I’m happy with the newest prototype, I’m still waiting for price quotes for some of the parts from the manufacturers. I won’t make any compromises with the quality, and still trying to keep the price reasonable. A rough estimate now would be 600 to 700 euros + VAT for a set of 5 pieces in the wooden box + all the accessories needed.