The piano has been living with a beautiful legacy, but that legacy can double as tyranny. The Steinway Model D, favorite instrument of mine that it is, has also frozen the technological development of the keyboard instrument.
And that’s why the Una Corda is different. Built custom by David Klavins, and associated with that builder’s collaboration with pianist Nils Frahm, this lightweight piano is unlike any you’ve seen or heard before. And now, you can get a taste of playing the real thing with a software instrument.
For full background on the instrument, here’s our 2014 story, including an interview with Mr. Klavins. I have to say, as a piano nerd who came to music in general through that instrument, it’s one of the favorite things I’ve ever run on CDM. And piano tech itself to me is reasonable fodder for this site:
I’m still hoping to save up for my own, someday.
In the meantime, though, there’s a Native Instruments software instrument. This isn’t the first or the most unique NI recreation of a Klavins instrument. That honor would fall to The Giant. Whereas you actually might seriously consider getting an Una Corda, this other instrument – not so much. The Klavins Piano Model 370i original is actually built into a wall, stands 9 meters tall (that’s 30 feet), and requires stairs to get to the keys.
But just because the Una Corda is more practical as an instrument doesn’t mean it’s less desirable for its sound. The central innovation is to transform the soundboard, with a light, delicate surface that resembles a guitar more than a big, bulky grand. That changes the strings, too.
I really like the fewer-key version, but for NI, Klavins built an 88-key instrument. That gives you fragile, gorgeous sounds across a big range.
Even the Native Instruments product site is unusually pretty. This is obviously a project for love more than commerce.
For more on the instrument, though, we can enjoy some videos. Frahm and Klavins are featured in a short conversation about the instrument:
And as for the software, here’s a walkthrough /jam by our friend Cuckoo:
Plus the official walkthrough by Uli Baronowsky, who made the software instrument for NI:
Una Chorda is a $149/149€ Kontakt instrument.
It’s thoroughly enjoyable stuff. I’m keen to spend more time with the software instrument, so expect more.
And for kicks, from Erased Tapes, an evening with Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm — which would basically be one of my top ways to spend an evening, period: