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:

Acoustic Revelation: Inside the Una Corda, the 100kg, 21st Century Piano Built for Nils Frahm

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.

niucstring

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:

  • Klemen Kotar

    It’s always tempting to buy the new NI stuff (I’d really like to get this and Reaktor 6) but if one waits for some time, it’s going to be included in the next Komplete Ultimate. This is good news as well as bad news as I’d like to have thingies NOW but I’m well aware buying it now would not change the upgrade price to Komplete. Damn.

  • spoonfeeder

    and what a difference

  • Freeks

    Another add-on to the famous Not-So-Ultimate-Komplete-Afterall by NI.

    Will they ever just swap the whole “Komplete” thing to subscription based and you get all new stuff with the same monthly/annual bill.

    • Klemen Kotar

      Depends on the price, for 15eur/month sure, for 20eur/month maybe, anything more than that probably not. Actually, 20eur a month is about the same as buying Komplete updates every two years and considering you could have stuff as soon as it’s out, yeah, I’m all for it 🙂

  • The Una Corda is exciting as a thoroughly modern instrument. As I’ve pointed out before, however, it hearkens back in spirit to the early fortepianos such as that which Mozart played (which only had a 5-octave range). This month Nord released two new sample sets for the downloadable Nord Piano Library: a 1791 Walter “Mozart” instrument and an 1812 Broadwood “Beethoven” piano. And Pianoteq has had virtual models of these and other early pianos for some time. It’s fascinating to me that NI and other virtual instrument makers are responding to modern pianists’ desire to go beyond the conventional world of the grand piano we’ve had for the past 100 years, and into the past and the future of different piano timbres.

  • Chris Stack

    Great stuff. I think the Una Corda would fit my piano style well.

  • Chris Stack

    Great stuff. I think the Una Corda would fit my piano style well.

  • Definitely one I’m earmarking for future acquisition.

  • Definitely one I’m earmarking for future acquisition.

  • elipse

    An Irresistibly beautiful instrument.

    (After a weekend of pondering, I tip over the piggy bank before falling sideways into the swimming pool.)

  • Inspiring!