Silent piano technology is ever progressing and ever adapting to suit the needs of the modern pianist. Many crave the touch of a true acoustic, but also want the added convenience of digital compatibility for the likes of silent play, recorded play and sharing of sound.
Today we're speaking about what could easily be considered one of the best examples of silent systems at work - The C.Bechstein Vario System. C.Bechstein are always innovators and as explained in our article on the philosophy behind C.Bechstein, their pianos are always made with the future in mind.
In order to make sure this information was as accurate and impactful as possible, we spoke to Christopher Lenz, Sales Manager at C.Bechstein for his expert insight into the system. Without further delay, let’s delve into this momentous system!
So what is Vario?
The best place to start when looking at the Vario system is to remember that C.Bechstein are exclusively a manufacturer of the finest acoustic pianos in the world. Unlike many other manufacturers who dabble in both digital and acoustic models, C.Bechstein believe that the pinnacle of sound can only come from acoustic origin. This is why the Vario system is so innovative, as it uses an acoustic base to hybridise the two worlds together, connecting the acoustic instrument with the digital world.
The C.Bechstein Vario system works via mute functionality whereby with the simple pull of a lever, a stop rail rolls out, preventing the hammerheads from hitting the strings and allowing for silent play without reduction in touch. Of course, with this silent functionality too comes the ability to play with headphones so as not to disturb others whilst still allowing yourself to become fully and truly immersed in sound..
However the true beauty of the Vario also lies in it’s further functionality, with seamless integration with iPads, tablets and smartphones to allow for not only ease of use with the Vario system app, but instant integration with various music apps to continue exploring the music you have played and recorded.
How The System Works
To truly uncover the immense level of technology within the Vario system, we would need an entire novel. Instead we have focused on the key framework as to why we believe the C.Bechstein Vario system is simply a silent system from another world.
As mentioned, the simple mechanical lever is all that is needed to activate the mute rail. You have a sound module on the left side of the piano which is used for the enhanced compatibility, generating digital tone and using exceptional sound samples recorded in the C.Bechstein studio from their most prestigious concert grand piano, the D282. This instrument is valued at over £130,000 because it is the epitome of what is considered piano. This level of detail gives you the full concert grand C.Bechstein sound, no matter your model.
One question we often ask when companies introduce silent systems is accuracy and the differences between playing acoustically and digitally on a silent system and if the user will feel and lost nuances between the two.
C.Bechstein have thought of this and actually have their own sister company called 'C.Bechstein Digital' based in Germany who are purely dedicated to focusing on digital research and development within these areas on digital piano software. When it comes to the Vario system, they have developed a sensor rail located underneath the keys. This is a fully contactless system that uses essentially high frequency laser beams and light to measure the precise movement of the keys at an incredibly high frequency. This extremely sensitive tool makes it so you can catch very detailed nuances from the pianist and translate the dynamic expression in the same way you would on an acoustic system with this digital instrument opposed to a sensor system where the keys are loaded or must strike a sensor.
As mentioned, C.Bechstein are not the only innovators in silent piano systems, however what does separate them is their constant innovation towards the future of the piano. The Vario currently is within it’s second generation. Where the first system, now known as the Vario Classic, was a built in screen on the side of the piano, C.Bechstein realised quickly that these technologies are easily outdated and would mean that the piano would need changing every few years as the technology advanced.
To overcome this, C.Bechstein instead focused on the technology that changes the most in our lives and adapted their pianos to this - Smartphones and tablets. The new generation of Vario, places an immense level of sensitivity to the pace of smartphones, tablets and connectivity of modern devices.
Most people have a high priority to have a state of the art, current device, so in a very brief time frame things become outdated and it can be difficult to include new systems within pianos, as is the case for other silent systems. This is why C.Bechstein developed the Vario system to sit underneath the piano without a screen. You can still turn on and off and select between the four favourite sounds you have saved via the system, however, additional functionality is controlled via the Vario app for free on app and google play store. There you can select different sounds, set a metronome, listen to your playing through headphones, record, playback and share the recording via MIDI data. Of course, all of this also allows the files created on the Vario system to be compatible with production tools such as garageband, logic, pro tools and other DAW softwares for music production.
By placing an effort to focus the system around modern technology instead of simply the piano, C.Bechstein have created an evergreen system that will truly stand the test of time. So whenever a new device is launched, as technology develops, so too does the Vario system.
Silent systems can seem a little daunting at first, however their uses are plentiful. From somebody loving in an environment where noise is a conscious concern and those who still wish to practice at later times without disturbing others. But also those who are looking for a playing experience that allows you to escape from any surrounding distractions and background noise. The Vario allows for this integrated, holistic style of play through headphones so you can focus without being disturbed.
The Vario is also particularly interesting for composers who love acoustic instruments but perhaps lack adequate recording systems or feel more inspiration behind a real piano. As you can imagine, if you’re trying to compose at a small MIDI keyboard with a laptop, it’s less inspiring than sitting behind a real acoustic instrument and all of the grandeur that comes with that. A lot of people tend to forget that vario doubles up as a way of recording an acoustic instrument instead of just acting as a silent system.
Another important avenue to mention is for both students and teachers - As it allows for seamless file sharing between devices, the teacher or student can forward a recording to the other before a lesson begins and allow them to continue to collaborate even whilst not in the room together.
Whilst C.Bechstein have built the Vario system with the future in mind, they have also not abandoned what makes the Vario system so universally versatile. Perhaps one of the most wonderful part of the Vario system is that C.Bechstein know that all acoustic instruments have their own individual character, so if you really fall in love with one particular piano that has a warmer tone or richer bass and it doesn’t currently have a vario, all C.Bechstein brand models within the Concert, Residence, Academy ranges, as well as the W.Hoffman Professional, Traditional and Vision lines can all be retro fitted with the vario system so long as they were built after the year 2000. For models older than this, it’s not impossible to fit, but can sometimes be a little trickier.
All in all we absolutely love the C.Bechstein Vario System and know that you will too. It acts as another reminder of the power of music and how it allows us all to connect. empowers them to create. If you would like to learn more about the C.Bechstein Vario System, contact our experts today.