Light-activated self playing piano?

Would a self-playing piano be possible? I guess what I'm asking is, can you rig a piano so that when light hits the keys, they are triggered to play? (Think: those easy-learning pianos where the keys light up for you, only self-playing). Is there any sort of sensor that could trigger a down-ward pressure on the keys when light reaches them? Sorry for my lack of tech know-how. I'm just trying to get a sense of what might be possible for future reference. If this is not doable, what might be a feasible, lower-key arduino project involving piano? I'm not expecting specifics, just broad strokes and a general direction. I am a noob and realize that this would not be something I can tackle at this moment in time. I'm just very interested in the musical uses for Arduino.

Thanks!

FreddieMercury: Would a self-playing piano be possible?

Yes. If you are willing to spend months of your time, and at least a couple of hundreds of dollars (on electronics alone).

FreddieMercury: can you rig a piano so that when light hits the keys, they are triggered to play? (Think: those easy-learning pianos where the keys light up for you, only self-playing). Is there any sort of sensor that could trigger a down-ward pressure on the keys when light reaches them?

Not without destroying the keys or ruining the looks of the whole piano. The easiest light sensor is an LDR (Light Dependent Resistor), but it would be a real pain to build that into your piano keys.

FreddieMercury: If this is not doable, what might be a feasible, lower-key arduino project involving piano?

There's a lot of great MIDI projects you can do. I've always liked these MIDI piano lights.

I recently built an Arduino MIDI controller (full tutorial can be found here), that I use to edit my music on the computer, or to control my Roland digital piano. It can control the DSP effects, synthesizer settings, sounds ...

You could also make an electric Arduino piano with capacitive keys. You can even use cans for the keys.

Pieter

It's all possible, with more or less investments.

You can add a light sensor (LDR, phototransistor...) to each piano key. Any idea how to distinguish ambient light from a "play" signal?

You can add an actor (solenoid, motor...) to each piano key, to press that key on command.

You can connect both the sensor to the actor without any further controller in between. Or you connect all sensors and actors to an Arduino, using port expanders, and implement the distinction of ambient light and true signals in code.

You also can use an IR remote control instead of the sensors for each key, which will detect valid signals only, regardless of ambient light.

You also can let an Arduino play the sound, eliminating the need for the actors for pressing keys.

The hardware will be the most expensive part of your project, but if you are willing to spend a real piano, the additional cost will be relatively low ;-)

DrDiettrich: The hardware will be the most expensive part of your project, but if you are willing to spend a real piano, the additional cost will be relatively low ;-)

I recently bought a working piano for €125, the real big cost will be the solenoids and their drivers, (and a compressor if you want to use an air-powered method).

Take a look at this project. It's not something you can build in a weekend.

Take a look at this project. It's not something you can build in a weekend.

Wow! A real labor of love!

If it were my project, I would not have added the big LCD monitor. It detracts from the beauty of the piano and inner workings.

Wow!! Thanks, guys; You have made my night with these awesome suggestions. The midi piano thing is so cool, and I hadn't even considered having the piano sound trigger lights instead of the opposite. Seems a lot more feasible for sure. I'm definitely going to look into the solenoid/motor setup that Diettrich suggested. So much musical potential with Arduino..I saw a laser harp somebody created by cue-ing a midi note to play when the beam is interrupted--amazing stuff!

And Pieter, that was a fascinating article on the home-made player piano. Great image documentation too:) Now I know that building the sensor into each key would not be a good way to go--thanks for helping to narrow the options down!!

FreddieMercury: And Pieter, that was a fascinating article on the home-made player piano. Great image documentation too :)

It's just something I once came across and bookmarked out of interest, I didn't write it myself, if that is what you were thinking ;).