Thomas P Aronis

Stringed Musical Instrument

United States Patent
Patent Number 4175466 A
Filing date June 21st 1978 and granted Nov 27 1979

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“..Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved stringed instrument of the type wherein the strings are arranged in sets of octaves, and a manual keyboard is provided for selecting various strings to vibrate when the strings are strummed, and wherein substantially all of the playing area is accessible to the performer for the strumming of such strings.”





The final two patents in this chronology are written in awareness of other US patents, which changes the flavour of the text significantly. Aronis and Newton (to follow) are all about difference: to depict their designs as inventive steps that significantly improve an aspect of a previous design — an approach that was highly informative in formulating my own rebuttal statement.

The Aronis formulation attempts to maximize the playing surface of the strings by placing the entire mechanism underneath. Damping felt is placed directly on top of the key itself and the keyboard is sprung with an extension spring from point 36. Figures 2 through 6 (within figure 3.5) show how the keyboard mechanism works.

Aronis presents a detailed criticism of Wigand, Back and Young from three perspectives, firstly that the playing surface is too small because the keyboard housing and mechanism are placed above the strings, secondly, that the mechanisms are excessively complicated, and thirdly, because they require greater spring tension.

Example image - aligned to the rightI disagree on nearly all of these points, but I do think that that the Aronis design has some strengths. In principle it should provide a reasonably good keyboard feel because of the long pivot points on the keyboard (the length is similar to Back) but I do not agree that the spring tension will be significantly different overall; the single spring point in this case might even lead to problems in damping the treble side of the instrument. The design is certainly simpler, but this gain (similar for Henner) must be balanced against the difficulties of placing, and maintaining an action that is positioned directly under the strings — an area that is very inaccessible. Lastly, I do not concur that the playing surface is maximised through this step. A string surface where there is damping felt underneath the strings cannot be deemed playable; it is vulnerable, and would be easily damaged by the right hand strum/pluck actions, and, in my opinion, benefits from the protection of a keyboard action which houses it. Nor do I necessarily agree that access to the entire string surface is desirable at all — there is a relative range of desirable striking points on the string (for all techniques of strum and pluck) which is roughly in the upper 1/3 of each string, and so long as this area of string surface is fully accessible, the playing surface can be said to be optimised.