Back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, I loved the piano and practiced it obsessively. But even in those days there was something missing - there are, give or take a few, and depending on the piano; 230 or so strings inside that instrument, but somehow I could never quite get at them, could never feel in contact with them in the way that I felt that I should be able to. I did feel that sense of "direct contact with the sound" when I played the violin or the guitar, but I struggled to reach a reasonable standard on violin (I never could stand my own tuning!) and I did not (and do not) really get along with the guitar interface.

It was in this setting that I had my first encounter with a twelve bar Schmidt autoharp. Though short, it left a vivid memory. The instrument looked so much like a small piano soundboard, and at once I felt that it should work like a small, portable piano. I played the instrument, I loved the immediate and complete changes of chord that it gave and the gratifying changes of timbre that contact with the string surface provided - of course the chord choice was very limited, but surely you could easily change the chord bars? I attempted some melody. A problem: the over damped system did not allow the melody notes that I wanted over the chords, did not seem to allow anything in fact, other than the members of the chord itself. If you wanted another note, you had to change chord. Still, I was not immediately put off, and continued to experiment with the harmonic textures it created.

I grew aware of a second problem; a significant one from my piano perspective; the slick changes of chord very quickly sounded repetitive, and try as I might I couldn't seem to vary the texture as I wanted. Some things, change of register for example, were almost too easy, other things such as stabs and more open-space textures, with silence, seemed impossible to achieve, in fact it felt like the instrument created a momentum of its own. A piano just stops; the second that you allow the sustain pedal up, but ceasing to play this instrument, even for a moment seemed to cause it to create a cacophonous racket by itself; it just wouldn't shut up!

I fell in love with the potential and possibility the autoharp presented, but I understood the limitations of the instrument, and why it couldn't react effectively to the pianistic technique that I had developed. I studied how it worked and saw that because of the over-damped system on which it relied, it was only superficially adaptive to pianistic technique.

The instrument presented in these pages is the result of a long musical search. For me it was an answer, which led to deeper questions about instruments, their tuning systems and the interfaces that they present. For you it may be of some interest, but for a very small number of you - frustrated pianists like me, who long for direct contact with the strings - these pages may be revolutionary.