In which I reminisce about childhood music lessons, and evening television, build the LEGO® Ideas Grand Piano while listening to some of my favorite piano music. Then I troubleshoot it, with some help from the fan designer.
Somewhere lost in the midsts of time, I spent my Thursday evenings going to piano lessons. My personal progress was approximately in proportion to my lack of commitment commitment to regular practice, but I enjoyed nonetheless. During the early 80’s, I found these lessons to be a little bit of a drag: Doctor Who tended to shown on the ABC from Monday to Thursday: and the final episode of any story (back then they were typically 4 episodes long) would due to screen at the same time as my lesson. No Netflix, no iTunes, no DVDs and the timer in a VCR could easily be disrupted by failing to find a blank tape before I headed off to my lesson.
I probably gained more, as a person, from spending this time learning the piano and musical theory, to subsequently catch up on all of those episodes while at university, than if I had not had my music lessons (Australia was privileged to have reruns of Pertwee, Bakers -both Tom and Colin- Davison and McCoy episodes for what feels like the better part of a decade. Frequently paired up with the Goodies, Kenny Everett or Monkey. But I digress).
But this is not the story of my childhood TV viewing habits, beyond what you have already heard. In fact, despite my continued lack of commitment, I managed to complete my Grade 4 exam before I got to the pointy end of schooling (Students committed to studying piano as a final year school subject would typicaly be playing at an 8th grade standard). But I learned a bit more as I went along, about how music was put together. I diversified into Jazz, Pop and Gospel styles for a while. Despite the lack of respect I have shown the instrument over the years ( I was really excited when I learned about the concept of John Cage’s Prepared Piano music), I often turned to the piano in my early 20s as a form of personal entertainment and relaxation either on my own, or with friends. Some friends were happy to suggest that I possessed a unique sense of syncopation – playing off the beat. At the time it sounded a little bit rude but, on reflection, perhaps not entirely unjustified.
That said, the music that I played was not necessarily be the same as the music that I would listen to. And so, as I sat down to build the LEGO Ideas Grand Piano (generously sent over by the LEGO Group), I looked up some of my favourite piano music from across the years as I set about building the set. Ultimately, there was a lot of musical replay: this is a big build, taking around 10 hours. While the playlist focussed primarily on classical piano music, I may have diverged a little, after a while.
So, I began by opening the shipping box, and feeling just a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the package. With 3662 elements, including some powered up element, it is a hefty container. And then I see something I haven’t seen for some time. Probably ever (this doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, just if it did, I didn’t notice): this set has a lid that lifts right up and off. Held onto the bottom by 4 tapes, this is a sturdy 2 part box. Inside is a second cardboard box, occupying around half the volume, and all up 21 different numbered bags. Well, probably closer to thirty: there were a couple of softer, unmarked bags, as well as bags numbered 1 to 21. Looking back at the contents, we see the powered up elements packed in some of the extra , unnumbered bags, and I realise that while the box says ‘Powered Up Inside’ and Batteries Not included, no where on the outside of the box does it specify that 6 AAA Batteries are what are required. Now, if you are an AFOL who dabbles in a bit of motorised LEGO Activity, odds are that you have half a dozen AAA batteries lying around. But if you dont, you will want them before you get to the end of bag 3. Just saying. Don’t say I didnt warn you.
Once again, with the help of Mrs Rambling Brick taking care of the knolling for elemental overview, I sat down, and prepared for the build. The building instructions are a solid piece of documentation: Opening with a discussion of the LEGO Ideas fan creator, Donny Chen, as well as LEGO Designers Woon Tze and Steen Stig Andersen, the book is interspersed with quotes from poets, composers and thinkers about the nature of music, and its role in society. I mentioned it is thick: five hundred and sixty four parts all up.
The building instructions divide the build into eight segments: The base of the case, incorporating the powered up elements (but more on that later); the sound board;More of the case, and the strings; the legs and pedals; the keyboard and action; dampers, fallboard and music stand;.the top board and prop; and finally the piano stool.
So, without further ado, let us move on to the build. If you wish to follow my musical choices, you can follow the music I listened to during the build on this Spotify Playlist.
Section 1: Bags 1-3. The Base, And Player Mechanism
Erik Satie: Gymnopedies and Gnossienes. There is something about the minimalist nature of Satie’s work, that made it feel like a natural choice to commence the build: this is a large build, and the slow, ordered phrasing of gymnopedie #1 brings a degree of clarity to me. The original piano of this tune was the third arrangement that I actually heard. The first was by the 70’s and 80’s insturmental rock group, Sky, on their debut album; the next was on a Cleo Lane television special, retitled Drifting, Dreaming. I probably find the solo piano to be the version than gets me focussed. Gymnopedies number 2 and 3 follow similar rhythmic and tonal motifs, helping me to maintain my focus. The Gnossienes are far more mysterious tunes, invoking curiosity, and leaving me wondering how the build will progress.
The first bag builds up what appears to be an L-shaped wall,with a combination of black and tan elements. There are studs running down the outside edges of the tan panel. Another tan wall is added, built up of bricks, with some Technic bricks with two pegs on one end, and exposed studs on the other. It plugs into the longer tan wall, as we prepare for the second bag:
Bag two commences with another short wall, with many brackets attached. It sits on top of the end result of bag 1 for a while. As we progree, we build a long triangle, is attached to the tan edge of our contruction. It become apparent now that there is a taper to the paino case, and the wider end is where we ultimately place the keyboard. But let us not get away from ourselves.
We lie the casing down, and prepare two 16 stud long axles, with a number of technic lift arms, and levers in red, white and blue. These short levers are placed at right angles to each other, and will ultimately play a role in the ‘pianola’ function. I refer to this later on in the build as the ‘pianola roll.’
Not shown in the knoll, but positioned in this stage of the build are the Powered Up elements: the battery box/smart hub; a simple linear motor and a WeDo distance sensor.
Having had Satie’s music of repeat for a while now during the build, the time has come for a change of pace
Mozart: Sonata No 16 in C major K545 was written in 1788. Mozart was 32 at the time. (He died only a few years later in 1791). Mozart considered this sonata to be amongst his simpler works – the harmonic structure is relatively simple compared to the mysterious aspects of Satie’s work, and it is rythmically unchallenging. Having looked forward at the building instructions, I see I am in for some repetitive work, and as such, it feels appropriate to play a tune that will drive the process forward.
Our final bag of this first section has very few bricks, and more than a few Technic elements. We start by adding in a rod – made by connecting a series of axles with connectors. thee is a rod dropping down through the bottom of the model, which looks like it is waiting for. future step to reveal its functionality. I suspect however, based on my experiences playing inside pianos over the years, that it will connect to the sustain pedal, and be involved in lifting dampers away from the ‘strings.’
During the next few steps we put together a row of vertical rods. They move independently of each other, and are built in two identical groups of 5, which are placed on either side of a rack of 7.
The time has now come to test the motor: Open the Powered Up App; Select ‘Play’ in the top right corner, and touch on the picture of the LEGO Ideas Piano. Select play, and pair your device with the included smart hub. Play a tune (the instructions recommend Donny Chen’s Playday: it is a good choice. Make sure the bar with the red whit and blue levers turns. You might not get a chance to fix things later if it jams.
Section 2: Bags 4 and 5- The Soundboard And Case.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas. As I might have implied from my earlier discussion of piano lessons, I never reached a technical ability to even consider playing a Beethoven Piano Sonata. The Sonata Number 8 in C Minor, the Pathétique was written 10 years after the Mozart Sonata we played earlier. It embodies the change in musical styles that we see as we as we approach the period of artistic romanticism that came to dominate the 19th century. While the Mozart sonata we listened to previously had an almost music box like simplicity, these is a far more emotional in nature. One of the times I heard part of this piece was through the use of the second movement’s cantabile as the theme to Karl Haas’ Adventures in Good Music, which ran from 1970 to to 2007. I mainly listened to this program in the late 80’s and 90’s, during school and university holiday periods, and I think it played a large role in shaping my appreciation of music. The host’s dry delivery was unable to conceal the passion that he felt for the subject matter. Unfortunately, it is not available to hear on any streaming or podcast service today.
Like the base around Old Trafford, the soundboard is based on a lattics of Technic 6×8 frames, pinned together, and covered in plates initially, and then tiles. Wedge plates are used to bring the shape in line with what we might be expecting. We place a number of pearl gold plates with clips to help support the ‘strings’ in the future. I may have placed some at right angles to the correct direction here.
We place the sound board over the top of the Powered Up Elements. I hope they are firmly attached… fixing their position again in the future might be a little challenging.
I continue listening to the Beethoven Sonatas at this time, and we move onto the distal aspect of the case. We have lots of black arches, as well as more tan elements, coupled with some pearl gold curves, and silver studs.
We start building what appears to be a brick, capped off with a row of arches. I look at those sockets, and wonder what they might be leading towards. With such a definate break between the previous sectioin and this, I am wondering how they will be able to be joined together in a way that is stong and stable.
We stand this up, and I start to get a mind numbing appreciation of the scale that we are going to be dealing with…
Now, it turns out those sockets have a matching pair in the previously built aspects of the case,and those technic pin holes line up with some in the first section too. We put together a small frame, with some ball connectors that fit in the sockets:
These line up with our recent build like so, and the frame clicks down, ensuring nothing will come apart in a hurry, without the aid of a brick separator.
while we might cover up this remaining gap with a plate and tiles, I might have forgotten to pause and take a photo at this time. We now have the piano base, and sound board, as well as what feels like a little more than half the case. I am appeciative at this time that we have not completely built in the battery box. I’m sure there must be a cunning plang moving forward.
Section 3: Bags 6-8, Completing The Case.
We return to a selection of Mozart Piano Sonatas. The ‘Alla Turca’ is first off. The theme and variations of the first movemnet drives the next part of the build alone, and thern the more famous ‘Rondo Alla Turca’ takes off, just as we are installing the additional aspects of the black case.
We start this next section building what appears to be a 3 walled room: with two side walls in black, and the back wall in tan. As we build it up, the side walls start to taper, and I find myself wondering what role a couple of holes in the back wall, with blue connector pegs will play.
We lie it flat, and see how it might fit into the overall structure of the piano. Imagine that I have laid it down in fron of the main case, in preperation for future work.
Moving into the next bag, we take a long axle, and install it with a red flag on the end. This is installed in the constructed frame from the previous bag, which is now rotated, and attached onto the front of the piano case. This flag bounces up and down, in front of the WeDo distance sensor, and will be instrumental in moving the tune along, as you play on the keyboard, in conjunction with the Powered Up App.
Next we build the pegboard, which runs across the front of the sound board, and is where we attach the near end of our ‘strings’ – pearl gold flex tubing, in various lengths. I do find it annoying, attempting to get each of these rods to approxomate a straight line. Ultimately, I remained a bit annoyed. But not as much as I initially expected.
Once we install this into the case, with the tubes running either side of the vertical grey rods of from a bags earlier, our model is starting to look like a piano. The peg board lies on top, leaving scope for some now vertiacal (previously potentially horizontal) studs, for us to attach the inverted arches, which will ultimately hold these elements in. We also see some nested arches coming down over the front edges of the piano case.
With our 9th bag, we move on to complete the case: there are two aspects: the ‘S’ like curve along the right side of the case, just behind where the keyboard will sit: a simple composition of multiple curves. Emerging from behind them are two technic lift arms that pivot. We then take a series of bricks, and essentially stack a wall, including a number of bricks with half a peg – these pegs attach a beam which provides strength along the length of the panel built.
This panel attaches to the lift arms behind the curves, and serves to provide access the Powered Up Battery Box.
Some further tiles along the lower edges of the piano on either side see the case finally complete.
At this point, I am starting to notice my fingerprints showing up on the black case of the piano. I suspect a polish with a microfibre cloth might be necessary before the final photographs.
Interlude: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Potential Pain Point, And Opportunity For Troubleshooting!
At the end of this bag, you are again invited to commect to the Powered Up App, enter the play mode and press the reset button.
This runs the ‘pianola roll’ backwards, until the short orange arm runs into the grey lift arm, stopping the motor from turning.
It is vitally important that when in the reset position, that the red arms are parallel to the base of the case, and the white bars are pointing downwards.
This determines the resting position of the keyboard – and if it is not quite right, it might reqire a little adjustment of the rubber support, under the grey lift arm. to ensure the axle rests in the right position. I don’t think the manual emphasises this point enough here: being out by 30º will result in your keyboard looking a bit like it is being played by a ghost, at rest, and detracts from the displayability, somewhat.
It is possible to remove the keyboard after completion, but if this is set correctly now, you might be saved some pain later.
Section 4: The Piano Legs [Bag 10]
Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition is probably better recognised in its orchestral version, arranged by Ravel. My introduction probably came through the realisation by Isao Tomita, who produced an analog synthesizer version in the mid 70’s. It took me a while to fully appreciate it – probably not until my early 20’s or so. It is a great example of programmatic music: a series of short pieces representing different subject matter, with short ‘Promanades’ between the pictures.
The Most embarrassing part of the review, I appear to have failed to take any photos of the parts for this stage knolled out, or indeed during the construction phase. The three legs are identical, and plug into some holes in the base of the piano using 6 connector pins each. 2×2 Quarter circle tiles are used to imply a degree of woodcarving on the legs as such. small wheels on the end (without tires) mean that it can be rolled from place to place, without to much risk of scratchig the furniture.
We also add the pedals: only one works – the ‘sustain’ pedal on the right, which raises the entire damper mechanism up.
Section 5: Bags 11- 15: The Keyboard.
I am grateful for the variation I have in the music now, as the Mussorgsky continues. The keyboard is spread over four bags, and there is little variation, in the composition of elements or the construction. Lets look at is all as one component, made of several subbuilds.
A piano’s keyboard mechanism is amongst one of the more complex aspects of its construction, and this is no different. The keys rest on plates – included in seperate bags, and ommitted from the knoll. Inverted ‘icecream cone’ elements provide a place for them to rest.
There are three designs for the keys: White keys are either set to rest on either side of clusters of black keys – C,E,F and B are similar – and you can see the cross-section of them at the end of the keyboard. The keys between the black notes (D, G and A) have a different construction, with the last 2×2 esggment clipped onto the end. Finally, the black keys have identical construction. Making them in clusers of five and seven motes keeps you alert during the building process, and then we clip them together, after adding white hammers, designed to swing up strike the strings proportionally to the force applied to them. Notice how I diligently put the keyboard together in the wrong order, above, before finally correcting it.
Also… if you look closely, at rest, it would appear that ‘white notes between two black notes – D, G and A – appear to be slightly dropped at rest.
We can now slide the keyboard into the piano, adding a fram, to hide the edges of the keyboard. Now, remember a few bags ago when I said it was really important to set up the ‘pianola roll’ so that after being reset, all of the levers were perfectly or horizontal? I didn’t do that before I took these photos. As such, when I inserted my keyboard, it looked a little less even, with some keys almost completely depressed:
I will return to trouble shooting the appearance after we complete the building…
But, it is certainly looking like a piano.
Section 6: Bags 16 and 17. The Dropboard, Music Stand and Dampers.
And this is where is got a bit strange. I mentioned earlier how I had become intrigued by the idea of a prepared piano, as described by John Cage. I found a couple of works for prepared piano – where the strings are interfered with in unnatural ways – and found myself reminded of the appeal: the almost bell like quality of the sounds. If you are easily disturbed, or have a weak constitution, you might choose to move the play list on now. It remains in the 20th century, but progresses to the minimalist stylings of Philip Glass, whose ostinato rhythms are readily recognisable, and while occaisionally dissonant, much more palatable.
The Dropboard refers to the lid of the piano, that protects the keyboard. It is built up over a series of plates, with arches, tiles and slopes, while the underside is covered in inverted tiles, including the one decorated element in this set: a black inverted 2×2 tile featuring the 1932 LEGO Logo. A number of 1×3 inverted tiles also feature along the bottom of the front edge of the lid.
Next, we also install an elongated music stand alongwith the panelling along the top/front aspect of the piano: there are a few panels infront of it, allowing a piece of sheet music to be supported. This will probably be realised in the final step, with a 4×4 tile.
As well as the stand, we also build 17 dampers. these are placed over the vertical grey axles that we installed wayback in step one! In a real piano, the damper is lifted off the strings when the key is struck, and release of the key causes the damper into position, resting on the string: resulting in the sound being damped – the string prevented from vibrating any further. The dampers do not tend to be located over the higher strings – which ring for a short time, but tend to face much faster than an undamped lower string.
The sustain pedal on a piano (the one on the left) also has the effect of lifting all of the dampers off the piano strings. This effect is duplicated in the Grand piano: with individual dampers being lifted while a key is pressed, but the entire assembly is raised when the pedal is puched down.
Stage 7: Bags 18 to 20 – The Top Board
Another left turn on the play list. This stage involves some steady layering of bricks, and I turn to Dave Grusin‘s Soundtrack Music to the John grisham legal thriller, The Firm. Its odd. I only saw the film once, but the steady driving beat of the man theme stayed with me for years. I first encountered Grusin’s music on the soundtrack album for The Fabulous Baker Boys – and that remained on high rotation in my car for years. That album rather features a predominantly electronic piano, or jazz quartet in the non diagetic music. And it turns out that Michelle Pfeiffer can carry a tune, extremely well – as demonstrated in the performance of My Funny Valentine on that album demonstrates.
The top board is more complexly engineered than you might first expect it to be. The board has the hinged flap that lifts back over the main part of the board – allowing access to the music stand. There are also two hinges that attach to the main body of the piano case.
The board is essentailly many rows of bricks, stacked on top of one another. While the build is robust in one direction, without reinforcement, it would be weak along the other – and so more bricks with pegs are used – spaced so that the pegs can easly enter the holes in technic beams. This is a great technique to use anytime you are comntemplating a large- flat sheet of bricks.
Adding the Drop Board certainly leaves us with a very nearly completed product.
Section 8, Bag 27: The Piano Stool.
We are almost there. Another jazz recording: this time it is Davis Benoit playing Linus and Lucy – one of the pieces imortalised by the Vince Guaraldi Trio in a number of cartoons based on the Peanuts comic strip – this music feels right arranged for solo piano, and the tune transports me back to those childhood days, when life was a whiole lot less complcated than today!
Nearly as much of an important part of the purchase of a piano, as the instrument itslef is the piano stool: A good stool will ensure good posture and hand position. It will also be adjustable, so as to suit different players, as well as to suit the child as they grow up. This bag also includes a sheet of music – on a 6×6 tile. The tune is Playday, composed by Donny Chen – the fan designer of the set. He used this tune as background music in the video that accompanied his LEGO Ideas submission.
A truly functional piano stool will also provide you with a place to store some sheet music. And this is about the only flaw I can find with this part of the model. It can be raised and lowered, and the top section of the stool is essentailly installed with the main direction of studs down! We go on to cover the entire stool in tiles. Inverted, rounded 2×2 circular tiles are used on the top of the seat, to give it a ‘pintucked’ look.
Powering Things Up:
This model has a lot to offer the builder: the beautifully shaped case, the working keyboard mechanism, and the hours of construction time. Over all, I probably spent around 8 – 10 hours on building the model. But there is another feature we have touched on, but not really looked at yet: the integration with Powered Up.
Now that the model is finished, and the keyboard is in place, I reconnect the Powered Up hub to my phone over the magic of Bluetooth. The app gives me the option to select a creative canvas, or the programs designed to run with an ever increasing number of models. we select the piano: It gives us two modes: Listen and play.
The Listen mode gives us a choice of solo piano works, which will play through the phone, as the motor turns the ‘pianola roll’ – the rod with technic levers that rotates, moving the piano’s keys. The ,usic is played through the peaker of the the device running the Powered Up app. The keys have only one pattern that they follow: in no way releated to the piece being played. Of note, one of the pieces on offer is playdoy Playday. This is the same tune we get the sheet music for, on the printed tile.
The Play mode is a little misleading: you are presented with a somewhat smaller list of tunes that you can ‘play’: this music is, rythmically, relatively simple.
Each note in the tune is triggered by any note being played on the keyboard: there is a 32 stud long axle, overlying the axle, and every time a key is pressed, this axle is raised (along with the hammer moving, and the damper lifting off the string, if applicable). On the end of the bar is a small panel, which is waved past the WeDo distance sensor with any keystroke.
While the original marketing material suggests that:
This feels like it is saying that the piano can be well and truly played. However, the wording has changed a little, with the main product page showing the following image:
Another disappointing aspect of both play and listen mode is that none of the music displayed on screen even pretends to represent the music being played through the speaker of the phone. (or even the notes played by the piano keyboard).
Is A True ‘Play’ Mode Possible With The Current Powered Up Ecosystem?
I dont think so.
At present, the distance sensors available to use within the powered up App include the WeDo distance sensor, included in this set, and the Boost colour/distance sensor. The boost sensor can return a value from zero to 10. The WeDo sensor from 0 to 100.
While they are useful for measuring distance and movement, it is probably over a range of about 15 cm. the width of the keyboard would certainly tax this, with a span closer to 20cm. Other movement within the piano – including the hammers and dampers might also interfere with the accuracy of such a system. a degree of interference.
It could , in theory, be possible to generate a pitch, based on the distance between the movement sensor and another structure, such as a piano hammer. Unfortunately, the Powered Up App does not have an appropiate sound library in the current version, and we cannot readily add a custom sound library at this time.
Fan designer Interview:
I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Donny Chen, the fan designer who submitted the model to LEGO Ideas –
Is there any particular music that you listened to while designing your model? Not really. I don’t really listen to music when I play with the bricks, and after a long day of work, time for the ears to have a break.
Do any composers or performers provide you with special inspiration? I like Chopin, Ravel and Rachmaninov. As for pianist there are too many to name.You have paid a great deal of attention to the mechanism for the piano keys, hammers and dampers.
Were there any particular aspects of the mechanism that were difficult to design? A few of them were quite challenging, especially when they were all so interconnected. The counter-weight for the keys took me a while to refine (the piano keys need to go back to neutral position after every key press), Also the key stroke distance, and the hinge position of the fall board.
What do you think are the major differences between your Ideas submission, and the final product? A: the pianonla function was simplified. In my original submission I divided the keyboard into 4 sections, each moving in different speed, so the key movements looks more random. To be able to connect the piano with smartphone is a bonus, my original submissions wasn’t able to make any noise.
Had you always intended to have the ‘pianola’ mechanism build into the model? The idea of adding the pianola function only came into mind when the majority of the model is finished, and I already had a physical model to play with. I noticed there was a huge empty space in the back of the piano body, better make some use of it. I started with a hand crank version, later on developed into a wind up version, wasn’t happy about it so in the end, so I just put a motor inside.
Are there any parts of the build which you think are important to pay attention to? When building the camshaft mechanism, make sure all the black and reddish brown pieces can move freely, otherwise it creates fiction that effect the pianola function. Also there is a easy fix for the unevenness of keyboard (Ed. as we will demonstrate below).
What are you most proud of about the piano? It accurately captures the mechanism aspect of a real grand piano, from the keys, dampers to pedals, and even the piano bench.
The COVID 19 Lockdowns have seen a wave of activity on LEGO Ideas. Have you been working on anything in particular during this time? (LEGO or otherwise) I am indeed working on another project, still need some more fine tunings, I hope to finish it soon and able to submit on LEGO ideas.
Thanks for your Time
Impressions of the final model, and a little trouble shooting.
This model is big. The pictures do not really do it justice – especially if shown without context. Here it is on a 32×32 baseplate. All of a sudden it appears enormous!
There is one other thing that really impresses me: it is virtually stud free. Certainly on the external surfaces. While this is a hallmark of many AFOL builds, it is rare to see such a level of ‘studlessness’ in an official set. Designers typically ensure some studs are on display, if only to reinforce that this is a model made of LEGO Bricks. We have some studs on display on the soundboard, reminding us of the medium we are working with.
The keyboard mechanism compares very favorably with that of a real piano, and the effort that has gone into color matching the elements if the set with those to be found in the real instrument.
Before I moved on in my look at the keyboard, I went back a few stages ( it is easy to remove the keyboard) and adjusted the ‘zero mechanism’ – found at the back left, behind the keyboard. I adjusted the rubber stopper around
The keyboard looks magnificent: but there are a couple of issues. Even when the ‘zero position’ is corrected, the keyboard is not entirely even. As mentioned earlier, the D, G and A notes are not quite even with the rest of the keyboard. Donny Chen has posted a suggested fix for this problem online: replacing the lower clip with a click hinge.
The only other fault is only a challenge if I choose to to spend any time fixing it: the pearl gold flex tubing used for the strings looks good with the longer strings, which are fixed at both ends. Unfortunately, the shorter lengths, used for the higher strings, are more readily deformed, not maintaining a neat line as easily as I would like.
In conclusion: this is a magnificent model, and a terrific build. I cannot fault the attention to detail in the hammer mechanism, and it serves its initial intention, of clarifying the mechanism for piano students, very well. The studless design makes it easy to forget that the finished model is made from LEGO bricks.
At $AUD529.99/$USD349.99 it is an expensive set – One of the top 10 mostexpensive LEGO Sets on the market today (Ooctober 2020). And it is very much a single purpose set (although, you could argue that it is ideal for a Batman build, working with so much Black). Unlike the Technic sets, it is unlikely to be bought with the purpose of being rebuilt into an alternate model – and I think it will most likely appeal to someone who feels an affinity with the instrument.
I suspect however, that despite its appeal, many musicians are unlikely to buy this set for themselfves. However, I can see it having a role as a celbratory present – commemorating graduation, completion of major exams, or a celebration of another major life event – such as a 21st or 40th birthday etc – If not from one’s own family, then perhaps by a collection of their friends.
If the subject matter appeals to you – I would rate it 5 out of 5 arbitrary praise units. If it doesn’t – then more like a four out of five. So lets average it out at 4.5 APU’s. There are some limitations, as far as its ability to play a tune of your choice – so long as you choose on the ithe pieces available in the app; and the challenges in lilning up the keyboard to be perfectly even. But the model sets out to do as is advertised: build a version of a grand piano, with a working keyboard.
I’d like to thank Donny Chen for taking time to answer my questions, as well as providing some of the troubleshooting tips. Thanks also to Ann for the knolling work. This has been one of the more overwhelming builds I have taken on this year, and I have felt more of a connection to it than I had expected.
I hope you have all enjoyed this review, vicarious building experience, and indeed accompanying soundtrack through Spotify… I apologise if I have rambled on a little too much.
Is this set for you? What do you think of it? What music do you like to listen to while building (if any)? Why not comment below, and until next time…
This set was provided by the LEGO group for review purposes. Provision of material does not guarantee a positive review.
3 thoughts on “21323 LEGO Ideas Grand Piano [Review…and more]”
Thanks for a great review of everything. I just finished bag 16 creating the drop board. When attaching it to the main body it won’t open all the way. And my other question is – is the cam supposed to go completely around? Thanks for any help. I have pics if there is a way to do that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this detailed review and troubleshooting tips. I have a question regarding one of your tips that I was hoping you can help me with. I was just a few steps away from finishing building the piano. Until I slide the keyboard action and I encountered the issue you mentioned with the uneven keyboard. Being a pianist myself, I couldn’t think of the idea of having my Lego piano on display and the keys not being even in the rest position. I couldn’t move forward and finish building until I could find a way to fix it, that’s how I googled the problem and I found your very useful website.
In order to check the pianola roll as you mentioned, I pressed the reset button to make sure the red arms are parallel to the base of the case and the white bars are pointing downward. I remember setting up the roll correctly that way, but it looks like after playing it per the instructions, it never reset the correct way. So I went back several stages, which of course was so frustrating since I was almost finished building the piano, but I needed access to the pianola roll, and I went back as many stages as needed to position the roll again the right away. However, after for the second time positing it correctly, as soon I play a song and/or hit the reset key on the app, it does not go to the rest position (red arms parallel, white arms downward) that you had mentioned.
I then looked at the grey lift arm you mentioned. (By the way, is it normal that the gray it moves up and down while in playing mode?) I saw that even when it stops the orange arm and stops the motor from running when clicking “reset”, it doesn’t reset to the correct position above mentioned. I know that you said that the black rubber support might need a little adjustment. I tried to position it a little higher, but this didn’t help either and when clicking “reset” it does not stop the orange arm in the upright position as it should be. Do you have any ideas or tips of what I might be doing wrong? I can send pictures of my set up if needed.
Thank you very much for your help.
[…] This adjustment for the key alignment was suggested by the fan designer—I found it on Rambling Brick. […]