This video proves it’s only a matter of time before robots can play Rachmaninoff on the piano

By Angelica Lasala |

Anyone who’s ever studied a keyboard instrument knows it takes years of dedicated practice to play with accuracy. But one robot is programmed to bypass all of that, as shown in a video posted by organist Cristiano Rizzotto on Facebook.

A diagram outlining the component parts of a player piano.

Of course, mechanizing keyboard instruments is nothing new: The earliest player pianos, or self-playing painos, date back to the late 19th century. These automated instruments worked by running piano rolls – rolls of paper with perforations that correspond to specific notes – over a tracker bar, which triggered the piano’s respective keys.  This robot, complete with wires and finger-like attachments, brings the player piano’s innovations into the 21st century.

Some Facebook users tagged their keyboard instrumentalist friends in Rizzotto’s video and left playful comments such as “your days are numbered ……..” or “Your substitute organist?” Meanwhile, others weren’t as impressed, lamenting that the robot’s interpretation left much to be desired. One commenter wrote, “He [the robot] will get more expressive once we install a heart,” while another asked, “Where is the soul????”

Whether you think robots like these pose a real threat to tomorrow’s keyboardists, or dismiss them as silly gimmicks, enjoy the video below.

  • JimTorsen

    As long as the robots stick to this mindless New Age stuff, I’m fine with that.

  • Em Jannings (Emil)

    What guides the playing? I assume it’s not a paper roll. Does the mechanism get “programmed” with key and time information? Does it optically “read” the music. What level of AI is applied to “interpretation”? This is baby steps — like a computer playing checkers. Don’t dismiss it too casually. There may be a Glen Gould in that black box.