U.S. Patent 8,022,283 for “Anthropometric Scaffold For Keyboard-Control Pedal.”
Texas Business reports: An Austin man has devised a way to improve the foot controls for keyboard musicians.
John Williams Jr. of Austin received U.S. Patent 8,022,283 for “Anthropometric Scaffold For Keyboard-Control Pedal.”
Williams filed for the patent March 10, 2010.
Williams’ invention involves an advanced, ergonomic accessory used by keyboard musicians. The foot-control scaffold of the present invention provides electronic keyboard players a way to position their foot controls at optimum height-levels, tilt-angles and locations for each particular performance. The fixed, optimal location of the pedal(s) is particularly important to support the player's style, posture (seated or standing), and dynamic changes in the positions of the feet and/or body during a performance.
Piano pedals are foot-operated levers at the base of a piano which change the instrument's sound in various ways, according to the patent document. Modern pianos usually have three pedals, from left to right, the soft pedal (or una corda), the sostenuto pedal, and the sustaining pedal (or damper pedal).
Some pianos omit the sostenuto pedal, or have a middle pedal with a different purpose. The development of the piano's pedals is an evolution that began from the very earliest days of the piano, and continued through the late nineteenth century. Throughout the years, the piano had as few as one modifying stop, and as many as six or more, before finally arriving at its current configuration of three. The location of pedals on pianos through history.
The location of foot pedals on the piano was another aspect of pedal development that fluctuated greatly during the evolution of the instrument. Piano builders were quite creative with their pedal placement on pianos, which sometimes gave the instruments a comical look, compared to what we are used to seeing today.
The oldest surviving English grand, built by Backers in 1772, and many Broadwood grands had two foot pedals, una corda and damper, which were attached to the legs on the left and right of the keyboard. James Parakilas describes this pedal location as giving the piano a "pigeon-toed look", for they turned in slightly. A table piano built by Jean-Henri Pape in the mid-nineteenth century had pedals on the two front legs of the piano, but unlike those on the Backers and Broadwood, these pedals faced straight in towards each other rather than out. A truly unique design is demonstrated in the "Dog Kennel" piano. It was built by Sebastien Mercer in 1831, and was nicknamed the "Dog Kennel" piano because of its shape. Under the upright piano where the modem pedals would be located is a semi-circular hollow space where the feet of the player could rest. The una cordo and damper pedals are located at the left and right of this space, and face straight in, like the table piano pedals. Eventually during the nineteenth century, pedals were attached to a frame located centrally underneath the piano, to strengthen and stabilize the mechanism. According to Parakilas, this framework on the grand piano "often took the symbolic shape and name of a lyre", and it still carries the name "pedal lyre" today."
A typical classical-piano foot pedal moves about 20-50 mm to full deflection and requires a downward force of only a few Newtons for full manual-mechanical actuation of the coupled mechanisms relative to the vibrating strings of the instrument. In contrast, electronic keyboards generate sound from mathematical waveforms being applied to a set of speakers. The volume-control foot-pedal of such units does not modify any speaker mechanical characteristic but simply modulates the voltage or current being applied to the coil which drives the moving elements of the speaker. Therefore, the volume or waveform-modification foot pedals of an electronic keyboard are basically signal-control devices which facilitate the player's precise dynamic control of the acoustic tonal qualities of the notes/chords being played. Similarly, optimization of foot-control placement for precise operations requires a completely different design compared to a drum-beater (power) pedal for bass drums. Many of the latter devices are basically a chain-linkage to a pivoting beater arm which strikes the drum head; the drummer provides all the impulse power needed to sound the drum by means of a robust manual pedal.
Typical known foot pedals now available for modern, electronic keyboard-type musical devices emulate the general form and orientation of the pedals used on classic piano-type instruments. Harpsichords and clavichords were first offered with pedals starting in about 1709 by Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence ITALY. The German pianoforte designers Silbermann and Stein both introduced versions of foot pedals to raise the string dampers over the period 1726 to about 1789; these devices accomplish the function of the "sustain" pedal of modern instruments. Together, the famous 1673 paintings of Johannes Vermeer, "A Lady Standing at a Virginal" and "A Lady Seated at a Virginal" suggest that neither sitting or standing player postures are new ideas and that standing players are not solely related to electronic-keyboard-type instruments.
Modern electronic keyboards are provided with about 10 different basic foldable stand configurations including: V-form, T-form, X-form, Z-form and conventional table-type. Some performers utilize two keyboards at the same time and several commercial stands will support two units, one above the other in a staggered array, analogous to 2-manual-organ. Generally the floor-contacting elements of all stands are fabricated from round or square metal tubing; the outside dimension of these tubes, LS3, is about 20-50 mm, and provides a dependable fixation attachment for alternative scaffold embodiments of present invention. Dual-keyboard players particularly need to have optimal placement and secure orientation of multiple foot-pedal controls.
Some keyboard producers incorporate support structures for integration/attachment of a proprietary foot pedal in the classic centered location about 200 mm behind the front edge of the keyboard, which is within easy foot range by a seated adult player. Major-brand accessory foot pedals are offered in two different design styles: (a) classic (Steinweg grand) and (b) industrial (as might be found on a machine tool). Usually, a OEM or factory-designed "classic" foot pedal is a simple cantilevered pedal with a "classic-form" rounded tip; the usual height of the tip is about 75 mm above the floor surface, which is usually workable for an adult player seated on a conventional bench. Known classic-type foot pedals follow a traditional narrow-base design, about 60 mm wide. The typical height is in the range 40-60 mm and the typical base width is about 60-80 mm. One factory-brand "industrial" design is provided with linking plates which permit side-by-side coupling of multiple foot pedals. Such coupling results in a spacing of only a few millimeters between the actuators, and may require special foot-pedal technics by the player. This "industrial" model is also provided with mechanical screw-adjustments for optimization of pedal travel and its initial angle; the latter feature is desired by players who perform standing. Many "add on" volume-control foot pedals for electronic keyboards are fitted with a flexible, signal-type cable connection of about 2 meters length which facilitates a wide range of placement preferences.
The Yamaha FC-4 is an example of the classic form (LPB1 .about.80 mm), which is well suited to players wearing dress shoes while the Yamaha FC-7 is an example of the "industrial" configuration (LPB1 .about.116 mm) which may be more suitable for players with larger feet or wearers of bulky athletic or safety shoes. Regrettably, one can find no technical standards on foot pedals relating to: (a) the texture and coefficient of friction of the floor-contacting elements, (b) tip height of the pedal actuator or (c) the force required and travel distance for full depression of the pedal/actuator. Finally, there have been no anthropometric studies on design of tethered foot pedals for electronic keyboards.
There are two serious and inherent problems with known tethered pedals: (a) possibility of significant lateral displacement during a performance (with resulting stress and inconvenience to the player) and (b) possible unexpected overturning (possibly a catastrophic event during a performance) under changes of foot technique or player position. The present invention provides a reliable solution to positioning by mechanically and frictionally engaging the distal portion of the pedal base; in addition, it also provides a means of optimal anthropomorphic adjustment of the tilt angle of a "standard pedal" for enhancement of player control of actuations.
Some OEM and "add-on" foot pedals may include "non-slip rubber plates" on the floor-contact surfaces of the base; such "rubber" patches at each end of the pedal are about 1 mm thick and about 30 mm square. Although such patches, even if they are prepared from soft rubber having an optimized surface texture for the mass and the particular actuation-force level, may provide a small frictional engagement with smooth, slick floor surfaces, their frictional characteristics are seriously degraded upon exposure to ordinary dust and lint. In such instances, the player must compensate with a quick glance toward the pedal to confirm its location prior to every pedal actuation or use adhesive strips to make a temporary "pedal location setup" for the event duration. For better pedal-base fixation at a specific point on a carpeted floor, some players modify the pedal bottom by addition of "Velcro.TM." elements. Such alterations, however, usually render the pedal utterly unsuitable for secure placement hard or smooth floor surfaces and frequently introduce adverse functional factors, e.g., altered tip height and modified tip-contact angle (with the player's footwear).
The ergonomic scaffold of Williams’ invention offers many functional advantages which have long been desired by several classes of players. The present scaffold is of particular value to the player who needs to position his pedal(s) securely at: (a) a unique height-optimal tilt angle and/or (b) a specific lateral position on the floor under the keyboard. Young or small-stature players are able to concentrate fully on performing the music score rather than continually overcoming the inherent design deficiencies of a typical, separate pedal not provided with any reliable position-fixation and tilt-adjusting means. Players with a limited range-of-motion in their ankle or knee joints are able to fix their pedal(s) at the optimum angle(s) and location(s) for their unique capabilities and somatotype and to depend that the pedal(s) will not be either accidentally displaced laterally or moved angularly and will also resist toppling. For a typical player and stand, the ideal foot-pedal positioning may depend upon a number of factors unique to the stage, the event and the number of other performing musicians in the group.
Williams’ inventive concept of the present foot pedal scaffold is the integration of two opposing parallel side rails with an array of ullage elements and a keyboard-base-fixation element, the resulting unique system of technical features adapted to support one or more standard piano-type foot pedal(s) each at a particular angle re the floor surface and to stabilize both: (a) lateral position relative a selected point on the keyboard stand and (b) vertical position relative to tipping due to accidental oblique foot actions. The side rails provide alternative pedal-base channels (PBCs) which offer: (a) a fixed separation customized for particular pedal base, (b) a particular fixed separation larger than most standard pedals or (c) variable-adjustable separation, i.e., opposing rails are slideably connected with multiple transverse linkages long enough to accommodate one or two pedals, even ones with differing base widths. Ullage elements of variable thickness, shape, surface-friction/texture and elasticity are applied, using known methods including adhesive, hook-loop, ties, pins, etc., to the pedal-base-contacting surfaces for custom adjustment of: (a) the angle of the pedal base re the floor surface and (b) the degree of mechanical-frictional stabilization engagement of the side rails with the pedal base(s). Bottom and side wall ullage components may also be prepared with surface-texture patterns facing the channel interior, e.g., oriented, high-friction ribs or a pattern of random-sized, raised features.
The mechanical properties of the illustrative solid elastomers listed can be significantly modified by foaming or expansion processes whereby a gas is generated by a chemical reaction or released by an array of fine nozzles into the elastomer compound in a liquid-fluid state. For example the density and modulus of a foamed elastomer compound can be reduced to values lower than 10% of the comparable value for the solid material. Ullage elements of the present invention are prepared by forming selected elastic materials/foams into predetermined shapes and surface textures adapted for reliable, temporary mechanical and frictional engagement of a typical pedal, said engagement sufficient to stabilize the pedal within the scaffold, i.e., against unintentional displacements by the player. The fixation elements include the fixation socket (FS) which engages a selected keyboard-base-tube position and the socket extension (SE) which rigidly connects between the FS and the PBC at an optimal angle and distance. Selected particular lengths and angular orientations of the SE elements are offered in several fixed alternative configurations for use with specific stand types. One exemplary embodiment offers a SE which provides adjustable length and angle.
Keyboard musicians who perform on electronic keyboards before large audiences in constantly changing venues are subject to continual substitution in the matter of placing their instrument, as well as the related amps and speakers. One particularly problematic consideration is the positioning of the foot-pedal controls for keyboard volume and other characteristics. Depending upon the frictional properties of the stage surface and playing style, i.e., whether the player is sitting or standing, the volume pedal (and other control pedals) are subject to accidental displacements in various directions in addition to possible overturning.
Therefore, before the beginning of a live concert, each player must develop practical methods to secure his control pedals at the optimal position for his convenient and certain access. Frequently, players utilize medical or industrial adhesive tape to secure the pedal base to various stage floor surfaces including glass, smooth ceramic tile and polished hardwood. While such temporary adhesive fixation can be done easily and quickly once the final position for the keyboard is defined, preliminary re-positioning may require multiple changes to accommodate for room acoustics, stage furniture and audio-system outlets. At best, this is an inefficient and unattractive methodology since the tape strips are highly visible to the audience and reflect a lack of "professional finish" on the part of the performer.
Itinerant keyboardists have long desired an attractive, compact, portable fixture which would mount one or more control pedals at a position ideally matched to their instrument stand, bench height and physique. This pedal position is typically unique for each player and depends upon their individual body proportions, especially the length of their lower legs and the size-mobility of their dominant foot, i.e., the foot used to actuate the volume pedal(s) in music segments which require extensive or intense pedal actuation. Indeed, even the choice of footwear to be worn during a performance may have an effect upon pedal footwork and the need for secure positioning. For example, the texture and frictional characteristics of the particular shoe sole against the foot-contact portions of the pedal(s) can be the critical factor in triggering accidental displacement. Even the player's footwear, i.e., type of heel and the angle of the sole against the pedal can have a significant effect on the balance of vertical and horizontal forces acting upon the pedal.
At this time, there is no commercial device offered which attaches to the base of typical popular pedals and provides an anchor to hold it in a fixed position relative to the player's active foot and the keyboard stand. It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide keyboardists with a device and method for optimal, ergonomic positioning of one or more foot controls during a performance.