Music

Atlanta Toy Pianist Releases Album Of Original Compositions

Atlanta musician Amy O’Dell plays her two toy pianos on the floor on WABE’s studio.
Atlanta musician Amy O’Dell plays her two toy pianos on the floor on WABE’s studio.
Credit GABBIE WATTS / WABE

The toy piano goes well beyond the playroom. Invented in the 19th century, the instrument has appeared in vaudeville, rock and jazz, and — notably for any piano enthusiast — the toy piano’s dulcet lullabies form the basis for Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack for the film “Amélie.”

That soundtrack inspired Atlanta musician Amy O’Dell to buy her first toy piano off of eBay. Now she has two, and she is putting out an album called “Find Your Inner Child.” It features six original toy piano pieces by composers from around the country.

The compositions are experimental and exploratory in nature as a result of the little idiosyncrasies of the instrument. “Everyone once in a while, you’ll hit a key and the hammer doesn’t hit the correct tine,” she said. “It will sometimes hit the tine next to it.”

O’Dell’s smaller toy piano, named “Little Red,” looks like a bread box, and it needs to be propped up with a book when she plays it. “If I were to play it without the book underneath it, sometimes the hammers get stuck back into the instrument,” she explained.

O’Dell is part of a community of toy pianists who are attracted to the ethereal sound of the instrument. According to O’Dell, they unanimously agree that the toy piano shouldn’t be tuned: “There was this question, should the toy piano be tuned … which wasn’t really a debate, we were all like, no, it’s perfect as is.”

“Find Your Inner Child” comes out this Friday and is available for purchase online. All the money made from the album goes to the music nonprofit Play It Forward. There will also be a  release party for the album at 5 Seasons Westside from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. this Friday.