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Happy 150th Birthday, Claude Debussy!

Great piano composers’ anniversaries don’t normally take place annually, but since the Chopin & Schumann year 2010 and the Liszt celebrations 2011, time has now come for another immensely important composer. Today, the 22nd of August 2012 marks the 150 years birthday of the French composer Claude Debussy, by many considered the father of “modern music”. Read more >>

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Author Topic: Need Advice, Brand New To Piano, Desire To Be Great  (Read 656 times)
mulsiphix
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« on: April 08, 2017, 05:33:45 PM »

Hello everyone! My name is Marques and I am 35 years old. I have long loved music and always wanted to play an instrument. After much research and deliberation, I feel the piano is above and beyond, the best fit for me personally. Moonlight Sonata has always been my favorite classical piece. I'm particularly interested in composing emotional pieces.

I realize I am an adult and I've read extensively on what is required of a person to play high level pieces like Moonlight Sonata. This does not scare me away. Nor does dedicating a large portion of my everyday life to practicing and playing. No, I've made up my mind and I'm dedicated to reaching this lofty goal. In my mind, I am beginning the portion of my life where my creativity and love of music take over and begin to heal a lifetime a pain.

All that said, I purchased a subscription at this site in hopes of finding people who know a thing a two about piano playing. I'm hoping you fine folks can answer some of my neophyte questions Cheesy.

  • 1) Do adult players face a bigger challenge then those who learn as children? I understand such individuals will have more experience, but will my learning be harder for any reason? Assuming I am fully dedicated and put in the time, of course Roll Eyes.
     
  • 2) I've read extensively about digital pianos versus acoustics (tall uprights and grands). As my primary goal is to learn the piano and work on my technique, I'm worried starting on a DP or Upright might teach me improper technique. That is, I've read about folks who learned there and had trouble transitioning to a real piano or that an Upright's limitations can mess up you timing. As a beginning who has no interest in piano beyond playing classical literature with a high level of skill, where is an acceptable place to start, in regards to instrument if money to start is relatively low; say $1,000-ish with an option to into a little debt, if necessary?
     
  • 3) I've read that many digital pianos go to extreme length to try and mimic a grands action. If money is an issue in the beginning, is a digital piano a better place to start than an Upright? To be honest, the resonating quality of a real piano allows me to feel the music. I worry a digital piano, even if connected to a high quality amp to improve audio sound, will be nothing like a real piano. But I have to start somewhere Embarrassed

Any help, feedback, suggestions, or other useful guidance is greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Grin
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j_tour
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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2017, 06:54:06 PM »

I, and I suspect anyone else, cannot give definitive advice.  However, I started back up piano at age 18-19 after classical training and getting my feet wet in single-digits at ragtime/stride.

35 isn't that much older, although it might seem like it -- IME (I'm 41 now) the bigger challenges are finding the right instrument and (if digital) amplification, plus, if you want to play "out," figuring out transportation and dealing with adult stuff.

I'm happy with playing a (Yamaha) digital, although, trust me, the amplification will bother you, and the actions can be fragile (I'm on my second).  I've given up on "high-fi" sound and also playing with rock/blues bands, so my rig just stays at home.

However, my folks have an OK (bad action, not great tuning) grand at home and I admit when I visit I enjoy hearing the notes ring out like they're supposed to, even just playing rudimentary Bach.

Yeah, if I was a big player, I'd have at least a nice Yamaha upright or a proper grand with a sostenuto pedal, but frankly, I'm just a rock-and-roll hack who happens to read quite a bit in the classical literature.

To your first question, no, you don't have to worry about not being able to hack the "Moonlight" -- even though the third movement is formidable, and it took me many months as a ... 12? somewhere around there year old, I always thought the second movement was tricky.  

You need scales, arpeggios, and you need to love the (a) key C#-minor and (b) the piece.  I don't see why the sonata is beyond your reach, given that you take the time and aren't easily frustrated.

ETA I bought a Yamaha P-80 in 2002 for about $900USD.  I still have it and have used it on stage almost without interruption since then -- still in my house and works fine, despite the gaffer's tape holding it together.  There are better keyboards now, and a lot of folks swear by the various Casio 88-key weighted keys.  I'm not much of a gearhead, but I think you're worrying a bit too much about "ingraining bad habits" -- I learned Rzewski on an upright in my younger years, in addition to a bunch of jazz off open-reel 1/4" tape decks.  It sounded different, the Rzewski, on my teacher's Hamburg Steinway, but that thing probably cost than her house.  Mark of a good musician:  play what you got.  As pianists, you got no choice, usually.
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mulsiphix
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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2017, 07:02:15 PM »

To your first question, no, you don't have to worry about not being able to hack the "Moonlight" -- even though the third movement is formidable, and it took me many months as a ... 12? somewhere around there year old, I always thought the second movement was tricky.  

You need scales, arpeggios, and you need to love the (a) key C#-minor and (b) the piece.  I don't see why the sonata is beyond your reach, given that you take the time and aren't easily frustrated.

Thank you very much for your time. In response, the only reason I now believe Moonlight Sonata to be very difficult, is because I was looking at piano grades for playing skill. It listed Moonlight Sonata as an 8+ on a 9 scale of rating. I'm very happy to hear that you don't think I will have to wait 15 to 20 years to be able to play it.

Then again, I believe the true beauty of this piece is the potential for advanced finger work that make the tones both carry the emotional weight of the piece, as well as raise it to a completely different level. The song played by someone who can hit all the notes versus someone who can own it, is where I assume the impossible difficulty and impeccable technique a necessity Cheesy.
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j_tour
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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2017, 07:24:59 PM »

Thank you very much for your time. In response, the only reason I now believe Moonlight Sonata to be very difficult, is because I was looking at piano grades for playing skill. It listed Moonlight Sonata as an 8+ on a 9 scale of rating. I'm very happy to hear that you don't think I will have to wait 15 to 20 years to be able to play it.

Then again, I believe the true beauty of this piece is the potential for advanced finger work that make the tones both carry the emotional weight of the piece, as well as raise it to a completely different level. The song played by someone who can hit all the notes versus someone who can own it, is where I assume the impossible difficulty and impeccable technique a necessity Cheesy.

Are you talking about the first movement?  If so, then, yes, I agree -- you need to have control over ALL of the fingers.  As I said, the third movement is no joke -- I don't know how many months I spent on that as a young teenager, but I had quite a bit of Beethoven under my hands at that point, and sorry if it offends anyone, but Beethoven did have a few stock "tricks" he wasn't afraid to use at that point.  I still think the second movement is the hardest -- no room to hide!

Well, also you have to consider that the first movement, according to Andràs Schiff, should be played pretty quickly, and IME, regardless the tempo, you need to be very good with the pedal.

So, have you tried just playing it through and seeing what's what?  I've never taught it, but I can imagine different people may have different issues -- for example, holding the melody while accompanying with the same hand.  It almost seems like a good classical guitarist could make a good arrangement -- that might be a good way to think about it.

Oh, I'm going to Edit To Add (ETA) -- here's a little tip, since you're an adult and presumably the lobes of your brain have fused, unlike kids, your most useful tool is to observe yourself sight-reading and playing and, with practice, pinpoint where you're going wrong.  Sorry if that sounds condescending, but it's not a skill many people have, and that's going to be your advantage as an adult beginner.
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mulsiphix
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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2017, 07:33:03 PM »

So, have you tried just playing it through and seeing what's what?

Sadly, I've not played more on a piano but simple nursery rhymes. But my dedication is unflinching. I'm 110% all in. I love the way you talk about playing it. Put a big smile on my face. Thank you  Grin
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j_tour
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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2017, 07:57:18 PM »

Sadly, I've not played more on a piano but simple nursery rhymes. But my dedication is unflinching. I'm 110% all in. I love the way you talk about playing it. Put a big smile on my face. Thank you  Grin

Well, that's my pleasure -- I only like a few things in life.  Talking about music, women, and booze.  Sometimes I even get to do more than talk about it, but, as I said, I'm 41, so ...

ba-ding-ding.  

Tip your waitresses!  

ETA  just read through the first movement.  It's not some horrible ordeal.  Play it by ear if you have to.  Doesn't have to be perfect, but IMHO, keep the rhythm straight man. Use a click track.
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pianoplunker
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2017, 11:02:19 PM »

Hello everyone! My name is Marques and I am 35 years old. I have long loved music and always wanted to play an instrument. After much research and deliberation, I feel the piano is above and beyond, the best fit for me personally. Moonlight Sonata has always been my favorite classical piece. I'm particularly interested in composing emotional pieces.

I realize I am an adult and I've read extensively on what is required of a person to play high level pieces like Moonlight Sonata. This does not scare me away. Nor does dedicating a large portion of my everyday life to practicing and playing. No, I've made up my mind and I'm dedicated to reaching this lofty goal. In my mind, I am beginning the portion of my life where my creativity and love of music take over and begin to heal a lifetime a pain.

All that said, I purchased a subscription at this site in hopes of finding people who know a thing a two about piano playing. I'm hoping you fine folks can answer some of my neophyte questions Cheesy.

  • 1) Do adult players face a bigger challenge then those who learn as children? I understand such individuals will have more experience, but will my learning be harder for any reason? Assuming I am fully dedicated and put in the time, of course Roll Eyes.
     
  • 2) I've read extensively about digital pianos versus acoustics (tall uprights and grands). As my primary goal is to learn the piano and work on my technique, I'm worried starting on a DP or Upright might teach me improper technique. That is, I've read about folks who learned there and had trouble transitioning to a real piano or that an Upright's limitations can mess up you timing. As a beginning who has no interest in piano beyond playing classical literature with a high level of skill, where is an acceptable place to start, in regards to instrument if money to start is relatively low; say $1,000-ish with an option to into a little debt, if necessary?
     
  • 3) I've read that many digital pianos go to extreme length to try and mimic a grands action. If money is an issue in the beginning, is a digital piano a better place to start than an Upright? To be honest, the resonating quality of a real piano allows me to feel the music. I worry a digital piano, even if connected to a high quality amp to improve audio sound, will be nothing like a real piano. But I have to start somewhere Embarrassed

Any help, feedback, suggestions, or other useful guidance is greatly appreciated. Thanks!! Grin

The only difference I know of between child  vs adult is that adults can play piano in over-21 places for money. I started as a child but what I see is that it takes discipline and dedication no matter what age. As far as digital vs acoustic, as long as you dont go with unweighted keys it should not hinder overall technique. I have played acoustic pianos each with different weight temperaments on the keys so it really is not between digital vs acoustic anyhow. However, the pedaling  is where the acoustic is vastly different .   I have owned a few digitals in the $1000 usd range  - none of them compare to acoustic when it comes to the pedals. The Moonlight uses the pedal thruout so that might be where learning it on an acoustic would be better. You may be able to rent one depending on where you are.
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mulsiphix
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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2017, 11:46:35 PM »

The only difference I know of between child  vs adult is that adults can play piano in over-21 places for money.
Seriously? I'll have to look into that. I hadn't really considered it, but it could be a fun way to work on my social performance anxiety =P.

However, the pedaling  is where the acoustic is vastly different .   I have owned a few digitals in the $1000 usd range  - none of them compare to acoustic when it comes to the pedals.
What about a model with half-peddaling, like the Casio PX-860? It is the nicest digital piano that I have found in the $1,000 range.

The Moonlight uses the pedal thruout so that might be where learning it on an acoustic would be better.
I hadn't even considered the pedaling aspect. One of the benefits of using a digital is that some of them try really hard to mimic Grand action. Since my ultimate goal is to own and play exclusively on Grands (within 5 years if I am frugal) this seemed like an important part of developing ideal technique. Anything to help me hit the ground running when I buy my first Grand.

But pedaling really isn't the same with digitals. The best of that technology is half-pedaling (to my knowledge) but a real pedal offers infinite amounts of variable pedal depression. Do you think pedaling is more important than practicing with Grand action?
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indianajo
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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2017, 12:49:29 AM »

The appeal of grands IMHO, is to the eyes, not the ears.
I play pretty advanced repretoire, all on a console.  Not a **** one, a really good one.  I haven't touched a great grand since 1966, but the ****y ***aha baby grand at the church I'm repairing an organ at doesn't inspire me to any feelings of inferiority. It sounds like their stupid consoles, and is no faster than my Sohmer with the Pratt Read action.  
Adults have more trouble learning since their brains didn't grow the keyboard bump age 6-12.  If you are a very skilled touch typist, you may have developed some of the skills young enough.  
I would say a few lessons at $40/hr are more important at this point, than a $1000 piano.  And if you get a beater, get it tuned, the $100 is worth avoiding the pain of out of tune notes.  There are bad habits one can get into self-learning, that a teacher can guide you out of in a few easy practice sessions.  You can injure yourself playing piano, as my Mother popped a neck disk typing one day at an improvised work station on a new job.
Also a piano teacher will find you repretoire that is both educational, and fun to play, too.  My teacher was great at that.  I did do 10 minutes a day of scales and then exercises but that is like language lab in a foreign language - boring but necessary.    
I play Moonlight.  The first movement I learned in my fifth year.  The second movement I learned in a year after I bought my piano age 32.  Working around a demanding career, the 3rd movement took me until age 60.  and I only play that at 2/3 the speed of the guys on the radio.  
  Moonlight 1st movement is very spooky using the sustain pedal on a really resonant console. & 3rd movement has such shocking loud and soft contrast.  Emphasizing the different inner lines on different repetitions is my claim to artistry. 
Which version do you like best? I have Rudolf Serkin on Colombia.  
Have fun.  
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mulsiphix
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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2017, 02:31:41 AM »

The appeal of grands IMHO, is to the eyes, not the ears.
I was under the impression that they had more advanced design for resonance and a higher quality of materials. How can it be that the sound produced is no different than a different machine, like an Upright?

I admit, resonance is personally one of the reasons I am drawn to the piano. When ti comes to resonance, is bigger really better? That is, for emotive playing, does the degree of resonance really impact the performance? When I am next to a piano, I can feel the music. And this is one facet of owning and playing a piano that I look forward to Grin.

It sounds like their stupid consoles, and is no faster than my Sohmer with the Pratt Read action.
I've read that the Grand action is superior to all others. The design allows for the fastest of playing, where something like an Upright has a ceiling. So far, concerns like these, have greatly influenced my desire to obtain a Grand (in the future, of course). So in this sense, doesn't a grand truly matter to those with the skill to use them?

Adults have more trouble learning since their brains didn't grow the keyboard bump age 6-12.  If you are a very skilled touch typist, you may have developed some of the skills young enough.
I first started typing at 16, but didn't get any regular computer access until 18. A couple years later I was able to type 120WPM with no errors. I stopped pushing myself after that as I had no practical need or desire to move further. I've held that for the last 15 years. Take tests regularly to make sure my skill isn't declining.

I would say a few lessons at $40/hr are more important at this point, than a $1000 piano.
For me, the desire to play comes from my desire to produce quality sounding music. Both in tone and plentiful resonance. So to purchase a piano that simply allows me to learn, would take a potentially fixable situation into one lacking an enjoyable element. Part of the passion that led me to want to play seriously. If I can get around having a machine that sounds awful (I could care less about the aesthetics), then I believe I will have maximum emotional investment when the going gets tough. I am 100% open to finding a way to make lessons work (homeschool five kids, wife is away four days each week). I just want to be able to enjoy practicing as much as possible.

Which version do you like best? I have Rudolf Serkin on Colombia.
I heard a gloomy rendition by Mindru Katz which I really enjoyed. I'm just now starting to pick up actual recordings. Up until recently, American media and Radio were the extent of my listening. The quality difference between Radio and a CD is truly amazing. I've been like a kid in a candy store. Thank you so much for your feedback and advice. I sincerely appreciate your help  Grin.
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indianajo
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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2017, 04:52:47 AM »

Nine foot and longer grands are a lot LOUDER than console pianos.  You don't need this in a house.  As far as resonance, I can get more than a minute out of my Sohmer or Steinway.  Baldwin Acrosonics are just as good.  Top end Wurlitzer studios are more resonant, rather boomy I find, with less ping than the first three.  You can detect the low end Wurlitzers, they have a short scale. The pins aren't far enough away on the top end to pluck them for tuning.  
40" and lower consoles have interference bass, which I find rather pleasant.  Two notes are sounded and the difference between the two is the bass note you hear.  Perfected in this 1941 Steinway, and copied everywhere subsequently.  Grands 9' or over have real bass notes.  
With kids in the house, buying a good sounding but cosmetically damaged piano would be a good idea.  My 1941 Steinway 40 was rejected by the flipper before I ever got there.  It has lead car wheel tracks across the kickboard. It has a big chunk of veneer missing from the top, 1" x 1.5". Toy plane or lacross stick damage?  Kids are by definition out of control.   There is a brown stain on some keys likely from a roof leak.  I paid $1000.  A similar cosmetically perfect unit (1940) advertised on e-bay listed as buy-it-now for $5500.  
Around here, Baldwin Acrosonics are snapped up by a flipper, but he only charges $650 for them. But he hauls them out to noswheresville, KY from which one would have to have them moved.  Acrosonics are quite loud, fitting best in large church and school halls.  In a home carpet and bookshelves might be required to practice late at night. Baldwin Howards are quite nice but not quite as loud.  My Sohmer 39 bounces sounds off the wall at me, My Steinway 40 has holes in the front to allow the sound to project at the player.  Grands project sound off to the right, away from the player.  
Modern Kawais are okay, ***ahas lack highs or lows, Pearl Rivers, the one I had access to had action problems the warranty people stopped coming out on so the owner wouldn't let me play it.  The golden age of console pianos IMHO is 1940 to 1980, and many of these are going to the dump for lack of interest.  People are more interested in the opinion of the salesman in a suit than they trust their own ears. Most people don't know what a good piano sounds like, either.  Most men have blown out their ears with fireworks, firearms, loud motors, power tools. The ROTC taught me to wear earplugs and I still have 14000 hz at age 66.  I enjoy the highs of a good piano, also the overtones in a sharp ping.     Look at the list of brands in the link, and how to sort out the dogs from the homely.  Condition matters as much as brand name.  
As I said, the church I repair organs at  took donation of this great sounding York console and now wants rid of it because they have an inferior sounding budget Wurlitzer with a nicer finish.  It is going to be free.  In the US there are lots of great pianos old and in the way of the carpet man or the new 50" TV, look on Craigslist and find a bargain.  Happy shopping.  
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outin
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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2017, 07:29:55 AM »

I was under the impression that they had more advanced design for resonance and a higher quality of materials. How can it be that the sound produced is no different than a different machine, like an Upright?

I respectfully disagree with indianajo. We have had this discussion before. A grand and an upright are different instruments and for me a grand is superior in touch and sound. Even if the sound quality per se can be great on an upright, it projects differently to the player.

I too am drawn to resonances in the sound of an acoustic piano and like to play music where the tone really matters.

There are nice baby grands as well as big ones. The bigger the better is not always true when looking for a grand for a home. I have mostly tried out pianos from 167cm-185cm and liked many. I also like my little 155cm better than any upright I have ever played.
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My summer projects: Scarlatti K87, K466, K109, Scriabin op74 preludes, Chopin Waltz 69-2 and Berceuse. And just exploring more music...
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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2017, 11:13:11 AM »

If you want "great" calculate the time you'll need to put in.  I think there is something for just putting time in (quantity) and then also for intelligent, thoughtful practice (quality).  The 10,000 hours number is thrown around a lot.  Or just thinking... 1 hour/day for a month = ~30 hours vs. 3 hours/day for a month = 90 hours.  Which progresses faster?

And get a teacher to boost the intelligent, wise part to add to your practicing / avoid having to learn/troubleshoot on your own that way.
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2017, 12:45:33 PM »

We have had this discussion add nauseum ( grands vs upright). A grands action that is suited to the player is just a different action from an upright period. The whole motion and control is different, not just speed. People talk about rapping out x amount of reps , big deal. How about nuances of sound, the lightest playing and then leap into FFF forte. That sudden explosion, the subtle little tones of 1/4 and half pedaling, feathering the pedal is all about grand piano, once you know the difference and have a capable instrument that speaks to you, Then and only Then do you understand...

That said, yes, some uprights can have beautiful tone and nice resonance, even good play-ability and certainly suitable to get started with and maybe beyond.. We have been down this road over and over again where some folks just persist at how great their 4 upright piano experience has been and how lousy the one grand they have played around with is. And I don't doubt that is so for them, but it's a much bigger world of pianos out there than that..

To the OP: For the first year, in terms of pure growth and not mentioning satisfaction of tone etc, it isn't going to matter what instrument you have. Your fingers are not trained nor have the articulation or memory to matter. Going into the 3rd and 4th years you will be desiring more of your piano and you will need at least a decent one, it will just come to you that your instrument is limiting your playing, assuming the instrument is the cause. But that very first year the coordination level just isn't there to matter a whole lot what you play on.. it's very likely in serious pursuit of classic repertoire that a grand piano will eventually be desired.  When you need the playing characteristics of a good grand piano you will know it and you will know the difference too ( some people never reach this point and are happy with what ever it is that they have)..  There are some good upright pianos, great sound great resonance, they lack in fine touch in the action and fine triple pedal actuation for creating tonal colors though. Maybe there is one someplace but there are a lot of grands. It's natural to the grand and the action and mechanics of an upright makes it unnatural. That said, there are also some lousy grands. I know of no upright piano with a sliding key bed for instance, this feature alone is standard in a grand and when playing softly on a grand you eliminate a string from the set, where an upright limits strike distance instead. The results are totally different. Additionally, in a grand you are lifting the hammers, and with hand training you can lightly toss the hammers accurately against the strings and play the pedals to come up with tones and reflections and whimsical sounds you can only dream about with the horizontal action of an upright. PERIOD.
Meanwhile you have a long ways to go before you need to be concerned about any of that.

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Depressing the pedal on an out of tune acoustic piano and playing does not result in tonal color control or add interest, it's called obnoxious.
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