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Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing? (Read 509 times)

Offline uv147

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Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
« on: September 01, 2021, 09:53:34 AM »
as the title says, can the mechanical attributes of the instrument being played affect playing?

for example, are there pianos that are easier to play fast on while others make it harder to play fast or even impossible to pass a certain speed barrier?

Are the instruments professional pianists play on (for example Valentina Lisitsa, Lang Lang, Kissin, Barenboim and so on) better suited for playing virtuosic pieces (such as 3rd movement of moonlight sonata, or Chopin etudes) with ease? if so, what makes them better suited for that

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Beethoven: Sonata 14 (Moonlight), opus 27 no 2
piano sheet music of Sonata 14 (Moonlight)


Sheet music to download and print: Etudes by Chopin



Offline ranjit

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #1 on: September 01, 2021, 10:00:13 AM »
To an extent, yes. You can play faster on a good grand piano than you can on most uprights. The key rebound is very good, which results in conserving more energy, for example. You can just keep riding the bounce for octaves for example. You may not be able to do that on a worse piano.

Offline lelle

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #2 on: September 02, 2021, 03:26:15 PM »
as the title says, can the mechanical attributes of the instrument being played affect playing?

for example, are there pianos that are easier to play fast on while others make it harder to play fast or even impossible to pass a certain speed barrier?

Are the instruments professional pianists play on (for example Valentina Lisitsa, Lang Lang, Kissin, Barenboim and so on) better suited for playing virtuosic pieces (such as 3rd movement of moonlight sonata, or Chopin etudes) with ease? if so, what makes them better suited for that

Not necessarily. Modern concert grands can sometimes have a heavier action - I believe this is due to the hammers having greater mass to generate a bigger sound but don't quote me on that, maybe someone an verify? This means that if you have flaws in your technique these instruments can feel like a struggle to play on, especially fast virtuoso pieces. Instruments with a lighter action are more forgiving but can instead feel difficult to control if they're very light and your technique needs work.

If I recall correctly Horowitz had a grand that was modified to have a very light action which enabled him to play very explosively and loud with ease, but also demanded a very refined technique to play softly and with control because the keys responded so much to very slight effort.

Bad upright pianos can definitely be a hindrance. A friend of mine has an upright that has keys that feel sluggish/resistant to being pressed down (rather than heavy but moving smoothly). It sucks to play on.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #3 on: September 03, 2021, 02:11:07 AM »
It's only logical that the varying quality of pianos feel different and thus impact upon ones playing. Some bad quality pianos dont allow you to do repeated notes very well, I grew up on a piano which had quite a poor repeated note response and when I tried the same on a Yamaha for the first time I was humored by how easy it was. My piano also had quite a heavy action which challenged my young hands to develop endurance and I had to learn to play gentler on lighter actioned pianos.

I played on the worst public piano I ever came across a few months ago (and it's pretty embarassing since they have it in my own suburb -_-). The keys all felt like wooden blocks and it was an enormous struggle to actually physically feel playing the piano. It took a lot of focus to keep playing because the physical feeling was right off and the sound was pathetically weak and unbalanced. It caused me to use a lot more effort to produce a desired sound which is not a nice feeling. When you play a good piano there are very little hurdles interrupting you and you feel the space in which you can move within the pianos sound and feel, it is broader and the sounds you can produce more various and easier to control.

It really is not clear to use words to explain what makes a high quality piano so good, you need to play one and understand it for yourself. Dress up in your best clothes and make an appointment to visit an expensive piano dealer  ;)
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Offline quantum

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #4 on: September 03, 2021, 02:48:27 AM »
Yes, to a certain degree.  A beat up piano in poor state of regulation is just that. 

For pianos in a reasonable state of repair, the higher quality pianos or instruments with very thorough prep will generally be far superior to value price pianos or ones that are presented as stock right off the factory floor. 

A lot of this stuff really has to be experienced to fully understand it.  What lostinidlewonder said, go visit a dealer that has some higher end instruments.  There is also the involvement and skill of a player, as some qualities of a piano are better experienced when one has the skill to make use of that particular quality. 

The action of grand pianos is much more responsive due to its design, and is therefore preferable for pianists playing at advanced levels. 

The piano I played when growing up wasn't really designed for advanced repertoire, so I found practising some things very frustrating.  However, because of that experience I also gained a much better appreciation and understanding of the desirable traits of a good piano, as well as how to adapt when I am presented with a piano in a poor state or repair. 

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Offline ranjit

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #5 on: September 03, 2021, 04:23:05 AM »
The piano I played when growing up wasn't really designed for advanced repertoire, so I found practising some things very frustrating.  However, because of that experience I also gained a much better appreciation and understanding of the desirable traits of a good piano, as well as how to adapt when I am presented with a piano in a poor state or repair.
This has been very true in my experience as well.

Offline dw4rn

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #6 on: September 03, 2021, 07:43:04 AM »
Are the instruments professional pianists play on (for example Valentina Lisitsa, Lang Lang, Kissin, Barenboim and so on) better suited for playing virtuosic pieces (such as 3rd movement of moonlight sonata, or Chopin etudes) with ease? if so, what makes them better suited for that

You've had a lot of very good answers here, I just want to point out in addition that the pianos that are played in great concert halls are not only very good instruments, but are also constantly very well taken care of by professional piano technicians. And in a big hall there will be several to choose from, with slight differences in tone, action etc. Which means that Lisitsa and the others can try out different pianos, choose the one best suited for the repertoire they're playing, then ask the piano technician on hand to adjust things they don't like. Some pianists have been known to make the most of these possibilities (such as Alfred Brendel), others may not care as much.

The role of the piano technician is often quite underestimated. The ones that really know what they are doing can truly make a great difference (probably even greater when the piano is not a top-notch concert grand)

Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Can mechanical attributes of the instrument affect playing?
«Reply #7 on: September 03, 2021, 09:22:33 AM »
Think of it like a car. Maintaining a car can help extend it's longevity, manoeuvrability, handling etc...

That's how my piano technician describes it.