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Touching piano strings
#1130456 01/28/08 05:10 PM
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Hi, my piano is going to be tuned in a few day and I though I could allow myself some experiments. I tried doing some effects touching the strings directly with my finger, discovered a bunch of sounds that were very cool (touching some or all the strings while playing, picking the string while using to sostenudo etc.) I’ve seen videos on youtube, I know I’m not inventing anything but still, this is fun! So my questions are:

1)Does this technique have a name? (That I could search for and find more information)
2)How does this affect the tuning of the piano?
3)Anybody can share it’s experience?
4)I've heard of piano designed to do such things, how are they different? ( I think sauter makes one, not sure)


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Re: Touching piano strings
#1130457 01/28/08 07:02 PM
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It's not good for the strings to touch them. The oils transfered from your fingers/hands touching them help to attract and collect dirt and dust which will lead to corrosion.


There are few joys in life greater than the absence of pain.
Re: Touching piano strings
#1130458 01/28/08 10:36 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by MissT:

1)Does this technique have a name? (That I could search for and find more information)
Here's the way Harpo Marx prepared the piano for playing the strings:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoTyDD0C93U

laugh

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130459 03/29/08 11:01 PM
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It reminded me of a YouTube video where Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe performed "Libertango" by Piazzolla where Ms. Roe was covering the strings with her hands as Mr Anderson was playing. Then they switched roles (Mr Anderson covered the strings and Ms. Roe played the piano).

I agree with JohnC where the oils from the hands may attract dirt, leading to corrosion of the strings. As professional musicians, I thought Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Roe (they are Juillard Graduates) would of been aware of this.

- Mark


...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...
Re: Touching piano strings
#1130460 03/30/08 12:32 AM
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Playing inside the piano has been a quite common technique in the classical repertoire of the past century. So far I haven't heard of a single case where the oil from the fingers would have caused damage to the instrument. Anyone else know of a case like this?

Touching the strings really doesn't endanger the piano. However, I've seen people mark the dampers to know which string to touch, this is a lot more dangerous! Give the dampers a slight nudge in the wrong direction and you have damaged the instrument. If you want to mark which string is which, cut out a sheet of paper that fits inside the grand next to the tuning pins and write the keys (or draw a keyboard) on the paper. If you cut the paper to fit the available space correctly, you should be able to place it in only one exact position. Perhaps some similar system can be used in an upright, it's been a while since I looked inside one...

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130461 03/30/08 09:47 AM
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Supposedly it's a long-term concern, and will affect the longevity of the strings. I cant resist, though... it's so much fun. To me an instrument is something to be enjoyed and utilized toward musical expression FIRST, and something to be protected SECOND. I might think differently if I had an antique concert grand, but my little Boston is going to get some fingerprints.

Omar Sosa is a Cuban pianist who plays inside the piano to wonderful subtle effect. My favorite album is "Sentir".

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130462 03/30/08 10:41 AM
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I have seen quite a few jazz concerts where the pianist will pluck or strum the strings inside the piano. Herbie and Chick and I believe Keith Jarret all work the inside of the piano plus they also tapped the wood for percussion like effect. Latin jazz pianists will do the same to add rhythmic interest to the music.
Disciple is good to see your back and posting. I know that you are quite a valuable resource for this site and I hope you stick around for a while. Some might think why Chico and I say watch the clips that guy is a crack up plus he really is playing himself and the audiences love it. Playing jazz and having fun that is where it’s at.
DPVJAZZ

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130463 03/30/08 11:13 AM
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To be honest, the strings will generally deteriorate just from use and tension in the amount of time it takes for problems from touching them to appear. I avoid touching them when I am working on a piano, but that is because it is not my piano.


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Re: Touching piano strings
#1130464 04/02/08 10:37 PM
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i've also heard that heat from a warm hand can be transfered into the string, causing it to expand, possibly knocking it out of tune. i don't know if this is true or not. i can't remember if my tuner told me that or if i read it somewhere. i guess it makes sense though, considering the strings are made out of metal, a good conductor of heat. again, i don't really know the answer. although... i don't ever let the sun shine on my piano's strings for this reason. i want my piano to stay in tune for as long as possible between tunings, but i guess it doesn't really matter when you are a pro and your piano is tuned before and/or after every performance anyway.

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130465 04/04/08 04:37 PM
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In my concerts, I put a tiny touch of liquid paper on the strings I want to touch and never on the wound copper part of bass strings. At the end of the concert, it scrapes right off.

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130466 04/27/08 09:36 PM
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Here is a true story. Me and one of my friends were composing an arrangement for two pianos of Mahler's first symphony. In the third movement, I had to do the contrabass solo. Seeing that the solo sounded very bland on the piano, I tried to add vibrato by touching the strings at an antinode and wiggling my finger back and forth. It actually worked, but in the final rehearsal, my technique made a string snap right on my finger, and that really hurts! I have never touched a string since.

Re: Touching piano strings
#1130467 04/28/08 04:39 AM
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Welcome to the forums ryank@12.

Piano strings are under tremendous stress (several tons). Be careful, this may cause damage to your instrument. You may want to ask a similar question in our Piano technician's forum.

- Mark


...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...
Re: Touching piano strings
#1130468 04/30/08 12:01 AM
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Since there are a few questions unanswered:

1. Yes, it's called "prepared piano". John Cage and many others have written for it.

2. If you push on the string harder than the hammer does, or on just one string of a set (of two or three), yes, it's easy to throw it out of tune.

3. Many times I've tuned pianos with discoloration marks caused by touching (such as across several different bass strings). It's definitely possible for this to develop into corrosion and breakage. It's easy enough to use a guitar pick, or a glove, or some other protection; please don't touch them directly (it's at least $50 to replace a single wound bass string, generally).

4. Yes, Sauter puts marks on their soundboards to help you find the nodes for various overtones.

--Cy--

P.S. Thanks for asking!


Cy Shuster, RPT
www.shusterpiano.com
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Director, PTG Norfolk 2016 Technical Institute
http://convention.ptg.org

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