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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734445 08/16/11 03:32 PM
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My take on it is that we should think about what vibrato accomplishes on the violin. It enhances the resonance of the sound.

Then think of the piano in Liszt's day - it was not as resonant as today's instruments.

I also think performers should feel free to interpret it in different ways. I think the laissez vibrer interpretation makes a lot of sense. I can also see how a tremolo could work to great effect as well - especially given that there's also a crescendo on the dotted whole note in question.

Which brings up the question - since a crescendo on a whole note is impossible, what does Liszt want? Does he want us to just "feel" the crescendo inside? If so, then we can interpret the vibrato similarly and "feel" the vibrato inside. If he wants an actual crescendo, then we definitely need to tremolo or add a little extra rolling around on the chord.

Also, I see this as being related to a number of discussions we've had recently on the lack of creativity by so many performing musicians today. We seem so intent on "getting it right" that we refuse to entertain the idea that there are a variety of creative solutions that are valid. Maybe we need a little less reliance on dictionaries and different editions and a little more imagination at the piano.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
MathGuy #1734462 08/16/11 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by MathGuy
I hope that at least some of the responses above were tongue-in-cheek!

Liszt occasionally used the term vibrato in piano music; I believe Sonetto 104 contains another example, in the passage that's in C#. I'm sure it doesn't mean a tremolo, and especially sure it doesn't mean wiggling the key back and forth -- which would have no effect except possibly to wear out the bushings faster! I take it to mean "vibrating", in the sense of going for an especially rich sonority: full pedal, lots of weight deep into the keys. The passage jazzyprof quoted, and the one I mentioned in Sonetto 104, both contain big chords that indeed have a lot of potential to, well, vibrate.


I just noticed that the pieces you have mentioned were originally songs. Maybe the instruction was meant for the voice and just mistakenly carried over to the piano pieces.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734531 08/16/11 05:44 PM
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Of course, the proper way to achieve vibrato on a piano is to step on the una corda pedal really fast and hard. Alternately, you can place the piano close to some train tracks and with some careful timing achieve the effect at the intended mark.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Damon #1734539 08/16/11 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by MathGuy
I hope that at least some of the responses above were tongue-in-cheek!

Liszt occasionally used the term vibrato in piano music; I believe Sonetto 104 contains another example, in the passage that's in C#. I'm sure it doesn't mean a tremolo, and especially sure it doesn't mean wiggling the key back and forth -- which would have no effect except possibly to wear out the bushings faster! I take it to mean "vibrating", in the sense of going for an especially rich sonority: full pedal, lots of weight deep into the keys. The passage jazzyprof quoted, and the one I mentioned in Sonetto 104, both contain big chords that indeed have a lot of potential to, well, vibrate.


I just noticed that the pieces you have mentioned were originally songs. Maybe the instruction was meant for the voice and just mistakenly carried over to the piano pieces.


I just checked the edition of the song version, and there is no "vibrato" indicated on the vocal part - in fact, the singer has finished by that point in the score. Also, I have never seen "vibrato" written on any vocal music.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Kreisler #1734557 08/16/11 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Kreisler
My take on it is that we should think about what vibrato accomplishes on the violin. It enhances the resonance of the sound.

Then think of the piano in Liszt's day - it was not as resonant as today's instruments.

I also think performers should feel free to interpret it in different ways. I think the laissez vibrer interpretation makes a lot of sense. I can also see how a tremolo could work to great effect as well - especially given that there's also a crescendo on the dotted whole note in question.

Which brings up the question - since a crescendo on a whole note is impossible, what does Liszt want? Does he want us to just "feel" the crescendo inside? If so, then we can interpret the vibrato similarly and "feel" the vibrato inside. If he wants an actual crescendo, then we definitely need to tremolo or add a little extra rolling around on the chord.

Also, I see this as being related to a number of discussions we've had recently on the lack of creativity by so many performing musicians today. We seem so intent on "getting it right" that we refuse to entertain the idea that there are a variety of creative solutions that are valid. Maybe we need a little less reliance on dictionaries and different editions and a little more imagination at the piano.

True, crescendo on a single whole note is impossible but a crescendo on a whole note arpeggio is definitely a possibility.

But is it a crescendo that is asked for here by the hairpin? I am reminded of a lengthy discussion that took place here on the subject of "hairpins". That opening hairpin attached to the dotted whole note arpeggio need not mean a literal crescendo, as I gathered from that discussion. It could just be an indication that one should intensify something. Intensify the feeling. Broaden the tempo.

The vibrato indication I agree is most likely an indication to let the arpeggiated chord resonate, with dampers off. That, together, with the opening hairpin and forte mark suggests you let that sucker really ring! The immediate pianissimo that follows then makes for a very dramatic contrast.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734622 08/16/11 08:12 PM
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I think that the "vibrato" in that case means let the strings vibrate. In other words, use a lot of damper pedal.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734656 08/16/11 08:56 PM
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Ian_G is actually on the right track. Just go and play the silly piece on a clavichord. smile

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Arghhh #1734661 08/16/11 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by MathGuy
I hope that at least some of the responses above were tongue-in-cheek!

Liszt occasionally used the term vibrato in piano music; I believe Sonetto 104 contains another example, in the passage that's in C#. I'm sure it doesn't mean a tremolo, and especially sure it doesn't mean wiggling the key back and forth -- which would have no effect except possibly to wear out the bushings faster! I take it to mean "vibrating", in the sense of going for an especially rich sonority: full pedal, lots of weight deep into the keys. The passage jazzyprof quoted, and the one I mentioned in Sonetto 104, both contain big chords that indeed have a lot of potential to, well, vibrate.


I just noticed that the pieces you have mentioned were originally songs. Maybe the instruction was meant for the voice and just mistakenly carried over to the piano pieces.


I just checked the edition of the song version, and there is no "vibrato" indicated on the vocal part - in fact, the singer has finished by that point in the score. Also, I have never seen "vibrato" written on any vocal music.


I'm a singer and I've never seen an indication for vibrato in a vocal score. It is assumed that the singer has the wherewithal to use vibrato in appropriate places.

As for the indication on a piano score, I would try using different pedalings to see what you like. The idea of catching the notes with the damper pedal and then lifting off the keys might be a neat effect.

As an aside, I also second Kreisler's assertion that it's OK if it's not precisely what Liszt wanted, let's be creative and make it what *we* want. I think performers can sometimes get too caught up in trying to figure out what the composer wanted rather than have something of their own to say.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Orange Soda King #1734722 08/16/11 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Orange Soda King
Shake your head back and forth violently. Then you will hear the vibrating. And when you perform it, have the whole audience do it at that point. Then they will hear it, too.

Originally Posted by Damon
While holding the notes firmly, wiggle your hand back and forth vigorously. Post a recording and MarkC will swear he can hear it.


ABSOLUTELY!!!

Alternatively, the same effect can be achieved by leaving your glasses and watch on the piano.....


To Jazzy: I would have wondered about it too -- and been pretty much at a total loss.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734775 08/16/11 11:27 PM
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Wow, weird. I've seen the indication on violin scores before. I would just take it to mean using lots of damper pedal and maybe gazing profoundly at the ceiling. grin

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734838 08/17/11 02:45 AM
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Geez, people. Doing a physical vibrato was part of Liszt's performance style because the pianos on which he learned to play returned a slight change in pitch to the movement. That Liszt did this is documented. The indication is literal.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Ian_G #1734874 08/17/11 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Ian_G
Geez, people. Doing a physical vibrato was part of Liszt's performance style because the pianos on which he learned to play returned a slight change in pitch to the movement. That Liszt did this is documented. The indication is literal.


Is that right? Which pianos were those? Can you provide us with some of that documentation you're describing? I've not ever heard this before...I mean I've read of Liszt doing all sorts of things at the piano, but I've not ever heard this before.



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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
stores #1734930 08/17/11 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by stores
Originally Posted by Ian_G
Geez, people. Doing a physical vibrato was part of Liszt's performance style because the pianos on which he learned to play returned a slight change in pitch to the movement. That Liszt did this is documented. The indication is literal.


Is that right? Which pianos were those? Can you provide us with some of that documentation you're describing? I've not ever heard this before...I mean I've read of Liszt doing all sorts of things at the piano, but I've not ever heard this before.


I agree. If you are going to say it's written, citing your references or at least providing a quote is a good idea.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
Ian_G #1734996 08/17/11 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Ian_G
Geez, people. Doing a physical vibrato was part of Liszt's performance style because the pianos on which he learned to play returned a slight change in pitch to the movement. That Liszt did this is documented. The indication is literal.

A search on the internet returned this passage from Three Essays on the Fundamentals of Piano Playing:

Liszt occasionally wrote "vibrato" on his piano pieces. Apparently he believed, as have others, that rocking the finger on the key, as a violinist rocks his finger on a string, will produce such an effect. Since, after the string is struck, the only connection between key and either string or soundboard is via the massive frame, it would be difficult to explain such an effect. It is more likely that the performer's ear would be affected. Perhaps Liszt was sufficiently acute psychologically to realize that the sight of a rocking finger would convince some listeners that they were hearing a vibrato.

So, while the pianos may not have been physically able to produce a true vibrato, Liszt apparently thought that rocking a finger on the key has an effect on perceived tone.


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1734999 08/17/11 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by jazzyprof
So, while the pianos may not have been physically able to produce a true vibrato, Liszt apparently thought that rocking a finger on the key has an effect on perceived tone.

Maybe Liszt had a whammy bar installed on his pianos?


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
packa #1735015 08/17/11 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by packa
Originally Posted by jazzyprof
So, while the pianos may not have been physically able to produce a true vibrato, Liszt apparently thought that rocking a finger on the key has an effect on perceived tone.

Maybe Liszt had a whammy bar installed on his pianos?


LOL! grin


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1735074 08/17/11 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by jazzyprof
Originally Posted by Ian_G
Geez, people. Doing a physical vibrato was part of Liszt's performance style because the pianos on which he learned to play returned a slight change in pitch to the movement. That Liszt did this is documented. The indication is literal.

A search on the internet returned this passage from Three Essays on the Fundamentals of Piano Playing:

Liszt occasionally wrote "vibrato" on his piano pieces. Apparently he believed, as have others, that rocking the finger on the key, as a violinist rocks his finger on a string, will produce such an effect. Since, after the string is struck, the only connection between key and either string or soundboard is via the massive frame, it would be difficult to explain such an effect. It is more likely that the performer's ear would be affected. Perhaps Liszt was sufficiently acute psychologically to realize that the sight of a rocking finger would convince some listeners that they were hearing a vibrato.

So, while the pianos may not have been physically able to produce a true vibrato, Liszt apparently thought that rocking a finger on the key has an effect on perceived tone.

Nowadays, people would probably think the pianist was starting to have Parkinson's rather than hearing a vibrato. Staring profoundly at the ceiling would be better, I tells ya.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
packa #1735075 08/17/11 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by jazzyprof
Maybe Liszt had a whammy bar installed on his pianos?


I think it's funny, in light of the earlier discussion, that the whammy bar is also called a "tremolo bar." Another log on the bonfire of musical misnomers... or is it simply that the precise meaning of "tremolo" depends on the instrumental context?


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Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1735076 08/17/11 11:52 AM
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Pick up the piano and shake it.

Re: Stumped: How to achieve vibrato on the piano
jazzyprof #1735082 08/17/11 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jazzyprof
A search on the internet returned this passage from Three Essays on the Fundamentals of Piano Playing....

I'm all for looking at sources, but being a source doesn't necessarily mean it gives the answer. smile

It's an essay, and essays in themselves aren't authoritative sources for anything. What it says doesn't seem to answer your question any more than any of the posts here. Good job by you, quoting the relevant passage (I also looked at the thing myself):

".....Apparently he believed, as have others, that rocking the finger on the key, as a violinist rocks his finger on a string, will produce such an effect...."

Note the "Apparently." smile (And you did -- that's how you put it too.)
It looks like only the author's guess at what it means. He's doing just what we're doing here.

But anyway, it's something. smile
It might be a start -- it might lead to finding something that's closer to an answer.

Last edited by Mark_C; 08/17/11 01:42 PM. Reason: making the wording less bad :)
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