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#2163686 - 10/08/13 09:13 PM Are there guidelines for brightness?  
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thetandyman Offline
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I have had a piano tech that stated that my piano is brighter that he would like. I like it that way, but have played new Kawais that sound like they were muffled in pudding. Is there any keystone for voicing? My piano is a Yamaha, which is known for brightness. I realize that any piano can be voiced almost anyway. What is the general consensus?


Marriage is like a card game, you start with two hearts and a diamond, later you wish you had a club and a spade!
Yamaha G7 Yamaha CVP75 digital, Allen 3500 theater organ
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#2163696 - 10/08/13 09:29 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Hi thetandyman,

My C7 is a combination of brightness and mellowness to me (if that makes any sense)... and, like you, I like the bright upper treble. It has good power there and will bark out loud when I want it to.

And, I think voicing will make a bright piano less bright and not mellow. If you voice it too much, it kills the power and make the tone mushy and soft. When I strike the key hard, I want to hear something substantial. If I want mushy, I'll play is softly.

And, you want your piano to sound the way you want it to sound, and not your piano tech (with all due respect smile ).

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2163701 - 10/08/13 09:38 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Rick, I think you and I think alike. Best Buddy!


Marriage is like a card game, you start with two hearts and a diamond, later you wish you had a club and a spade!
Yamaha G7 Yamaha CVP75 digital, Allen 3500 theater organ
#2163703 - 10/08/13 09:40 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Greetings,
There is little consensus on tone. However, I have found there is consensus on voice. The ideal hammer is one that produces a tonal range that suits the pianist playing the piano, and there are a number of variables in that equation.
Ideally, a piano hammer will produce a variety of tone, or brilliance, depending on how hard you play it. If played ppp, it should be mellow, and when played FF it should be brassy. The tonal palette is the distance between these two extremes.

To listen to the voice, play a note from pianissimo to forte by gradually increasing the strength of the blow. It should take about 4 or 5 seconds to go from soft to hard. Listen to the tone of the note. If it is muffled at all playing levels, it is a dead hammer. If it is glassy sounding at the softest play and still glassy on a hard blow, it is a rock. Both of these examples are of hammers that have only one sound, regardless of how hard they are played. They have very narrow tonal palettes. What is generally desired is a malleable tone, so that the piano will "speak" with a voice. This is achieved by creating a hammer that changes tone with volume. As you play it up, you hear the additional brilliance creep in with the force of the blow. A big pianist may prefer a softer hammer, since they have the strength to dial it up when they want to. A smaller, or more elderly, pianist might prefer to begin with a harder sound, since they lack the upper body weight and strength to push the hammers' tone.

This is the added dimension to tone, the ability to increase the brilliance with force. Since our ears are more sensitive to the higher frequencies, we can bring out a line with less difference in sheer force when a little bit more power makes the note not only louder, but brighter. A sensitive pianist can play a sparkling melody over a lush, full background harmony on a piano like this. A hammer like this allows the pianist to control the sound a lot more.

In contrast, a piano with very little voice will require that the melodic line be brought out by power, which fatigues the ear of the listener much more quickly. Hard hammers can be more manageable with a very finely regulated action, but when they are found on an action that is really out of regulation, there is no way to control anything approaching pianissimo levels of play. This is a very common situation with pianos that are 5-10 years old; the action regulation is gone, and the hammers have hardened up. The result is an instrument that doesn't respond to anything more subtle than a fist.
Regards,

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#2163760 - 10/09/13 02:05 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Ed Foote]  
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Ed,

A very nice description of hammer voicing and tonal palette, one of the niciest if not the niciest I ever read here on the forums.

Thank you,

schwammerl.

#2163781 - 10/09/13 04:20 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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I had my Yamaha voiced to be less bright. It's not in a particularly large or absorbent room. I was worried that it would somehow lose something. It didn't. The piano technician said something interesting which is that the energy has to go somewhere. Certainly while my piano lost some "ear jangling" harshness, it gained some kind of richness.

In terms of physics, I don't think it's necessarily true that the energy given to the hammer must emerge somewhere in the sound. I could see a needled hammer absorbing more energy within itself and warming up a bit more. However, in my case I was very happy that there was indeed a transfer of sound energy.


Yamaha C3X SH
#2163801 - 10/09/13 05:21 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Ed,

As always, well said.

From a player's perspective, voicing is all about offering as much color to the player as a set of hammers is able to give. When we refer to the amount of brightness, we are really only talking about a baseline comparison.

A good set of hammers that has been worked on by a skillful voicer allows the player control and many "pastel" shades within a single color to choose from to express themselves.

My 2 cents,


Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
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#2163840 - 10/09/13 08:07 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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As long as the piano owner has enough experience with differently voiced pianos to be acutally choosing and understands possible advantages/disadvantages of kinds of voicing to make a intelligent decision, I think how a piano is voiced should be a purely personal decision of the owner. If a tech or dealer thinks someone is making a poor voicing choice, it would be reasonable for them to explain why they think another choice is better.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/09/13 10:03 AM.
#2164500 - 10/10/13 03:09 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Originally Posted by thetandyman
I realize that any piano can be voiced almost any way. What is the general consensus?


I don't think a piano can be voiced to sound any way. If you start replacing hammers, etc. then you can go farther in a particular direction, but without that you're stuck in a particular range.

No there's no consensus. I think there might be a general trend among "types" of pianists: pop musicians often want the piano "bright" so it can cut through the mix. Classical pianists often want a piano less bright so they can achieve a warm singing tone. Jazz pianists I'm not sure. Maybe someone who understands them better could shed some light on that question.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2164539 - 10/10/13 04:26 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Piano sound and especially the ability for "voicing" is one of the most misunderstand aspects of tonality.

It's hardly ever "bright" versus "mellow" the way it is commonly assumed or described.

Ideally, the different registers of the piano have to be In BALANCE to each other, something we cover very carefully when discussing or demonstrating pianos.

Not much is accomplished by restricting oneself listening simply to the middle octaves: it's like supposedly test-driving a car going 50 miles and then "judging" things after.

Instead, dynamic range, balance of tone, resonance in treble, staying pure at fortissiomo etc are all important aspects to consider.

While much depends on a pianist's personal taste, his playing style and a piano's innate quality, once possibilities are shown things are usually much better understood.

For example, when playing Boogie, I might prefer very different tone [and piano..] than when playing classical stuff..

Romantic composers again often sounding nicer on certain pianos than those preferring Baroque music and so on.

Ideally, a piano handles everything, but its also a well known fact that that almost all excel in one type of music over another.

Forever a mystery to me how may expensive pianos sound less than average when put to the test by not only playing some 40, but all 88 keys.

So, which part are we discussing?

How and "what" do you play and what kind of tone would you prefer - all across the keyboard of course....

Norbert

Last edited by Norbert; 10/10/13 04:36 PM.

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#2164570 - 10/10/13 05:55 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Esteemed repliers, thanks for the carefully worded insight. I respect you all and will take all this into consideration. My repertoire is mostly '20's to40's standards and stride. This is why I like a relatively "bright" piano, however I'm also concerned that some guest pianists would think it too much so. Mu own tech, as I mentioned prior, thinks it should be tamed a bit. I'm still thinking. I certainly appreciate all the info in your replies.
Best, Bill


Marriage is like a card game, you start with two hearts and a diamond, later you wish you had a club and a spade!
Yamaha G7 Yamaha CVP75 digital, Allen 3500 theater organ
#2164656 - 10/10/13 10:45 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Ed Foote]  
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Originally Posted by Ed Foote

This is a very common situation with pianos that are 5-10 years old; the action regulation is gone, and the hammers have hardened up. The result is an instrument that doesn't respond to anything more subtle than a fist.


Thank you indeed for your excellent description, Mr. Foote.
I have a question. Apart from impact of strings to hammer -- taking a infrequently used piano as an example, what is physically going on (if anything) within the hammer such that it hardens up after 5-10 years and can it be successfully voiced?

Regards-


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
#2164933 - 10/11/13 03:08 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: phacke]  
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Quote
what is physically going on (if anything) within the hammer such that it hardens up after 5-10 years and can it be successfully voiced


phacke,

Just my guess. The outer portion of the hammer (the resilient portion) could dry out and oxidize over time.

schwammerl.

#2165005 - 10/11/13 06:06 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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"...Mu own tech... thinks it should be tamed a bit..."

It is a good way to look at it. Any kind of voicing should go a little at a time, with some playing-in, in between voicings. Also, it pays to have had the piano long enough, and with tunings and regulation enough, so that it's stable and so that you know what its voice actually is.

Besides the piano itself, the room may need some acoustic adjustment, which has to be determined by experiment. Most home music rooms do. If any thought at all is given to their acoustic design, it's with a TV or stereo in mind.

In any case, the piano's inherent voice can only be changed so much. Maybe your tech is telling you that your piano would play more evenly and sound more the way it was intended, if it got some voicing as part of its regular maintenance. If your tech knows how to voice and regulate, then it could be good advice.


Clef

#2165113 - 10/11/13 11:58 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: schwammerl]  
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Originally Posted by schwammerl
Quote
what is physically going on (if anything) within the hammer such that it hardens up after 5-10 years and can it be successfully voiced


phacke,

Just my guess. The outer portion of the hammer (the resilient portion) could dry out and oxidize over time.

schwammerl.


Thanks very much for your comment. I'm also reading here that a high humidity followed by dry conditions will harden hammers:
http://www.sussexpianos.co.uk/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=13

Moisture and heat drive the process that stiffens wool into felt in the first place, so it could be that the process continues forward with high humidity, temperature, and mechanical action causing the fibers to further interlock.

http://books.google.com/books?id=3B...umidity%20to%20harden%20felt&f=false

That's what I tentatively concluded with an hour of surfing the web, at any rate.

Best wishes-


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
#2165139 - 10/12/13 02:03 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: phacke]  
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Quote
That's what I tentatively concluded with an hour of surfing the web, at any rate.


phacke,

Should you want to know more about hammer making, there was once an interesting discussion here (especially recommended the contributions of member 'Del' in this thread)/

metallic attack vs. 'bloom' of note

schwammerl.

#2165524 - 10/13/13 02:53 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: schwammerl]  
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Thanks again, schwammerl, for informing of that thread. There are two posts there by the professionals that indicate moisture and heat harden hammers during fabrication.

But conversely, the esteemed Mr. Foote also has a steam+iron+needle process to soften some Asian hammers (doesn't work on all hammers; not S&S, for example), so there are subtleties apparently.

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubb...ing%20Hammers%20to%20Warm%20the%20T.html

INterestingly, it seems Mr. Foote's process was referenced and described in the book Pianos Inside Out too.

Best regards-


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
#2165537 - 10/13/13 04:32 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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I looked into softening felt before reshaping the hammers on my 1925 Schiedmayer & Soehne upright, which I take to be long fibre cold-pressed.

An Australian wool scientist explained the scaly nature of wool fibres. The scales tend to interlock as the slide (by small amounts) over each other. Once locked they do do not unlock so readily on the next movement. This makes the felt less flexible and hard. The active (surfactant) molecules in fabric softeners attach themselves to the scales on surface of the fibres and act as a lubricant.

The hammers had some flat grooves with hard ridges at each end where some fibres had congregated. It was possible to remove the ridges and the grooves by repeated manipulation (rolling action from side to side). I discovered by chance, when cleaning a mark off one hammer, that a surfactant made it much easier to reshape it.

I should point out that grooves can also form by wear (i.e. breakage) of the fibres rather than movement over each other. Wear may be the predominant factor in more recent hot pressed hammers laced with chemicals and treated with lacquer.

Last weekend I softened the hardened front cushionis on a 108 year old grand simply by flexing them in all directions. That made a big difference to the touch.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
#2165842 - 10/13/13 11:29 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Withindale]  
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Thanks for your interesting post, Withindale.

The interlocking process in wool felt responsible for the hardening that you wrote about is very consistent with what I have been reading.

Fabric softener to soften hard hammer felt makes a great deal of sense, but that's a new one on me. So I did a web search and indeed, it looks like others have tried this too and obtained satisfactory results, like here:
http://my.ptg.org/discussions/message/?MID=222973

you wrote>Last weekend I softened the hardened front cushionis on a 108 year old grand simply by flexing them in all directions. That made a big difference to the touch.

I have a difficult time imagining this. I happen to have a brand new, never been mounted on a shank, NY Steinway hammer about the size for A0 (they gave them out at the S&S factory tour). It is so hard, it takes a lot of force to flex it. This flexing process seems however consistent in effect with the hammer hammering method attributed to Mr. David Stanwood, and discussed on p 214 here:
http://www.pianosinsideout.com/voicing.pdf

My take-aways so far from this discussion is that the hammer felt hardening is due to the interlocking process of wool fibers facilitated with humidity, heat, and mechanical action. And, there are a number of processes to soften such over-stiffened hammers too.

Thanks again for your informative post.

Best regards-





phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
#2166045 - 10/14/13 11:43 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: phacke]  
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Originally Posted by phacke
you wrote>Last weekend I softened the hardened front cushions on a 108 year old grand simply by flexing them in all directions. That made a big difference to the touch.

I have a difficult time imagining this. I happen to have a brand new, never been mounted on a shank, NY Steinway hammer about the size for A0 (they gave them out at the S&S factory tour). It is so hard, it takes a lot of force to flex it. This flexing process seems however consistent in effect with the hammer hammering method attributed to Mr. David Stanwood, and discussed on p 214 here:
http://www.pianosinsideout.com/voicing.pdf


Those old front rail punchings ("cushions") were as stiff as a board but became resilient again with a bit of manipulation.

There are some pictures of my 1925 hammers in this thread and, as you will see, you can get an idea of how layers move when you flex a soft tissue roll.
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/1668047/

Have you seen this video of hammering hammers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-BazjScJtk?








Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
#2166957 - 10/16/13 12:38 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Withindale]  
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Thanks again, Withindale, your thread about rolling tissue role and hammers was very interesting. Also, I had not seen the hammering of the hammers video before. I also thought Mr. Oleg's comment to the video, about one of the hammers getting one fewer blows with the ball peen was mildly entertaining.

Thanks again,


phacke

Steinway YM (1933)
...Working on:
J. S. Bach, Toccata (G minor) BWV 915
(and trying not to forget the other stuff I know)
#2167340 - 10/16/13 04:30 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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I find when communicating with techs, it is best to be quantitative about things. When my Yamaha became too bright, I asked my tech to voice it down, and he said he didn't feel it needs it. So I asked him between 1 to 10, where does he think the piano is and he said it's about a 7. When it gets to 9 or 10, he will tell me that it needs to be voiced down, and he doesn't like to make clients feel he is over servicing or charging.

That immediately made sense to me, so I told him I like it around 5 not 7 and certainly will never tolerate a 9. He immediately understood and voice the Yamaha down to exactly where I liked. He readily admit that's not where he likes it, but it is my piano. Nowadays, he just knows to voice down my piano every six months. I don't even have to tell him. It sounds awesome to me, perhaps a bit soft for him.


Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci
#2167364 - 10/16/13 05:40 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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If you do any reading in the Tuner/Tech Forum, you will quickly see that many techs have very little respect for piano owners and believe that we need to conform to their, often, narrow ideas of how a piano should sound.

If a tech gives you attitude, give 'em the boot!


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2167398 - 10/16/13 07:19 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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Marty, good advice! I still like the powerful bass, but I'm still not sure. reminds me of a suit salesman many years ago that told me that I didn't know what I like. I walked out.
Thanks for the comment, missed you!


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#2167914 - 10/17/13 10:44 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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"... reminds me of a suit salesman many years ago that told me that I didn't know what I like. I walked out..."

Reminds me of meeting an elderly sister of the deceased (my grandfathers wife, and a very dear lady) at her funeral. I was not surprised when she asked me my name, but I was surprised when, on telling her my true and actual name, she corrected me. We did this little dance three times before I gave up on her. I guess I don't know what my name is--- maybe I should be on one of those "Child on the Milkcarton" with the tag line: Do you know mu name?"


Clef

#2168029 - 10/18/13 07:44 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
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I honestly think our like or dislike for piano tone can change over time. I know mine has.

That’s why I see nothing wrong with having more than one piano, each with a different tone signature. smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2168031 - 10/18/13 07:55 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Rickster]  
Joined: Feb 2011
Posts: 2,511
Withindale Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Withindale  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Feb 2011
Posts: 2,511
Suffolk, England
Rick

Now you've hit on an endless line of argument for yet another piano.

Your preferences could change from day to day, from one piece to the next, and with the wind. A stentorian bass in the early evening could give way to the intimate tones of a baby grand late at night....


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
#2168042 - 10/18/13 08:17 AM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
Joined: Mar 2006
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Rickster Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
Rickster  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2006
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Georgia, USA
Originally Posted by Withindale
Rick

Now you've hit on an endless line of argument for yet another piano.

Your preferences could change from day to day, from one piece to the next, and with the wind. A stentorian bass in the early evening could give way to the intimate tones of a baby grand late at night....

You are absolutely right, Withindale. I suppose it is best to find “THE” right piano and stick with it for the duration. But then you only experience the euphoria of buying a new (or new-to-you) piano only once. smile

Of course, there is a down side to having more than one piano… sacrificing the space needed and keeping them all in tune.

However, there is another way to satisfy ones changing appetite for piano sound and tonality. I had a piano dealer to tell me once that he had a particular customer who traded pianos about every two years… grin


Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
#2168159 - 10/18/13 01:49 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: Rickster]  
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,607
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member
4evrBeginR  Offline
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Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,607
California
There is no perfect piano for anything. When listening to professional recordings I am often thinking this sounds so great right here, but then moments later I am thinking well the piano could be a bit brighter (or opposite) for this part of the music.

The perfect piano would be a piano capable of changing its tone as easily as the orchestral composer changing musical tone by utilizing a different instrument. At the very least, I do think it would be good during a concert performance that a pianist is allowed to change piano from piece to piece, but even that is generally not possible.


Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci
#2168176 - 10/18/13 02:28 PM Re: Are there guidelines for brightness? [Re: thetandyman]  
Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014
Minnesota Marty  Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Joined: May 2012
Posts: 7,439
Rochester MN
I like Rick's idea the best - Multiple Pianos!

I'm guilty, too.

If someone could really define "brightness" I would be soooooo thankful! It would win a Nobel Prize for "Bright Ideas."

laugh


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
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