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Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: hreichgott] #2228723
02/09/14 11:25 PM
02/09/14 11:25 PM
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TwoSnowflakes Offline OP
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
keeping a controlled and even tone when playing p.

This is one of the hardest things on the piano, period. Don't despair.

At my last tuning my technician noticed that my key dip was too deep, and uneven from one key to the next. He fixed it and that made it a lot easier to play quietly with a reliable tone. Mechanical issues with pianos show up most with quiet playing so you might check with your technician.

You're certainly on to something with the tension issue. Tension leads to unpredictable sound. I wonder if an exercise I give to first-time octave scale players might work for you? It's an octave scale, in half notes, played p, with the hand very close to the keys, the arm very relaxed, and the feeling is like being a wet blanket sinking into the key.


This was one of the things I tried today and it was effective, thanks. I think I always played with a good deal of unneeded tension and now to get rid of it I have to slowly repattern myself. When I'm confident in a passage or a piece, my tension retreats, but I would like my first impulse, whether I am confident or not, to be a fluid, healthy, tension-free one.

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Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: phantomFive] #2228724
02/09/14 11:28 PM
02/09/14 11:28 PM
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TwoSnowflakes Offline OP
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by Cinnamonbear

4) Trust the sleep/wake cycle. Little struggles today can result in astounding fluidity, or ah-ha moments, tomorrow.

True point.


Sometimes I try to do something RIGHT before I go to sleep, exactly as I want it to be, super slowly but perfectly, and let my brain work it out all night.

It tends to help.

I need to do this more, especially when it comes to motions I need to be absolutely automatic.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: pianoloverus] #2228726
02/09/14 11:36 PM
02/09/14 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I can only tell you what worked for me and resulted in an amazingly fast improvement. I think the problem for most people is avoiding ghost(non sounding) notes when they try to play very softly.

Of course, the piano must be reasonably well regulated and of reasonable quality to begin with. Beyond that point playing very softly is a technical issue. I made a few threads about this some time ago at PW and got a huge variety of suggestions(many of which I thought made little sense). But then someone said that the well known pedagogue Willard Palmer said that when pianists have trouble with ghost notes it can often be because their fingers are not firm enough. It may be a natural tendency for some to relax their fingers too much when pressing the keys slowly but I think this causes one to lose control/feel of the key's descent.

Anyway, as soon as I concentrated on keeping my fingers very firm even when playing ppp I greatly reduced the frequency of ghost notes within a half hour of practicing. If I play a ghost note now, I think "firm fingers" and the next try has no ghost note.


This makes sense. The first thing I do when I notice I'm tensing up (it feels like I'm choking my sound off at the wrists) in order to "go piano", is try to relax--which would be great but I don't do it by relaxing my upper arms and wrists, but simply relaxing my fingers, which is just about the only thing that WON'T work. Result: I pad gently at the key with a mushy finger extended from a frozen wrist, instead of dropping weight, and you can imagine the amaaaaaazing control that must give me. Not.

Edited to add: The piano (a 178cm/5'10" grand) is of reasonable quality. Not spectacular quality, but generally accepted here in the piano forums to be above the threshold of a reasonable quality piano.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2228728
02/09/14 11:39 PM
02/09/14 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think the problem for most people is avoiding ghost(non sounding) notes when they try to play very softly.


Agreed. You have to make sure to get down to the bottom of the key bed. Play the key lightly, but think about getting to the bottom. Visualize striking or even pushing the underneath part of the key bed.



What do you mean by pushing the "underneath" part of the keybed?


If you were to lift up your knee while sitting at the piano, you'd hit the underneath part of the keybed.

Now, I realize of course that you don't push the keys down that far, but I overcame this problem through this process, and it was a very big problem for me.

I tried to visualize sinking the keys all the way down, down further than they actually go. I thought of it as (gently) pushing the keys down to the bottom, or kind of like scratching the key bed bottom with the keys.

I hope this helps, it's very difficult to explain, sorry...

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: DanS] #2228733
02/09/14 11:46 PM
02/09/14 11:46 PM
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TwoSnowflakes Offline OP
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Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by TwoSnowflakes
Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think the problem for most people is avoiding ghost(non sounding) notes when they try to play very softly.


Agreed. You have to make sure to get down to the bottom of the key bed. Play the key lightly, but think about getting to the bottom. Visualize striking or even pushing the underneath part of the key bed.



What do you mean by pushing the "underneath" part of the keybed?


If you were to lift up your knee while sitting at the piano, you'd hit the underneath part of the keybed.

Now, I realize of course that you don't push the keys down that far, but I overcame this problem through this process, and it was a very big problem for me.

I tried to visualize sinking the keys all the way down, down further than they actually go. I thought of it as (gently) pushing the keys down to the bottom, or kind of like scratching the key bed bottom with the keys.

I hope this helps, it's very difficult to explain, sorry...


No, I get your drift. I will try it tomorrow because one of the things that helped me initially was simply realizing that I had to adjust my "goal" fully to the keybed rather than some kind of amorphous place that hovered a lot closer to the surface of the key.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: Cinnamonbear] #2228735
02/09/14 11:48 PM
02/09/14 11:48 PM
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TwoSnowflakes Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Cinnamonbear
Originally Posted by BruceD
[...] I would also suggest that you do something similar with four-part hymn tunes. Play them very slowly, very quietly, but bottom out on each chord so that you really get the feel for what you need to do to produce predictable, soft playing with every note sounding.

Once the feel is there, you should be able to increase tempo.

Regards,


Ooo! That's good, Bruce! Would you also strive to play each block chord as evenly as possible, and not do fancy voicing, just for the sake of the discipline?


Ha, I just assigned myself Schumann's Op 68 no 4, Ein Choral for this very purpose.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: Cinnamonbear] #2228737
02/09/14 11:55 PM
02/09/14 11:55 PM
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TwoSnowflakes Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Cinnamonbear
Oh! I just thought of something else!

Where are you listening to your piano? I found that when I listen into the piano, and find the point where I can hear the hammer hitting the string, I do best with shaping everything--dynamics/tone/phrasing. I may be looking at the score, but I am listening through it into the piano, and with my hearing eyes, seeing the hammers.


I was recently thinking that I had an erroneous view of what was going on inside the piano and it was hampering my ability to get what I want from it. I have a very simplistic mechanical visual for what is not nearly so simplistic. And it's not that I don't understand how the piano action works, it's just that when I'm not looking at the action directly, my simplistic mental image takes over. It has a lot more of a one-to-one ratio of pressure to hammer speed, and no real precise working sense of where and when things start to move and retreat. That isn't helpful. I should spend some time really building a better internal visual of the whole process in there so when I can't see it, I'm still accurately predicting things.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: Cinnamonbear] #2228745
02/10/14 12:28 AM
02/10/14 12:28 AM
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TwoSnowflakes -- glad it helped, and glad you have figured out the relaxation thing, at least the first steps, it is a process!

Andy:
1) What kind of piano?
Cable Nelson 5' grand
2) How old is the piano? (Serial number, please, if nothing else...)
1920s

3) How did your tech notice that the key dip was too deep and uneven?
I had an amorphous complaint about uneven sound developing, and verified with him that the action had been regulated a couple of years ago, but I guess that put him on a spree of measuring things and then he tried measuring the key dip. There is a standard measurement.

4) How long did it take for your tech to complete the work?
About a half hour added on to a regular tuning.

5) How did your tech make the key dip less deep and more even? (Specifics, please, if you have them.)
I'm not 100% sure that he'd welcome it being shared, but it was a clever quick fix, involved taking out the keyboard but no more disassembly than that.

6) How much did it cost? (PM me that one! grin )
About a half hour added on to a regular tuning smile


Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

Working on:
Cabaret (whole show)
12+ variations from classical ballets
Verdi: Stabat Mater
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Tangos and other fun music for piano duo

I love Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and new music
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: DanS] #2228805
02/10/14 04:48 AM
02/10/14 04:48 AM
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phantomFive Offline
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Originally Posted by DanS

Originally Posted by phantomFive
If you have access to an unweighted keyboard, playing on that can increase your sensitivity a lot.


I don't think learning to play softly on an unweighted keyboard translates to the piano.

I'm interested in understanding why you don't think that, since I've seen it translate amazingly well to the piano.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: hreichgott] #2228860
02/10/14 08:52 AM
02/10/14 08:52 AM
Joined: Jan 2010
Posts: 4,423
Rockford, IL
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
[...]
Andy:
1) What kind of piano?
Cable Nelson 5' grand
2) How old is the piano? (Serial number, please, if nothing else...)
1920s

3) How did your tech notice that the key dip was too deep and uneven?
I had an amorphous complaint about uneven sound developing, and verified with him that the action had been regulated a couple of years ago, but I guess that put him on a spree of measuring things and then he tried measuring the key dip. There is a standard measurement.

4) How long did it take for your tech to complete the work?
About a half hour added on to a regular tuning.

5) How did your tech make the key dip less deep and more even? (Specifics, please, if you have them.)
I'm not 100% sure that he'd welcome it being shared, but it was a clever quick fix, involved taking out the keyboard but no more disassembly than that.

6) How much did it cost? (PM me that one! grin )
About a half hour added on to a regular tuning smile


Thanks! That was informative and fun to read!


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: phantomFive] #2228866
02/10/14 09:10 AM
02/10/14 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by DanS

Originally Posted by phantomFive
If you have access to an unweighted keyboard, playing on that can increase your sensitivity a lot.


I don't think learning to play softly on an unweighted keyboard translates to the piano.

I'm interested in understanding why you don't think that, since I've seen it translate amazingly well to the piano.


I don't think it would work because on a keyboard, the note is going to sound no matter how softly the key is pushed down. Even if you play the key so slowly that it takes an hour for the key to descend, there's going to be a point where the electric connection is made and the note will sound.

This is not so on a piano. In fact, the main problem is playing softly and making sure all the notes sound. I don't see how playing a keyboard, in which the notes will sound no matter how you play them, will help you make sure all the notes sound on a piano.

Of course, you said you've seen it work, so who knows..

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2228896
02/10/14 10:18 AM
02/10/14 10:18 AM
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The guaranteed remedy is a combination of what was stated by BruceD and pianoloverus.

1) Make sure you play the key all the way to the bottom.
2) Make sure your fingers are firm enough but not tense. What this means is that you shouldn't let the fingers buckle as they press the key - just keep the same curvature throughout the key stroke.

I guarantee that these 2 points will solve your problem.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: DanS] #2228953
02/10/14 12:48 PM
02/10/14 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by DanS

Originally Posted by phantomFive
If you have access to an unweighted keyboard, playing on that can increase your sensitivity a lot.


I don't think learning to play softly on an unweighted keyboard translates to the piano.

I'm interested in understanding why you don't think that, since I've seen it translate amazingly well to the piano.


I don't think it would work because on a keyboard, the note is going to sound no matter how softly the key is pushed down. Even if you play the key so slowly that it takes an hour for the key to descend, there's going to be a point where the electric connection is made and the note will sound.
......
Of course, you said you've seen it work, so who knows..

Yeap, it does work smile

I suspect if you only ever played on an unweighted keyboard, then you would be right and have troubles you mentioned. But if you're used to the heavier action of a real piano, then the difference between forte and piano on an unweighted is so small that you MUST develop greater sensitivity at the soft end to get any difference in volume at all.

Another interesting idea is to play on a weighted keyboard with the sound turned off. Kalkbrenner advocated a method similar to this. Of course, it also shouldn't be your only practice method. Mainly I just say keep trying different things until you find something that works.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: phantomFive] #2228985
02/10/14 01:32 PM
02/10/14 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by DanS
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by DanS

Originally Posted by phantomFive
If you have access to an unweighted keyboard, playing on that can increase your sensitivity a lot.


I don't think learning to play softly on an unweighted keyboard translates to the piano.

I'm interested in understanding why you don't think that, since I've seen it translate amazingly well to the piano.


I don't think it would work because on a keyboard, the note is going to sound no matter how softly the key is pushed down. Even if you play the key so slowly that it takes an hour for the key to descend, there's going to be a point where the electric connection is made and the note will sound.
......
Of course, you said you've seen it work, so who knows..

Yeap, it does work smile

I suspect if you only ever played on an unweighted keyboard, then you would be right and have troubles you mentioned. But if you're used to the heavier action of a real piano, then the difference between forte and piano on an unweighted is so small that you MUST develop greater sensitivity at the soft end to get any difference in volume at all.

Another interesting idea is to play on a weighted keyboard with the sound turned off. Kalkbrenner advocated a method similar to this. Of course, it also shouldn't be your only practice method. Mainly I just say keep trying different things until you find something that works.
It might work but I think it's very inefficient. Practice on the real thing to get used to how an acoustic action feels and the feel of the hammer lifting and then being released at the point of let off. Practice the technique that works on an acoustic.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: TwoSnowflakes] #2228998
02/10/14 02:16 PM
02/10/14 02:16 PM
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Well, the whole idea is somewhat moot since I don't have an unweighted keyboard at my disposal, anyway!

I'm working super slowly and just trying to find the limits of everything.

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: pianoloverus] #2229037
02/10/14 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It might work but I think it's very inefficient.

That's a nice, but incorrect, guess. smile


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: phantomFive] #2229047
02/10/14 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It might work but I think it's very inefficient.

That's a nice, but incorrect, guess. smile
Well at least I gave some reasons why I thought it was inefficient. Are you saying that because it worked for you this means it's an efficient way of learning to play softly? How do you know some other way isn't far more efficient(like learning the proper technique for playing softly on an acoustic and practicing it on an acoustic)?

Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: pianoloverus] #2229115
02/10/14 06:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It might work but I think it's very inefficient.

That's a nice, but incorrect, guess. smile
Well at least I gave some reasons why I thought it was inefficient. Are you saying that because it worked for you this means it's an efficient way of learning to play softly? How do you know some other way isn't far more efficient(like learning the proper technique for playing softly on an acoustic and practicing it on an acoustic)?

The only way to be sure with a question like this is with data. We can argue for days, or years about the best way to do it (and truly some arguments about the 'best way' to teach piano lasted for decades), but unless you actually try, you will never know for sure.

That said, I've seen drastic improvements on this very topic by using an unweighted keyboard. If you have data that says otherwise, then let's see it. Because data will answer the question better than all the guesses anyone can make.



Poetry is rhythm
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: phantomFive] #2229136
02/10/14 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by phantomFive
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
It might work but I think it's very inefficient.

That's a nice, but incorrect, guess. smile
Well at least I gave some reasons why I thought it was inefficient. Are you saying that because it worked for you this means it's an efficient way of learning to play softly? How do you know some other way isn't far more efficient(like learning the proper technique for playing softly on an acoustic and practicing it on an acoustic)?

The only way to be sure with a question like this is with data. We can argue for days, or years about the best way to do it (and truly some arguments about the 'best way' to teach piano lasted for decades), but unless you actually try, you will never know for sure.

That said, I've seen drastic improvements on this very topic by using an unweighted keyboard. If you have data that says otherwise, then let's see it. Because data will answer the question better than all the guesses anyone can make.
If you've seen drastic improvement but don't know of others who have also seen improvement then the sample space is too small to have any meaning. But far more important, one has to compare the "playing on an unweighted keyboard" to other methods to draw a conclusion about efficiency.

Doing handstands, eating peas with chopsticks, or knitting might help someone learn how to play softly, but that does not mean they are efficient methods.

Most people wouldn't consider learning the correct technique for playing softly and then practicing that technique as a "guess" about how to solve a technical problem.

In the thread I already gave my own example of a technical adjustment which was suggested by an eminent pedagogue (and supported by several other posters)that helped improve my pp playing.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/10/14 06:54 PM.
Re: Better piano/pianissimo [Re: pianoloverus] #2229158
02/10/14 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus

In the thread I already gave my own example of a technical adjustment which was suggested by an eminent pedagogue (and supported by several other posters)that helped improve my pp playing.

That's great. I'm glad you found a way that worked.


Poetry is rhythm
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