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What is "presence"?
#2382258 02/04/15 11:30 AM
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For me this, is one of those words that people use that has little real meaning, at least for me. Can someone explain what this word means?

Another word that I think most people just use as a substitute for "sound" or "tone" is "resonance". Can someone explain this term?

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382263 02/04/15 11:51 AM
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Usually we refer to a person having "presence" which could be described as having some charisma and a natural warmth which impress us.

In reference to piano sound, it is vague, but it is probably used as an affirmative way of describing a warm, mellow-toned instrument.

"Resonance" may refer to the power and richness of the sound and the quality of its sustain.

Regards,
Robert.

Last edited by Robert 45; 02/04/15 11:52 AM.
Re: What is "presence"?
Robert 45 #2382269 02/04/15 12:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Robert 45
Usually we refer to a person having "presence" which could be described as having some charisma and a natural warmth which impress us.

In reference to piano sound, it is vague, but it is probably used as an affirmative way of describing a warm, mellow-toned instrument.

"Resonance" may refer to the power and richness of the sound and the quality of its sustain.

Regards,
Robert.
"Presence" is definitely a positive term but I think people should try and say what they really mean instead of using such, at least for me, a vague term. At least "warm" is a little more precise, although even there one person's idea of warm may not be the same as someone else's idea.

"Power" is a reasonably clear term but "richness" is another very vague term IMO.

Another term I find rather silly is a "deep" bass. Isn't every bass "deep" by definition?

Last edited by pianoloverus; 02/04/15 04:24 PM.
Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382274 02/04/15 12:13 PM
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Whenever I have heard the term "presence", it has usually been in the context of sound recording. An piano with presence will be heard more distinctly, and won't be drowned out by the other instruments.

Wikipedia has some more information on the topic.

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382276 02/04/15 12:16 PM
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To me, trying to describe how I feel about the sound of a particular piano is akin to trying to describe a fine wine I enjoy. What I perceive as chocolate another taster might describe as tobacco, or leather. Everyone will experience both wine and a fine instrument in different ways, and we tend to use rather colorful and romantic descriptors to do so.

Having said that, I personally feel that the term ‚ÄĚresonance" does have a factual, common definition when used to describe an instrument, much like the terms "timbre" and "tone" do. I don't consider those to be fluffy, romantic descriptors.


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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382285 02/04/15 12:29 PM
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We must remember that describing sound is very difficult. An imperfect science if you like. Most of the words describing sound and tone are used metaphorically. Rather than say "a tone of complex harmonics" we would "a rich tone" which probably conveys our meaning more simply. "Thin", "tight", "bright", "short" even "not shy" are among other words which I have heard piano professionals use when describing piano tone.

We all probably know what they mean just as easily as we know if we like or dislike the particular tone of a piano.

Robert.

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382288 02/04/15 12:31 PM
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Presence is the ability to make people aware you are on the stage, demand their attention.

Watch these guys, who have different stage presence.


These two know how to keep the audience's attention and enjoy being on stage:


This guy looks like he wishes the audience weren't there and that they would stop clapping. Not much stage presence, and that look on his face while he plays (but wow, what fingers!)

Start at 11:20


This guy awkwardly walks on the stage as if he is nervous and doesn't want to be there. Once again, nice playing.

Last edited by phantomFive; 02/04/15 12:31 PM.

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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382290 02/04/15 12:44 PM
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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382297 02/04/15 12:54 PM
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I have found it more useful to adopt terms used by singers to describe tone quality.

I have heard it said that "tone is a matter of taste". I have never felt that statement is at all close to the truth. Otherwise there would be widely divergent views about what a good and/or great voice is when we hear it.

I have given a program titled "Tone is Not For Tasting" at several PTG conferences. It is based on my theory of "Musically Intelligible Sound". I meld how opera singers shape sound, a two-part analysis of an individual piano note, basic linguistics theory, and defining the compass of the keyboard with three sections, each having a differing definition of desired tone quality.


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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382304 02/04/15 01:03 PM
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In describing a piano sound, I've always deemed presence to mean the feeling that the piano is there in the room with you. In other words, more about how the sound develops and not the tone itself. I've always felt that most of this was due to the soundboard being large and vibrating lots of air around you, as opposed to the sound of a digital piano coming out of just a few speakers barely a couple of square feet total or less. This is similar to the sound of a pipe organ that you can "feel" even though it is not necessarily loud, all those pipes moving air in many directions.


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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382321 02/04/15 02:03 PM
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I was going to allude to the way a soundboard resonates in response to its strings, but then I remembered Sally Philips saying how carefully the best piano makers select their tone wood. For instance, the first thing Yamaha point to in their CF pianos is the grain structure, strength and resonance of the wood. Resonance is at the heart and soul of piano sound. It is what gives a piano its presence.


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Re: What is "presence"?
look_alive #2382361 02/04/15 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by look_alive
To me, trying to describe how I feel about the sound of a particular piano is akin to trying to describe a fine wine I enjoy. What I perceive as chocolate another taster might describe as tobacco, or leather. Everyone will experience both wine and a fine instrument in different ways, and we tend to use rather colorful and romantic descriptors to do so.


A lot of us here agree with that.

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382372 02/04/15 03:52 PM
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It is what I did not get for my birthday. Or is it "presents"?


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Re: What is "presence"?
Withindale #2382374 02/04/15 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
I was going to allude to the way a soundboard resonates in response to its strings, but then I remembered Sally Philips saying how carefully the best piano makers select their tone wood. For instance, the first thing Yamaha point to in their CF pianos is the grain structure, strength and resonance of the wood. Resonance is at the heart and soul of piano sound. It is what gives a piano its presence.
I think this is confusing since you used resonates and resonance without defining them and then used resonance to discuss presence!

Re: What is "presence"?
BDB #2382375 02/04/15 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by BDB
It is what I did not get for my birthday. Or is it "presents"?
grin Ever the joker. You make me laugh a lot at PW.

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382376 02/04/15 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[...]
Another term I find rather silly is a "deep" bass. Isn't very bass "deep" by definition?


Not necessarily, at least not to me. Depth of sound can refer to the richness or the complexity of the sound. Just limiting it to piano: some pianos have a bass that is thin, nasal, or woody (relatively little sustain - "tubby" was used in another thread), while the same pitch on a piano with a "deep" bass has a warmth, a richness, and a "bloom" to the sound that makes the same pitch sound fuller.

Regards,


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Re: What is "presence"?
BruceD #2382383 02/04/15 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
[...]
Another term I find rather silly is a "deep" bass. Isn't very bass "deep" by definition?


Not necessarily, at least not to me. Depth of sound can refer to the richness or the complexity of the sound. Just limiting it to piano: some pianos have a bass that is thin, nasal, or woody (relatively little sustain - "tubby" was used in another thread), while the same pitches on a piano with a "deep" bass has a warmth, a richness, and a "bloom" to the sound that makes the same pitch sound fuller.

Regards,
Thanks for that explanation. I guess I more or less knew what people meant when they said "deep" bass, but then made the error of trying to apply the more common definition of "deep" to sound.

Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382387 02/04/15 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Withindale
I was going to allude to the way a soundboard resonates in response to its strings, but then I remembered Sally Philips saying how carefully the best piano makers select their tone wood. For instance, the first thing Yamaha point to in their CF pianos is the grain structure, strength and resonance of the wood. Resonance is at the heart and soul of piano sound. It is what gives a piano its presence.
I think this is confusing since you used resonates and resonance without defining them and then used resonance to discuss presence!

I checked the relevant meanings of resonate and resonance in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary before using them!

Experts can assess the resonant qualities of a piece of wood by tapping it. Soundboards have pronounced resonances (modes, frequencies). The characteristic sound of a piano derives from the quality and nature of the resonances excited by the vibrations of the bridge and soundboard that result from the (wave) energy in the strings. Assuming it is well voiced and tuned it is that sound which determines the presence of the piano. The skill of the pianist is important too.


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Re: What is "presence"?
Ed McMorrow, RPT #2382468 02/04/15 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
I have given a program titled "Tone is Not For Tasting" at several PTG conferences. It is based on my theory of "Musically Intelligible Sound". I meld how opera singers shape sound, a two-part analysis of an individual piano note, basic linguistics theory, and defining the compass of the keyboard with three sections, each having a differing definition of desired tone quality.

That sounds really interesting, actually.


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Re: What is "presence"?
pianoloverus #2382479 02/04/15 08:30 PM
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I would suggest that "presence" is the combination of "resonance" and "clarity." If the resonating soundboard is evident, it's viscerally exciting, but the sound of some lesser pianos becomes murky if it's design doesn't allow that resonance to focus and project. If there is both resonance and clarity, then you know you're listening to an excellent piano.

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