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The blindfold test. #2567477
08/30/16 07:56 PM
08/30/16 07:56 PM
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Piano90X Offline OP
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One baroque piece. One classical piece. One romantic piece. Each played on different top-tier pianos.

You're blindfolded.

Can you identify the brands?

I ask because so often people talk about the "bright" or "warm" or "clear" tones that are associated with particular brands. If the tone is so particular, can you identify it blindfolded?

I honestly don't think I could, and I have a pretty good ear. I like to think I'm enough of a piano snob to describe brands just by listening to them, but, if I'm being honest with myself, I don't think I could.

I do believe that pianos do have characteristic tonal qualities, but I do not think they will penetrate a blindfold too often. When my eyes are open I think I can distinguish that growling Mason & Hamlin bass from the clarity of a Yamaha, but, with my eyes closed, and if subjected to this experiment for an hour or two . . . I don't think so.


So, what do you think?

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Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567491
08/30/16 09:05 PM
08/30/16 09:05 PM
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I was thinking of posting a couple recordings I made while testing pianos to see if people could guess. I think I'd need to have better speakers on my laptop for a test like this to work properly.


Professional pianist and piano teacher.
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Arghhh] #2567495
08/30/16 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Arghhh
I was thinking of posting a couple recordings I made while testing pianos to see if people could guess. I think I'd need to have better speakers on my laptop for a test like this to work properly.


I've thought about doing something like this as well.

There have been some informal experiments with Stradivarius violins.

Is A Stradivarius Just A Violin?

Blind-tested soloists unable to tell Stradivarius violins from modern instruments

And that involved much more than just tone. It involved touch as well.

Interesting, eh?

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567498
08/30/16 09:37 PM
08/30/16 09:37 PM
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Make it interesting.

Play each of those pieces on each piano, then see if someone can identify.

No one has the luxury of playing pieces on pianos suited and/or prepped for the genre.

The biggest aspect that affects the piano's tone, in my opinion, is the brain and ten fingers behind the keys.

Jay





Formerly in the business. Now just a piano fan.
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567506
08/30/16 10:43 PM
08/30/16 10:43 PM
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I doubt I could CONSISTENTLY identify individual pianos unless all the other variable are the same (tuning, player, room, place in the room, air conditions, piece). And even then, my memory is not very good, so I could not sustain the sound image long enough to go through many pianos and remember which one was which.

But this does not mean that I cannot separate the tone of two pianos when I hear them played in succession, hear differences in piano tone generally and have preferences without even knowing the name of the piano. It is clear that even the same piano can sound good or awful depending on the above mentioned conditions. And there's often as much more difference between the individual pianos in each brand than the brands. The pianos mature differently.

Last edited by outo; 08/30/16 10:47 PM.
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567508
08/30/16 10:50 PM
08/30/16 10:50 PM
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I was thinking about something like this the other day while reading the "best piano" thread. Actually, I thought about it a while before that while watching Bottle Shock, the movie based on the true story of California wine beating French wine in a blind taste test back in the 1970s.

A blind test could be multifaceted:

1) A jury could hear a variety of pieces played on each piano, screened from view, so that the pianos couldn't be identified visually. I'd even suggest letting manufacturers prep their entry to its maximum potential (of course, "maximum" might differ from one ear to another, or based on genre, but appropriate compromises would need to be made).

2) Ideally, a variety of pianists could play each piano, with the piano's identities obscured (this might be a little more difficult, but not impossible.

It would be interesting to see how the judges and players rated each piano if they had no idea what was what. And I mean rate them qualitatively, not guessing which is the Steinway and which is the Hailun, etc.

I wouldn't be surprised if the results were a little startling, just like in that wine tasting back in the seventies.


if you're content with A V E R A G E . . . then just do what everyone else does
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567511
08/30/16 10:54 PM
08/30/16 10:54 PM
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I think I can distinguish Yamaha U1 from Kawai K-300, or K-300 with K-800 blindfolded. However I don't think I can distinguish Yamaha YUS-5 with K-800.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567519
08/30/16 11:10 PM
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I think it depends on how you operate the blindfold test. For example, if you have 3 pianos and you do not tell your jury any information about the 3 pianos, it would be very hard for anyone to correctly guess the brand and model of the 3 pianos. However, if you tell your jury the brand of the 3 pianos without letting them see the pianos, I think many technicians will be able to correctly guess which one is which.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567527
08/30/16 11:53 PM
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I keep waiting for someone who is trying to prove that a different temperament sounds better to post unlabeled recordings so that people could decide whether they sound better, worse, or the same without confirmation bias, but it never seems to happen.

I doubt if I could tell what brand a piano is from a blindfold test, even if it were multiple choice, or matching choices to pianos. There are too many variables.


Semipro Tech
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567565
08/31/16 05:59 AM
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I can't. I only can say this one is warmer, this one is brighter etc. Maybe the only one brand that is a little bit easier to distinguish for me is fazioli,but not much,just a little.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: BDB] #2567571
08/31/16 06:48 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
I keep waiting for someone who is trying to prove that a different temperament sounds better to post unlabeled recordings so that people could decide whether they sound better, worse, or the same without confirmation bias, but it never seems to happen.


This was done before by Grandpianoman - he had his BB tuned in either EBVTIII or ET and posted the same pieces in both, but without naming them. If I recall correctly, no-one could reliably identify which was which.

Paul.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567601
08/31/16 09:21 AM
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I think that differences between pianos are much more apparent to the performer than to the audience, so that in many cases, what seemed like a clear difference to the performer might not come across in a recording, or even to a live audience. I think this especially applies to concert artists choosing between several Steinways or Faziolis.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Corvus] #2567692
08/31/16 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Corvus
I think that differences between pianos are much more apparent to the performer than to the audience, so that in many cases, what seemed like a clear difference to the performer might not come across in a recording, or even to a live audience. I think this especially applies to concert artists choosing between several Steinways or Faziolis.


The question isn't whether a performer can tell which piano they prefer, it's whether blinded, they could pick the brand. I proposed a blinded test here 10 years ago to see if people could identify a Steinway. It was in response to a Steinway alternative thread where a lot of Steinway owners basically said there were none that sounded the same. Many of them were very sure they could ID brands, and I tried to propose a test that I thought would favor their claim. IIRC, 3 or 4 members started to take it quite personally that I even considered it might not prove Steinways sounded unique, and one even started using partial quotes from my posts to make it look like I was making statements I hadn't. I never tried to set up the test! smile

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/71320/1.html


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Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567716
08/31/16 06:57 PM
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Someone posted a thread not too long ago (maybe within the last few months) that, if I remember correctly, had 1 piece played by the same performer on 4 different instruments - a Steinway, Bosendorfer, Steingraeber, and Yamaha - and asked people to guess which was which. I don't remember if anyone got them all right, but I think Rick was pretty close. Trying to remember what that thread was titled ... Anyway, that was pretty close to a blind test.

Last edited by Cassia; 08/31/16 07:00 PM.

Yamaha C2X
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567717
08/31/16 07:02 PM
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Here we go! See 8 Octaves post towards the bottom of the first page of this thread. http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2535150/1.html


Yamaha C2X
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Cassia] #2567719
08/31/16 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Cassia
Here we go! See 8 Octaves post towards the bottom of the first page of this thread. http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2535150/1.html


Cool.

Here is one that is interesting as well.

Scarlatti on 4 pianos: Bechstein, Estonia, Shigeru, Steinway Concert Grands

The problem with it, as you'll see, is that the recording quality and acoustics (etc.) are inconsistent.


Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Cassia] #2567722
08/31/16 07:28 PM
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In the recent Sydney Piano Competition, all competitors who reached the semifinals would have played all the four pianos used - Fazioli F278, Shigeru Kawai SK-EX, Yamaha CFX and Steinway D. They were allocated the pianos, and couldn't choose until the finals. (In the concerto finals, Fazioli was picked the most often).

When recorded under identical conditions - same hall, same mic placement - it's easy to hear the difference: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1SP_AwLMSAUKloQ4k7Dzew/videos

Would someone like to fish out the same pieces played on different pianos and paste them one after the other as a quiz for others?
(Several pieces were played on different pianos, among them Mephisto Waltz No.1, Prokofiev's 6th Sonata, Gaspard de la nuit, Vine's Toccatissimo......).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: bennevis] #2567728
08/31/16 08:05 PM
08/31/16 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
In the recent Sydney Piano Competition, all competitors who reached the semifinals would have played all the four pianos used - Fazioli F278, Shigeru Kawai SK-EX, Yamaha CFX and Steinway D. They were allocated the pianos, and couldn't choose until the finals. (In the concerto finals, Fazioli was picked the most often).

When recorded under identical conditions - same hall, same mic placement - it's easy to hear the difference: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1SP_AwLMSAUKloQ4k7Dzew/videos

Would someone like to fish out the same pieces played on different pianos and paste them one after the other as a quiz for others?
(Several pieces were played on different pianos, among them Mephisto Waltz No.1, Prokofiev's 6th Sonata, Gaspard de la nuit, Vine's Toccatissimo......).


Totally OT, but this contestant has the longest femurs I have ever seen, at the piano!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_6zfbkQFks (beginning of vid)


WhoDwaldi
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567743
08/31/16 09:52 PM
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It is said that concert Steinways tend to fall into three categories:

1) Mellow ones best suited for chamber music.

2) Raw, powerful ones suited for the piano part in orchestral works (playing from the back of the ensemble)

3) Clear, but colorful, ones suited to piano recitals and concerto performances (playing in front of the orchestra).

Years ago, Brendel did the "Emperor" with Masur and the NY Phil on "Live from Lincoln Center" on a very monumental-sounding Steinway (or so it struck me at the time) that seemed to really be a No. 2 (selected for sheer power, no doubt, in the famously dull hall).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j-qf5790T8

I think I could recognize this kind of Steinway sound blindfolded, but don't hold me to that!



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Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567754
08/31/16 10:33 PM
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Identifying different brands from playing them would be much easier than from merely listening, especially listening to a recording.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2567774
09/01/16 12:47 AM
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I definitely wouldn't be able to identify by sound. I'm not so sure I could identify by playing either, as it seems there is a lot of variation even within a brand. Still, I do feel that most of the Yamahas I have played (and that is not many), sound and play "bright", whereas the Steinways I have played are warmer. But is this because of branding or individual differences? I wouldn't know.


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Re: The blindfold test. [Re: bennevis] #2568062
09/01/16 11:05 PM
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Very interesting links! I've only been able to spend some time with the six Finalists, and when each played one of six different 18th Century/Mozart Concertos, five (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th prize winners) chose the Fazioli and one (3rd prize winner) chose the Shigeru Kawai. No doubt that for Mozart, the clarity and singing tone of that particular Fazioli is striking to virtually all the contestants (and myself). Hands down winner for this era of music.

When it came to 19th/20th Century Concertos, three chose the Hamburg Steinway (1st, 2nd, 5th prize - playing Prokofiev 3rd/Rachmaninoff 2nd), two chose the Fazioli (4th, 6th prize - playing Saint-Saens 2nd/Brahms 2nd), and the same (3rd prize - playing Rachmaninoff 2nd) contestant chose the Shigeru Kawai. I found it intriguing that the 1st and 2nd place winners chose Fazioli/Steinway, whereas the 3rd and 4th place winners stuck with the same instrument (Shigeru Kawai/Fazioli). The Hamburg Steinway D power and tonal shading really shines with the large Russian works, the Fazioli with the more lyrical and singing Saint-Saens 2nd, and I felt it was a very interesting selection of the Fazioli for the Brahms 2nd. Goes to show you that different instruments with differing tonal qualities can work better for some types of music and less well for others.

So for the finals, the only direct comparison of the same piece, being played in the same hall with the same orchestra, on consecutive evenings - but with different pianists was with the Rachmaninoff 2nd: Steinway D vs. Shigeru Kawai SK-EX

2nd Prize. Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev - July 22, 2016
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18

Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Hamburg Steinway 8’11” Model D

https://youtu.be/p71OQzE5bE0?t=45m30s

3rd Prize. Moye Chen - July 23, 2016
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18

Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Shigeru Kawai 9’1” Model SK-EX

https://youtu.be/TVuV1zgRJeU?t=54m55s

Perhaps someone else can fish out some of the earlier round comparisons of the Mephisto Waltz No.1, Prokofiev's 6th Sonata, Gaspard de la nuit, etc. played on the Fazioli, etc.


Jason Solomonides
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Yamaha 6'1" C3 (w/WNG) D3010008
My Piano Recordings:
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Re: The blindfold test. [Re: wolfgangmeister] #2568064
09/01/16 11:15 PM
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Great write-up, Jason.

Brahms on the Fazioli struck me as an odd choice as well.

I want to play on a Shigeru Kawai so bad.


Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Cassia] #2568073
09/02/16 12:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Cassia
Here we go! See 8 Octaves post towards the bottom of the first page of this thread. http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2535150/1.html


That was fun. I got all four right with just one listen, but knowing the four that would appear made that not so difficult. All four sounded very good. But there are distinct characteristics to makes and if you listen to lots of them, you pick up on their distinctive sound. There are so many beautiful tonalities among the great pianos. My favorite of those four is the Steingraeber. Might be a different story if Fazioli 278 or Mason CC were in the mix, but that Steingraeber would be a tough one to beat to my ears.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2568108
09/02/16 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano90X

I ask because so often people talk about the "bright" or "warm" or "clear" tones that are associated with particular brands. If the tone is so particular, can you identify it blindfolded?


I probably couldn't. I've been doing a lot of "eyes-shut" testing of pianos with very deliberate listening now I'm almost at the end of my piano hunt. I can honestly say that it's a case of a sound I like, don't like or am neutral about, although I probably couldn't tie it down to manufacturer in a proper test.

I could definitely tell the difference in touch and response between a number of the pianos I've tested, though. smile


Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2568116
09/02/16 08:12 AM
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Having noticed the various Piano Manufacturer selections at the 2016 Sydney Piano Competition and qualities of each instrument, in the hands of the right artist, in the right hall, with the right concert technician, and with the right orchestra and conductor, one might reach a completely different conclusion. Case in point - Let's listen to the incomparable Maria João Pires (one of the finest Mozart interpreters I have ever heard) playing the 2nd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 in B♭ with the delightful Chamber Orchestra of Europe on a Hamburg Steinway Model D and then compare this to the soulful Moye Chen, 3rd Prize Winner of Sydney, playing the same movement on an extraordinary Shigeru Kawai SK-EX. No slight on Mr. Chen, but Ms. Pires makes her Hamburg Steinway sound like the finest Mozart instrument ever constructed, with the greatest ease and intimacy! (I also love watching cellist Luise Buchberger interact with both Ms. Pires and concertmistress Lorenza Borrani throughout the performance)

Just a note: none of the finalists selected a Hamburg Steinway to play their Mozart concerto in the Sydney Competition.

1970 Beethoven Bicentennial Competition - 1st Prize Winner. Maria João Pires. pianist - January 21, 2014
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto No.27 in B♭ Major K.595 - 2nd Movement
Chamber Orchestra of Europe - Trevor Pinnock - Hamburg Steinway 8’11” Model D

https://youtu.be/c9gvTKdZhD4?t=14m25s


2016 Sydney International Competition - 3rd Prize Winner. Moye Chen, pianist - July 20, 2016
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto No.27 in B♭ Major K.595 - 2nd Movement
Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Shigeru Kawai 9’1” Model SK-EX

https://youtu.be/kad39L6PJr0?t=59m27s


Jason Solomonides
Mason & Hamlin 7' BB 93623
Yamaha 6'1" C3 (w/WNG) D3010008
My Piano Recordings:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7aJcfJZZvg&list=PLkP65I5BsNirTcv-nAHm4BXXsCbB_EbAJ
Mason & Hamlin Artist
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: wolfgangmeister] #2568117
09/02/16 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfgangmeister

So for the finals, the only direct comparison of the same piece, being played in the same hall with the same orchestra, on consecutive evenings - but with different pianists was with the Rachmaninoff 2nd: Steinway D vs. Shigeru Kawai SK-EX

2nd Prize. Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev - July 22, 2016
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18

Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Hamburg Steinway 8’11” Model D

https://youtu.be/p71OQzE5bE0?t=45m30s

3rd Prize. Moye Chen - July 23, 2016
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Concerto No.2 in C minor Op.18

Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Shigeru Kawai 9’1” Model SK-EX

https://youtu.be/TVuV1zgRJeU?t=54m55s


Both are great pianos, but I much prefer the Steinway here. The Shigeru's treble is a little thin and metallic in comparison to the Steinway, particular at louder volumes (which are needed to project over the orchestra in this piece).

Last edited by adamp88; 09/02/16 08:35 AM.

Adam Schulte-Bukowinski, RPT
Piano Technician, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
ASB Piano Service
Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2568126
09/02/16 09:03 AM
09/02/16 09:03 AM
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Unless practiced, I doubt anyone could accurately identify brands by sound alone.

It is not the only factor when people buy of course. If it were, if people made the choice solely on the sound alone, they could easily end up with an unthinkable brand they would never have considered otherwise.


Re: The blindfold test. [Re: wolfgangmeister] #2568142
09/02/16 10:26 AM
09/02/16 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfgangmeister
Having noticed the various Piano Manufacturer selections at the 2016 Sydney Piano Competition and qualities of each instrument, in the hands of the right artist, in the right hall, with the right concert technician, and with the right orchestra and conductor, one might reach a completely different conclusion. Case in point - Let's listen to the incomparable Maria João Pires (one of the finest Mozart interpreters I have ever heard) playing the 2nd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 in B♭ with the delightful Chamber Orchestra of Europe on a Hamburg Steinway Model D and then compare this to the soulful Moye Chen, 3rd Prize Winner of Sydney, playing the same movement on an extraordinary Shigeru Kawai SK-EX. No slight on Mr. Chen, but Ms. Pires makes her Hamburg Steinway sound like the finest Mozart instrument ever constructed, with the greatest ease and intimacy! (I also love watching cellist Luise Buchberger interact with both Ms. Pires and concertmistress Lorenza Borrani throughout the performance)

Just a note: none of the finalists selected a Hamburg Steinway to play their Mozart concerto in the Sydney Competition.

1970 Beethoven Bicentennial Competition - 1st Prize Winner. Maria João Pires. pianist - January 21, 2014
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto No.27 in B♭ Major K.595 - 2nd Movement
Chamber Orchestra of Europe - Trevor Pinnock - Hamburg Steinway 8’11” Model D

https://youtu.be/c9gvTKdZhD4?t=14m25s


2016 Sydney International Competition - 3rd Prize Winner. Moye Chen, pianist - July 20, 2016
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Concerto No.27 in B♭ Major K.595 - 2nd Movement
Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia - Shigeru Kawai 9’1” Model SK-EX

https://youtu.be/kad39L6PJr0?t=59m27s


Great links!

How, though, can you isolate the piano from the performer?

I would like to see Maria João Pires play the same piece on both the Steinway and the Shigeru.

Re: The blindfold test. [Re: Piano90X] #2568201
09/02/16 02:09 PM
09/02/16 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Piano90X

How, though, can you isolate the piano from the performer?

I would like to see Maria João Pires play the same piece on both the Steinway and the Shigeru.

I don't think you can isolate the two. An experienced pianist will likely find the 'sweet spot' of the piano he/she is playing and modify his touch to get the sound quality he wants.

I play on a wide range of pianos, of which two are on a regular basis - my own (a high-end digital grin ) and the C.Bechstein grand that I perform on once a month. The latter (which is re-built, and over a century old) has a mellow tone through its range, and shallower key-dip compared to modern pianos (and has only 85 keys and two pedals). Despite being over six feet in length, it doesn't have the depth of tone of the Fazioli F156 I occasionally play on, nor has it got the latter's tonal and dynamic range. So, I can't 'pull out all the stops' on it the way I can with modern grands, or indeed, my own digital. But its tone is, in its own way, very sweet (and 'olde-worlde'), and I want to make full use of its qualities when I play on it, not make it protest.

So, when I play on it, I modify my touch and often have to work harder to produce the desired singing tone in the melody when there is a very busy accompaniment (especially if the melody is in the middle of the texture) by lightening the accompaniment a lot and stressing the melody much more, relatively, otherwise the melody gets submerged. Whereas with the Fazioli - or the K.Kawai that I also play on occasionally (but to a somewhat lesser extent), or my digital, I only have to stress the melodic line just a little to get the balance right.

It's all done unconsciously as I'm used to the pianos, but I look for different things from different pianos, and never try to make them do what they can't, or 'dislike' doing.

Just like humans, in fact wink .


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

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