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#2676681 - 09/21/17 07:13 AM Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules  
Joined: Aug 2017
Posts: 39
TripleSharp Online content
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TripleSharp  Online Content
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This post (and thought) resulted from an arrangement of the pop-jazz classic in the following link I came across on the youtube:

https://youtu.be/YmaIlOx_1es

At the 16th second on the video, the pianist plays an unusual voicing: G-F-Bb-F#. Some sheets of the song give that chord as Gm6 (implying the first mode of the G melodic minor: Gmin(maj7)) while some show Gm7 there, but changing the melody note to F natural accordingly. While it’s unfitting to the general harmonic context of the piece (including F, F# and G in the same voicing as if Shostakovich was arranging some wind section), in terms of theory as it would be well-known, in either chord choice, one of the “F and F#” is a “wrong note”. Note: It did not happen accidentally, as proven by exact repetitions when the same chord comes over and over throughout the piece. An out-of-context explanation could be a simplified voicing of the polychord Bb+/Gm7, considering that a D is strongly implied around that point. Perhaps (and I hope) the pianist is a member of the forum, and posts a response.

What I also found intriguing was that a dissonance that in theory should sound too harsh, was almost acceptable with a softer-than-expected and somewhat bluesy effect.

Tempted with the many discussions going on about the personal choices on the tones of various piano brands, models, modules, etc, I wrote down what he exactly plays in a few bars around that point, in an attempt to find out how it would sound when played on a piano other than the Yamaha grand on the video. I sent it via midi, including the pedalling, to TruePianos soft synth. The result has been interesting: with the sub-settings at their defaults, it had a similar effect with Atlantis, Emerald, and Amber modules, but was definitely unacceptable with Sapphire, Diamond, and SapphirePed. I even lowered the velocity of F natural, again unbearable with the same modules. The performer would not be able to play it like that on a piano with a timbre close to those modules and publish it on the youtube.

Now, this would not be so surprising if tested among, for instance, oboe, French horn and piano, but… among various piano modules? Considering the example is just one of the endless possibilities of harmonic experimentation, I think this suggests that the choice of a particular piano tone can have more crucial consequences than being —subjectively(?)— pleasant to your taste. After all, some content is applicable to one and not applicable to another. (I wonder how this would go with various real acoustic piano brands.) I would like to hear about your thoughts.

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#2676705 - 09/21/17 09:48 AM Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: TripleSharp]  
Joined: Sep 2011
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toddy Online content
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toddy  Online Content
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Portugal
Perhaps those sorts of clashes happen more than you'd think in popular songs. I think the simplest explanation is that the voice is following one path - the melody - and the accompaniment has its own very compelling path which is a harmonic progression. I suppose that is stating the obvious smile but my point is this:

As the melody ascends from f# and returns to the same note, the'light & shade' harmony contains a line which is in downward counterpoint (to the melody). The upshot of which is that, at the precise point you mention, the voice is returning to f# while the accompaniment is playing essentially a G minor 7 (which must, of course include an F natural).

That's ok when one element is part of a piano chord and the other, a human voice. But, as is the case here, when both melody and harmony are played on the same instrument, the clash becomes much more obvious - though it's really nicely played in that clip.

I'm sure the specific overtone identities (timbre) of some pianos are going to make that clash far more jagged than others, hence the results of your experiment. Though I think it's mostly down to the skill of the pianist to give the notes thier due weights and durations to make it sound good.

Last edited by toddy; 09/21/17 10:26 AM.

Roland HP 302 / Samson Graphite 49

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 Ult. / Focusrite Saffire 24
W7, i7 4770, 16GB / Monitors: Yamaha HS7s .

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven & heck
#2676769 - 09/21/17 01:29 PM Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: toddy]  
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TripleSharp Online content
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TripleSharp  Online Content
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It's obvious of course that the descending minor seventh in the left hand is treated separately, but as you stated already, when all voices are to be sounded by piano, clashes are more pronounced. It is not a "passing chord" within the harmonic rhythm of the piece as well. It was not needed (the f could be replaced by e for example) and should not have been done within that context. But it "could" be done, because the timbre of Yamaha permitted it to sound "relatively" easy to be tolerated. (I hope I don't sound like advertising Yamaha!)

I think if you can try it yourself, you will agree that it is not a mild but a striking difference with those three out of the TruePianos modules which I categorized as unacceptable to sound that voicing.

For the sake of not missing the point I tried to emphasize in my post: the result of my experiment indeed suggests that there is not much for a skilled pianist to do to play those dissonances convincingly at some pianos with certain timbral qualities. The timbre of your piano may be limiting the possibilities of what you can play! Which makes me wonder how different piano brands weigh in according to such a criterion, for example.

#2676777 - 09/21/17 01:54 PM Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: TripleSharp]  
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toddy Online content
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toddy  Online Content
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Portugal
I don't have Truekeys. But it is curious that you find the Yamaha more tolerant of the dissonance because they are often characterised as 'bright' which would imply more overtone content in relation to the fundamental note.......relatively more partials to clash against each other. But these things often turn out more complicated than simple theory might imply.


Roland HP 302 / Samson Graphite 49

Reaper / NI Komplete 9 Ult. / Focusrite Saffire 24
W7, i7 4770, 16GB / Monitors: Yamaha HS7s .

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. He who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven & heck
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#2676850 - 09/21/17 06:38 PM Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: toddy]  
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TripleSharp Online content
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TripleSharp  Online Content
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Originally Posted by toddy
I don't have Truekeys. But it is curious that you find the Yamaha more tolerant of the dissonance because they are often characterised as 'bright' which would imply more overtone content in relation to the fundamental note.......relatively more partials to clash against each other. But these things often turn out more complicated than simple theory might imply.


In fact, I didn't have a chance to try it on an acoustic other than what is heard on the video with the acoustic Yamaha. (My acoustic is far away atm.) I tested with the TruePianos modules and also on a Yamaha clavinova at the office; the digital Yamaha had a similar result with the acoustic on the recording. My new Roland also hasn't arrived yet.

If your brightness approach is right, other real acoustics might not pose limitations at all, but it would be good to hear some evidence.

#2677116 - Yesterday at 03:17 AM Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: TripleSharp]  
Joined: Mar 2015
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eclectic Offline
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San Francisco Bay area, Califo...
IMO it's a garden variety jazz chord. And any piano that doesn't sound good playing it is automatically a problem piano.

Probably the problem is not with the piano at all. You have to roll the spooky augmented triad a little in the right hand, while at the same time you need to project your hound dog eyes onto the left.

I am pretty sure that is not only how Billy Joel turned "you never let me down before" into a signature moment, it's also how Gershwin handled a similar chord in the ragtime section of I Got Rhythm decades ago, and also how Steely Dan did likewise a few years before Billy Joel did, on the words "major dude" in the song of that name.

The chord is not particularly dissonant to my ear. There's weird stuff in classical music too. And I suppose theory wise anything goes in piano for film and TV.

Last edited by eclectic; Yesterday at 04:28 AM. Reason: clarification and corrections
#2677388 - 20 minutes ago Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: eclectic]  
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TripleSharp Online content
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TripleSharp  Online Content
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Thank you for your contribution.
Originally Posted by eclectic
The chord is not particularly dissonant to my ear. There's weird stuff in classical music too. And I suppose theory wise anything goes in piano for film and TV.


I hear you:) Actually, the weird thing about my quite simple example is, when you take it separately, the voicing (which also doesn't count as a passing chord when analyzed) suggests a rather biting dissonance with its ingredient semitones not even aligned as all major seventh intervals instead of including one 13-semitone interval between f and f#. But (I think) the f# is perceived as a temporary foreign note specifically in the continuation of the song, which in turn makes us perceive the dissonance lighter.

About your examples, if I'm not mistaken, at that position between melodic lines containing f#, Billy Joel sings f-e-d (not f#) when saying "le-et me", and in the Gershwin example you are referring to a passing chord I guess. I'm not familiar with the third one; I listened to but I couldn't be sure what to catch with "major dude".

Meanwhile, my new FP-90 has arrived and I could test its pianos with the voicing (to check if they were "problem pianos" according to your definition wink ); I was glad to find nothing as disturbing as the soft modules I had listed before, though some tones, expectedly, could not handle it as easily as the rest, including especially the ones whose names begin with "bright".

#2677393 - 2 minutes ago Re: Feasibility of content vs piano brands or modules [Re: TripleSharp]  
Joined: Dec 2012
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Charles Cohen Online content
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Charles Cohen  Online Content
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Richmond, BC, Canada
Originally Posted by TripleSharp
Thank you for your contribution.
[quote=eclectic]
. . .
Meanwhile, my new FP-90 has arrived and I could test its pianos with the voicing (to check if they were "problem pianos" according to your definition wink ); I was glad to find nothing as disturbing as the soft modules I had listed before, though some tones, expectedly, could not handle it as easily as the rest, including especially the ones whose names begin with "bright".


Since "dissonance" is largely caused by frequency mis-matches in the harmonics of the notes in a chord, and "Bright" means that the harmonics have higher volume (as compared to not-"Bright"), that makes perfect sense.

It's nice when what you hear, matches up with what theory predicts.


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / Korg Wavedrum / EV ZXA1 speaker

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