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Who is the better pianist?
#2858975 06/15/19 10:41 PM
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Settle a debate I am having with a piano buddy, assume both pianists are playing the same piece (lets say it is Beethoven Sonata Pathetique 1st movement).

Pianist A; played 95% correct notes with correct tempo and rhythm but no dynamics and you felt the performer was playing the piano like a calculator.

Pianist B: played 75% correct notes, some liberties with rubato, but extremely dynamic and hit the tempo/dynamics 99% true to score and just like the professional CD recordings you hear, and you can see emotion on the performers face, and the feeling comes through the keys. The wrong notes were due to hitting neighbor keys on fast chords or runs.

Which one is the most enjoyable to listen to, which one would you say “wow this player is talented!”?

Last edited by AssociateX; 06/15/19 10:42 PM.

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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2858982 06/15/19 10:49 PM
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Definitely Pianist B for me. But for me to say "wow this player is talented!", the pianist would have to bring more to the performance (in terms of rubato and dynamics) than what's written on score.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2858988 06/15/19 11:20 PM
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Both sound like rubbish. Back to the drawing board, I'd say. A couple of years of practice and a good teacher will do wonders.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2858997 06/16/19 12:10 AM
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Neither would cause me to say "wow, this player is talented." Playing like a machine doesn't indicate a high level of musical talent, and with 25% wrong notes, the other pianist can't even play the piece.

Last edited by johnstaf; 06/16/19 12:13 AM.
Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859032 06/16/19 05:30 AM
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First in your question you are mixing 2 different topics: 1. Which one is most enjoyable 2. Which one is talented. Your ratio of wrong notes is way off. Usually when performing it should be below 1%. Any piece with 5% of wrong notes is already too high not speaking of 25% which would be unlistenable. So if you meant to ask if it is better to have the right expression but with slightly more wrong notes, my answer is obviously yes only if the amount of wrong notes is acceptable and is not interfering with the musical flow. If the wrong notes are too evident and disturb the ability to perceive the musical message then there is not much of a playing here. In that case seems like both players have to work more to correct each some specific issues.
For the talent question, it is impossible to answer without some backgroung of the 2 players, but as a broad general statement it is not possible to say someone is talented when not able to play correctly either the dynamics or the right notes. The piano is not just about our intention to play something but about our actual physical ability to do so. If i cant manage to have the proper finger dexterity to play the right notes then it does not matter if i have the right idea of the piece in my head. It is like an architect who can design a nice house but would not have the skills to build it with his own hands.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859074 06/16/19 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by AssociateX
Settle a debate I am having with a piano buddy, assume both pianists are playing the same piece (lets say it is Beethoven Sonata Pathetique 1st movement).

Pianist A; played 95% correct notes with correct tempo and rhythm but no dynamics and you felt the performer was playing the piano like a calculator.

Pianist B: played 75% correct notes, some liberties with rubato, but extremely dynamic and hit the tempo/dynamics 99% true to score and just like the professional CD recordings you hear, and you can see emotion on the performers face, and the feeling comes through the keys. The wrong notes were due to hitting neighbor keys on fast chords or runs.

Which one is the most enjoyable to listen to, which one would you say “wow this player is talented!”?


If you change the percentages to 99 and 95 respectively, I would go with player B. Even 95% is a lot of wrong notes. I hope you aren't player B.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
Damon #2859196 06/16/19 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by AssociateX
Settle a debate I am having with a piano buddy, assume both pianists are playing the same piece (lets say it is Beethoven Sonata Pathetique 1st movement).

Pianist A; played 95% correct notes with correct tempo and rhythm but no dynamics and you felt the performer was playing the piano like a calculator.

Pianist B: played 75% correct notes, some liberties with rubato, but extremely dynamic and hit the tempo/dynamics 99% true to score and just like the professional CD recordings you hear, and you can see emotion on the performers face, and the feeling comes through the keys. The wrong notes were due to hitting neighbor keys on fast chords or runs.

Which one is the most enjoyable to listen to, which one would you say “wow this player is talented!”?


If you change the percentages to 99 and 95 respectively, I would go with player B. Even 95% is a lot of wrong notes. I hope you aren't player B.


You beat me to it. 75% of correct notes would be unbearable and not even music at that point.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859228 06/16/19 03:30 PM
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I think there are very few, if any, professional pianists who play with less than 99% accuracy (which would still be a lot of mistakes in a piece of more than a few minutes). 95% accuracy would be completely unacceptable for a professional and is not even very good for an amateur. So changing the percentages to 99% and 95% is still not reasonable. I think reasonable percentages for professionals for the OP's question would be more like 99.9% and 99%.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
pianoloverus #2859260 06/16/19 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think there are very few, if any, professional pianists who play with less than 99% accuracy (which would still be a lot of mistakes in a piece of more than a few minutes). 95% accuracy would be completely unacceptable for a professional and is not even very good for an amateur. So changing the percentages to 99% and 95% is still not reasonable. I think reasonable percentages for professionals for the OP's question would be more like 99.9% and 99%.

+1 -- totally, in every particular.

And I think just about everyone, including the OP, would agree with that, if they were to hear actual examples of what those amounts of wrong notes would be.
It's a good guess that AssociateX was giving numbers that felt like they fit the intended idea but that they don't really -- but no worries, these kinds of things aren't necessarily easy to guesstimate off the top of our heads.

I've sometimes wondered what the actual percentages would be for such things -- never enough to actually do any study and calculation, but...... there have been times that I've played recitals when it felt like there were almost no right notes -- one time in particular, an amateur competition 4 years ago where my hands were violently trembling for a good part of the piece, trembling enough that a lot of the time I was hitting the note either just above or just below the right one grin -- yeah, it was as funny/unbearable as that seems, although to my surprise, people who didn't know the piece tended to feel it was kind of OK, but be that as it may, I'd guess that actually upwards of 90% of the notes were right -- and believe me, that amount of inaccuracy was awful.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
pianoloverus #2859316 06/16/19 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think there are very few, if any, professional pianists who play with less than 99% accuracy (which would still be a lot of mistakes in a piece of more than a few minutes). 95% accuracy would be completely unacceptable for a professional and is not even very good for an amateur. So changing the percentages to 99% and 95% is still not reasonable. I think reasonable percentages for professionals for the OP's question would be more like 99.9% and 99%.


I think the recorded output of Cortot easily has a couple of blunders every hundred notes if not a lot more and yet most pianists find his playing very compelling. I also think a lot of mistakes go unnoticed even by experienced listeners, particularly in dense passages.


The answer to the title of this thread is Rubinstein. wink

Last edited by Damon; 06/16/19 07:07 PM.
Re: Who is the better pianist?
Damon #2859374 06/16/19 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think there are very few, if any, professional pianists who play with less than 99% accuracy (which would still be a lot of mistakes in a piece of more than a few minutes). 95% accuracy would be completely unacceptable for a professional and is not even very good for an amateur. So changing the percentages to 99% and 95% is still not reasonable. I think reasonable percentages for professionals for the OP's question would be more like 99.9% and 99%.


I think the recorded output of Cortot easily has a couple of blunders every hundred notes if not a lot more and yet most pianists find his playing very compelling. I also think a lot of mistakes go unnoticed even by experienced listeners, particularly in dense passages.


The answer to the title of this thread is Rubinstein. wink


Cortot also had the "advantage" of terrible recording quality.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859404 06/17/19 12:46 AM
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Great replies everyone thank you! I agree with Mark Cs post above. I think musicality holds more weight than technical accuracy (i agree accuracy matters of course but fudging a note here or there isnt fatal for me if the main idea of the piece is compelling and enjoyable).

As for who these people are, I admit I play more like Pianist B, lol. But this was an observation from 2 fellow amateurs at a recent Meetup and my buddy got into a discussion over who played the piece better...I used percentages as a barometer for degree of skill between the 2 players where muddy notes were definitely made in some spots but a listener unfamiliar with the piece wouldnt notice, kind of like playing a E instead of an F on a C-F-A chord in LH. Of course playing correct notes is important, but if there is no musicality in the piece at all, it is just as bad.


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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859489 06/17/19 08:34 AM
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I think there is basically a false dichotomy in this thread. Except maybe for beginners, very few pianists who play with great accuracy play with no emotion/musicality.

No great pianist today plays without emotion or with a great amount of mechanical errors. There is, I believe, a tendency for some people to criticize(falsely) pianists with super technique as lacking in musicality.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
pianoloverus #2859493 06/17/19 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think there is basically a false dichotomy in this thread. Except maybe for beginners, very few pianists who play with great accuracy play with no emotion/musicality.

No great pianist today plays without emotion or with a great amount of mechanical errors. There is, I believe, a tendency for some people to criticize(falsely) pianists with super technique as lacking in musicality.


I agree. Many of the pianists with super technique also play with great musicality.



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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859697 06/17/19 06:08 PM
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Originally Posted by AssociateX
Settle a debate I am having with a piano buddy, assume both pianists are playing the same piece (lets say it is Beethoven Sonata Pathetique 1st movement).

Pianist A; played 95% correct notes with correct tempo and rhythm but no dynamics and you felt the performer was playing the piano like a calculator.

Pianist B: played 75% correct notes, some liberties with rubato, but extremely dynamic and hit the tempo/dynamics 99% true to score and just like the professional CD recordings you hear, and you can see emotion on the performers face, and the feeling comes through the keys. The wrong notes were due to hitting neighbor keys on fast chords or runs.

Which one is the most enjoyable to listen to, which one would you say “wow this player is talented!”?


It's a facile comparison. "Enjoyable" is not an adjective I would apply to either of these imaginary pianists, who sound suspiciously like piano students. Both may be somewhat interesting and have promise. Both have a lot of growth ahead of them.


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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859712 06/17/19 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Damon
The answer to the title of this thread is Rubinstein. wink


grin

It's been a while since I've done math...the 75% didn't really register in my brain until I realized that's a mistake every four notes, and that would actually be un-listenable. Is there an option of not listening to either of them?

Also, I'd venture to say there's a difference between playing with emotion and playing with musicality.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2859730 06/17/19 07:46 PM
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Depends on which one is playing the Steinway, and which one is playing the Fazioli.


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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2860150 06/18/19 06:10 PM
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grin ha


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Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2860247 06/18/19 11:33 PM
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Spaghetti or ravioli. Both nice, just depends on your mood.

Re: Who is the better pianist?
AssociateX #2860630 06/19/19 09:28 PM
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Well, Pianist A actually edges it for me, although 5% wrong notes is still quite a lot.

Even though the music may be played mechanically, it still has it's fundamentals in terms of melody and harmonic progression, rhythm, etc. whereas I feel player B would just sound like a train wreck, even though they were pulling all the right facial expressions.

It would depend on the music they were playing though. Also, if you're in to the piece you're playing, it's actually quite hard to play it mechanically, do you not find?

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