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Playing softer comes with experience ?
#3002539 07/14/20 03:43 PM
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Whenever I record & listen myself playing, it sounds as if I used a hammer to hit the keys.
Specifically, it sounds very harsh (to say the least), even when I tried to play softly. (I've been taking lessons for about 2.5 years).

Does playing softer comes with experience ?
In other words, will my problem be eventually resolved ?

For example, this person (Kris Lennox) plays very soft & so well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARamZdlsa_o (especially No. 29 at 2'49")

I am guessing it's mostly because: he probably has at least 20 years of experience.
But I am wondering if there are any exercises to train a person to play more softly ?

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Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002545 07/14/20 04:07 PM
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Do you play digital piano?
If so, have a thought on http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2994793/re-digital-piano-volume.html

Otherwise, I've. No idea smile

Last edited by mizmar; 07/14/20 04:08 PM.
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
mizmar #3002547 07/14/20 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mizmar
Do you play digital piano?
If so, have a thought on http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2994793/re-digital-piano-volume.html

Otherwise, I've. No idea smile

No, I have an acoustic piano.

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002549 07/14/20 04:21 PM
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Suggest you record yourself playing at look at how you are attacking the keys. Usually a harsh sound is from a high and heavy approach
This video should help
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8xF8F6mykM

After you have worked out your general approach snd yone, there are exercises to voice a particular line—- look at his hand and finger movement in approaching the keys
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=etoN1RqCYiA

Last edited by dogperson; 07/14/20 04:25 PM.

"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002550 07/14/20 04:30 PM
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In my experience playing softer definitely comes with experience.

When i first bought an acoustic, I came from a digital, and I couldn't play soft, at all. I actually blamed the piano at first, but it was me. Now I can play soft and expressively on my u3, but not whisper quiet or anything.

On the other hand, possibly a softer voicing will help as well.

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002564 07/14/20 05:01 PM
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Playing softly comes partly with experience, but correct technique is also a big part of the picture. A piano's voicing and/or regulation can also make it difficult to play softly. The topic of playing softly has had several long threads on PW with at least one of them started by me. I think I got at least 20 different suggestions...some very good and many others not so good.

Here's a good video on how to play softly by a sensationally good professional pianist who has been doing a lot of instructional videos since the pandemic began:
https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=denis%20zhdanov%20-%20pianist

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002565 07/14/20 05:04 PM
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Plover
Who is the pianist? I don’t have a FB account


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002574 07/14/20 05:18 PM
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Josh Wright has quite good YT lessons on technique to attack keys.
If tensed you will get very little nuance on attack.

Here is one
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DlEbybu7Xo


Kawai MP7SE - Hammond XK3c - Synthesizers
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002575 07/14/20 05:24 PM
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Keep in mind that pianos require maintenance beyond tuning, and one of the first things that goes when a piano is not maintained is the ability to play softer and with more nuance.


Semipro Tech
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002576 07/14/20 05:31 PM
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Playing softer comes with practice.

You can start with any music. Scales will work just fine.

Keep in mind cheaper piano's/not well regulated piano's can be very hard if not impossible to play ppp.


When you play, never mind who listens to you. R.Schumann.

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Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002583 07/14/20 05:44 PM
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Yes! I would say 100% from experience.

I've been playing for over 15 years now and each year I continue to find my "touch" at the piano develops more and more with the new styles and pieces I play.

Your touch is your ability to control your hands (including fingers, wrists, etc) at the piano to where you can play lighter or harder (soft/loud) at any given moment. So just like how it takes a while to get coordinated at playing a sport, the same goes at the piano because of the physical aspect of the activity, where you are teaching your body certain movements. The more you do them, the less conscious it becomes.

Now of course, there is the mental and emotional aspect of understanding dynamics and when to control your touch, but that once again just will come as you play more and more and just explore more of the piano!

As for exercises, I would say just find pieces that you really connect with and play them to your best ability. Master the physical aspect of the piece first (the hand/finger movements, reading the notes & rhythms) and then really start uncovering the dynamics of the piece by going slow and listening to each note carefully and test out different volume levels at different parts. The piece you used as an example was not something the pianist just randomly sat down and played, I'm sure he worked on it for months uncovering every little aspect of the piece!


Hope this answers your question/helps!!


Jon Schneider
Founder of Digital Piano School
www.DigitalPianoSchool.com
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Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002602 07/14/20 06:22 PM
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There's an obvious exercise that might help:

. . . Practice playing scales and arpeggios, slowly, softly, and evenly.

The keys need to be caressed, not struck. Don't speed up, and be aware of tension (which will make things much more difficult) -- just concentrate on making the piano do what you want it to do.


. Charles
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Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
DigitalPianoSchool #3002612 07/14/20 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by DigitalPianoSchool
Yes! I would say 100% from experience.

I've been playing for over 15 years now and each year I continue to find my "touch" at the piano develops more and more with the new styles and pieces I play.

Your touch is your ability to control your hands (including fingers, wrists, etc) at the piano to where you can play lighter or harder (soft/loud) at any given moment. So just like how it takes a while to get coordinated at playing a sport, the same goes at the piano because of the physical aspect of the activity, where you are teaching your body certain movements. The more you do them, the less conscious it becomes.
I think trying to learn how to play softly(or solve any technical problem} by just using experience is not generally a good idea. It's much better and more efficient to find a teacher who is good at teaching technique. Correct technique is not particularly obvious or natural as one can see by watching most amateur pianists play.

Although your sports analogy may work for some people, as a long time tennis teacher I had many students who had terrible ground strokes despite having played for many years. They had little idea about how to stroke the ball correctly and had been practicing their poor strokes for years.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/14/20 06:47 PM.
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
dogperson #3002614 07/14/20 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
Plover
Who is the pianist? I don’t have a FB account
Denis Zhdanov. This video is also on his YouTube page.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 07/14/20 06:51 PM.
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
pianoloverus #3002644 07/14/20 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dogperson
Plover
Who is the pianist? I don’t have a FB account
Denis Zhdanov. This video is also on his YouTube page.

Thanks. Great videos


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
pianoloverus #3002708 07/15/20 01:09 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Here's a good video on how to play softly by a sensationally good professional pianist who has been doing a lot of instructional videos since the pandemic began:
https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=denis%20zhdanov%20-%20pianist
Oh, thanks goodness! Finally we seem to have a proper explanation from the perspective of Russian piano school and arm weight playing.

Here is the YouTube link:
https://youtu.be/qnHrRfjSYjY

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002712 07/15/20 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by GHN
Whenever I record & listen myself playing, it sounds as if I used a hammer to hit the keys.
Specifically, it sounds very harsh (to say the least), even when I tried to play softly. (I've been taking lessons for about 2.5 years).

Does playing softer comes with experience ?
In other words, will my problem be eventually resolved ?
In my opinion the reason number one of a harsh tone is a stiff wrist. Learn to use your wrist as a shock absorber, add some arm weight instead of finger playing and everything will be fine. No need to wait until it comes by itself. (And in some cases it may not come by itself at all.)

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002950 07/15/20 11:41 AM
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How about looking at [b]how loud and soft are produced[/u]? Just that. Then expand from there.

Sound is produced when the hammer is sent flying through the air and strikes a key. Think of hurling a ball against a house wall, making a loud thud or a soft plop. Digital pianos as designed to mimic this through software and hardware design so basically the same thing - the OP has an acoustic piano.

2. Speed of descent is what's operative. The faster your piano key is pushed down, the faster the hammer flies, the louder the sound. But we should look at this more closely.

- You might relate loudness with force, press the keys down "forcefully" with a lot of energy, and yes, you'll get a louder sound. That is because if you use a lot of energy or force, you're probably increasing speed. Differentiate the two. Energy or force are also factors, since nothing is set in motion without energy.

- The problem with force and energy is that as you try to play ever more quietly, you may try to be ever less forceful, so that at the quietest you have a super-relaxed mushy, uncontrolled hand. So "force" is not a good concept to get into. The oxymoron in piano is "effortlessness" as much as possible.

- Distance can also affect speed. If, in throwing that ball against the wall, I give a little flick of the wrist with a stationary arm, the ball may not even reach the wall. It can't gather momentum (speed). With a larger, but loose, arm motion, more momentum is gathered, therefore a greater speed and louder sound; and vice versa. So we're back at speed. If my entire arm drops, I'll probably have more momentum and speed, therefore louder; If the motion is mostly from the fingers, smaller motion, I'll probably have less momentum and speed, and a louder sound.

Therefore when watching pianists play loud and soft, you will probably see wider motion for loud than soft. Watch at 25% or 50% speed.

- Don't drive with the brakes on. If you're pushing forward while holding yourself back (some of us do that), then you're locking yourself up. Also don't become limp in order to be quieter. Experiment with speed and range of motion and see what that brings.

"Experience" only works if you have something to work with, and start discovering what works for you. I wish I'd known some of these things years ago, because I had entirely the wrong idea!

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
GHN #3002953 07/15/20 11:54 AM
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Size of room etc, what kind of recording equip you have also effect. You can use the una corda pedal and wrap the piano in some blankets if, put a rug underneath etc.

Re: Playing softer comes with experience ?
KlinkKlonk #3002960 07/15/20 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by KlinkKlonk
Size of room etc, what kind of recording equip you have also effect. You can use the una corda pedal and wrap the piano in some blankets if, put a rug underneath etc.


The OP states his tone is harsh as well as too loud. I don’t believe the harshness would be from room acoustics. In addition, if the room acoustics are unbalanced wouldn’t you still be able to produce a dynamic range? It might just start and end at a relatively higher level. Therefore, a blanket or a wrap might reduce the entire volume, but the question should be ‘is the overall volume too loud’ Or ‘can I not play softly?’.

I do not agree with using the una corda for volume control as it also changes the tone. Investigate and fix the issue.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

It's ok to be a Work In Progress
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