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Why is long sustain a good thing?
#3048764 11/23/20 11:48 PM
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I've sometimes seen people rave about pianos with a long sustain. However, I can't think of a piece where I would keep the damper pedal down for more than a few seconds, so of what practical use is a piano that can maintain a 20 second sustain? Does long sustain indicate health of the soundboard or some other quality that is apparent other than when the damper pedal gets stuck in the down position?


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048773 11/24/20 12:53 AM
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In my opinion , long sustain sound makes tone rich and powerful. My previous grand piano had weirdly short sustain in mid-range, it made me crazy

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048780 11/24/20 01:22 AM
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I think the resonance matters of notes which are not sustained by the damper pedal especially in the higher treble area . Perhaps because I do like playing some Mozart or Bach where the damper is not used much or not at all.
But yes a nice sustain from the damper pedal is great in a piano as well.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048789 11/24/20 01:57 AM
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the longer the duration of EACH individual piano sound, the greater the opportunity for the pianist for their play, I'm think. 45 seconds of decay to complete rest is a must for good grand piano

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048798 11/24/20 03:10 AM
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The rate at which a note decays can be heard almost as soon as it is played.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048804 11/24/20 03:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
I've sometimes seen people rave about pianos with a long sustain. However, I can't think of a piece where I would keep the damper pedal down for more than a few seconds, so of what practical use is a piano that can maintain a 20 second sustain?
Moonlight Sonata - my first digital was absolutely hopeless with this due to the short sustain.


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048816 11/24/20 04:30 AM
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Sometimes a bass note may be tied over a couple of bars. It is important for that note to keep sounding.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048819 11/24/20 04:49 AM
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It's not just about the time a note is audible.
Much more the rapid change over decay.

A good sustain allows connecting melody lines in a more singing quality, cantabile, lyrically.

No way do do this without sustain...

-Rhodes74

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048854 11/24/20 07:21 AM
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I think there are many major misconceptions about sustain in some of the above posts :

1. Without good sustain it's not possible to play music with a slow melodic line effectively. The musical line gets chopped off between the notes in the melodic line. A prime example would be something like a Chopin Nocturne but sustain is important for most of classical music. A slow melodic piece by Bach or Scarlatti benefits from good sustain.

2. Sustain should not be tested with the damper pedal down and does not have to last anywhere near 20 seconds an certainly not 45 seconds to be considered good. The crucial area for sustain is in the area of the piano starting around little above middle C and going up until the undamped notes(which never are expected to have good sustain and thus don't require dampers). On any decent piano the sustain of the bass notes and lower tenor is rarely a problem, but some even very good pianos can have poor sustain in the 5th and 6th octaves. This is the crucial area where melody notes are most often played.

3. If a note has poor sustain, playing it while holding down the damper pedal will only make it sound a little richer since one hears the vibrations of other strings. IMO the correct way to test sustain is to play single notes without pedal and listen for the useful part of the sustain. One should not measure how long it takes for a note to completely die out because if a note drops off very quickly but still remains barely audible it will not help making a lyrical line sound connected.

4. On any decent piano there will be no problem with sustain on a bass note and it's not even necessary to test those notes for sustain except on a very low end instrument.

5. Sustain should not be listened to while using the sustaining(right) pedal. Sustain is not related to the sustaining pedal.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/24/20 07:27 AM.
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
pianoloverus #3048877 11/24/20 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
2. Sustain should not be tested with the damper pedal down and does not have to last anywhere near 20 seconds an certainly not 45 seconds to be considered good. The crucial area for sustain is in the area of the piano starting around little above middle C and going up until the undamped notes(which never are expected to have good sustain and thus don't require dampers). On any decent piano the sustain of the bass notes and lower tenor is rarely a problem, but some even very good pianos can have poor sustain in the 5th and 6th octaves. This is the crucial area where melody notes are most often played.
I will want clarify 45 about,
that mean in excess of the maximum sound duration for huge old grand pianos seldom there.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Maximillyan #3048888 11/24/20 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Maximillyan
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
2. Sustain should not be tested with the damper pedal down and does not have to last anywhere near 20 seconds an certainly not 45 seconds to be considered good. The crucial area for sustain is in the area of the piano starting around little above middle C and going up until the undamped notes(which never are expected to have good sustain and thus don't require dampers). On any decent piano the sustain of the bass notes and lower tenor is rarely a problem, but some even very good pianos can have poor sustain in the 5th and 6th octaves. This is the crucial area where melody notes are most often played.
I will want clarify 45 about,
that mean in excess of the maximum sound duration for huge old grand pianos seldom there.
Not sure what you mean.

One cannot talk about sustain without discussing which notes are being tested. The lowest bass notes have the longest sustain but nowhere near 45 seconds. Even if that was possible it's of no relevance for actual music. The important notes to test for sustain are in the 5th and 6th octaves since those are critical melody for most pieces and the notes below those rarely have a problem on a half way decent piano.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
pianoloverus #3048895 11/24/20 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think there are many major misconceptions about sustain in some of the above posts :

1. Without good sustain it's not possible to play music with a slow melodic line effectively. The musical line gets chopped off between the notes in the melodic line. A prime example would be something like a Chopin Nocturne but sustain is important for most of classical music. A slow melodic piece by Bach or Scarlatti benefits from good sustain.

2. Sustain should not be tested with the damper pedal down and does not have to last anywhere near 20 seconds an certainly not 45 seconds to be considered good. The crucial area for sustain is in the area of the piano starting around little above middle C and going up until the undamped notes(which never are expected to have good sustain and thus don't require dampers). On any decent piano the sustain of the bass notes and lower tenor is rarely a problem, but some even very good pianos can have poor sustain in the 5th and 6th octaves. This is the crucial area where melody notes are most often played.

3. If a note has poor sustain, playing it while holding down the damper pedal will only make it sound a little richer since one hears the vibrations of other strings. IMO the correct way to test sustain is to play single notes without pedal and listen for the useful part of the sustain. One should not measure how long it takes for a note to completely die out because if a note drops off very quickly but still remains barely audible it will not help making a lyrical line sound connected.

4. On any decent piano there will be no problem with sustain on a bass note and it's not even necessary to test those notes for sustain except on a very low end instrument.

5. Sustain should not be listened to while using the sustaining(right) pedal. Sustain is not related to the sustaining pedal.

As usual Pianoloverus nailed it. smile
My C3 had great sustain, noted by my piano tech, above the typical C3. It made playing soft slow ballads very romantic.. My Estonia has even better sustain which is why I fell in love with it so quickly. It allows the pianist to “roll” playing big chords when our fingers are too short and/or our hands are too small. Also, for me, I have much less tendency to overuse the sustain pedal which makes the music sound muddy. Just my 2 cents.


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3048930 11/24/20 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by j&j
My C3 had great sustain, noted by my piano tech, above the typical C3. It made playing soft slow ballads very romantic.. My Estonia has even better sustain which is why I fell in love with it so quickly. It allows the pianist to “roll” playing big chords when our fingers are too short and/or our hands are too small. Also, for me, I have much less tendency to overuse the sustain pedal which makes the music sound muddy. Just my 2 cents.

Sustain is good, but all the notes do not sustain equally, in terms of how long, or how strong the sustain might be. The further up the keyboard you go, low bass toward upper treble, the sutain gets less and less audible. That is why the dampers end somewhere around the last two octaves.

As for the use of the sustain pedal, or lack thereof, I'm bad about overusing the sustain pedal. If I'm playing the piano and get really excited about what I'm playing, I will forget I have the sustain pedal depressed continuously. But we live and learn. smile

Rick


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3049008 11/24/20 01:38 PM
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Thanks for the feedback everyone. I get that a very short sustain can cause a problem with phrasing, and have experienced that on certain cheap digitals. But those are very short, say 2 seconds. The average piano in good condition should be able to get to 10 seconds, which is more than enough time to bridge any notes. Plus, it is rare you would hold any key down for more than 2-3 seconds before letting go and having the damper come down anyway.

So my question is more about how a piano with a 20 second sustain sounds appreciably better than one with a 10 second one. From the replies, I gather it's about overall resonance and color to the sound. Also, a piano with a 20 sec. sustain probably has a stronger sustain in the first 5 seconds than a piano with a 10 sec. sustain does.

Ps: I'm sure these are things only people on Pianoworld wonder about crazy

Last edited by Emery Wang; 11/24/20 01:40 PM.

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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3049017 11/24/20 01:57 PM
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Comedian, "It's how I tell 'em".
Pianomaker, "It's how I build 'em".


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Withindale #3049034 11/24/20 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Withindale
Comedian, "It's how I tell 'em".
Pianomaker, "It's how I build 'em".

Reminds me of something one of my college professors told me regarding writing research papers. She said, "tell em' what ya gonna tell em', then tell em', then tell em' what ya told em'". smile

Emery, when it comes to acoustic pianos, I'm not sure there are specific, definitive answers to a lot of our questions; vagueness and fogginess seems to be the norm. There are just so many variables, and even our physical hearing abilities are not all the same.

I was listening to some of my piano recordings from about 10 years ago recently; it was some of my original songs and arrangements. I was playing my former Tokai G180 (5'10') grand piano, my first grand. As I listened to the recordings, on a CD I had made of some of my original songs, I thought to myself, wow, that Tokai G180 piano sounded good, very good; why did I get rid of that piano?

Also, my playing and singing sounded good to me, very good (if I should say such a thing smile ).

It seems that my former piano, and my piano playing abilities sounded better 10 years ago, than it does now.

My takeaway from that? My best days as a piano player and musician wannabe are likely behind me rather than ahead of me. Or, I forgot how good I was back then... smile

Please forgive the selfish conceit. This post was about comedians telling how to tell em', so I told em'. smile

I told em' what I thought and how I felt
Despite the hand that I was dealt
Nevertheless, we learn from the past
And move on toward new goals that may or may not last

Our life's experiences teach us a lot
Whether we drag our feet or give it all we got
We move on and press forward as a general rule
Finding the answers to our questions, and use it as a tool

But even so, the human experience is fraught with mystery
No matter how much we examine or study history
However, life is still a blessing and a wonderful gift
As we do the best we can though circumstances shift

Another thought for now, at least
Hopefully one that will put our mind at peace
Whether our piano has enough sustain, or remains without
We have much to be thankful for, no doubt smile

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3049036 11/24/20 03:16 PM
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Sustain is important ( technically it would be rate of decay ) but like so many other areas of the piano it only needs to be good enough. In other words if you need a note to be able to be clearly heard for 3 seconds after the attack, anything beyond that is meaningless.

The quality of the attack and the difference in volume after the attack, and the shape of the sound after the attack is much more important than how long a note is audible after the note is struck. Generally, when one is concerned about length of sound after the note is struck it is in the area about one octave above middle c and then up another octave and another 4rth to F. This is the area that is often most demanding of " singing " from the piano combined with being known as a problem area for singing on many pianos. As you get lower in pitch than this area, pianos sustain better and more easily and as you get higher in pitch composers ask you to sing less and less.

I would much rather have a bit less sustain but an attack that was not overly percussive and the sound immediately after the attack being not that much softer than the attack. This type of sound allows the pianist to create beautiful singing lines even if the "sustain" is not endless.

I hope this makes sense.


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Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3049043 11/24/20 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Emery Wang
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I get that a very short sustain can cause a problem with phrasing, and have experienced that on certain cheap digitals. But those are very short, say 2 seconds. The average piano in good condition should be able to get to 10 seconds, which is more than enough time to bridge any notes. Plus, it is rare you would hold any key down for more than 2-3 seconds before letting go and having the damper come down anyway.

So my question is more about how a piano with a 20 second sustain sounds appreciably better than one with a 10 second one. From the replies, I gather it's about overall resonance and color to the sound. Also, a piano with a 20 sec. sustain probably has a stronger sustain in the first 5 seconds than a piano with a 10 sec. sustain does.

Ps: I'm sure these are things only people on Pianoworld wonder about crazy
When you ask these questions you cannot just talk about the length of the sustain in a piano since it varies so much depending on what area of the keyboard you are playing. There are no pianos with 20 second sustain in the 5th or 6th octaves, and even 10 seconds of useful sustain would be extremely rare in my experience. The sustain in the bass and even tenor usually is not a consideration except maybe on a very poor piano.

You also seem to talking about sustain as if it means how long it takes for a note to completely die out which is not relevant. The relevant thing is the length of the useful sustain. If it takes a long time for a note to completely die out but it drops to a low level very quickly then the piano has poor sustain. I also don't think sustain has anything to do with "color" which is usually defined as how the sound changes with change in volume(it should get brighter).

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Keith D Kerman #3049044 11/24/20 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Keith D Kerman
Sustain is important ( technically it would be rate of decay ) but like so many other areas of the piano it only needs to be good enough. In other words if you need a note to be able to be clearly heard for 3 seconds after the attack, anything beyond that is meaningless.

The quality of the attack and the difference in volume after the attack, and the shape of the sound after the attack is much more important than how long a note is audible after the note is struck. Generally, when one is concerned about length of sound after the note is struck it is in the area about one octave above middle c and then up another octave and another 4rth to F. This is the area that is often most demanding of " singing " from the piano combined with being known as a problem area for singing on many pianos. As you get lower in pitch than this area, pianos sustain better and more easily and as you get higher in pitch composers ask you to sing less and less.

I would much rather have a bit less sustain but an attack that was not overly percussive and the sound immediately after the attack being not that much softer than the attack. This type of sound allows the pianist to create beautiful singing lines even if the "sustain" is not endless.

I hope this makes sense.
It sounds to me that you are describing what I called the "useful sustain" in an earlier post. I think many people think of sustain as how long it takes for a note to become inaudible which, if I understand your post correctly, you agree with me that this is not the correct way to judge a piano's sustain.

Re: Why is long sustain a good thing?
Emery Wang #3049048 11/24/20 03:45 PM
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The rate of decay is also a measure of the integration of the piano's design and manufacture, as well as its down-bearing.


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