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Quick update:

Lots of great replies here and a lot of food for thought. Thank you.
With this information in mind, I went to the conservatory this morning to play the acoustic a bit (this is a Kawai upright, pretty old and not well maintained). I approached it with a different attitude this time, paying much more attention to tone production.

I've noticed that the pedal causes the action to be substantially lighter, more than I initially perceived. I wasn't adjusting my touch until now but I understand I should.
I also tried playing slower, and not hitting from above, using a more continuous motion. I instantly discovered there's plenty of dynamic range I didn't have access to before, it's quite a revelation. I need to recalibrate my brain to hear these nuances...

I feel like the replies here really helped. Thanks again.


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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
[..]
Another thing to consider is the area of the pad of a fingertip that you use when you play. More area makes sound softer.

That doesn't change the shape, size or mass of the hammer that is hitting the string. If you really believe that the part of the finger depressing the key makes a difference in tone production, I suggest that it's simply an illusion.

Regards,
Actually I was talking about technique, not about physics, but come to think about it, the pad has a physical effect, too. We just need to think here about a finger attacking the key and not about a piano hammer attacking the string.

We can think of a key attack in terms of velocity or in terms of energy. I prefer to think in terms of energy, because it's simpler. So when we attack a key with a bigger area of the finger pad, the bigger part of the energy of the keystroke is expended for squashing the finger pad, and thus less energy is left to be transferred to the piano hammer. As a result the piano hammer attacks the string with lower energy and the tone becomes softer. I don't think that squashing of the finger pad itself is a key factor here really, more energy in this case is probably absorbed by the micro-collapses of the (more flattened) finger joints against soft tissue resistance, but the pad has a physical effect, too.
In terms of sound I think the only thing that matters is the speed of the key. I think for some people a flatter finger may give more control of the key's speed which is the only thing that determines the volume and quality of the sound. There are numerous degrees of how much one is playing on one's fingertips or more on the pad. It's not a black or white issue.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
[..]
Another thing to consider is the area of the pad of a fingertip that you use when you play. More area makes sound softer.

That doesn't change the shape, size or mass of the hammer that is hitting the string. If you really believe that the part of the finger depressing the key makes a difference in tone production, I suggest that it's simply an illusion.

Regards,
Actually I was talking about technique, not about physics, but come to think about it, the pad has a physical effect, too. We just need to think here about a finger attacking the key and not about a piano hammer attacking the string.

We can think of a key attack in terms of velocity or in terms of energy. I prefer to think in terms of energy, because it's simpler. So when we attack a key with a bigger area of the finger pad, the bigger part of the energy of the keystroke is expended for squashing the finger pad, and thus less energy is left to be transferred to the piano hammer. As a result the piano hammer attacks the string with lower energy and the tone becomes softer. I don't think that squashing of the finger pad itself is a key factor here really, more energy in this case is probably absorbed by the micro-collapses of the (more flattened) finger joints against soft tissue resistance, but the pad has a physical effect, too.
In terms of sound I think the only thing that matters is the speed of the key. I think for some people a flatter finger may give more control of the key's speed which is the only thing that determines the volume and quality of the sound. There are numerous degrees of how much one is playing on one's fingertips or more on the pad. It's not a black or white issue.
I agree. You can play the piano with your nose and if you can strike the key with same velocity and force of your fingers the notes would sound identical. Wouldn’t matter either if you wiggle your nose after striking the key as the hammer is already off the string at that point.

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I had a similar issue, owning only a digital, and my teacher was always on my case about getting an acoustic piano. When I did my technique improved quickly. The motor skills on a digital don't exactly transfer over to an acoustic if all your practice time is on a digital.

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It may be possible to practice the correct arm, wrist, and finger movements on a digital piano (that's not a hybrid with an acoustic action). A Russian teacher I know told me that as a very young student she practiced for countless hours the correct movements on the top of a closed fallboard. I'm not sure why she was told to practice it this way but perhaps it was because she could concentrate on the movements without worrying about hitting the note(s) accurately. OTOH I don't think practicing on a hard surface would feel the same as on the keys. My main point is that it may be possible to practice the correct movements on the digital keyboard even though it doesn't feel exactly like an acoustic keyboard.

It seems to me that the OP should ask his teacher what technical changes should be made to achieve a less percussive sound.

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On a digital piano it's just easier to achieve good tone, because samples are recorded with a good tone, so there is no need to strive hard for it.

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Originally Posted by Jethro
You can play the piano with your nose and if you can strike the key with same velocity and force of your fingers the notes would sound identical. Wouldn’t matter either if you wiggle your nose after striking the key as the hammer is already off the string at that point.

But the act of wiggling your nose (or maybe trying to stop yourself wiggling it) can affect how you play the note in the first place. It’s no different from golfers or tennis players, once the ball has gone in theory it shouldn’t matter. But huge attention is paid to follow-through, for good reason.

The way that any technique affects action is a human phenomenon. It’s about trying to get the human to do the right thing at the first time of asking and getting results that don’t vary widely and are repeatable.

Thinking about it in terms of the hardware misses the point. The hardware is reliably repeatable in a way that the technique-free human is not.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
In terms of sound I think the only thing that matters is the speed of the key

No, no and NO! Apparently, not all pianists hear all the qualities of a piano sound. One of them is the force spectrum of impact of the bottom of the key on the bottom board, depending on the depth and velocity of pressing, and the weight of the hand. A knocking sound on a piano is a sharp and quick squeezing of a key to the very end , like a hammer .

https://disk.yandex.ru/d/hRwUPRCySdnPgQ

1.Acoustic piano: a) playing with excessive percussive playing movements; b) the same with neutralized keys.

2. Digital piano: a) playing with excessive percussive playing movements; b) the same with the speaker off.


[Linked Image]

The graphical image on the left (and separately below) shows very clearly the ratio of the volume of the sound of the strings and the sound of hitting the key on the board. The graphical display of keystrokes is not an organic part of the sound coming from the speaker; and therefore is neglected ; and then this is transferred automatically to the acoustic instrument. Very sad ! .
In other words: sound production depends on TWO ELEMENTS: 1. the speed of the key movement, 2. the depth of pressing the keys. This is where the difference between the Russian pianistic school and the Western one lies.
Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
On a digital piano it's just easier to achieve good tone, because samples are recorded with a good tone, so there is no need to strive hard for it.


The tragedy of those who play digital pianos is that they do not understand that there is an embedded contradiction between the digital quantized sound production of the programmed program, and analog touch, the connection between which can be very ambiguous; and, as a result, completely incorrect playing movements of the fingers, causing the keyboard to clatter, are accompanied by quite acceptable sound ; which simply destroys the technique developed by years of working on an acoustic instrument!

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Are you arguing that the knocking sound of the key hitting the board is part of the music?

I would see it as unwanted noise caused by hammer-style playing.

Last edited by ErfurtBob; 06/23/21 05:13 PM.
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Originally Posted by ErfurtBob
Are you arguing that the knocking sound of the key hitting the board is part of the music?

I would see it as unwanted noise caused by hammer-style playing.
Yes, but to varying degrees, depending on the configuration of the playing movements.


from 6:56 -7: 14
At 0:11, an interesting example of an illusion: the pianist "knocks" his finger like a hammer, exactly as I did on the recording. But this is an illusion: the pianist uses the technique of "living fingertips", which noticeably softens the percussion of the ink; at a time when I was just pounding the key with an extremely tense hand.

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