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Hi,

I've been practicing on a digital most of the time. Recently I found some conservatory where I can play an acoustic once or twice a week.
I've met a new teacher yesterday and he said my playing sounds very percussive on the acoustic (which is true).

Any suggestions on how to address this without having an acoustic at home?
Should I configure my DP to the lightest touch?

When I play an acoustic I can't find the balance:
If I play gently, in doesn't sound full-bodied. It loses some dimension rather than becoming softer.
If I play louder, it almost immediately becomes percussive...

Thanks!


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I guess there's the usual "turn up the volume" advice.

Pounding the keys hard should sound "too loud" as it does on an acoustic.

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Thanks, I'm familiar with that advice, but it's not practical to me. If I could turn the volume up I would just get an acoustic. I do avoid playing with very low volumes. Also, bringing the volume up in a digital doesn't feel the same as acoustic - the loudness is different. It becomes more bass heavy and very unpleasant. Not fun to play.


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Are you familiar with arm weight technique? Harsh sound is usually the result of too much finger work and lack of arm work.

Another thing to consider is the area of the pad of a fingertip that you use when you play. More area makes sound softer.

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This video might be helpful:

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Do you have access to more than one acoustic. Every acoustic I have played, admittedly not a huge number, has been wildly different from each other.

Can you try playing different acoustics.

The following is just speculation.

The sustain and sympathetic resonance on an acoustic can be huge, your experience of using the sustain pedal with a digital might be far more than you can use on an acoustic. This might result in your playing being staccato like but hidden by the use of the pedal. But when you are forced to cut back with the sustain on an acoustic piano the staccato nature of your playing becomes obvious.

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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,


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It just takes time to adjust. Learning how to play softer or expressively, or what have you, is something everyone has to work at. Try and spend more time on the acoustic, specifically working on playing softer and more gently. Experiment. It's not going to be something you get immediately.


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Guess you need to make short recordings to figure it out. Sounds like you're releasing a note a touch early so there is a slight gap between each. Pianos have an escape mechanism that stops the sound when the key is released about 3/4 way up. You don't need to release a note all the way up before the next comes down so 2 notes connect better. When 2 notes are slightly overlapped, you get a slurred effect.

Try it in slow motion. Press a key down and release it slowly. Before it is all the way up press the next key and hear if there is a noticeable gap in between.

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Originally Posted by thepianoplayer416
Guess you need to make short recordings to figure it out. Sounds like you're releasing a note a touch early so there is a slight gap between each. Pianos have an escape mechanism that stops the sound when the key is released about 3/4 way up. You don't need to release a note all the way up before the next comes down so 2 notes connect better. When 2 notes are slightly overlapped, you get a slurred effect.

Try it in slow motion. Press a key down and release it slowly. Before it is all the way up press the next key and hear if there is a noticeable gap in between.
This is not the way one plays legato. Also, the OP's problem is with the quality of his tone and does not seem related to playing legato.

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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,

I think what is meant here is that if you are using more of the pad of the finger, the finger is held flatter and less rigid and can flex a little more easily than if the finger is stiffly held in a more vertical manner with the tip “poking” at the key so to speak. This gives better control if you’re aiming for a less percussive sound. And finger control most definitely affects tone production even with no change in size or mass of hammers or strings.

The “pad of the finger” feel is the effect of the finger position rather than the cause, but it’s a helpful visual / tactile way to describe it to someone who may not be aware of it.


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I think this is a great question but not an easy one to answer. Maybe it would help to know

- what is the piano (grand or upright piano?)
- what is the pieces
- what was the advice from a teacher

Ido the simple answer is I think you just have to learn to develop skill to control the speed you press the keys so you have something in between the two extremes currently.

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Originally Posted by Ido
Any suggestions on how to address this without having an acoustic at home?

How curved are you holding your fingers? They should only be as curved as your hands would be resting naturally by your side. You shouldn’t be actively curling them in more than that.

If it feels like the longer fingers would hit the black keys, the solution is to move your whole hand in and out, not to curl the fingers, which can create tension and rigidity leading to harshness.


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Maybe you need a better digital piano, one that behaves more like an acoustic. It sounds like the one you are using is not very good.

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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.

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Originally Posted by scirocco
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,

I think what is meant here is that if you are using more of the pad of the finger, the finger is held flatter and less rigid and can flex a little more easily than if the finger is stiffly held in a more vertical manner with the tip “poking” at the key so to speak. This gives better control if you’re aiming for a less percussive sound. And finger control most definitely affects tone production even with no change in size or mass of hammers or strings.

The “pad of the finger” feel is the effect of the finger position rather than the cause, but it’s a helpful visual / tactile way to describe it to someone who may not be aware of it.

Yes, thank you, that's exactly what I meant. I meant that fingers must not normally work like little hammers.

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Originally Posted by Ido
Thanks, I'm familiar with that advice, but it's not practical to me. If I could turn the volume up I would just get an acoustic. I do avoid playing with very low volumes. Also, bringing the volume up in a digital doesn't feel the same as acoustic - the loudness is different. It becomes more bass heavy and very unpleasant. Not fun to play.

(a) There are products called "headphones", and related products called "earbuds" or "in-ear monitors".

They might solve your problem, and let you play at realistic (=acoustic-piano) volume, without disturbing anyone.

(b) If you look up "Fletcher-Munson Curve", you'll find that the behavior you describe -- the bass seems to get louder against the treble, as you increase the volume -- is exactly what _should_ happen when you increase the volume.

I was once listening to a guitarist do a sound check on a twelve-string guitar, and shouted from the back of the hall:

. . . "It sounds awful -- too much distortion!"

to which he said:

. . . "It's _supposed_ to sound like that."


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I have been playing digital piano for a long time now, except for acoustic concerts, and have a good explanation for you. The fact is that an acoustic and a digital piano are two different instruments, no matter what tales they tell you. One of the big problems, if not the biggest one: under the influence of an unnatural correspondence between the keystroke and the attack of the sound (especially when using a pedal or volume knob), the character of the fingers movements changes completely imperceptibly for you towards a more percussive one . You need to change the proportions of your training: play an acoustic instrument most of the time.

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Experiment with different staccato & legato touches so you have more control on connecting & separating notes. The examples from Graham Fitch (Pianist Magazine) involve various touches using fingers, wrist & arm weight to control the sound and only a touch of the sustain pedal when needed.


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We can only control the speed of the hammer. That's all. Read The Piano Voodoo of Tone Production. Study closely the piano action.

Describing what you are doing in various ways may help you to visualize what you are doing to produce a desired tone. But ultimately only the speed of the hammer matters.

Sam

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