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#934915 10/03/08 05:51 AM
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I think the "old acoustic" issue comes from me - Gary didn't say some people prefer an old acoustic, but did respond to my post about the incredibly bad acoustic that I played for three days, "glad" to have a chance. So maybe I should put this into perspective, Gary.

I would not want to be constantly playing that clunker. However, while I'm playing the digital I must imagine the action and its response. I cannot interact with what isn't there so I'm not learning anything through my fingertips. So I was playing that clunker exclusively for that purpose, and it did help me. I was feeling my way into what a piano actually is and I needed that.

I should add that I am very tactile as an amateur musician and my ears reach out to hear things. It is oddly disturbing to play something which produces sound artificially. I will press down the key and the sound comes at a particular point where it's been programmed to respond and it's oddly out of synch with what I'm doing, and I can feel that. It's not responding to my real actions in a more subtle manner. When I play an instrument I am constantly interacting. For example, my alto recorder has a sweet sound but it does not have the same sound when someone else simply blows into it. I love the G: blow with just the right volume, letting it swell just so, and this resonance begins to vibrate within it, and I'm feeling for this resonance with my breath and my ears, keeping it going. That kind of thing exists with a piano too, even though it is so mechanical - and with the DP that isn't there. When you reach for something that is not there it is a really odd sensation: you have to tune out.

Sound is another thing. This DP was used for accompanying in classical music by professionals, and I got it second hand from friends. It has a nice sound in a room, especially 3 or 4 feet away. But up close it's different. The first time I played it there was a weird quality, like a secondary sound in a hollow tin can mixed with peach-almond that disturbed me. It was in a room with an acoustic, and we went back and forth. I was hearing something artificially put in that at a distance mimics an acoustic. As you play louder, the backboard of an acoustic will resonate in a particular way and you will hear this resonance 3-dimensionally with different kinds of frequencies (the partials, probably) coming out. That's what they put into the digital, but it was all coming out of one speaker from one location. The effect at a distance is good. But up close it disturbed me. It no longer disturbs me, and I'm also aware that my ears have closed off to subtle sounds, and this bothers me. Fortunately this "surround sound" isn't there when I use ear phones.

If I were already trained on a piano it would be a smaller matter because that knowledge would reside in my nerve endings. For learning, I am using my DP for whatever I can get out of it, but I am aware that a lot is missing.

Take the damper pedal. I can't feel my way into timing, but only an approximation of timing. Nothing is really engaging.

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#934916 10/03/08 06:38 AM
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Originally posted by Gary D.:
However, the one thing I totally disagree with you about is your $1000 figure for an acoustic. I assure you, there isn't any instrument for that kind of money that would not drive me insane, and that means both the sound and the lack of response.
Chris actually said 1000 pounds, not dollars.


Du holde Kunst...
#934917 10/03/08 08:18 AM
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That's right, I did say £'s not $'s.

Even so, I paid around £600 for one of my acoustics and it is far more enjoyable to play than a digital. Any check of classified ads will bring up decent acoustic pianos at affordable prices. I just found a barely used 9 year old Petrof 125 for sale at £850 on ebay. Actually I might be tempted to buy that one to sell on to a student.

I do understand that many people have no choice other than a digital. In that case a digital it must be. But where there is a choice an acoustic is a better investment.


Pianist and piano teacher.
#934918 10/03/08 09:59 AM
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My Korg DP is 21 years old—ancient by the typical obsolescence curve for applied technology. It's just "new" enough to have MIDI capability, but I have never tried to use that. There are a couple of other features, though, that I find useful.

Thirty different "voices" are great for warding off the boredom of repetitive practice, and a two-track sequencer is more useful still: if I record each hand's part separately, I can play back the left hand while practicing the right hand and vice versa. Expression is limited, of course, in the same way as if one were practicing with a metronome, but it can make HS practice less tedious to have it accompanied by a recording of the other hand's music.

Compared to my Baldwin M (or any acoustic!), it's comparing apples to oranges—and a delicious, shiny apple and a somewhat stunted and sour orange. When I chose the Korg, an "action" that simulated the feel of an acoustic piano took precedence over the actual sound. Even after all these years, I still find both acceptable, but only just—but I would never claim that there's anything approaching subtlety or nuance.

My biggest complaint all along has been a damper pedal that doesn't even attempt to simulate the spectrum possible on an acoustic: it's either on or off. Technology has since caught up to address that deficiency with gradient sustain, but that alone wouldn't be sufficient motivation for me to upgrade (even if prices are significantly lower than the $2,000 I paid in 1987!).

Steven

#934919 10/03/08 10:55 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by Gary D.:
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Originally posted by keystring:
It creates gorgeous sound regardless of what I do. That makes me jealous. I don't want the piano to play itself for me. I want to coax and elicit things from it.
But this is exactly what it feels like when you play on a concert grand. It DOES feel almost as if it plays itself. Of course this is an exaggeration. But the point is that when you play on such an instrument, the technician has regulated the instrument so that every key feels as though it is responding to exactly what you want. The piano is SUPPOSED to sound nearly perfect. It's supposed to FEEL almost perfect.
keystring brings up a very curious point. What's interesting is that your statement about concert grands is very similar to what our kids piano teacher had observed when we got our acoustic. That one of the struggles that we're likely to face is that compared to our old 1920's grand, that our new piano would almost be too easy to make sound good. I even started a thread way back to ask opinions on this. Funny that it should crop back up again (btw, the general consensus back then was that most folks thought it to be a non issue!).

I think keystring is the first person I've heard attribute this "ease of perfection" short coming of a digital.

#934920 10/03/08 11:06 AM
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I have 2 students, one on a casio PX-100, the othe on a PX-300. Both of these students have been with me for over 2 years. I have been telling the parents that they need to get a quality accoustic. The DP's are not capable of
the subtle nuance required to progress with technique.

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#934921 10/03/08 11:12 AM
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I've had a bit of an opposite experience with violins. I'm wondering, though if there is a piano equivalent. My first good violin tolerated whatever I did. It was resonant, could go to piano but not the quietest whisper of pianissimo. If I dug deeply into the strings it would play louder.

My present violin is more responsive and a better instrument. But in the beginning I sounded worse because of its responsiveness. I could no longer "dig" because I got the sound equivalent of someone plugging his nose and squeezing his eyes shut. When my technique improved I could draw out shades I could not imagine and which the old instrument could not do. A violin teacher described how his less able students could not make his superb violin do anything for them, but their intermediate instruments were ok.

Is there a piano equivalent? Will a good piano also exaggerated your mistakes and make insensitive playing painfully obvious? Or do they smooth over your mistakes? Or does the sheer pleasure of their action lend wings to your fingers?

#934922 10/03/08 12:03 PM
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Originally posted by keystring:
Is there a piano equivalent? Will a good piano also exaggerated your mistakes and make insensitive playing painfully obvious? Or do they smooth over your mistakes? Or does the sheer pleasure of their action lend wings to your fingers?
A good acoustic piano gives as good as it gets.

I don't mean to reduce it to something so brief or seemingly flip, but I can't think of a better way of saying it! smile

Steven

#934923 10/03/08 03:32 PM
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Hi,

This thread has blown up in the two days I've been gone. I own a Yamaha P-80 and a Steinway M grand. Yes, quite the leap, I know. I owned the P-80 for 2 years and still use it all the time. I've only just purchased my Steinway. It is a refurbished piano and I am going through the exact same problem the author in "Grand Obsessions" went through - with a somewhat less than ideal tenor. I am hopeful it will be resolved soon though.

Both have been extremely handy in different circumstances. I used the P-80 for my own wedding and take it with me when I am traveling. The P-80 makes my technique sloppy since it takes so little effort to generate music, and it is also very limited in dynamic range. It also does not afford a una corda pedal so it interferes with some of the pieces I play. For the money and portability it is a good piano.


Steinway M & Yamaha P120
#934924 10/03/08 04:59 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
[QB] I've had a bit of an opposite experience with violins. I'm wondering, though if there is a piano equivalent. My first good violin tolerated whatever I did. It was resonant, could go to piano but not the quietest whisper of pianissimo. If I dug deeply into the strings it would play louder.

My present violin is more responsive and a better instrument. But in the beginning I sounded worse because of its responsiveness. I could no longer "dig" because I got the sound equivalent of someone plugging his nose and squeezing his eyes shut. When my technique improved I could draw out shades I could not imagine and which the old instrument could not do. A violin teacher described how his less able students could not make his superb violin do anything for them, but their intermediate instruments were ok.
I think there is some equivalence. The first time I played on a good grand, I didn't like it. I couldn't play as fast. I got tired. It felt heavy, sluggish. I was used to light action uprights, especially some that were very bright.

As I gained experience, everything reversed. It was easier to vary touch. As my technique changed, I could play faster, smoother, better finger staccato, and of course repeated notes are so much better. The moment I made the adjustment, I could not stand to go back to uprights again.

I really hate uprights, except for ones called among other things "vertical grands". Some of them have a very good sound, but even so I miss the superior grand action.

As I've said elsewhere, for me talking about acoustic vs. digital comes down to other issues. Even if I had the room and money for a piano I'd enjoy, I have no privacy, and I most certainly do not have the equipment to record an acoustic piano.

Beggars can't be choosers!

#934925 10/03/08 05:10 PM
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Well, we certainly have the same limitations. Can you hear your neighbour snore? wink In terms of recording, my DP does not have that capability. But it's beside the computer, I have a good microphone, Goldwave free software for editing and that's my "recording equipment".

Thanks for the feedback on your experience with grands.

#934926 10/03/08 09:35 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by keystring:
Well, we certainly have the same limitations. Can you hear your neighbour snore? wink In terms of recording, my DP does not have that capability. But it's beside the computer, I have a good microphone, Goldwave free software for editing and that's my "recording equipment".

Thanks for the feedback on your experience with grands.
In fact, if there is any noise next door, yes, we hear it. If anyone walks around upstairs, we hear it. My DP does not record. I have to record it using a midi-program. Once I've done that, I can use the midi-program to "playback" what I've played, and I use Sound Forge to get from there to MP3s or files for CDs.

Any way, here is an example of what I've done in the past.

http://gaer.keltaria.com/blog/?cat=9

It's Kinderscenen or Scenes from Childhood, Schumann.

I'm very reluctant to link to anything digital now, but I suppose I'll take the plunge and hope that stones are not thrown. smile

#934927 10/04/08 10:48 AM
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That was enjoyable to listen to, and it's nice to hear what a digital can do in the right hands. Kinderszenen has special meaning, since one of the songs involved how my parents met.

#934928 10/09/08 10:44 PM
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I was lucky enough to play on "real" pianos for quite a while. Then I restarted playing after a break of around 25 years - on a digital piano. These instruments are not accoustic instruments and they are very limited compared to a grand piano. But I have a tendency to get the best out of any musical instrument and it is okay for practise. However, I think that any beginner should at some point play a lot on good accoustic instruments in order to find out what is possible. Digital and grand pianos are definitely two different sound worlds!

Many people - especially on the internet - are very concerned about the plastic keyboards in digital pianos as well. There might be a chance that a student gets a bad attack afer a while because on digital pianos only the speed of the key matters. But I am testing that for a year now and so far I got no complaints from my teacher - and I am playing organ as well (famous attack killer). Learning good attack might be a different story, but this is a very contraversial subject with no evidence for any direction.

I think an ambitious beginner should see to get an accoustic grand as soon as possible, or at least regular practise time 2-3 times a week. Students who have a few years of experience on accoustic instruments should be fine with a digital piano for practicing - well, technically.

Oh, some posted recordings, so here comes one from me too (digital piano yamaha ydp-131)

Scriabin Opus 9 Prelude 1, first half, first learning stage

I am sorry for the relatively bad playing and a big mistake in measure 6 (should be d, not d#). but I posted this for two reasons: It shows quite some capabilities of my digital as well as its limitations.

So here another one which is closer to the final:

Chopin O. 28 No. 4 - Suffocation

This one is even more to the limits, on some passages I really long for a colour change of the sound but it just won't happen!

#934929 10/10/08 02:01 AM
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It's strange how we seem to have people who think that DPs are the answer to everything (which is simply ridiculous), and others who think they are the "spawn of the Anti-Christ". smile

I wish had some of the newer technology. Some nights I'm so happy that I have SOMETHING to play around with, and others I'd like to get an ax or a flame-thrower and torch the DP and delete every recording I've made with it.

Here are some things I like, and some I hate.

Like:

1. I am now old, and I do NOT have time bust my butt practicing for the hours that I would have to even think about performing something live. The DP gives me a chance to practice and record at the same time.

2. I get as many chances as I want. If I'm working on a section and it just isn't going right, I can do a hundred takes. Sometimes I get what I want on the first take, knowing that I'm under no pressure, but that is very rare.

3. I can take chances. I can try something very different, and if it doesn't work, delete. But if it does, I may discover something new.

4. If a recording works, the data itself are saved. Then, if in the future I discover more about recording itself, I can put that into play.

5. I have the same advantages that pianists have in studios. I know for a FACT that even "live performances" are "doctored" in studios. And when in studios, pianists use every trick at their disposal. The have to, because if pianist A is not using "splicing" and other such tricks, he (or she) will sound inferior to pianist B and C (especially technically), who are using such tricks.

Now what I hate;

1) No matter how good the samples are, they tend to only sound real at certain dynamic levels.

2) The obvious lack of warmth, and this is especially obvious in anthing that needs to be super legato.

3) The difference in the action, which in my opinion is not always inferior to uprights, but it is still and ALWAYS far interior to any really good grand.

4) Now matter how good the sound when recorded, they don't sound anything like an acoustic piano that is played live.

There's more, but that just scratches the surface.

#934930 10/10/08 10:15 AM
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Gary D., I am a bit confused. How does your post relate to your quote of mine?

#934931 10/11/08 11:29 AM
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Originally posted by Guendola:
Gary D., I am a bit confused. How does your post relate to your quote of mine?
You talked about your experiences with acoustic pianos and later with a DP. You also compared a DP to grands.

Regardless, since apparently you saw no connection, I removed the quote.

#934932 12/11/08 12:39 PM
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My daughter has been taking piano lessons for 8 years. She's always played on a Yamaha Clavinova DP, which to me felt and sounded just like an acoustic piano. But to her, she could feel and hear the difference compared to the grand she played on at the instructor's house. I had noticed her playing style was hesitant at best, which made us reluctant to spend the money for a grand.

We finally bit the bullet, found a nice used grand, and her playing is improving by the day. Its truly remarkable. Just a month ago we'd barricade the doors when she was practicing, now we're actually falling asleep to her playing.
Some of this is attributable to her practicing a LOT more since the grand arrived, but my gut tells me its something more. YMMV

#934933 12/11/08 01:05 PM
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Originally posted by keystring:
It's not just insensitivity. The response on the DP is literally not real so there is no "tactical communication". When you stir coffee, then pudding, then liquified cornstarch (so much fun to experiment with! laugh ) your fingers are constantly adjusting to the feedback of the resistance of the liquid, the shifting weights in the spoon. You might add trying to get a certain quality of ring as your spoon hits the cup. The adjustments and fine actions of the muscles happen within that feedback loop. This is the part that is missing with a digital. If you hit the keys relatively insensitively there will be no difference. But if you're trying to feel out the sound, as it were, it's like talking to someone who is deaf and dumb - the piano, that is.
Yes, and given the enormous capabilities of our touch, only practicing on a digital would seem to be a great disadvantage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/09/science/09angi.html?ref=science

#934934 12/11/08 01:43 PM
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Originally posted by Gary D.:
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Originally posted by Larisa:
I'm practicing on a digital these days, too, alas - and it's a fairly good one (Yamaha P120) - and the few times I get to play on a real piano feel like a breath of fresh air. Even if the real piano in question is a 100-year-old clunker with rust on the strings that hasn't been tuned once in those 100 years.
Do you have any options with that? It's a pretty basic 88 key DP, I think.

The very first thing I do with the one I use is to set the touch to "heavy". This does nothing to the action (obviously), but it immediately gives me much more control, since I can still get as loud as I need to. That's one of the greatest weaknesses of most DPs. They will give a rather explosive sound with very little finger power. My biggest issue is always dynamic contrast, which is why I don't like uprights. In my experience the best of them don't come anywhere near to what a grand is capable of, even without taking into consideration the una corda.

It's interesting how much tuning means to some people, but not to others. An out of tune piano drives me nuts, and that includes one that is actually reasonably in tune, to itself, but has some unisons off enough to produce beats.
It's got some options, and the sound is pretty good, but the touch is not right. I tend to set it to "light", to get a bit more sensitivity, but it still feels wrong and hard to control.

I don't mind a slightly out-of-tune piano - I've played on enough clunkers over the years to get used to such things - but if it's really off it'll drive me nuts. At some festival or other, I played a 100-year-old piano that was a half-tone flat and perfectly in tune with itself. I kept stumbling because what I was hearing did not match what I was seeing.

Incidentally, one of the things I recently discovered about my DP is that one can play around with the tuning and temperament. The default is equal temperament, but it's got some other options (mean-tone tuning, Kirnberger, Pythagorean tuning, etc.) It's interesting to change the tuning and see what happens; and I wouldn't be able to do this on a real piano.

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