Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pianos and Pianos

There is an interesting article on pianos in the Wall Street Journal right now with lots of technical details about pianos and repertoire. The lore of instruments fascinates even non-players, but to players instruments are the means to all their musical ends. I used to think that I could not only identify different guitarists by their characteristic sound--something not all that difficult--but even perhaps which strings they were playing on. Pianists have similar acuity about pianos.

I was teaching an adult beginner once and he came to a lesson raving about a new Yamaha concert electric piano that was being demonstrated that day. He said "no-one could tell it from an acoustic grand piano"! Obviously part of the sales pitch. I looked him in the eye and said "I'll bet you fifty dollars I can". When he looked at me with puzzlement I said, "look, I have pianist friends who say they can distinguish between the sound of a Hamburg Steinway and a New York Steinway, how hard do you think it would be to tell the difference between an electric piano, no matter how good, and an acoustic piano"?

Musicians spend all their days seeking out and honing fine differences in timbre to find the right sound. It's what we do.

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