Filtering by Category: Pianos

Lime Light / Electric vs. Acoustic Pianos

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I was wondering how the lime light and how fans affect your piano playing and your day to day life. Like does the press and or fans ever make a big deal out of small meaningless things or issues unrelated to music that cause you to loose fans or for people to become more interested in the hoopla than your piano playing. I was just curious because my little cousin absolutly adores piano. I just started last year and am self taught, but I encouraged him to begin piano and he is inlove with the instrument. I'm genuinly impressed with his ability he picks up on things fast being able to see patterns in music right from the start. The hardest thing he can play at the moment is a simplifide version of Bach's toccata and fugue in D minor which excludes certain parts but I still had some trouble playing it. Anyway I wanted to ask you if people give you alot of attention or shit for things you don't want attention for or would prefer it not distracting from your skill since my cousin has a sensitivity issue where all of his nerves are hypersensitive so he cant wear certain cloths, be around certain noises ect (which may explain his versatility at piano with his really sensitive ear) and hes kinda shy about talking about his sensitivity issue. One more question. I am going to college this year and obviously can not afford the space or money for a piano in my dorm should I invest in a nice keyboard or would playing a half hour in a practice room every few days be enough to prevent my skill from atrophying.
 - Raiko

Dear Raiko,

I'll answer your easy question first -- if you can afford to buy a nice, weighted keyboard, go ahead! I love my Yamaha P90 and use it often. (This is the only time you'll hear me endorsing a non-Steinway piano.) :-)

The other question is interesting, but my response is similarly simple. Classical musicians do not suffer from the same sorts of celebrity invasion as pop musicians. Only rarely does anybody recognize me on the street. I can't imagine that strangers will start gossiping about your cousin's sex life or something similar (unless he becomes the next Martha Argerich).

Upon reflection... I suppose there are some whispers shared about Liz and me -- people are still trying to figure out the nature of our relationship. (I'm gay; she's straight; we're just good friends!) But we don't care what others think. We'd rather be our honest, authentic selves than try to shape the opinions of others. We'd rather direct our attention to more important matters -- giving a great performance! If extraneous details turn people off -- or bring in a crowd -- who cares! We're having a great time at the piano.

- Greg (October 23, 2009)

Dealing With Acoustics

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hello Greg,
How do you cope with different pianos and acoustics at various venues? Any advice on that? Is it reasonable to expect one to be able to give a splendid performance on a totally new instrument with little time to try it out - if it's even a decent instrument!!
- candidmanc

Dear Candidman,

Great question! Varying concert hall acoustics (wet, dry, bad projection, misleading dynamics, etc.) and pianos (heavy action, light action, uneven action, bass-heavy, weak sound, etc.) can make for some pretty horrifying experiences as a concert pianist!

Interestingly enough, the unpredictability of it all bothers me less and less with each performing experience. What's important -- what really matters -- is that I connect with the audience. Most of the time, audience members could care less about uneven articulation or bass-heavy performance, and if I dwell on the pitfalls of the circumstances too long, I lose the ability to deliver a truly engaging performance.

Having said that, of course I adopt to the particulars of the venue: more pedal in dry acoustics, slower tempos in wet acoustics, nicer tone on harsh pianos, etc. But none of this is particularly intentional or thought out. Whenever I'm performing, I do my best to *listen* to the music I'm creating -- I listen, rather than rely on any practice room plan. This ability to live in the moment completely shapes my performance and keeps the music spontaneous, and as an added perk I'm continually reacting to any conditions related to the venue or the piano.

Happy adapting!

- Greg (Oct. 23, 2009)

Digital or Acoustic?

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I own a yamaha P250 ditigal piano and its really nice. The only thing is I just don't get that "acoustic" feel. It sounds just like an acoustic, though I still don't get that feel..I occassionally go to Eastman school of music to use their pianos, but it uses a bit too much gas.. And I 'm only there like once a week for 2 hours. My parents currently cant afford an acoustic, especially since the American ecomony is down. Do you think after this ecomony thing I should ask my parents to begin to invest in a real one? Or do you think I should just stick with the P250 until I move out and buy my own? -Kalen

Dear Kalen,

It's not just the feel, but the *sound* of digital keyboards that will hinder your growth as a pianist. Digital keyboards are unable to recreate the natural blend of overtones heard on a real piano; furthermore, they lack the immense variety of tonal "colors" that a real piano can create. As a pianist, it is necessary to learn to control these colors and overtones in beautiful ways. Developing your skills on a digital keyboard will weaken your ear's ability to hear these differences and it will prevent you from truly learning to exploit the tonal possibilities of a piano.

That said, you probably should evaluate your priorities first. If your number one priority is to become a classical pianist, then you really should be training on an acoustic piano, preferably a grand piano. If playing the piano is just one of many things you enjoy in life, then perhaps you should stick with the keyboard. Keyboards certainly have many advantages (I use my Yamaha P80 quite often!): they stay in tune, they make less noise, they hook up to a computer, and they are more affordable. For an aspiring concert pianist, however, these advantages are small when compared to the feel and sound of a real piano.

- Greg

Electric vs. Acoustic Pianos

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I own a yamaha P250 ditigal piano and its really nice. The only thing is I just don't get that "acoustic" feel. It sounds just like an acoustic, though I still don't get that feel..I occassionally go to Eastman school of music to use their pianos, but it uses a bit too much gas.. And I 'm only there like once a week for 2 hours. My parents currently cant afford an acoustic, especially since the American ecomony is down. Do you think after this ecomony thing I should ask my parents to begin to invest in a real one? Or do you think I should just stick with the P250 until I move out and buy my own? -Kalen

Dear Kalen,

It's not just the feel, but the *sound* of digital keyboards that will hinder your growth as a pianist. Digital keyboards are unable to recreate the natural blend of overtones heard on a real piano; furthermore, they lack the immense variety of tonal "colors" that a real piano can create. As a pianist, it is necessary to learn to control these colors and overtones in beautiful ways. Developing your skills on a digital keyboard will weaken your ear's ability to hear these differences and it will prevent you from truly learning to exploit the tonal possibilities of a piano.

That said, you probably should evaluate your priorities first. If your number one priority is to become a classical pianist, then you really should be training on an acoustic piano, preferably a grand piano. If playing the piano is just one of many things you enjoy in life, then perhaps you should stick with the keyboard. Keyboards certainly have many advantages (I use my Yamaha P80 quite often!): they stay in tune, they make less noise, they hook up to a computer, and they are more affordable. For an aspiring concert pianist, however, these advantages are small when compared to the feel and sound of a real piano.

- Greg

Upgrading to an Acoustic Piano

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg!,
First of all, your videos and compositions are great, you and Liz are really unique!. I have a question for you, when do you think it is advisable (for a classical piano Student who wants to play like you, basically :D) to move from a digital piano (in my case, a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-240 with the Grade Hammer 3 stuff) to a grand piano?. And another one!, my teacher says I should play staccato notes by lifting my wrist a little (hand above the keyboard, but not touching it, slightly above, like floating! ) and hitting the keys from that position (just moving the fingers, the wrist stays just there, in the floating position). She says that is to avoid future injuries or something like that, but I found it very unnatural, why do you think?. How do you play staccato notes (not super fast staccato notes, but, for example, staccato for bach inventions, sinfonias, etc). Please post more videos!, a new parody :D
 - Raúl

Dear Raúl,

Switch to an acoustic piano as soon as you can afford to. It doesn't necessarily need to be a grand (I practiced on an Everett spinet until I was 16 years old!!), it just needs to have real hammers hitting real strings. Of course, eventually you will need to switch to a grand piano. Electric keyboards are handy (I have a Yamaha P90), but they do not do a very good job of recreating the resonance of a real piano. As a student of the piano, you should be developing your ear for color and timbre, and these pianistic traits are impossible to imitate on an electronic keyboard. Even the action feels different on a real piano - staccato notes in particular!

As for those staccatos that are giving you so much trouble, I'm afraid I can't help you. I do not consider myself to be a specialist in the mechanics of playing the piano. If anything, you should talk to your teacher. Perhaps he or she isn't explaining it effectively, or perhaps your discomfort is a symptom of something else. Your teacher should be able to clear this up for you.

- Greg

Soundproofing

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I once heard you talk about how your dad soundproofed your practice room at home. I've just moved into a new apartment, and though the walls are thick and I don't have any wall-neighbors, the sound travels up the wall and bothers an at-home writer 4 floors above me. What should I do? I don't want to muffle the piano too much but instead would rather attempt to "sound-proof" the room. What do you think about foam? I am open to any and all suggestions.
Blisteringly Bombastic (not really) in Berlin

Dear Bombastic,

My dad's form of soundproofing was nothing more than mattresses hauled up from the basement and placed around the piano. It didn't really work and my family members remained frustrated by the bombast.

You could hire a professional acoustician. Soundproofing is a tricky job, so much so that people spend years in school studying the science behind it. They could offer you better advice than me! One thing I've seen repeatedly in soundproofed apartments: the piano is elevated off the main floor. Apparently, the main conduit for the sound to reach other apartments is the legs of the piano and the floor. With this in mind, you could try putting the piano on, like, three thick rugs.

I own an electronic keyboard (Yamaha P90). Really, it's not as bad as you might think! It's designed for classical pianists and it has several functions which are surprisingly handy (various Baroque-style tunings, recording capabilities, and several fine-tuning sound adjusters). I use the keyboard for composing (because it connects to my computer) and when I want to spares my neighbors from the bombast.

You're in a sticky situation. Flowers, chocolates, and baked goods may help diffuse the emotions with your neighbor!

- Greg

Recommended Piano Brands

Added on by Greg Anderson.
I'm curious to know what your opinions/thoughts are about the various brands of pianos you've played, which is your favorite, and why?
 - Brian

Dear Brian,

You've asked a question that is surprisingly difficult to answer! Every instrument is different, let alone every brand. Every time I make a generalization about a maker, I find a piano that shatters my opinion. Usually Kawai pianos tend to be dull and weak, but once I played a concerto on a glorious Kawai with great projection and a beautiful tone. I love Steinway pianos, but I'm frequently forced to play Steinway pianos that are out-of-tune, out-of-shape, and unregulated - that's no fun.

By and large, Steinway makes the most satisfying instruments that I come across. They generally have the largest spectrum of tonal and color possibilities, the best dynamic range and projection, and the most consistent action. They also last forever. Mason & Hamlin, Boesendorfer, and Faziolli make terrific pianos as well. Yamaha pianos generally have a bright sound that is fantastic for some pieces and not for others.

Perhaps I'll update this response after I ponder it a bit more.

- Greg

Coping with Varying Acoustics

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hello Greg,
How do you cope with different pianos and acoustics at various venues? Any advice on that? Is it reasonable to expect one to be able to give a splendid performance on a totally new instrument with little time to try it out - if it's even a decent instrument!!
 - candidman

Dear Candidman,

Great question! Varying concert hall acoustics (wet, dry, bad projection, misleading dynamics, etc.) and pianos (heavy action, light action, uneven action, bass-heavy, weak sound, etc.) can make for some pretty horrifying experiences as a concert pianist!

Interestingly enough, the unpredictability of it all bothers me less and less with each performing experience. What's important -- what really matters -- is that I connect with the audience. Most of the time, audience members could care less about uneven articulation or bass-heavy performance, and if I dwell on the pitfalls of the circumstances too long, I lose the ability to deliver a truly engaging performance.

Having said that, of course I adopt to the particulars of the venue: more pedal in dry acoustics, slower tempos in wet acoustics, nicer tone on harsh pianos, etc. But none of this is particularly intentional or thought out. Whenever I'm performing, I do my best to *listen* to the music I'm creating -- I listen, rather than rely on any practice room plan. This ability to live in the moment completely shapes my performance and keeps the music spontaneous, and as an added perk I'm continually reacting to any conditions related to the venue or the piano.

Happy adapting!

- Greg