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#1138658 - 03/19/08 07:28 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
 Quote:
In blind tests (single blind, obviously, no way to double blind this) sophisticated listeners are unable to tell the touch of a finger from the touch of a pencil eraser held between the teeth.

Loudness really is all there is. But as I've said, that is still a lot. And yes, the higher end digital software does capture the effect of other string resonances, etc.
The one statement does not lead to the next. [/b]
Then I was not clear.

If you play a single note at any given volume, there is NOTHING you can do that will influence the timbre at that volume in any way.

So with a single note, touch is only volume. As noted, you cannot avoid the laws of physics. Digitals now do volume pretty well. They're not like an organ where it is on or off.

Now, we rarely play just one note, and so there are other factors that enter.

We can play that one note early or late. We can connect it or detach it. We can have a pedal down releasing all dampers, or we can have a chord down releasing a few dampers. We can make it seem softer by playing other notes louder, or we can make it seem louder by playing other notes softer. Digitals do some of these things better or worse depending on how sophisticated their programming is.

At that point we have stretched the definition of touch beyond what I think is useful, but I guess if you want to call all that touch you could. To me touch implies timbre, but it is a myth to think you can do any more with timbre on a piano than to alter the volume.
_________________________
gotta go practice

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Piano & Music Accessories
#1138659 - 03/19/08 10:11 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
J. Mark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/06
Posts: 1323
Tim, what about the notion that there are at least three aspects of how you play a single note on a piano: how hard you depress the key, the speed with which you press the key, and how you come off the key? Is it wrong, in your view, to think of each one of those as having an impact on how that note will sound? And is that no "touch" in some sense?

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#1138660 - 03/19/08 11:41 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by J. Mark:
Tim, what about the notion that there are at least three aspects of how you play a single note on a piano: how hard you depress the key, the speed with which you press the key, and how you come off the key? [/b]
That's only two aspects. How hard is transduced to speed of hammer flight as is speed of key depression.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1138661 - 03/19/08 12:17 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
"Touch" also has "ouch" (as in "ow"ch when you say this as an expletive).

Play any one key while saying "ouch" aloud. Do it repeatedly. Change fingers. Observe the attack, the duration, and the release of the finger action/note sounding combination.

Now put a "T" in front of ouch - and do the same observation. How does your finger respond when you say touch aloud?

Make sure you exaggerate the words as you speak - and make sure you say them aloud as you are applying the finger work to match. There is sometimes abruptness, continuation, but your finger should automatically react to the motion of the sounds.

Then do sound similar words - much - such - lunch. Then begin to change letters and sound....lurch - church - perch - punch - pat - pin. Then do this exercise with 2 syllable words...purple - yellow - coffee, etc. Three syllables staccato - legato - ambition - etc.

This is obviously demonstrating "touch". If you are good at this "articulation" you can almost "hear" the word being spoken on the piano.

If you sing "This little piggy went to market" while you play a one octave scale, you will be amazed how the words carry you through the activity. You will hear accents from the words you are saying play themselves on the keyboard. Try "Do you drink milk every day?" as a one octave scale.

Invent your own word games and sentences. Explore. It brings life to your playing when appropriately used.

To me, this is a form of touch - reaction to the movement and duration of the notes through use of phonics that make sense.

Betty

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#1138662 - 03/19/08 03:13 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
If you play a single note at any given volume, there is NOTHING you can do that will influence the timbre at that volume in any way.

So with a single note, touch is only volume. As noted, you cannot avoid the laws of physics. Digitals now do volume pretty well. They're not like an organ where it is on or off.
Touch is not only volume, and sound is not only volume. The manner in which the hammer strikes the string and the physical response of the string will affect the quality of that sound, how it vibrates, sustains, and dies away.

There is no possible responsiveness by the instrument beyond a very crude variation of loud and soft with a digital instrument. The ear itself becomes dull if it is at all developed, and the senses in the hands pull back as they were, becuase there is nothing to reach toward, nothing that will interact.

You have a perception of a sound quality, you reach for it, you want to start playing and experimenting with the balances in the keys and the sound you will hear from string, wood, and sound board, and there is nothing there. It's like having a conversation with someone strapped to a Walkman.

You get the loud and soft, and that's all there is. You are right at that point. With a digital piano you get a beautiful, preconceived, "concert hall hollow", variation of loud and soft. People who have heard recordings of my digital comment at how beautiful it's sound is. That's nice. But I want to create my sound and I am very limited in that regard. Not only that, but I cannot grow as a pianist.

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#1138663 - 03/19/08 03:16 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
I know at last one professional classical pianist that only have a GT1 to practice. When he may play in concert, he needs 3 days of work on an accoustic piano to be OK.

I can well believe that, Kamin. I also appreciated what you wrote before about the textures of rolling pebbles etc. (that was you, wasn't it?)

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#1138664 - 03/19/08 07:20 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
ktom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/07/07
Posts: 212
Loc: Somerset UK
I dont necessarily disagree with anything above, but let's be clear about how a piano works. I knew a teacher who insisted his pupils exercise a vibrato upon the key having depressed it; he was totally oblivious to the fact that the piano operates in a way that ensures this will have absolutely no effect on the sound.

Whatever one does as one depresses a piano key, the disconnect in the action means that you can only control one significant parameter, ie hammer velocity as it strikes the string/s

This is unlike a DP with aftertouch and unlike a clavichord. (if you think touch on a piano is complicated, do try to play a clavichord one day!!)

The release of the key will affect the damper return which is clearly very important. Likewise pedalling affects the total sound, but this is generally considered separate to "touch".

So what is complicated about "touch"??? It has to be the control note by note of velocity and damping... cos thats all there is!! But that aint easy!!

I play a Steinway K and several electronic keyboards most days. What is the difference?? Well there is no doubt that the physics of the actions are different (monday I was playing a steinway grand,., different action again). So switching from one to another could be disruptive to a more subtle technique than mine. But the end result is you get to control volume. Is the midi standard of 127 possible velocities enough to replicate my Steinway??... I dont know. (I guess my heavy handed technique probably uses the top 10%!!!!!!).
My Yamaha S90 has aftertouch, which my Steinway doesnt, so that the S90 is more complex to play in that respect. On the other hand, the key release on DPs is generally NOT velocity sensitive; this is perhaps an important difference, but there is no reason why DPs cant incorporate this.

So why am I bothering to type all this?? I suppose it is to follow in my grandfather's illustrious footsteps and say - lets keep our feet on the ground. The piano is a bit of mechanics, just like paint brush is animal hairs on a stick. Focus too much on how to make the hairs bend, and you lose the point of the Sistine Chapel.

Hope I didnt upset anyone!!!
_________________________
Steinway K - Kurzweil PC 88(wrecked and sold for spares) - Yamaha S90 - rhodes 760 - korg wavestation- Hammond XK1 etc..

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#1138665 - 03/19/08 07:43 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
There is a difference between focusing on how to make hairs bend, and having hairs that bend. If you have a virtual paint brush there is not much more you can do - imposed homogenized perfection.

I know what I want to produce and how to produce it, but the elements simply are not there. I knew this when I purchased my DP. I could not afford anything else, and the alternative was the touch-free toy with weird wiring that would lapse into car horns, trumpets and honkey tonk anywhere in a piece. When the opportunity arose to have something, anything, that would at least respond to loud and soft, I took it.

But I spent an hour going between the DP that was for sale, and the piano that wasn't. I could hear and feel what I could do with the one which the other wouldn't allow. I could feel the senses in my hands and my ears withdrawing and shutting down. I was not surprised when a few months later a pianist/teacher hearing me play on her real ... er .. acoustic ... piano said "I can hear that you have a digital. It is limiting you." I already knew that.

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#1138666 - 03/20/08 02:25 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by ktom:
This is unlike a DP with aftertouch and unlike a clavichord. (if you think touch on a piano is complicated, do try to play a clavichord one day!!)
[/b]
Ah, the clavichord! Now your talking touch. Constanza treasured Mozart's. He wrote The Magic Flute and the Requiem on it.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1138667 - 03/20/08 01:26 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
 Quote:
Originally posted by ktom:
This is unlike a DP with aftertouch and unlike a clavichord. (if you think touch on a piano is complicated, do try to play a clavichord one day!!)
[/b]
Ah, the clavichord! Now your talking touch. Constanza treasured Mozart's. He wrote The Magic Flute and the Requiem on it. [/b]
This is probably something that could go into yet another thread, but I was told that the clavichord is the TRUE[/b] pianoforte even with its subtle differences in dynamics.

Here's a link to a discertation given on JS Bach's clavichord technique. Much of what is said here is appropriate for the pianoforte as well.

http://www.harpsichord-sd.com/clavichord/bach-touch.html

John
_________________________
Nothing.

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#1138668 - 03/22/08 04:40 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Well as I have just joined this topic, I have a small matter that interests me.

Touch is not always a matter of making music but one of adapting to the action of the piano. Most pianos I've played over 60 odd years have their own specific touch requirement. That to me is the first thing I notice when playing on any piano, other than my own, which subconsciously most of us adapt to.

We also usually get the technician to regulate and voice our own instrument when purchased to suit our touch needs. In my view anyhow.

The touch is also a great handicap in extreme cases when playing other peoples pianos.

So I do think this aspect I have mentioned is quite significant.

The digital piano is another matter altogether in my view. Certainly much easier I find, but we are unable to 'play' them like an acoustic.

Alan (swingal)

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#1138669 - 03/22/08 04:51 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Interesting point Alan, pianists seem to fit in two categories when on unfamiliar pianos - those who vary their own touch to suit the instrument and those who force their own on it. I was at a master class a few years ago held by a prominent American teacher who bashed the piano so much (she was obviously used to a heavy Steinway) that she broke a string! I remember a friend playing mine - just bash, bash, bash. These types should not help you buy a piano - they are unable to feel and be sensitive to the mechanism. When I play on an instrument I can tell straight away which notes are week, worn etc.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1138670 - 03/22/08 09:34 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11851
Loc: Canada
It's a dual edge of responsiveness, isn't it? You respond to the instrument and it responds to you. Heck, you're actually having a dialogue with each other, aren't you?

In the violin world the finest instruments cannot be played by a novice, because the instrument responds to what you do, and exaggerates it. A clumsy touch that does not respond to the instrument's nature, or a physical imbalance of tension somwhere, and the instrument shuts down its qualities. In fact, it exaggerates every imperfection just like it exaggertes every perfection. It becomes unplayable in the wrong hands, and exquisite delight in the right ones. The responsiveness in the instrument releases more awareness in the player and that sets up a positive cycle. It can also set up a negative cycle.

Is there even a bit of equivalence in pianos? Can a good, responsive piano end up highlighting the weakness of a player by exaggerating every nuance of touch (or lack of thereof)? Thus the happiness with a homogenized instrument that limits variability. I don't know if I'm right about that, because I am too new to piano.

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#1138671 - 03/22/08 12:17 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Yes, you are right-on about "adapting to the action of the (acoustical) piano", Swingal.

That is always an important part of playing a piano - it's characteristics, the pianists capability with the composer's intent - all to surface with the potential of the "mechanical" instrument and the "human" musical instrument(s).

Define: Instrument.

Both need optimum quality in their motions and their production of sound. For the pianist it's intention - for the piano it's potential. Both need to be able to achieve their optimum capacities together based on their "dimensions".

It becomes so difficult to explain these things clearly and make sense of them as our understanding of what is being said is uniquely about our own experiences.

Betty

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#1138672 - 03/22/08 12:18 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:

Is there even a bit of equivalence in pianos? Can a good, responsive piano end up highlighting the weakness of a player by exaggerating every nuance of touch (or lack of thereof)? Thus the happiness with a homogenized instrument that limits variability. I don't know if I'm right about that, because I am too new to piano. [/b]
The players I referred to all had a tapping hammer touch - the fingers raising before impacting. It can get you an even touch but you can't feel the mechanism. As long as their ears are good the sound won't be too bad, but insensitive. There will be plenty of pianos whose tone escapes them.

On an OT note, it reminds me - I read years ago about the search for the most beautiful sounding piano. It was very ornate and had got lost during the war. It was eventually discovered in Italy. I can't say I know anything else about it.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1138673 - 03/26/08 04:19 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
Just to add a comment on the post above,the great pleasure in buying a piano is the playing of a selection of them and deciding what you will have (price of course is one aspect). When I bought my Bosendorfer I was left alone in the showroom with a good choice of mostly 2nd hand rebuilt instruments.I greatly enjoy the experience, not least of which is my total solitude unimpeded by on-lookers.

I'm so greatly satisfied with the instrument and it has just the touch I like.

I like to watch the great pianists of the past both jazz and classical,and observe their touch. That will give one the true meaning of the requirement to 'PLAY!' the piano rather than simply operate it. One then finds the difference.

Alan (swingal)

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#1138674 - 04/16/08 03:17 PM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
berkeley235 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/30/08
Posts: 2
Loc: Salisbury, England
You could try playing a piano with a very different touch- I find if I practice on a heavier piano, my touch becomes smoother when I go back to my usual one.
_________________________
Sleeping is my favorite hobby

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#1138675 - 04/17/08 03:38 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Dan Freedman Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/14/08
Posts: 18
Loc: Honolulu
I'm astounded that this thread is focusing on whether there's anything more to "touch" than how fast you get the key to move down.

If you are playing a single note, alone, then that may well be true. But if you are playing a piece of music where notes follow each other in slow or quick succession, then "touch" (as in "wow, what a fantastic touch" is about much more.

Specifically, it includes many learnable facets, such as:

- whether you choose to play a passage at the same tempo, or vary it in various ways throughout

- whether you play each note legato or staccato, or vary it throughout (and of course this is not binary -- there is a full range of note qualities between legato and staccato)

- if staccato, then there is the matter of *how* you get the hammer to achieve a specific velocity when hitting the string. To achieve a specific velocity, you could hit the note hard but quickly withdraw your finger, or could hit it less hard but for longer (imparting the same ultimate velocity to the hammer). While this doesn't change the sound that note makes, *it greatly impacts what you can do with your hand when preparing for the next note*!

and so on and so forth. Perhaps I'm mistaken, and there's another word for what I've described. But to me, that's the "touch" that the OP was interested in learning.

Like many things in life, learning touch is made easier by finding things you like to listen to, and figuring out (alone or with a pedagogue) how those sounds were made. That gets you 80% of the way toward being able to play it. Practice takes the other 80% \:\)

I also agree that arriving at a new piano, the first thing to do is to learn how it responds to being touched, but there's more to "touch" than that.

- Dan
_________________________
Dan Freedman, composer and pianist
http://www.dan88.com

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#1138676 - 04/18/08 09:47 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
stevedevane Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/30/08
Posts: 40
Loc: Lillington, N.C.
I think that everyone has their own style, which includes their "touch." I was playing in church one time and after a hymn the pastor said, "I always like it when Steve plays the piano because no one has a problem hearing it." He meant it as a compliment (I think) but I thought that I didn't have any touch and was just banging away at it.

Another time following recital rehearsal, my piano teacher made a point to come tell me what a great "touch" I had. I felt pretty good about myself. Then, the next year, I happened to be standing near her when a guy who was playing the same song I had played the year before finished practicing. She looked at me and said, "He sure has a great touch, doesn't he." I'd like to think it was a coincidence, but it was probably just the song. Or maybe that song required a great touch in her mind. Or maybe we both had a great touch.
_________________________
Steve DeVane
www.stevedevane.com

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#1138677 - 04/18/08 10:18 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Innominato Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/08
Posts: 802
Loc: London
I personally don't care what "touch" consists of, whether it is only speed, or with added cream, etc.

I know everyone of us feels the differences in touch, so I think it is pacific that there is something called "touch" which differs in everyone of us and can - hopefully - be trained.

And here is where my problem starts.

I only play pieces of which I have at least a CD version, so that I hear how other people have done and can decide how I really want it.

As many of us certainly do, before I play the key I have in my mind a very clear idea of the sound I want to produce. It's not that I just want to get that key, I want the phrase to sound exactly in that way which is already in my brain, longing to be freed and become audible sound.

Only, it doesn't happen.. \:\( (say, it happens to a little, vastly unsatisfactory extent). It is as if my fingers would tell me "get real, boy, we cannot do that".

This is particularly tragic without the practice pedal (curiously, with the practice pedal I can modulate the "touch" much better, without it I seem only to have the variants "Shout" and "Shout louder" and I *very much* hope that the tuner coming on monday will sort out the problem).

My question is: what do you do to improve your "touch"?

Do you stop more often to think more intensely to exactly what sound you want to achieve?

Are there particular tricks of the trade to improve/graduate the way a key responds to the finger?

Do you spend more times listening to recordings you like of that piece so that it becomes an unconscious part of your playing?

Any other suggestion?
_________________________
"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

Kemble Conservatoire 335025 Walnut Satin

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#1138678 - 04/28/08 11:31 AM Re: How does one develop 'touch'?
Rimshot Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/27/08
Posts: 2
Loc: Devon
'Touch', to me, is the spiritual, emotional, tactile, sensitive way of saying....

'Dynamics'


Although the word 'dynamics' seems to always stimulate the immediat concept of "VERY LOUD, very quiet....and know where it's happening right"

To me it's way way deeper than that....


so, if you play the piano like a MIDI file....

get in touch with your emotions.....and send them to your fingertips....

I think the way to find your 'touch', is to play very softly for a few minutes...., and improvise around something simple, but emotive..... compose a progression that'll allow for 'happy' and 'dark and meaningful'

Practice making happy 'sweet and pretty' , progress in the most convincing way you can to 'dark and meaningful' ....

start to allow the velocity and dynamics control the piece, rather than the notes.....

you'll eventually see that rhythm, and dynamics are equally as important as the very notes you play....!


Which is why an unemotional, unpractised pianist's version will be infinitely inferior to that of a practised, 'emotional' pianist....

by emotional...i don't mean 'emotional wreak' I mean, 'one simply has the ability to feel thoughts'


Kristian x
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This is a stick up!

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