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#1999074 - 12/13/12 05:22 PM My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone?
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
I just thought I'd share my odd opinion about something that I can't even explain accurately... But I'll try. Here's the situation.. (true story btw)

Often times I'll hear someone perform a beautiful piece in our recitals. It really doesn't matter to me if the tune is being played on a digital or an acoustic piano as it is the melody and performance of the piece that interests me, not necessarily any specific sound signature. Besides, many times do to various reasons, the two types of pianos CAN sound very similar in the finished product. Especially at the level we are all using it at.

But this is not what bugs me. I just thought I'd toss that in.

What seems to happen (for me at least) is that I'll be listening to an absolutely beautiful piece that is being performed VERY well, and then it happens...............the STRINGS get either added to the piece or overlayed!

The reason I have conflict in my mind is because on the one hand I honestly think the tune can sound even nicer with the addition of the violins, flutes or background strings. Especially if these sounds are compatibly done and compliment the tune without being overbearing. However, as soon as I hear those sounds added, my mind instantly goes from having the image of a pianist sitting in front of a beautiful piano performing on stage to a crowded shopping mall setup where the sales guy is answering the phone, ringing up a sale and 'performing' a one finger piano solo with the same automatic 'strings' in the background all at the same time! I just can't get this image of those sythetic 'strings' out of my mind.

Because of this, it kind of ruins it for me when I hear someone who is incredibly talented performing a beautiful piece that I love but then the strings kick in. As soon as I hear that sound I can't help but have my mind instantly go to that one finger 'performance' image with the 'auto-strings' button in use. Unfortunately it somehow discounts the piece and I know it shouldn't because it has nothing to do with the performance but rather that cheeseball auto-string image I have.

To make things worse, as I've mentioned, many times the piece DOES sound much nicer with the addition of these sounds. But I can't help thinking about my initial reaction to synthetic background strings.

Does this make sense?

I guess another way to approach this is to ask your reaction to a performance when you hear a 'solo' piano performance and then halfway in the synthetic background strings kick in.

Is your reaction positive, neutral, or negative? Do you think it adds, validates the piece?, or do you feel it could possibly detract or discount the piece in some way?

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#1999094 - 12/13/12 06:05 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
I think with anything, it depends on how the two things - in this case, instruments - come together. I've seen it work really well with examples on youtube, but then like you're talking about, there are examples where the addition of strings counter-intuitively detract from the music in question.

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#1999099 - 12/13/12 06:12 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
spanishbuddha Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/09
Posts: 2386
Loc: UK
I think you should return your new headphones smile

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#1999100 - 12/13/12 06:21 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4380
Loc: Jersey Shore
You are a purist...is that a word?

yes it is:

A purist is one who desires that an item remain true to its essence and free from adulterating or diluting influences. The term may be used in almost any field, and can be applied either to the self or to others. Use of the term may be either pejorative or complimentary, depending on the context. Because the appellation depends on subjective notions of what is "pure" as opposed to "adulterating" as applied to any particular item, conflict can arise both as to whether a person so labeled is actually a purist and as to whether that is desirable.

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#1999103 - 12/13/12 06:27 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4380
Loc: Jersey Shore
PS: I'm even worse, I prefer acoustic recordings over most digital recordings...

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#1999106 - 12/13/12 06:52 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: spanishbuddha]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
Originally Posted By: spanishbuddha
I think you should return your new headphones smile


Haha, I love them. I am one of those people who just never wore headphones but must admit that an audiophile quality set of headphones can reproduce the music astonishingly well. In addition you can hear lots of little things previously unheard. You get to literally re-discover your music all over again.

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#1999109 - 12/13/12 06:56 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1607
Loc: California
It's because you are a piano person. laugh
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#1999118 - 12/13/12 07:10 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
Another example was last year when I was playing around with the multitrack recording feature of my digital piano. I was working on 'Stairway to Heaven' which I replaced the guitar part with piano and still had the additional flute and string parts.

I played the guitar, now piano part and recorded it. In addition, I composed a complimenting flute and strings part separately and then overlayed the two on top of the piano part which comprised the finished piece. It sounded similar to the original recording of the tune because I was just copying the original parts of the tune separately and then putting them all back together.

Anyway, all of this took much MORE effort than what I usually go through to end up with a finished tune using just solo piano.

So when I finally finished the piece, I asked my mom who was over visiting if she would take a listen.

Just pushing the reply button and hearing the synthetic strings drove HER nuts! She said it was a lovely tune but would have enjoyed it more without the plastic strings.

I knew exactly what she meant but still can't fully explain it.

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#1999132 - 12/13/12 07:56 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
SoundThumb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/10
Posts: 344
Loc: San Diego, CA
I love that definition of a purist. But what do you call the opposite of a purist? I rather like the layered sound that one can get from a digital keyboard. Just want to know what to put on my business card.

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#1999138 - 12/13/12 08:12 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mark...]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
Originally Posted By: Mark...
You are a purist...is that a word?

yes it is:

A purist is one who desires that an item remain true to its essence and free from adulterating or diluting influences. The term may be used in almost any field, and can be applied either to the self or to others. Use of the term may be either pejorative or complimentary, depending on the context. Because the appellation depends on subjective notions of what is "pure" as opposed to "adulterating" as applied to any particular item, conflict can arise both as to whether a person so labeled is actually a purist and as to whether that is desirable.



Mark, I may be a 'purist' and don't even know it but I'm not so sure because I have no problem listening to my $19.99 portable radio in the garage for hours. The sound is FAR from audiophile quality but the melodies are still the same so I find myself still happily humming along. So it can't be a quality thing.

I think it has more to do with 'association', like that buttered popcorn smell you used to get when walking into a K-Mart. That smell always reminds me of a K-Mart entry, no matter where I am smelling it.

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#1999155 - 12/13/12 09:38 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: SoundThumb]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Originally Posted By: SoundThumb
But what do you call the opposite of a purist?


Adulterer?
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#1999261 - 12/14/12 04:16 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
I remember when there were bands everywhere and then they were replaced with DJ's everywhere.

I read more recently that pianists today play far more complated pieces at a much younger age than 40 years ago. I wonder what it can be contributed to?

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#1999291 - 12/14/12 07:29 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: Mr Super-Hunky
Another example was last year when I was playing around with the multitrack recording feature of my digital piano. I was working on 'Stairway to Heaven' which I replaced the guitar part with piano and still had the additional flute and string parts.

I played the guitar, now piano part and recorded it. In addition, I composed a complimenting flute and strings part separately and then overlayed the two on top of the piano part which comprised the finished piece.



There's a really big difference between just simply hitting the "strings accompaniment" button on your digital while playing a piano solo and actually composing and arranging separate parts for other instruments and then recording these with the appropriate "instrument voices" in a multi-track recording overlayed on that piano solo (all of which can be a very complex, time consuming and creative venture).

Still, there is no guarantee that you will like the resultant sound, but you can even yet give yourself a lot of credit for your compositional adventure (and with additional experience you may end up enjoying your productions eventually to one extent or another).

But probably no one can help you to stop thinking about malls every time you hear synthetic strings kick in - and how about real strings in a live concert performance? Same reaction?
_________________________
Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

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#1999292 - 12/14/12 07:30 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Michael_99]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: Michael_99


I read more recently that pianists today play far more complated pieces at a much younger age than 40 years ago. I wonder what it can be contributed to?


They're bigger, stronger, faster and smarter? Or is it the presence of women pianists in our ranks? I'm at a loss...



Edited by TrapperJohn (12/14/12 03:54 PM)
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#1999362 - 12/14/12 10:31 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2397
Loc: Virginia, USA
In the most part I am totally with you. Occasionally it will end up enhancing a piece but that is usually because it is carefully controlled. Or if it's a band and not a piano solo.

But mostly I say, no strings please.
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#1999721 - 12/15/12 08:33 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Roger Ransom Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1266
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
This actually DOES make sense and I had an experience with it from the other end.

When I got my first digital (Kurzweil Ensemble Grand) I was all over trying to enhance my piano solos with strings and whatever else. I was pretty impressed with myself blush and was proud of them. Several people had been asking me for CDs of my music and I was happy and flattered to be able to provide them now that I had an easy way to record.

HOWEVER, after a period of time, it got back to me in various ways that most, if not all, of these people would have MUCH preferred that I just record my piano music with no fake embellishment.

I was a little startled but since I was properly chastised, I still play with accompaniments for myself but only provide CDs with 'pure' piano music to anyone else.

I expect it would be different if I were REALLY playing with other musicians (I'm not, and don't know any). I think they perceived the recording as contrived and fake, which I guess they are.

Anyway, it was an interesting lesson.
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#1999901 - 12/15/12 04:03 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
tangleweeds Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 11 2012


Registered: 12/21/08
Posts: 1269
Loc: Portlandia
There have been any number of piano recordings I was seriously considering purchasing until the cheezy synthetic strings kicked in, at which point I shut the browser window and fled, shuddering to the bone.

A real live stringed instrument accompaniment, well recorded and used with tasteful restraint, can (sometimes) be OK with me.

But fake strings used in the usual hackneyed way give me the worst sort of musical indigestion.
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#2000054 - 12/15/12 10:40 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: TrapperJohn]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
Originally Posted By: TrapperJohn

But probably no one can help you to stop thinking about malls every time you hear synthetic strings kick in - and how about real strings in a live concert performance? Same reaction?


No, absolutely not. I know this because we went to see André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra last year and I loved not only the music but the way it felt as it was performed. We sat fairly close to the orchestra and listening/feeling the music is a whole different thing. When I heard, saw and felt the music being played not once did I think of the auto strings mall scenario.

I think 'feeling' the music not only has to do with resonating/vibrating sounds, but also something known as modulation which I don't know much about.

Anyway, the funny thing is the concert was being held where the Arizona Cardinals play which was selling concessions. They had fresh hot buttered popcorn at the entrance and it reminded me of K-mart! I may have puked in my mouth a little (on the inside), I'm not sure. Something about that smell makes me hurl.

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#2000150 - 12/16/12 07:56 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3555
LOL I can imagine your problem, it sounds all too quick like shopping mall muzak. Also these synthetic strings sound as different from the real violin as a DP sounds from a real one, so that gives it a cheapish feel to it as well.
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#2000172 - 12/16/12 08:42 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: wouter79]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: wouter79
...Also these synthetic strings sound as different from the real violin as a DP sounds from a real one, so that gives it a cheapish feel to it as well.


Leaving aside the random luck of a 50/50 guess (or the obvious logic that most of us here in the ABF Recitals & Piano Bars don't have access to a real, live string orchestra to record with), I wonder how many could tell the difference...
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

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#2000174 - 12/16/12 08:58 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3555
I would suggest visiting a real orchestra a few times. After that I guess you can also tell the difference
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#2000341 - 12/16/12 04:35 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: wouter79]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: wouter79
I would suggest visiting a real orchestra a few times. After that I guess you can also tell the difference


But I have visited a real orchestra - many more than a few times...in many venues over many years...I've come to know and love that sound!

And I'm sure that if one were sitting in a theatre listening to a performance from a real, live string orchestra and then suddenly put on one's headphones and turned on one's Ipod recording of synthetic strings I'm also sure one could certainly tell the difference.

However, what I had specific reference to was the average (younger, less experienced) person trying to tell the difference between the two, both being mp3 recordings, say here on PW in one of the Recitals, for example...

I repeat my original question with the qualifications added thereto...
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2000386 - 12/16/12 06:47 PM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4243
Loc: Arizona.
Wouter and Trapper you guys are both making perfect sense to me. Wouter from a technical perspective, which he is correct. You can certainly hear and 'feel' the difference. And Trapper in a more real word, realistic everyday ipod/earbud type of setting (i.e 99% + of the time).

Both are true.

I honestly think what makes me cringe when I hear the plastic strings sound is the mental association I have with that sound and the mall setting. Just like the popcorn/K-Mart association.

Also, even though you CAN tell the difference in sound (sound signature) between the plasto-strings and real violins, it doesn't mean that the sound being produced by synthetic sounds is bad or offensive.

Case in point, one of my favorite easy listening songs is Christopher Cross "Sailing" which has tons of syntho-strings throughout the entire piece. It's a very soothing and relaxing sound. He also performs this song at times with real strings and it also sounds nice. Probably even better, but I like 'em both.

Another tune that comes to mind is David Lanzs "Under the Waterfall" which seems to be all computer generated sound samples...i.e digital keyboard.

It sounds synthetic, but I still like it.

Wouter may be the 'purist' amongst us. I think his mind demands the real mcCoy and has conflict with sythetic turf. It just doesn't appeal to him which is fine.

I'm not an audiophile but my dad is. He 'searches' for tiny, granular level differences between audio samples not just audibly, but with sound/frequency measuring devices like an oscilloscope. Anything reproduced must be done to its fullest potential. No exceptions. This is why my recordings drive him nuts as he's focusing on the quality of the sound reproduction, not necessarily the nice melody of the tune. My mom on the other hand likes my music because she just hums along to the melodies and is happy instead of analyzing them.

Different strokes.

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#2000582 - 12/17/12 06:10 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
TrapperJohn Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/11/08
Posts: 3577
Loc: Chocolatetown, USA
Originally Posted By: Mr Super-Hunky


I honestly think what makes me cringe when I hear the plastic strings sound is the mental association I have with that sound and the mall setting.



Are you absolutely certain that what you have heard in some (many) of those mall settings (or in elevators) has been that plastic (synthetic) string sound, and not a recording of actual, real strings? Maybe it's the "mall setting" that is "plastic"... laugh
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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more, bark less.

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#2000595 - 12/17/12 07:30 AM Re: My strange opinion of piano with 'strings'. Am I alone? [Re: Mr Super-Hunky]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3555
Originally Posted By: TrapperJohn

However, what I had specific reference to was the average (younger, less experienced) person trying to tell the difference between the two, both being mp3 recordings, say here on PW in one of the Recitals, for example...


Ah sure, many younger less experienced persons have bad earplugs and only hear volume maxed out beats... Maybe they do not even know what a string orchestra is. Low quality mp3 entirely fits their bill.

But I suspect that the ears here on PW are quite a few notches above their level.

Quote:
Wouter may be the 'purist' amongst us. I think his mind demands the real mcCoy and has conflict with sythetic turf. It just doesn't appeal to him which is fine.


For piano sound, yes please a real piano with room acoustics and all. But it's not because I'm a purist, but because these DPs usually (almost always?) have bad, dead sounding sound, and over the top fake room acoustics.

But I like quite some pop music too, and I guess that's almost exclusively synthetic (though I like it if there's a real piano used in pop).
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