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#211718 - 10/25/08 05:42 PM Words to describe piano qualities
Nathami Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/03/08
Posts: 2
Loc: Montreal (Qc)
Hi everyone,

I want to dress a list of words that people used to describe piano sound to difference a piano with another one.

So, which words do you use to describe piano tone qualities?

Examples: metallic, stridden, bright, warm, muffle

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#211719 - 10/25/08 07:16 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
kadiddle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/08
Posts: 38
Here are some terms used by a RPT that I hired recently to help me shop for a piano (he also is very skilled at playing the piano)
Regarding the Treble:
Bright, thin, sings, sustained, silvery (silvery was his highest praise for the treble)

Regarding the mid range:
Bright, sustained, vibrant, engergetic, round

Regarding the Bass;
Overtones, fuzzy, balls, focused, clear

He also had a few terms to describe the pianos sound overall:
Bright, mellow, round, energetic, lively, vibrant, powerful

I would add a few terms of my own:
strident, muted, warm
August Forster 215

#211720 - 10/25/08 07:25 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Jonnie P. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 216
Loc: Seattle, WA
Jonnie P.
Seattle, WA

Kawai RX-2 ES

Obsessive behaviour: Jazz and other forms of piano improvisation

#211721 - 10/25/08 07:56 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Rickster Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 10678
Loc: Georgia, USA
Maybe he meant “Bells”. I’ve never heard the term “Balls” to describe a pianos tone ;\) \:D .

However, I do like that “Bell-like” pop in the mid to upper treble section.

I’m afraid I too have become a connoisseur of fine piano tone. After some voicing and action regulation my Tokai grand sounds better than it ever has.

This just goes to show that a good piano technician can make a mediocre quality piano sound high class \:D .

Take care,

Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#211722 - 10/25/08 08:08 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally posted by Jonnie P.:
Balls? [/b]
;) \:D Electric guitar player?
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

#211723 - 10/26/08 01:22 AM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 15090
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
Customers often find their own words that can be somewhat "illuminating"

In 2 recent games between the Italian soccer team [Fazioli] and the Germans [Grotrian] some players [customers] used such words as "transparent" - "clean" - "strident" - "balanced to the 9th" - "glorious" - "distinct" - "musical" - "startling" - "inspiring" and "seductive"

Anybody can guess which team got which.

By the way, final score: 1:1

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#211724 - 10/26/08 04:50 AM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Genaa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/05/08
Posts: 326
Loc: Winchester, UK
Sparkling and pearly are another two reasonable terms to describe treble tone. Think of the difference between diamonds and pearls and you get the difference hopefully \:\)

For bass tone: dark is worth adding - certainly some of the Bechstein and Steingraeber uprights I played when shopping had what I would call a 'dark brooding' sort of bass tone though it is somewhat difficult to put into words how it is dark... \:\(

Coming from the soon to be a member of the Sauter owning family... you can add woodsy, pure and clear to your list of overall descriptions too, oh and maybe "earth-shatteringly beautiful" too ;\)
Sauter Masterclass 130
Currently working on:
Bach: French Suite no. 4
Beethoven: Op 10 no 1
Schubert: Op 90 no 3
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#211725 - 10/26/08 09:17 AM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
kadiddle Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/21/08
Posts: 38
Originally posted by Jonnie P.:
Balls? [/b]
Yes, the RPT said that the bass of this particular piano had "balls". A Mason BB as I remember.

I also remember using the word "luscious" to describe the overall tone of one particular piano.
August Forster 215

#211726 - 10/26/08 07:09 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
verania5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Michigan
I am still at a loss for "balls".
Perhaps a better alternative would be "ballsy"? Chutzpah?
Steinway M & Yamaha P120

#211727 - 10/26/08 07:37 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally posted by verania5:
I am still at a loss for "balls".
Perhaps a better alternative would be "ballsy"? Chutzpah? [/b]
"Balls" or "ballsy" are terms more usually associated with electric guitars & their related amplifiers, as I pointed out above. FWIW, I have never heard anyone describe a piano as having "balls" or being "ballsy" either. \:D ;\)
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

#211728 - 10/26/08 11:13 PM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
DarkGreenChocolate Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 307
Loc: Michigan
I like a "growling" bass and "shimmering" or "luminous" (but never "glittering" or "sparkling") treble. The tenor's the hard one to describe, because that's where you spend most of your playing time, and that's where most pianos grab at your heartstrings: "sweet," maybe, like "honey," but somehow never "syrupy."

Begging the pardon of vegetarians, I also favor "meaty," which for me tends to distinguish Steinways, or European makes generally, from most Asian models. A big Yamaha, for ex., can be plenty "powerful," but to me it's somehow all "gossamer," no "gridiron." I tend to prefer Kawais, because they're more "brooding," but almost too "velvety," "smooth," like a cake that looks better than it tastes, or a rayon robe.

A really "dark" piano might even be considered "smoky," but "woody" for me is a bad thing, common in the upper register of (old) Steinways and Kawais. "Round" is perhaps the most unavoidable yet undefinable word of all: rare is the upright that has it, yet many grands lack this vital quality.

My tuner used "sizzle" to describe a badly voiced note. That's the most striking adjective I've heard in a while (no pun intended with "meaty" above).

#211729 - 10/27/08 12:20 AM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
Aley Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/08
Posts: 82
Loc: Albuquerque, NM, USA
I like it to be full-bodied, with a lovely silky structure and a long, rich, and subtle fruit character on the finish.

Oh, wait, that's wine. \:\)

There are so many terms that are tossed around but are poorly defined. Is there really a difference between a shimmering treble, a singing treble, and a bell-like treble? And if so, would any two people agree on what those differences are?

#211730 - 10/27/08 08:18 AM Re: Words to describe piano qualities
NoctuGranes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/22/07
Posts: 285
Loc: Northeast USA
What about the action: 'buttery' vs. 'unrefined' or even 'clunky'

I can't imagine a description of a great piano that didn't include the word 'whisper'

Plus there's a whole meta-level higher to describe whether a piano has color and dynamic range. This is probably where we were trying to go with "Ballsy". When you play fff does it top out or not. If not, how different do the notes sound...do they rise above those played at 'f' in something more than volume. I don't know who to boil this down to single words.

Yet this is where people often diverge on taste. Some like a very precise sound and others like a colorful one (that changes with the attack). I couldn't have bought a piano without having this conversation.
Not in the piano business.
1906 Baldwin C rebuilt 2008


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