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#2224940 - 02/03/14 12:43 AM how do pianists soloist project above other instruments?
Peanuts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Singapore
While jamming, I noticed that all instrumental sounds are entangled and blurred.
That bring me to a question: how do pianists cut through other instruments?

Thanks.
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#2224942 - 02/03/14 12:48 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
It has nothing to do with the pianist, and everything to do with meshing sound waves. No one here will be able to answer this question.
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#2224943 - 02/03/14 12:50 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
On second thought, considering the waveform of a piano tone, it might be pretty trivial to come up with the answer.
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"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
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#2224948 - 02/03/14 01:08 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Atrys]
Polyphonist Online   content
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Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7508
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Atrys
It has nothing to do with the pianist, and everything to do with meshing sound waves. No one here will be able to answer this question.

Why don't you enlighten us, Mr. Great Infallible Sage?
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#2224949 - 02/03/14 01:10 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Mark_C Online   content
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Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19647
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: Peanuts
While jamming, I noticed that all instrumental sounds are entangled and blurred.
That bring me to a question: how do pianists cut through other instruments?

Sounds like maybe those other guys are playing too loud. ha

And this is unusual. Usually it's the piano that drowns out the other instruments.

Besides that, it's important to make sure to bring out our melodies and voices well. Which includes making sure not to drown out our melodies with our own accompaniments.

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#2224950 - 02/03/14 01:12 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Are we talking about an acoustic or amplified situation?
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#2224953 - 02/03/14 01:17 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
It's probably because the waveform of a piano tone more closely resembles that of a perfect sine wive more so than the other instruments involved. Actually, that's probably exactly what is happening here, assuming an entirely acoustic environment.
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"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2224955 - 02/03/14 01:18 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
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Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
If you were to play an amplified perfect sine wave tone whilst the other instruments were playing, the perfect tone would be the most penetrative and obvious.

Edit:

And above that, you could generate a square wave which will stand out even more. In the case of more than one instrument playing simultaneously, a square wave instrument should "out shine" its sine wave counterpart.


Edited by Atrys (02/03/14 01:26 AM)
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"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2224962 - 02/03/14 02:04 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Atrys]
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
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Loc: Oakland
Originally Posted By: Atrys
It's probably because the waveform of a piano tone more closely resembles that of a perfect sine wive more so than the other instruments involved. Actually, that's probably exactly what is happening here, assuming an entirely acoustic environment.


You have come to this rather remarkable conclusion by taking the integral of the difference between a sine wave and that of every imaginable instrument and showing that it is minimal for the piano? I rather doubt it!

Even so, it would not explain this:



Now for a more practical explanation:

The easy way is as in this video. There is someone who listens to the instrumentalists and gives them feedback about their respective levels. If there is not a conductor, it could be a coach. Eventually, instrumentalists learn how to judge the balance for themselves, particularly when playing chamber music.

The other way is that the balance is controlled by audio engineers, amplifying the music according to a number of variables that they can control, such as monitor levels. Some do it better than others.

Incidentally, the video is deceptive, because the balance between the orchestra and Ms. Hahn is under the direction of the conductor, but what you are hearing if you are listening is also balanced, and perhaps distorted, by the engineers who made the video. They would determine microphone placement and the levels of the various microphones that were combined to make the video.
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#2224966 - 02/03/14 02:21 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
@BDB
Of course there are other variables at play. I'm talking about the actual mechanism that causes one particular sound to stand above another, with other variables isolated. This should be very obvious and it is naive of you to think that I'm not aware of things such as volume.

You're trying to explain a rather simple thing by over complicating it with things like "balance" and "distortion".

The shape of the waveform and the delta of wave pressures are the platform. Things like wave magnitude and acoustic diffraction are obviously important, but not when providing a base model (they are better used when considered in empirical models).
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"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2224980 - 02/03/14 03:13 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Peanuts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Singapore
Thanks!
I am using an amplified keyboard. But I lack 'electronic' hands-on ensemble experience.

Someone in the Piano Tuner-Technician (why bother?) mentioned about classical teacher who send his students to a Jazz instructor to learn how to cut through other instruments. So I though there could be some technique involved.

Now Atrys's respond make me I wonder how a violist put a concerto with that type of tone. Many from youtube are not that well balanced. I can barely hear the soloists.


Edited by Peanuts (02/03/14 03:24 AM)

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#2224987 - 02/03/14 03:28 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Atrys Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/31/13
Posts: 920
Originally Posted By: Peanuts

So I thought there could be some technique involved.

Don't get me wrong, I should have said in my first post that this has "a little" to do with pianist. Things like preemptive or postemptive sounding will do this too.

But at the end of the day, the pianist can only do three things (as well as their subsets) to "cut through":
- Adjust the velocity of attack on the key.
- Adjust the note duration.
- Adjust the time at which the attack is made.

That's it. That's all we can do. So there is room for using "technique" to cut through, but only insofar as the items on that list.
_________________________
"A good intention but fixed and resolute - bent on high and holy ends, we shall find means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us 'like the fabled specter-ships,' which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind."
R. W. Emerson

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#2224991 - 02/03/14 03:38 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
phantomFive Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1143
Loc: California
This website has some good info that might be useful to you. It has definitely improved my playing of the acoustic piano, even balancing the various voices of the chords.

Also, when a composer writes a concerto, he needs to write quieter parts for the orchestra while the solo instrument is in front. This is more important, for example, in a violin concerto; obviously a single violin will not be able play more loudly than 10 other violins.

Of course, as the link above makes clear, varying dynamic levels is not the only way to bring out a part, you can also vary range and timing, and probably other stuff.
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#2225004 - 02/03/14 05:19 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: Peanuts
Thanks!
I am using an amplified keyboard. But I lack 'electronic' hands-on ensemble experience.

Someone in the Piano Tuner-Technician (why bother?) mentioned about classical teacher who send his students to a Jazz instructor to learn how to cut through other instruments. So I though there could be some technique involved.


That sounds interesting grin.

The only occasion when I had a bad experience of poor balance between the players was at a jazz club (Ronnie Scott's in London, no less) when I nearly had my eardrums blown out by the drummer (who evidently thought he was the star) and also by the trumpeter (but at least, he had to take a breath every now and then). The poor pianist was thumping away like mad on the baby grand but was totally drowned out. As for the bass player, well he did have a short solo, of sorts.

I've attended lots of chamber concerts - piano and strings, piano and wind, voice and piano - and never found any balance problems. In fact, it's the pianist who has to temper his dynamics to avoid overwhelming his colleagues, even when his piano lid is down or on the short stick.

In concertos, depending on the size and instrumentation used in the orchestra, the pianist might have to do the opposite - i.e. play at higher dynamic levels - to get himself heard above the orchestra in tuttis. This is where the conductor makes all the difference too.

In concertos for string instruments, the orchestration is usually kinder to the soloist, to allow for the fact that the solo violin (and even more so, the viola and cello) is having to 'compete' against a body of strings.

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#2225031 - 02/03/14 07:59 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
jdw Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/04/11
Posts: 943
Loc: Philadelphia, PA
A piano technician told me that when tuning a concert grand for orchestral performance, he uses greater pitch adjustments between the different registers (can't recall the technical term for this--involves slightly sharpening the treble and flattening the bass).

He says that if tuned in the same way he tunes a home piano, the instrument would get lost in the orchestral sound.
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#2225049 - 02/03/14 08:34 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: jdw]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4821
Originally Posted By: jdw
A piano technician told me that when tuning a concert grand for orchestral performance, he uses greater pitch adjustments between the different registers (can't recall the technical term for this--involves slightly sharpening the treble and flattening the bass).


That's 'stretch tuning'.

Pianos have varying degrees of stretch tuning depending on the piano technician's method (and ears) - our ears perceive the high notes as slightly flat, and the low ones as slightly sharp, so the stretch tuning is to compensate for that effect.

I believe that singers automatically sing slightly sharp on the high notes too (otherwise they're accused of being 'flat' - and there's no greater insult for a singer wink ), though I'm not sure what other instrumentalists do, if they're able to control their pitch (like string players). They do tend towards going for pure thirds and maybe fifths, rather than equal-tempered as on pianos.

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#2225068 - 02/03/14 08:57 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Atrys]
prout Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/13
Posts: 679
Originally Posted By: Atrys
It's probably because the waveform of a piano tone more closely resembles that of a perfect sine wive more so than the other instruments involved. Actually, that's probably exactly what is happening here, assuming an entirely acoustic environment.

A perfect sine wave only has one frequency component (check the math). All instruments produce multiple simultaneous partials with varying amplitudes, which define the timbre of the instrument. Pianos, to an extent greater than most other instruments, produce non-periodic waveforms, a phenomenon known as inharmonicity.
NONE of the above has much, if anything to do with getting a piano be softer, as is the case most often desired, than the other instruments. If you want it louder, do what the S&S boys do - lacquer the s**t out of the hammers and stretch the upper temperament like crazy.

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#2225096 - 02/03/14 09:40 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Peanuts]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Then you need good amplification and good mixing. Also, experiment with different sound patches on the instrument. If you're running a $200 keyboard through a $50 amp, there's not much you can do to compete with bass/guitar/drums except ask them to turn down (which they never want to do.)

Get a dedicated keyboard amp (the Roland KC series are common. The KC-150 is pretty standard for small gigs.)

Also, make sure you're not competing with the other instruments. Don't play in other people's ranges. Don't play a lot of bass when you've got a strong bass player. Don't comp much when the guitar player's busy. And when you play, make sure the other musicians stay out of your way.

It's not about "cutting through," it's about the musicians being smart.

"Cutting through" just creates more problems, because everybody starts to turn up, and you end up with 4 people playing really loud trying to compete with each other and the sound suffers.


Originally Posted By: Peanuts
Thanks!
I am using an amplified keyboard. But I lack 'electronic' hands-on ensemble experience.

Someone in the Piano Tuner-Technician (why bother?) mentioned about classical teacher who send his students to a Jazz instructor to learn how to cut through other instruments. So I though there could be some technique involved.

Now Atrys's respond make me I wonder how a violist put a concerto with that type of tone. Many from youtube are not that well balanced. I can barely hear the soloists.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#2225115 - 02/03/14 10:06 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Kreisler]
Peanuts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Singapore
Thanks. The keyboard is provided at the jamming venue. No one completes.

By cutting through, I mean to play the tones out distinctively so that each instrument can be heard.

Hmmm.... the temperament treatment is interesting.


Edited by Peanuts (02/03/14 10:13 AM)
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#2225136 - 02/03/14 10:44 AM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Kreisler]
Pathbreaker Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/04
Posts: 1031
Loc: Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Kreisler

Also, make sure you're not competing with the other instruments. Don't play in other people's ranges. Don't play a lot of bass when you've got a strong bass player. Don't comp much when the guitar player's busy. And when you play, make sure the other musicians stay out of your way.

It's not about "cutting through," it's about the musicians being smart.

Originally Posted By: Peanuts
Thanks!
I am using an amplified keyboard. But I lack 'electronic' hands-on ensemble experience.

Someone in the Piano Tuner-Technician (why bother?) mentioned about classical teacher who send his students to a Jazz instructor to learn how to cut through other instruments. So I though there could be some technique involved.


If you have the flexibility in your music to play in different pitch ranges I think Kreisler's advice will serve you well. As was stated, it's not a piano technique that's going to help you but it's the ability to listen to others and know how your sound will work in relation to theirs. You want to find a nice balance. Good luck!

I don't wish to derail this thread by posting this but maybe it's something to think about. When the pianist plays with the whole group, what pitch frequencies are you most likely to hear (in this specific example)?
http://youtu.be/MCa7Po5Wrj4

I think you're most likely to shine through tenor and soprano ranges. Especially if there is already a bass type instrument. It doesn't mean that your playing in unison won't serve the overall sound, just that you won't be distinctly heard. (I recognize that the example is a bit extreme)

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#2225469 - 02/03/14 10:34 PM Re: how do pianists soloist project above other instruments? [Re: Pathbreaker]
Peanuts Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 63
Loc: Singapore
Sorry, the link does not seem to be working. Can you repost it please?

I believe that when amateurs play, we listen and try to 'hook' onto the most stable player and follow him/her. The vocalist cuts through very clearly. Unfortunately, she prefers to sing a little behind because she follows an instrumentalist too.

I do not know why, but the music sounds draggy. I ended up playing mainly chords in the middle register to keep timing. (Although I get lost myself)

I usually stay away from the lower register because my Jazz instructor is a bass player. He gets upset whenever I play too low. smile

Ps. Excuse me for my grammar.
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