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#2231880 - 02/15/14 05:07 AM Low frequency effects used in piano pieces.
subcontra Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 32
I want to know how composers tried to make certain passages sound different by using certain intervals to create low frequency effects. I know one work has a power chord using the lowest B and F# notes creating a 64ft effect, alternating with an E power chord creating a 32ft effect. A piano concerto has a series of perfect fifths using the lowest C# (I forget the name). Rachmaninoff in his famous Prelude in C# Minor has some big chords using perfect fifths in the bass. Are there other works using fifths and fourths in the lowest registers, and, have other composers also used intervals other than the fourth or fifth to get those LF effects as well? Does the use of narrower intervals to get the desired LF effects have much value, or do they detract from the harmony meant to exist in a passage or piece? I ask these questions as I'm wanting to use notes even below the Bosendorfer Imperial, and I find myself racing towards octaves even I wouldn't use, nor would the MIDI standard support.


Edited by subcontra (02/15/14 05:23 AM)

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#2232515 - 02/16/14 10:30 AM Re: Low frequency effects used in piano pieces. [Re: subcontra]
Steve Chandler Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 3096
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
Hmmm, interesting question. Do I want to give away any secrets? I don't know if they're secrets, but perhaps a bit of discussion is in order. I like open fifths in the bass, but I don't think they really produce the suboctave effects you mentioned. They are a distinct sound and in that manner are useful. I also enjoy an open fifth with a ninth on top. Another thing I like is first inversion chords in the left hand. It takes a big hand to play them as I usually make the root the second note up then the fifth so the span is a tenth. The challenge is it's easy to make things sound muddy, too many notes too close together leads to a jumble of harmonics (which is why I spread out that first inversion chord). Close harmony in the bass can be an interesting sound effect but it's not as useful harmonically.

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#2236234 - 02/23/14 05:08 AM Re: Low frequency effects used in piano pieces. [Re: subcontra]
kdjupdal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/13
Posts: 52
Loc: Norway
Like Steve says, it will not give the effect you want. This trick works on a pipe organ, but not on a piano.

I think the reason for this is the pattern of partials (overtones) that a pianostring gives. The organ pipes (used for this kind of effect) are flutes with very few overtones, similar to sine wave. In contrast, a pianotone has a lot of overtones in a complex pattern. The overtones will conflict with each other creating a very dissonant noisy sound.

I once analysed and used the 27 strongest partials of the low A of a grand piano in a composition. Here are the partials, transcribed to notes:
http://karstein.djupdal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/akkord-til-pianospill.gif

There are some interesting things to note (and these things are well known in piano acoustics):
-- The pianotone gives a rich spectre with a lot of overtones
-- the 1st and 2nd partial are not present (at least not strong enough). Meaning when you play the low A you dont actually hear the fundamental of the note, only the overtones
-- The spectre is inharmonic, meaning a pianotone is actually dissonant in itself

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#2236235 - 02/23/14 05:16 AM Re: Low frequency effects used in piano pieces. [Re: subcontra]
kdjupdal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/13
Posts: 52
Loc: Norway
Another answer for your question...
Originally Posted By: subcontra
I want to know how composers tried to make certain passages sound different by using certain intervals to create low frequency effects.


Ravel had one interesting trick that always fascinated me: knowing that the ear can not distinguish pitch so easily in the low register, he used the low A as a substitute for the G# that doesnŽt exist on an ordinary piano. So e.g. A0-G#1 sounds like the octave G#0-G#1. See "Jeaux dŽeau" and "Scarbo", and maybe more pieces.

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