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#314441 - 08/29/02 10:05 AM The Make It or Break It Tune
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14036
Loc: Louisiana
'Fess up. All of us have a "try-out" piece that we use to evaluate a new piano with, to ascertain whether the piano has those melodic qualities we are looking for. If it can't pass muster on this song, it is dismissed.

What's your "go to" piece? \:\)
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#314442 - 08/29/02 10:15 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
the artist Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/05/02
Posts: 757
Loc: Tulsa, OK
Mine is my own arrangement of "When I Fall in Love" (made popular either by Natalie Cole or her father (?) ). The arrangement uses the entire keyboard (including those "top 4 notes" \:D ). At various times the melody occurs both in the bass, midrange & treble, so it really shows what a piano can (& can't do).

I get nervous playing classical pieces & become self conscious. This one, I can play on "automatic pilot" -- I can really listen & not become distracted by my own playing.

BTW, what's yours!?!?

_Brad

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#314443 - 08/29/02 10:24 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
gryphon Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/09/01
Posts: 11678
Loc: Okemos, MI
I've been playing Be Thou My Vision, parts of Pictures At An Exhibition, and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Maybe a little Maple Leaf Rag thrown in as well. I also just play chords and listen. I'm not a very good piano player, so I'm hoping getting a good piano will magically make me become one. \:D
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#314444 - 08/29/02 10:41 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I have a few pieces that I invariably seem to gravitate to:

1) Schumann's "Foreign people, foreign lands" (is that the title?) for 1st pass, it's easy and I can quickly size up if a piano is not going to do it for me;

2) The 2nd movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata-- can the piano help make that melody line "sing"?

3) I, too, do parts of Pix at an Exhibition-- can you whomp on the bass chords/octaves to get a good foundation, without overwhelming the treble, can the bass "carry a tune"?

4) Something from Haydn or Mozart-- to test if trilling, turns, other ornamentation is easy or is the action too sluggish.

I always have a fantasy of sitting down in a showroom and playing something competely, totally amazing, but unfortunately, it will have to remain a fantasy!

Nina

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#314445 - 08/29/02 10:43 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14036
Loc: Louisiana
My personal ones? No classical here, either. And to be brutally honest, my wife plays better than I, with a better ear. But the two tunes we tried on every piano are "Memory", from Cats, because I think it can give an indication of whether a piano can sing. The other piece is an old Southern Gospel song, "Good-Bye World, Good-Bye", which beats the sugar out of a keyboard, from one end to the other. \:\)
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#314446 - 08/29/02 11:24 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
So does this make me the solo jazz "artist" so far?

I play Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight", but also jazz renditions of "My Foolish Heart" and "People".

Not bad for a tech, heh? ;\)

Mark Mandell@pianosource.com

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#314447 - 08/29/02 01:33 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19097
Loc: New York City
I play the Boulez 2nd Sonata or Ives Concord Sonata with the hope that the dealer will offer to give me the piano for free if I just stop playing.

Actually I often play all the notes individually both softly and very loudly because I've found that some bad things(buzzing notes, extraneous sounds, lack of sustain)can easily go unnoticed when you only play specific pieces. For example, one poster mentioned playing the 2nd movemnet of the Pathetique to see if the melody sings(sustains). This choice, I feel, is somewhat problematic because many of the melody notes are in the mid range of the piano. The most crucial area to test sustain is starting in the octave above middle C.

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#314448 - 08/29/02 01:51 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Paul K Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/24/02
Posts: 14
Loc: Bethesda, MD
I'm relatively new and don't post here often, but since I recently was shopping around I'll put my 2 cents in. One of my favorites for "testing" (and general listening) is the Rach Prelude in C#-. I'm not at a level to handle it competently yet, so my girlfriend is usually doing the playing on that one; but with loud, hard-hitting bass and big chords, as well as some pretty frenzied trebble work in the middle I think it's a good piece for judging what a piano can handle. For more subtle playing I like something like Beethoven Sonata #14 1st movement. Yes, I know everyone's heard this 50 million times, but I like it and can play it reasonably well, so I really know when it sounds "right" to me, which I think is important for judging the character of a piano.
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#314449 - 08/29/02 05:51 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
bcarey Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 3378
Loc: North Carolina
The pieces I chose to play most of you may not recognize. Rather than strictly classical, they are contemporary religious pieces that exemplify the variety of music played at my church. Suffice it to say, this includes a big mix.

To test the bass, I chose a piece called "Behold the Lamb of God", which is very somber and in a minor key. A great deal of it is played in the base range very slowly and progressing to the mid-treble then moving very fast in triplets, ending slow again in the bass range. I love this music which is a choral arrangement but holds its own as a solo piano piece.

To test the treble, I chose a solo piano arrangement of "As the deer" which is very light and fast and classical in style.

To test how the piano handles at a fast and furious pace, I chose an arrangement of "The Doxology" with a variety of changes in speed and styles. One part in particular is good. With 4 beats to the measure, it is played very fast with an emphasis on the third note in a quad. You have to really attack it to play it right or it sounds like there is 5 beats in the measure. It will show up any deficiencies in a piano right away.

Last, I play what I call a "down and dirty" fast moving gospel with rock overtones piece called "Praise His Holy Name". That one is just for fun but also gives any piano a run for its money. If it can't hack it on this piece, it isn't worth the price tag.

I also test the action on trills as well as chords, octives, and individual notes in all ranges. I also listen to the sustain. I found in the truly wonderful pianos, I could just listen to and appreciate the quality and beauty of one individual note as it faded away.

I'm not good enough not to let my listening interfere with my playing. I found myself distracted by my listening and making mistakes I would not ordinarily make because my focus was taken away from the music. Only some pianos did this to me. Playing from memory is not one of my strong points. Didn't even try that.

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#314450 - 08/29/02 06:55 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Steve the ragtimer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/02
Posts: 206
Loc: Philadelphia
Believe it or not, not everything that I use to try out a piano is ragtime!

I agree with Paul K - The Rachmaninoff #c minor is good, especially the fast descending chords at the end of the second section, followed by whomping the dickens out of it with the four staff section.

Then, ragtime. Tom Turpin's Ragtime Nightmare (been played on many nightmare pianos) for the lickety-split ragtime. Eubie Blake's song Memories of You, for the gentle song with great harmonies to listen for the blend of things. Joplin's Pineapple Rag, with lots of extra bass thrown in. And then a real slow, gentle rag - either Joplin/Chauvin's Heliotrope Bouquet or a contemporary piece by Galen Wilkes, Last of the Ragtime Pioneers, which is probably the lushest piece of music I know.

After all that, if I'm smiling, it is a great piano.

Best RAGards.

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#314451 - 08/29/02 06:57 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Steve the ragtimer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/02
Posts: 206
Loc: Philadelphia
and Hey, Jolly - you didn't answer TAFKASK's question. What's your tune?

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#314452 - 08/30/02 12:00 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Calmom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/02
Posts: 43
Loc: Northern California
My daughter always plays "Baby Grand" and "Root Beer Rag"--big time Billy Joel fan. She also does parts of whatever classical piece she is working on and scale exercises. She has a tough Russian teacher who would die to know she was using Billy Joel to help choose her piano rather than all classical pieces.

Hey, Steve the Ragtimer, my daughter loves anything ragtime, bluesy, or jazz. She played "Twelfth Street Rag" as her recital piece at age 9, "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" for her recital at 10 (yes, this was before the Russian teacher). She has also played Maple Leaf Rag and another by Joplin that I don't quite recall the title (Bethune??) Anyway, if you have any ragtime music books to recommend, I'd sure like you to share your advice. She's a big Gerswhin fan, too. I bought the Gerswhin Preludes and Rhapsody in Blue full piano score, but she hasn't tackled them yet.

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#314453 - 08/30/02 01:49 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
indigo Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/02/02
Posts: 17
Loc: Salt Lake City
My daughter, 5, plays several renditions of Mary Had a Little Lamb on both hands, much to the feigned delight of bored salesmen. The piano market in our area seems to be in such a slump, even five year olds are welcome. We sure enjoy looking. :p

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#314454 - 08/30/02 07:39 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
phykell Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 697
Loc: UK
Moonlight, 3rd movement, just the fast runs up the keyboard - great for testing the depth of the bass - fantastic left hand. Also test's what I call the "bounce" in the action.

Pathetique, 1st movement - Tests the power and depth of the bass again with massive Beethoven chords. Then move onto to the Allegro to again test the bass - another fantastic bass clef section plus fast rh section.

Pathetique, 2nd movement - test the piano to see how it sings (like someone else posted here)

Now play a Bach prelude to test the action out for stiffness.

Finally a waltz by Tchaikovsky just for fun, played slowly then quickly...
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#314455 - 08/30/02 11:22 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I use whatever is in my current "play list" ( I heard a rumor that a person could get thumped for using the word "reperatoire" \:\) )

Currently that includes the first two Schezi by Chopin, Beethoven's Op. 53, Brahms' Op. 118, and Bach's Italian Concerto. I also throw in some blues, jazz, and pop improvisations to see how much of a help or hinderance the piano is to my creativity. I also like to do some sightreading to see how well the piano responds when I am focusing on the music and not on the piano.

You never can tell about a piano without playing one. I have found that grand piano actions are not necessarily superior to vertical actions. For example, I was surprised to discover that there are a few passages in the Chopin Scherzi that are not playable on certain grand piano actions but are playable on certain vertical actions. At least I should say that they aren't playable the way I want to play them. \:\) I verified this on several pianos of the same make (different sizes, though), so it wasn't just a fluke. You just never know until you try the piano out for yourself.

Ryan

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#314456 - 08/30/02 11:47 AM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Nina Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 6467
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Quote:
Originally posted by ryan:
I use whatever is in my current "play list" ( I heard a rumor that a person could get thumped for using the word "reperatoire" \:\) )

Currently that includes the first two Schezi by Chopin, Beethoven's Op. 53, Brahms' Op. 118, and Bach's Italian Concerto. I also throw in some blues, jazz, and pop improvisations to see how much of a help or hinderance the piano is to my creativity. I also like to do some sightreading to see how well the piano responds when I am focusing on the music and not on the piano.

You never can tell about a piano without playing one. I have found that grand piano actions are not necessarily superior to vertical actions. For example, I was surprised to discover that there are a few passages in the Chopin Scherzi that are not playable on certain grand piano actions but are playable on certain vertical actions. At least I should say that they aren't playable the way I want to play them. \:\) I verified this on several pianos of the same make (different sizes, though), so it wasn't just a fluke. You just never know until you try the piano out for yourself.

Ryan[/b]
These all seem like very nice "songs" to test a piano with! \:D \:D

Nina

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#314457 - 08/30/02 12:00 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
toddler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/02
Posts: 179
Loc: Vermont
how long have you been playing Ryan?

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#314458 - 08/30/02 12:10 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
bobenellton Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/07/02
Posts: 8
I think that it is best to try out on the piano the type of piece that you are going to play the most. I play Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-Sharp Minor (Yes, I know it is over-played, but still one of my favorites for checking the bass.) I absolutely fly through a Sonatina to see how fast the action is, and then just dink around with whatever songs I'm working on.

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#314459 - 08/30/02 12:39 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
jeffylube Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 716
Loc: Weatherford, Texas
During my shopping experience, I used Chopin's Revelutionary Etude for speed and loudness and his Aeolian Harp Etude for softness and to see if the treble could "sing" over the bass. Speaking of the bass, \:D for that I used Brahm's Rhapsody Op.79 no.2.

With these 3 pieces I could tell quite fast whether the piano was anything I was interested in.

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#314460 - 08/30/02 12:52 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
ryan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 1995
Loc: Colorado
I bet I could get thumped even worse for my typo in the word "Repertoire". It's worse when people quote me because then I can't quitely go back and fix it \:\)

Toddler, I have been playing for 29 years. Good grief, that is a long time! And I feel like I have accomplished so little in that time... Minor things like JOBs and the like keep getting in the way.

Ryan

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#314461 - 08/30/02 12:56 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
RKVS1 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/07/01
Posts: 3192
Loc: Topeka, Kansas
I usually use Cage's 4'33" to check the bench. \:D

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#314462 - 08/30/02 02:27 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
 Quote:
Originally posted by RKVS1:
I usually use Cage's 4'33" to check the bench. \:D [/b]
:D \:D \:D

Confession: I cannot remember more than 2 lines of any piece \:o

I play 4-5 bars of this Bach prelude that was an examination piece 16 years ago, which has for some reason, stuck.

Another Bach prelude that is marked leggerio/leggierissimo (spelling?) one octave higher to listen to the sweetness of the treble.

Beethoven's Pathetique 1st movement (where the left-hand tremolo begins) one octave lower for some bars to test the power of the bass.

Scales up and down to check for evenness of tone. Trills to test the action (doesn't work too well if nails need cutting/filing!).

Out of curiosity, does anyone bring in sheet music to try out pianos? Would the dealers mind if one does?

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#314463 - 08/30/02 03:51 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
kluurs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 3739
Loc: Chicago
Roxane,

I brought a scary amount of music -- like "he's moving in." It's kinda like dating ;\) While there may be a big flash of excitement when you first slide your fingers on the keys, sometimes the enthusiasm wains with familiarity. I bring a lot of music to get a sense of the piano. Something may not be obvious in the pieces used to screen which pianos you are interested in. Playing a piano over a couple of hours gives one a much better sense of where the relationship is going. I think shops are happy to see folks bring music, suggests you're in the final stages of "selection" as they say in Steinway-speak.

Ken

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#314464 - 08/30/02 06:19 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
Calmom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/06/02
Posts: 43
Loc: Northern California
Roxanne,

My daughter is not one to memorize either. She can sight-read just about anything with accuracy and fluency the first time through--not polish, but a pretty good play at first attempt. I think this is one of the reasons she does not want to major in piano in college--she really doesn't like the idea of memorizing many long pieces.

She can memorize if she has to. All recitals and competitions have been played from memory, but it is not her preference. My other daughter memorizes easily, but is not as adept at sight reading pieces. Are these two separate abilities? Maybe someone else here can answer that question.

It isn't a memory problem either. She is a straight-A student who can memorize facts easily.
On our piano shopping journeys, she usually takes music with her. If she doesn't have it, she can only play parts of pieces.

One nice advantage of being a strong sight-reader is that she is in demand as an accompanist, audition pianist, and play/choir rehearsal pianist.

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#314465 - 08/30/02 06:28 PM Re: The Make It or Break It Tune
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4110
I usually start out with a Bach prelude and fugue, to test the piano for tone quality and volume without the pedal. Then I progress to some Mozart/Beethoven to test the passage work and other tonal qualities. Then a scattering of Chopin etudes, and Liszt. Debussy is essential for me, since you can really tell if the piano's pedal and touch are good.

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