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#446091 - 09/01/05 10:30 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
yhc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/31/04
Posts: 148
Loc: NYC, NY
From what I understand, we are talking about two things which sometimes got mixed up.

1. The arm, wrist, fingers and whatever the body needs to summon to press down one piano key. This creates several piano schools like the weight-gravity school or the finger-only school or the coordinate school. Basically in physics term, it just transfer energy from finger to key.

2. When the piano key breaks off from the let-off point, all human influences cease to exist. It carries the kinetic energy transfer from the finger to the key to the hammer and prepare to strike the string. Between the short distance the key hits the string from the let-off point, gravity may still exert influence on the hammer on grand piano just because the hammer strikes the string from below and mother earth will have gravity on whatever object on earth. But it does not come from human forces.

So to play a ppp, you need to transfer as little energy as possible to make the string vibrates. As to how to transfer this kind of energy, well, schools of thoughts as mention in (1) explain it all. ;\)

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#446092 - 09/01/05 11:09 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Siddhartha Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 1244
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
 Quote:
Originally posted by Dubious:
It depends how long the force is acting, for example in staccato playing if the force is acting a time short enough on the key (before one gets to the point of sound when the hammer is thrown to the strings) it will give less velocity to the hammers than the same force acting all the way through to the point of sound.

[/b]
Well, this is an interesting point, and has made me think, but I'm not convinced its as simple as you've spelled it out. I'm dont believe that staccato is imparting acceleration for a shorter period of time than legato. It seems to me that thats merely an issue of holding the key down (or not) AFTER its been depressed.

The key fall is a fixed distance. It will travel that same distance every single time its pressed, regardless of the touch (assuming its pushed all the way down, which is a valid assumption, IMO). So the only way to increase the amount of time the force (and thus the acceleration) is imparted, would be to depress the key more slowly, which is reducing the amount force you're applying, resulting in less velocity, and less sound.

So I dont believe that duration of applied force is a variable in piano playing, at least not in the direction you're asserting.

Edit: Ok, on further contemplation, I think perhaps NOT pressing the key all the way to the bottom might demonstrate the dynamic you're talking about. But is that ever done? I'm thinking a 'leggiero' touch where people speak of playing on the tops of the keys, might be just that. That would be imparting the force for a shorter period of time, resulting in less velocity. Hmmmm....lemme think about this some more.
_________________________
I was born the year Glenn Gould stop playing concerts. Coincidence?

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#446093 - 09/01/05 11:25 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Dubious Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/04
Posts: 78
Yes, it is a subtle issue, but I think it is done when people speak of playing on the top of keys, as you say. That's what I meant by staccato, but I agree my choice of name may not be fully correct as you pointed out.

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#446094 - 09/03/05 02:34 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Herr_Gnome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston, TX
Hello, this is my first post here. I'm Musik_man from PF if anyone from there is on. I couldn't resist the allure of a physics discussion.

Anyway, I think you guys are looking at this problem the wrong way which is why it's so confusing. You guys are starting off from the physical act of hitting the keys and moving forward from there. It's much simpler if you start with the piano.

Sound in a piano comes from a hammer hitting a string. After it hits the string, it bounces back. Therefore, the only thing that matters when it comes to dynamics is the speed v, with which the hammer hits the string. So the real question should be, how does one affect vhammer?

The easiest way to find vhammer is to use the principle of conservation of momentum pi=pf. Initially the key is completely still so it has 0 momentum. So pi=MV (I'll use caps for the hands so you can distinguish the variables.) V is the speed with which your finger hits the key. M is the mass behind the finger. This can vary depending on which playing mechanism you're using (ie finger, wrist, forearm etc. but I'll get back to that later) pf=v(M+m) where v is the speed that the key and your arm are moving and m is the mass of all the mechanisms in the hammer system.

What we want is v because there is a direct correlation between v and vhammer. So we solve that equation for v, giving v=MV/(M+m). To vary volume we need to change v. v can be changed by manipulating any of the variables on the right side of the equation, except m (which is the weight of the key and is constant.) That leaves V and M. To see what M does, it helps to manipulate the equation to the form v=V/(1+m/M) Raising M will raise the volume since a large M makes the denominator smaller. Raising V will also obviously raise the volume. One generally chooses what mechanism(finger, wrist, arm, nose) one plays with based off of the passage (a fast run would use fingers, a single chord would use arm) So the best ways to change your volume, is to change the speed at which you impact the keys.

I'd also like to point out that based off of this, one can't really play using gravity, and that those who claim to don't know what they're talking about(if I'm wrong here, feel free to point out that I'm the one who doesn't know what he's talking about.) Gravity supplies a fixed acceleration to your hand g. We can get V from the equation V^2=2gd where d is the distance that your finger falls before hitting the key. You can only vary V (and therefore your dynamics) by changing d. This means you'd have to change where you drop your finger from to manipulate dynamics. Maybe lift your finger up 6 inches for f, 3 inches for mf, 2 for mp etc :rolleyes: Since I've never seen a pianist play like this, I'm gonna assume that people who use 'gravity' aren't really using gravity, but are using some other technique to control their playing that they mistakenly call gravity.

If you guys become engineering majors like me, you can do physics all day . (Not really true, we also do math )

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#446095 - 09/03/05 05:19 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Ronel Augustyn Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/14/05
Posts: 527
Loc: Bloemfontein,SA
BACK TO ORIGINAL TOPIC: Okay, so if you have to push the keys slowly if you want a softer sound - what about if you have a fast but soft piece?

For example, I'm doing Debussy's RÍverie right now, and finding it really difficult to keep the accompaniment in the left hand soft, but also even. Of course, at the moment I keep the una corda in the whole time, except for the few loud sections there is, but my teacher wants it more softer than even that!

So if anybody's familiar with the piece, please help me?

Hi from South Africa
_________________________
lallie

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#446096 - 09/03/05 01:18 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by...
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#446097 - 09/03/05 11:20 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
giving v=MV/(M+m). To vary volume we need to change v. v can be changed by manipulating any of the variables on the right side of the equation, except m (which is the weight of the key and is constant.) That leaves V and M. To see what M does, it helps to manipulate the equation to the form v=V/(1+m/M) Raising M will raise the volume since a large M makes the denominator smaller. Raising V will also obviously raise the volume. One generally chooses what mechanism(finger, wrist, arm, nose) one plays with based off of the passage (a fast run would use fingers, a single chord would use arm) So the best ways to change your volume, is to change the speed at which you impact the keys.
are you sure you're right? from your equation v=MV/(M+m), you get v = V + V*M/m = V(1+ M/m) where M is variable and m constant. thus M or V matters.

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#446098 - 09/04/05 12:49 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Herr_Gnome Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/06/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Houston, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
 Quote:
giving v=MV/(M+m). To vary volume we need to change v. v can be changed by manipulating any of the variables on the right side of the equation, except m (which is the weight of the key and is constant.) That leaves V and M. To see what M does, it helps to manipulate the equation to the form v=V/(1+m/M) Raising M will raise the volume since a large M makes the denominator smaller. Raising V will also obviously raise the volume. One generally chooses what mechanism(finger, wrist, arm, nose) one plays with based off of the passage (a fast run would use fingers, a single chord would use arm) So the best ways to change your volume, is to change the speed at which you impact the keys.
are you sure you're right? from your equation v=MV/(M+m), you get v = V + V*M/m = V(1+ M/m) where M is variable and m constant. thus M or V matters. [/b]
You can't break up the denominator like that. Bad math.

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#446099 - 09/04/05 02:35 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
808piano Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 7
Loc: student
DYNAMIC DIFFERENCES ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO KEY SPEED!!! That's it!! In other words, playing ff is the same as playing as playing pp Except when plying pp, the rate at which you depress the key is much slower.

Playing ff and pp requires: firm fingers, weight from the arm and a follow through after.

By keeping your fingers firm, you ensure that all the keys go down at the same time. Often people have the notion that you need to relax your hand to play softer. By doing this, you will not be able to control the descent of the key. Make sure to start on the key or just a few inches above it when playing pp..think of a sting player starting the bow on the string before playing.

Utilizing the weight of your arms, from the shoulders is very important to make this work. This technique of depressing the keys needs to be understood before being able to effectively play pp and ff.

The follow through is crucial. Think about a baseball player stopping the motion of his bat at the point of impact with the baseball. Or even a tennis player, golfer. etc. THe pianist must follow through also after depressing the keys. WHen playing ff the follow through will be much quicker than playing pp where due to the slow key speed, the follow through will be much slower.

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#446100 - 09/04/05 04:53 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Ronel Augustyn Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/14/05
Posts: 527
Loc: Bloemfontein,SA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by... [/b]
Please, please explain? I know I look like an idiot right now, but I just HAVE to get this! \:D
_________________________
lallie

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#446101 - 09/04/05 11:25 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Herr_Gnome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by signa:
 Quote:
giving v=MV/(M+m). To vary volume we need to change v. v can be changed by manipulating any of the variables on the right side of the equation, except m (which is the weight of the key and is constant.) That leaves V and M. To see what M does, it helps to manipulate the equation to the form v=V/(1+m/M) Raising M will raise the volume since a large M makes the denominator smaller. Raising V will also obviously raise the volume. One generally chooses what mechanism(finger, wrist, arm, nose) one plays with based off of the passage (a fast run would use fingers, a single chord would use arm) So the best ways to change your volume, is to change the speed at which you impact the keys.
are you sure you're right? from your equation v=MV/(M+m), you get v = V + V*M/m = V(1+ M/m) where M is variable and m constant. thus M or V matters. [/b]
You can't break up the denominator like that. Bad math. [/b]
sorry, i misinterpreted that '/' to '*' (while i was too sleepy), and you're right.

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#446102 - 09/04/05 11:27 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ronel Augustyn:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by... [/b]
Please, please explain? I know I look like an idiot right now, but I just HAVE to get this! \:D [/b]
i.e. horizontal speed != vertical speed

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#446103 - 09/04/05 01:02 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Mark Davidson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/04
Posts: 116
Loc: NC
 Quote:
Originally posted by derekrs:
My music teacher feels that to play quietly you need firm fingers in order to keep good control over the key. [/b]
I would concur with this. I went through a period where I did a lot of finger excercises - scales, arpeggios, Dohnanyi exercises, etc. and my control improved noticeably in many areas. Soft playing definitely improved. Having a strong hand and using arm weight for control seems to be a good combination. The ability to play softly without "missing" also got much better, as well as the ability to play chords softly with more even voicing. Seems a bit counter-intuitive that more strength would help in playing softly, but it seems to be the case.

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#446104 - 09/04/05 03:44 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
yhc Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/31/04
Posts: 148
Loc: NYC, NY
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ronel Augustyn:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by... [/b]
Please, please explain? I know I look like an idiot right now, but I just HAVE to get this! \:D [/b]
Kreisler puts it very nicely. There're two velocities: (1) the downward key velocity (2) the relative velocity of different fingers hitting the keys. For examples, C D E F G in C major, your thumb, index finger, 3rd finger, 4th finger and little finger touch the C D E F G keys. How fast you can play the C D E F G is a measure of your dexterity and you are confusing it with the key downward velocity.

So you can play CDEFG very fast but give each key a very soft touch(downward velocity) to create a ppp.

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#446105 - 09/04/05 06:51 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Siddhartha Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 1244
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
 Quote:
Originally posted by Herr_Gnome:
I'd also like to point out that based off of this, one can't really play using gravity, and that those who claim to don't know what they're talking about(if I'm wrong here, feel free to point out that I'm the one who doesn't know what he's talking about.) Gravity supplies a fixed acceleration to your hand g. We can get V from the equation V^2=2gd where d is the distance that your finger falls before hitting the key. You can only vary V (and therefore your dynamics) by changing d. This means you'd have to change where you drop your finger from to manipulate dynamics. Maybe lift your finger up 6 inches for f, 3 inches for mf, 2 for mp etc :rolleyes: Since I've never seen a pianist play like this, I'm gonna assume that people who use 'gravity' aren't really using gravity, but are using some other technique to control their playing that they mistakenly call gravity.

[/b]
All anybody means when they say they use gravity, is that they employ the weight of their arm to supply force to the keys. As opposed to holding the hand over the keys and the fingers are on their own. There's no 'free fall' component to the concept. You're way over complicating things, as well as in the first part of the post.
_________________________
I was born the year Glenn Gould stop playing concerts. Coincidence?

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#446106 - 09/05/05 08:50 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Ronel Augustyn Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/14/05
Posts: 527
Loc: Bloemfontein,SA
 Quote:
Originally posted by yhc:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Ronel Augustyn:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by... [/b]
Please, please explain? I know I look like an idiot right now, but I just HAVE to get this! \:D [/b]
Kreisler puts it very nicely. There're two velocities: (1) the downward key velocity (2) the relative velocity of different fingers hitting the keys. For examples, C D E F G in C major, your thumb, index finger, 3rd finger, 4th finger and little finger touch the C D E F G keys. How fast you can play the C D E F G is a measure of your dexterity and you are confusing it with the key downward velocity.

So you can play CDEFG very fast but give each key a very soft touch(downward velocity) to create a ppp. [/b]
A Ha! Thanx very much for putting it so plainly - think I actually understand now!
_________________________
lallie

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#446107 - 09/05/05 04:30 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Contrapunctus Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/05
Posts: 808
Loc: Whittier, California
Tone and pianissimo are two different things. However, the way they are obtained is much the same way because every pianissimo happens at a certain tone. Both are managed from finger pressure. Different tone qulaities are caused by different ways of playing. For instance, some people will not use finger pressure to get tone but rather will use their arm weight. In turn, they will have a different tone from some one who uses finger pressure. Two people using finger pressure in the same way will sound similar. For people using their fingers as 90% of what encompasses their playing, will create pianissimo by a very light touch with a lot of pressure in the finger. For people who use arm weight, they will create pp a different way, I know not how. If you play fast you will play loud because when playing fast your fingers naturely have more pressure in them and the speed at which you press the keys is rapid. On the other hand, if you play slow you will not necessarily play softly. I do not think that it is possible to play softly and fast, or at least I have not yet heard Glenn Gould do it, so I have no knowledge on how to do it myself.
Another issue with tone is the way in which you press the keys. You should never punch downwards into the keys but rather go into them from a round about direction. I mean, your fingers should go in and out, not up and down.
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#446108 - 09/06/05 10:05 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Piana Justice Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/05
Posts: 299
Loc: Greenville, NC
i think force has everything to do with it.
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#446109 - 09/06/05 10:42 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 20743
Loc: Oakland
All physics aside, dynamics, like tempi, are as much a matter of attitude as anything else. If you are in a concert hall and play a pianissimo that the crowd at the rear of the hall cannot hear, you are not going to be very popular. You have to give the illusion that you are playing softly, while playing loudly enough to be heard. If you have a p[/b] followed by a pp[/b], you will have to sneak up to at least a mp[/b] in between to pull it off, and do it in such a way that you are doing so. There may be little difference between the initial p[/b] and pp[/b] in actual dynamics. You have to pull off the legerdemain.
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