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#446061 - 08/31/05 05:34 PM How do you play pianissimo?
tonyf Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 226
Loc: upstate, NY
What is the technique to play pianoissimo on a grand without using the pianissimo peddle. Do you us the same finger speed but with less force or is arm/wrist movement needed?

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#446062 - 08/31/05 05:51 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Steve Chandler Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/18/05
Posts: 3150
Loc: Urbandale, Iowa
I thought the Una Corda pedal was not necessarily a pianissimo pedal. It's for a different timbre that is quieter, but that doesn't mean just pp. When I play extra quiet my fingers tend to move more slowly and that must be the real challenge to playing very softly, but fast. I suppose the trick is just a very light touch. Anyone else have some wisdom to share?

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#446063 - 08/31/05 06:16 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13837
Loc: Iowa City, IA
The slower the key goes down, the quiter the sound. Force has nothing to do with it. (Same with loud, by the way - the faster the key goes down, the louder the sound. Force doesn't matter.)
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#446064 - 08/31/05 06:23 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
jon-nyc Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/05
Posts: 2023
Loc: NY
Not really, Kreisler. Force = mass * accelration, hence the speed at which the key goes down is very much related to the force applied to it.
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#446065 - 08/31/05 06:28 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
What Kreisler means, I think, is that 'fortissimo' doesn't necessarily mean pound your fingers on the keys, and 'pianissimo' doesn't necessarily mean touch the keys so lightly that they don't go down all the way.

You can get a very nice fortissimo with a very relaxed stroke of the key. It just has to be fast.
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#446066 - 08/31/05 06:37 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
jon-nyc Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/05
Posts: 2023
Loc: NY
Agreed.
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#446067 - 08/31/05 07:09 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13837
Loc: Iowa City, IA
True.

Replace the word "force" with "weight" or "pressure" in my previous comments. That should clarify things. \:D
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"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)

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#446068 - 08/31/05 07:09 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
BDB Offline
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24318
Loc: Oakland
You should always play all the way to the bottom of the key. That's where the action operates on a piano, unlike on a harpsichord.

You can moderate the force on the key by pressing forward into the key with your fingers, rather than straight down. The softness of the flesh of your fingers will give you a softer attack.
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#446069 - 08/31/05 07:40 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 jon-nyc:
Not really, Kreisler. Force = mass * accelration, hence the speed at which the key goes down is very much related to the force applied to it. [/b]
You know, I had a piano professor in college that also claimed force was irrelevant, it was only velocity that was required, and I was never convinced, not being able to separate the two pragmatically.

And now that you bring this up it seems to be filling in the missing gap. If velocity is important, it takes more force to accelerate the mass of the hammers to the faster velocity. So you are absolutely correct. In order to create more velocity, you are necessarily using more force. no way around it, as long as the mass in constant (and it is), according to newton.
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#446070 - 08/31/05 08:05 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
"So you are absolutely correct. In order to create more velocity, you are necessarily using more force. no way around it, as long as the mass in constant (and it is), according to newton."

What if you let gravity act as the force? I try to use direct force as conservatively as possible because using other kinds (wrist rotation, gravity, etc) seems to improve velocity and accuracy, as well as tone. However, I'm no physics expert, so I'm not totally sure.

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#446071 - 08/31/05 08:19 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
So how do you control the tone? If speed is all that's important (and the force and acceleration that increase this speed), regardless of pressure, then why do some pianists produce a better tone than others?
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#446072 - 08/31/05 08:34 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 valarking:

What if you let gravity act as the force? [/b]
Well, you mean letting gravity pull your hand down instead of your muscle? Sure. Its still creating the same force at the finger-key interface, which is the force of interest in these assertions. But on this subject, I always use gravity as much as possible. Largely because it allows for total relaxation of your muscles. And its been my experience that much if not most technical challenges are largely difficult due to tensions in the muscles that dont need to be there (much like in the martial arts). Allowing natural forces to work for you is a very good thing.

And Pianojerome on tone, I cant say I'm at all clear on what does account for tone. And I've heard many different theories, so I'm not sure anyone has the empirical answer. For instance, I've heard it theorized that Rubinstein had such a good tone due to his physique of broad shoulders on a low carraige.

I would be willing to bet that force is related to tone, and that tone does indeed vary across the velocity (and dynamic) band, rather than being independent of it.

Very interesting questions.
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#446073 - 08/31/05 08:34 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Šanor Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/02
Posts: 1232
Loc: Santiago, Chile
For pianissimos. I try to push the keys as gentle as possible. In terms of speed, it has to be depressed slowly but keep the "force". If not, the own weight of the key will lift your finger.

A couple of months ago i listened to one of the most impressive pianissimos i have ever heard. It was Andreas Luchessini on the piano. In the final down scale of the Liszt Sonata. I didn't realize there was sound until i realized that it was So ppppppp!! And in the Bass keys!! That seems impossible.
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#446074 - 08/31/05 09:35 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Dubious Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/04
Posts: 78
IMO Kreisler is correct actually... The velocity we hit the key with is the factor that determines the sound intensity. Force is a means to get that velocity. You can get the same velocity by exerting force downwards from your fingers/forearm, or in a different way by letting gravity act on your arm down (without you doing any active force, i.e. except that you had to have the arm raised in the first place. That costed you some force although quite a bit you can save from rebound on a previous key). In practice people use a combination of these two.

Another point is that sound intensity is basically sensitive to the kinetic energy, or square of velocity, that's why small changes in velocity get a factor of 2 larger effect. Also important is how far from the fallboard you do the work. The same work closer to the fallboard will cause smaller sound intensity because the lever arm is smaller.

What people call tone is IMO too complicated to discuss in simple terms, having to do with harmonics and pedaling...

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#446075 - 08/31/05 09:59 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
So how do you control the tone? If speed is all that's important (and the force and acceleration that increase this speed), regardless of pressure, then why do some pianists produce a better tone than others? [/b]
Because they have better physics. ;\)
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#446076 - 08/31/05 10:17 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 Dubious:
IMO Kreisler is correct actually... The velocity we hit the key with is the factor that determines the sound intensity. Force is a means to get that velocity. You can get the same velocity by exerting force downwards from your fingers/forearm, or in a different way by letting gravity act on your arm down (without you doing any active force, i.e. except that you had to have the arm raised in the first place. That costed you some force although quite a bit you can save from rebound on a previous key). In practice people use a combination of these two.

[/b]
Well, yes, velocity being key is not in dispute. And it seems agreed that force is necessary to generate velocity. But you seem to be migrating the issue to say that the discussion of force is meant to refer exclusively to effort excerted by the pianists muscles. (ie those who say "its not force, its velocity" mean muscle force only).

Thats not how I've interepreted the remarks. In fact my professor even illustrated by saying "I could drop the piano bench from the ceiling onto the keyboard and its not gonna create more volume" which is just wrong all over the place (lol). But the point is, I believe the discussion is asserting that force exerted on the key is not relevant to volume. Whereas the fact is that it IS, as force is the only way to generate velocity.

Now WHERE that force comes from, be it gravity, muscles, hocus pocus, is a whole other issue, and not the one I understood this to be about.
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#446077 - 08/31/05 10:31 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1590
 Quote:
Originally posted by tonyf:
What is the technique to play pianoissimo on a grand without using the pianissimo peddle. Do you us the same finger speed but with less force or is arm/wrist movement needed? [/b]
It my experience, you can only get a true, beautiful pianissimo WITH the UC and/or knowing how to hold it down while releasing the Damper pedal.

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#446078 - 08/31/05 10:46 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Dubious Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/04
Posts: 78
Yes, Siddhartha, we are talking about 2 different forces. I read it the way people usually discuss it, in terms of what force costs the player, or whatever is accelerating the hand (then it is best to think then in terms of velocity hitting the key because e.g. the same velocity can be obtained from different forces acting on different time spans, so force is misleading here). Anyway this is not the place ot discuss physics, back to piano! \:\)

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#446079 - 08/31/05 11:01 PM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
tonyf Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 226
Loc: upstate, NY
Steve said; "I thought the Una Corda pedal was not necessarily a pianissimo pedal. It's for a different timbre that is quieter, but that doesn't mean just pp."

Being a fairly new player, I appreciate the correction on the peddle terminology. Your statement also brought to light it's use for a different timbre.

I would like to be able to control playing ppp without using the peddle which can help to accentuate playing ppp with the peddle and perfect a technique.

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#446080 - 08/31/05 11:26 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 Dubious:
Anyway this is not the place ot discuss physics, back to piano! \:\) [/b]
Ohh, I disagree! \:\) Human dialogues can hardly be so rigorously compartmentalized. Too rich an arena.
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#446081 - 09/01/05 12:43 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6195
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:

So how do you control the tone? If speed is all that's important (and the force and acceleration that increase this speed), regardless of pressure, then why do some pianists produce a better tone than others?
In that context, I think the perception of "tone" is determined by how one note auditorily relates to another. Playing one single note, I think you and I can make it sound indistinguishable from that played by a top notch concert pianist. It's when playing a bunch of notes together or in a sequence that people can meaningfully remark who can get a better "tone" out of the same piano.
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#446082 - 09/01/05 12:50 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
I was refraining from chiming in, but I think I might join the discussion since it has crossed into the realm of physics, and while I'm sure at least 2/3 of the posters here can 'music' me under the table, that is not true for physics. I've read a number of confusions of simple physics concepts, and seen them rectified, however the incorrect point is still being belabored, so perhaps directly pointing it out might prove more advantageous to furthering the discussion.

I believe the discussion is asserting that force exerted on the key is not relevant to volume. Whereas the fact is that it IS, as force is the only way to generate velocity.
[/b]
This is actually a false statement in more than one area (to an outside observer...Siddhartha has the concept right, he just 'short-handed' it). I will offer a slightly longer explanation, since it seems a common point of confusion. (Hope you don't mind, Sid.)

First, a velocity is nothing more than an object's speed with a specified direction. (It can also be interpreted as the rate of speed of action.)

Force does not generate speed, nor does it generate velocity. Force measures the capacity to do work. Its outputs are energy, strength, power, etc.

Speed is, quite simply, how fast something is moving...the magnitude of the velocity (to keep with physics terminology).

How do you increase the magnitude of an object's velocity? It can be accomplished by a period of acceleration, either by prolonguing it or by increasing its rate.

You induce an acceleration or change its rate by applying a force in the proper direction. (This is an important concept to separate from simply saying "more force" = "more speed", and that is what I have been getting at.) If your arm is traveling at a constant rate towards the key, then you are not applying a force at all. Similarly, as one poster said, if you use gravity to induce the force, you will not be applying any additional force ("nature" does the work for you).

These are important concepts to separate, and it doesn't appear that everyone commenting has made this association/separation.

Anyway this is not the place ot discuss physics, back to piano![/b]
Actually, musicians would be exponentially more proficient if they did understand physics, because then things do not "magically" happen, or vaguely happen based on that one thing you learned freshman year of high school, but rather, physics, which describes how everything around us functions, moves, and works, lends to a much better understanding of what underlying factors contribute to a musician's ability to do what it is he/she does. ;\)
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#446083 - 09/01/05 01:47 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
derekrs Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 115
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
My god...another piano player who seems to understand physics! I was quite amused to see people equate speed or velocity to acceleration.

My music teacher feels that to play quietly you need firm fingers in order to keep good control over the key.
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#446084 - 09/01/05 01:51 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 Derulux:
I was refraining from chiming in, but I think I might join the discussion since it has crossed into the realm of physics, and while I'm sure at least 2/3 of the posters here can 'music' me under the table, that is not true for physics. I've read a number of confusions of simple physics concepts, and seen them rectified, however the incorrect point is still being belabored, so perhaps directly pointing it out might prove more advantageous to furthering the discussion.

I believe the discussion is asserting that force exerted on the key is not relevant to volume. Whereas the fact is that it IS, as force is the only way to generate velocity.
[/b]
This is actually a false statement in more than one area (to an outside observer...Siddhartha has the concept right, he just 'short-handed' it). I will offer a slightly longer explanation, since it seems a common point of confusion. (Hope you don't mind, Sid.)
[/b]
No I dont mind your input, but with all due respect, I dont believe you have delivered anything new or clarifying here. In fact there's some falsehoods. Your claim that I've made a false statement is erroneous, in fact you proceed to demonstrate its truth. You cant have velocity without acceleration (since the keys/hammers are at rest), and it takes force to accelerate the keys. You've spelled that out yourself. What are you claiming is false about my statement at all, let alone in many areas???

Here is where you completely demonstrate its truth. What am I missing? :

 Quote:

First, a velocity is nothing more than an object's speed with a specified direction. (It can also be interpreted as the rate of speed of action.)

Force does not generate speed, nor does it generate velocity. Force measures the capacity to do work. Its outputs are energy, strength, power, etc.

Speed is, quite simply, how fast something is moving...the magnitude of the velocity (to keep with physics terminology).

How do you increase the magnitude of an object's velocity? It can be accomplished by a period of acceleration, either by prolonguing it or by increasing its rate.

You induce an acceleration or change its rate by applying a force in the proper direction. (This is an important concept to separate from simply saying "more force" = "more speed", and that is what I have been getting at.) If your arm is traveling at a constant rate towards the key, then you are not applying a force at all. Similarly, as one poster said, if you use gravity to induce the force, you will not be applying any additional force ("nature" does the work for you).

These are important concepts to separate, and it doesn't appear that everyone commenting has made this association/separation.

[/b]
But now here at the end you're back on the same misnomer talking about force only as pianist muscle power, as if to say since gravity was used, thats not force. it doesnt matter if the force is coming from gravity or the pianist, we're talking about the physics of force/acceleration/velocity/sound. You've just muddied the waters more. We can talk about how the pianist generates force, or we can talk about how force relates to sound, but you (and others) keep talking about both at the same time and confusing the concepts.

the F=ma concept is very straightforward and clearly demonstrates that sound intensity necessarily requires force. Mentions of muscle vs gravity has absolutely no place in this point.
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#446085 - 09/01/05 01:52 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
dvdiva Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 249
Loc: Manila
 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]
Thanks! I'll try that.

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#446086 - 09/01/05 01:55 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 derekrs:
My god...another piano player who seems to understand physics! I was quite amused to see people equate speed or velocity to acceleration.

[/b]
Umm, i dont believe a single post in this thread has equated speed or velocity to accleration. It has been shown that velocity of a hammer comes from accelerating it from a resting state, using force. you sure YOU understand?
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#446087 - 09/01/05 02:54 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5446
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
But now here at the end you're back on the same misnomer talking about force only as pianist muscle power, as if to say since gravity was used, thats not force.
You've misinterpreted what I said. I said since gravity does the work, you are not applying any force with your own muscles. I was simply expounding upon what has been said by the people who do understand physics...that it doesn't take muscular strength to apply a force, and that a force alone is not enough to induce an acceleration, which is the only thing that can create speed/induce a velocity.

Your words, while completely clear to me, may not have been clear to people who are not versed in physics, or who choose to ignore what physics tells us. I noticed in several other posts that there was a confusion regarding this, so I attempted to clarify. I should clarify that I was not disagreeing with you, but perhaps a few choice words that could be misleading (and indeed were upon my first read).

 Quote:
the F=ma concept is very straightforward and clearly demonstrates that sound intensity necessarily requires force. Mentions of muscle vs gravity has absolutely no place in this point.
Notice that neither speed nor velocity are directly relevant to that equation. That should be pointed out as well, while we're pointing things out. Acceleration and speed/velocity are NOT the same thing. A velocity does not require a force, hence, neither does its magnitude. An acceleration, on the other hand, does. If you're going to use physics, at least use it appropriately. Don't skip steps or cut corners. THAT is what has been getting people confused. ;\)

 Quote:
My music teacher feels that to play quietly you need firm fingers in order to keep good control over the key.
"Firm" sounds like "tense" to me. Beware that this association is not made. I think by "firm", the teacher was probably trying to say "play to the bottom of the key".


 Quote:
Umm, i dont believe a single post in this thread has equated speed or velocity to accleration. It has been shown that velocity of a hammer comes from accelerating it from a resting state, using force. you sure YOU understand?
Ah, perhaps the troubled waters reveal their frothy heads. Are we talking about the key on the piano, or the pianist? And are we talking about inducing an acceleration or achieving velocity/speed? Because THAT seems to be what's being muddled and trudged through the murky puddles along the dirt path of our wanderings. ;\)
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#446088 - 09/01/05 08:43 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
Dubious Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/04
Posts: 78
 Quote:
Originally posted by Siddhartha:

[/qb]
But now here at the end you're back on the same misnomer talking about force only as pianist muscle power, as if to say since gravity was used, thats not force. it doesnt matter if the force is coming from gravity or the pianist, we're talking about the physics of force/acceleration/velocity/sound. You've just muddied the waters more. We can talk about how the pianist generates force, or we can talk about how force relates to sound, but you (and others) keep talking about both at the same time and confusing the concepts.

the F=ma concept is very straightforward and clearly demonstrates that sound intensity necessarily requires force. Mentions of muscle vs gravity has absolutely no place in this point. [/QB][/QUOTE]

The point I was trying to make (may not have been clear enough) is that although of course force (on the key) is needed to accelerate they key, strictly speaking it is *not* what determines the sound. 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.

On the issue why people like to talk about muscle/gravity, I think it is *very* important, may be not for an ideal physics discussion if we restrict to finger/key interaction, but definitely so for piano players. I think everyone who plays wants to do the job as easy as possible on the player mechanism, so taking advantage of gravity and rebound is important. But I agree with you that the use of the word force without clarifying which one we refer to can create confusion.

The bottom line is that one can do whatever motions in the air (using more or less muscle force, and gravity) but in the end the sound gets basically determined by the velocity of the key. [If we are going to be picky, also how much mass one involves "behind" the finger matters, not just its velocity. This is difficult to explain, so I'll leave it there]

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#446089 - 09/01/05 09:46 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 Derulux:
and that a force alone is not enough to induce an acceleration, which is the only thing that can create speed/induce a velocity.
[/b]
HUH?? You apply a force to any mass, and you have indeed induced an acceleration. (although perhaps obscured by other forces such as friction)


 Quote:

I should clarify that I was not disagreeing with you, but perhaps a few choice words that could be misleading (and indeed were upon my first read).
[/b]
I guess its where you said "This statement is false in more than one area" that led me to believe you were disagreeing with me :rolleyes:

 Quote:

Ah, perhaps the troubled waters reveal their frothy heads. Are we talking about the key on the piano, or the pianist? And are we talking about inducing an acceleration or achieving velocity/speed? Because THAT seems to be what's being muddled and trudged through the murky puddles along the dirt path of our wanderings. ;\) [/b]
Well, I am, and always have been, talking about the keys, and have clarified that a few times over, further demonstrated by my professor's example of dropping the bench onto the keys, where there is no pianist involved at all. To me, it seems to be the only relevant perspective in examining the physics of a piano and how to get sound intensity out of it.

But, I think everyone is satisfied at this point.
_________________________
I was born the year Glenn Gould stop playing concerts. Coincidence?

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#446090 - 09/01/05 10:06 AM Re: How do you play pianissimo?
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I use arm and shoulder weight with my fingers kept on the surface, or very close to the keys. The fingers barely move, and the arm/shoulder weight pushes the keys down. This produces a very nice PPP.

Using arm and shoulder weight along with more finger movement, will produce a nice sounding F or FF at the opposite of the sound volume scale.

I find that the overall sound is much better this way, and less harsh than just using fingers to produce the sound from the piano.


John
_________________________
Nothing.

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