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#577278 - 09/07/07 04:40 AM The "weight of attack"
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
There seems to be some debate over "the weight of attack." My arm weighs around 15 pounds. I can lift and drop all 15 pounds of arm weight drop freely using gravity or I can hold back and regulate the weight drop anywhere ranging from 40 grams all the way back up to 15 pounds. Of course velocity is the other important factor that works in conjunction with arm dropping.

Discuss.
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1966 Mason & Hamlin piano.

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#577279 - 09/07/07 10:00 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
drumour Offline
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Registered: 10/08/05
Posts: 855
Loc: Scotland
Whatever you might say and imagine, I'll bet that you don't do this in normal playing practice. If you did, imagine the huge amount of (wasted) work you would put into preventing weight falling. Dropping weight as a piano technique is a chimera - it doesn't really happen and techniques based on it waste a lot of time before settling down into something quite different. This doesn't prevent a lot of people from going through life imagining it and teaching it, though.


John
_________________________
Vasa inania multum strepunt.

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#577280 - 09/07/07 03:35 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
lol you are so silly, rintincop. Drumour is on the right track here.
SIT on your keyboard, depressing the keys slowly. You will notice that no sound is made. This proves that it is the speed of articulation that creates sound, NOT the weight deposited on the keyboard.
You may lack the strength to depress keys quickly without weight. Therefore, you use weight to compensate for your lack of strength.
Using weight to compensate for lack of proper technique causes many, many problems in people's playing.

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#577281 - 09/07/07 06:53 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Minaku Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 1226
Loc: Atlanta
Arm dropping is not the answer to everything, nor is wrist dropping. The fingers must also be strong.

Just because your arm weighs 15 pounds doesn't mean you only have 15 pounds at your disposal. We have a lot more than that, but of course we must control it.

I'm not really sure what you're getting at overall, rintincop. What is the debate over weight of attack? Is this related to the escapement post you made last week?
_________________________
Pianist and teacher with a 5'8" Baldwin R and Clavi CLP-230 at home.

New website up: http://www.studioplumpiano.com. Also on Twitter @QQitsMina

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#577282 - 09/07/07 07:20 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i read Bernstein's book on the subject and he thinks that so called 'dead drop' or purely gravity drop is faulty technique and even those who advocate it didn't actually do exactly as they thought when playing. the point is that no matter what you use in your playing, fingers, hands or arms or body, with weight or not, they're all controlled to achieve the sound, and nothing is just 'dead', or free or uncontrolled drop.

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#577283 - 09/07/07 07:42 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
Vertical weight is the sworn enemy of building great technique.
rintincop:
Your piano couldn't care less how much your arm weighs. It isn't a bathroom scale. The speed of the hammer is affected by TWO variables:
SPEED and ACCELERATION of the depression of the key.
The amount of weight deposited on the keyboard is NOT one of these variables. The speed of your arm dropping into the key is in fact MUCH slower than the speed that can be achieved, with proper training, by the fingertip.

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#577284 - 09/07/07 08:31 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Brooklyn Pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/07
Posts: 84
Loc: Brooklyn
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mr_Kitty:
Vertical weight is the sworn enemy of building great technique.
rintincop:
Your piano couldn't care less how much your arm weighs. It isn't a bathroom scale. The speed of the hammer is affected by TWO variables:
SPEED and ACCELERATION of the depression of the key.
The amount of weight deposited on the keyboard is NOT one of these variables. The speed of your arm dropping into the key is in fact MUCH slower than the speed that can be achieved, with proper training, by the fingertip. [/b]
I agree with most of what you're saying, but the amount of weight behind a finger's keystrike affects the quality of sound...especially on a good piano. You can achieve a rounder tone using the weight of your arms.

NB, I'm not saying that a "rounder" tone is necessarily better in every case, but there are applications where it is presciptive. The opening and closing of Rachmaninov opus 3 no 2 comes immediately to mind.

A grand piano is an incredibly sensitive instrument and a pianist can exert a lot of control over the manner in which the hammer strikes the strings.
_________________________
Currently Studying:
Gottschalk - Souvenir de Porto Rico
Bolcom - Raggin' Rudi
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#577285 - 09/07/07 08:55 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
You can achieve a rounder tone using the weight of your arms.
Not according to the laws of physics you can't.
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#577286 - 09/07/07 10:29 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Mr_Kitty Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/07
Posts: 667
Loc: Toronto
Explain to me how you can achieve a rounder tone using the weight of your arms. Explain to me how the hammer will strike the key differently and therefore produce that rounder tone.

I'll run your explanation by my girlfriend's dad (a world famous Steinway tech who works CLOSELY with Anton Kuerti, Demidenko, Mitsuko and Pollini).

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#577287 - 09/07/07 11:00 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Brooklyn Pianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/11/07
Posts: 84
Loc: Brooklyn
I couldn't begin to explain the physics behind it, but you can hear it. Try this exercise on a grand piano.

Play any 4 note chord FF as you ordinarily would. Play the same chord aiming for the same volume, but lower your wrist and allow more of your arm/body weight through to the keys. Try this a few times, varying the height of your wrist. The higher your wrist is, the brighter the tone. The lower your wrist is, the mellower the tone.

The level of your wrist controls the amount of arm weight that's transferred through to the keys -it acts as a fulcrum. I can certainly hear a difference in sound quality depending on the position of the wrist.
_________________________
Currently Studying:
Gottschalk - Souvenir de Porto Rico
Bolcom - Raggin' Rudi
Friedman/Bach - Sheep May Safely Graze
Beethoven - Les Adieux

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#577288 - 09/08/07 12:17 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7064
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mr_Kitty:
The speed of your arm dropping into the key is in fact MUCH slower than the speed that can be achieved, with proper training, by the fingertip. [/b]
Perhaps if one thinks of the arm alone. But I think of the arm to wrist to finger as one long whip. The higher I start, the bigger the whiplike effect and the faster the acceleration (the wrist providing the swing and the arm gravity drop initiating the force). So I don't really look at this as a fingertip thing -- at least the way I play. My fingers are very strong though from supporting the impact from a fast whip.

I was taught using relaxation/arm gravity drop but as I analyzed it, I just understood the forces at work a little better. So often times we're all talking about the same thing but the description of absolutes (only arm or only fingers) are often incomplete.

I can say though that I'm never doing any finger pushing.
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#577289 - 09/08/07 01:45 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by rintincop:
There seems to be some debate over "the weight of attack." My arm weighs around 15 pounds. I can lift and drop all 15 pounds of arm weight drop freely using gravity or I can hold back and regulate the weight drop anywhere ranging from 40 grams all the way back up to 15 pounds. Of course velocity is the other important factor that works in conjunction with arm dropping.

Discuss. [/b]
Well, going by the Taubman approach to technique, there is something in having "weight" in the keys, but its weight in a different way. The whole idea behind the Taubman definition of "weight" is just having your arm loose, because when your arm is tight and restricted it inhibits technique (going by the idea that your arm feels heavier when its relaxed and feels lighter when its tight). So i think that this definition of weight is different than the way you are using it.

(sorry if i am not being coherent; i am kind of tired right now)
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Houston, Texas

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#577290 - 09/08/07 02:53 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
But doesn't an object accelerate as it drops to a certain velocity? Isn't an arm that drops one foot going faster when it hits the keys than the same arm dropping one inch?

I know Galileo did some kind of experiment regarding this from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I can't quite remember the significance of it. Does it apply here?

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#577291 - 09/08/07 03:01 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
I googled it up. Galileo dropped a ten pound weight and a one pound weight from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and determined that they both accelerated at the same rate.

Point being for this discussion: they accelerated as they dropped. So the amount of weight is pretty much immaterial, as two pounds of arm weight is plenty to depress a key. You certainly don't need fifteen pounds. But that they do accelerate by gravitational force seems very significant here.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#577292 - 09/08/07 03:16 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
Moshe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/17/04
Posts: 113
Loc: Toronto
Your arm accelerates because of gravity, but the force transferred through your arm to the keys is a combination of the velocity and mass of your arm.

F=ma. (force=mass x acceleration)

So in response to Tomasino:
while a ten pound weight and one pound weight will both achieve the same velocity if dropped from the same height, the force of the ten pound weight on impact will be greater than the force of the one pound weight.

This is assuming total freefall (ie complete relaxation in which the arms falls like a lifeless weight).

That's my physics lesson, I offer no explanation as to how it affects a "rounder tone". Although all 3 of my previous teachers complained bitterly about my tone and tried to fix it. I have trouble hearing it, but at times I have.

Either tone is one big conspiracy contrived by some crazy elite pianist group, or some of us simply aren't at the point where we completely listen to the tone. Sometimes I get the feeling that I'm listening only to pitch and volume and I'm not aware of that other dimension of the sound.
_________________________
MP

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#577293 - 09/08/07 03:48 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
unfortunately, in piano play, nothing is 'free fall' or just gravity, and therefore, the weight contributed to the sound wouldn't be like the direct result of a simple physics formula as metioned.

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#577294 - 09/08/07 04:01 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7064
Loc: So. California
My 2 cents.

Simple physics. Gravity acceleration is 32 feet per second squared, regardless of weight. The higher the height, the faster the speed on impact.

Also simple physics, adding FORCE (i.e. pushing down from the shoulders to arms, WILL add to acceleration since this is going past regular gravity, thus adding to the equation above.

So to hit with more speed on the keys, one may either press the arms down, or just start from a higher height. Presumably this force is transmitted in the hammer throwing.

Now going back to arms, I'm going to make a reasonable guess that the longer arm extended to the fingers (being a longer fulcrum and larger power source, i.e. larger muscles), will have more potential for a higher force, with less effort, than the little finger.

But the little finger though has better ability to accelerate quicker with less effort which explains its ability for finer control.

This all translates to me, at least, that you need all the parts and they contribute to the whole equation.

Now tone is a more interesting thing. My understanding is that when a hammer hits the string at a certain level of force (and also location), the vibrations of the strings create a mix between fundamental tones and partials (overtones). What is perceived to be bad tone is too many partials. A dominant fundamental is the more attractive sound. So controlling the force of hammer throwing affects how it sounds. Hence the expression "good tone".

When designing pianos, the manufacturer is conscious of controlling all the parts so that the best tone is created most of the time. One's playing, unfortunately, can override this effort. This is what my teacher used to tell me before as my "banging the piano" \:D
_________________________
Hamburg Steinway O, Nord Electro 4 HP
My Blog

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#577295 - 09/08/07 05:44 AM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
 Quote:
Originally posted by Brooklyn Pianist:
Play any 4 note chord FF as you ordinarily would. Play the same chord aiming for the same volume, but lower your wrist and allow more of your arm/body weight through to the keys. Try this a few times, varying the height of your wrist. The higher your wrist is, the brighter the tone. The lower your wrist is, the mellower the tone.

The level of your wrist controls the amount of arm weight that's transferred through to the keys -it acts as a fulcrum. I can certainly hear a difference in sound quality depending on the position of the wrist. [/b]
This is not as mad as it sounds (but physics doesn't enter into it). It is kinda the crux of the matter. When playing chords the balance of each note is effected by how you use your arm/hand/fingers. That creates a different tone and separates the men.... This CANNOT be done on a single note.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577296 - 09/08/07 04:38 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
PassionatePianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/09/07
Posts: 61
Loc: New Jersey
I don't think pianists who achieve good tone think about the physics. Actually, I'm almost certain no one thinks about that while playing. It seems ridiculous, we are not machines lol.

Arm weight has a lot to do with it of course and applying physics doesn't make much sense. Unfortunately, many pianists can't tell the difference between good tone and bad tone. They only hear the right note or wrong note, which imo is due to a lack of "ear". Most pianist don't really "listen" to what they are playing, and that is actually the hardest part. What you are hearing when you play is not always what you may imagine it to sound like.

I say leave the physics to the mathematicians and let us musicians depend on our aural skills and depth of musicality to achieve good tone. None of this should be calculated in a mechanical sense.

My 2cents.
_________________________
"Simplicity is the final achievement." - Chopin

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#577297 - 09/08/07 04:48 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Yes, but there are pianists out there who not only think they can alter the tone of an individual notes BUT TEACH WAYS OF DOING SO. Sadly Tobias Matthay was one.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577298 - 09/08/07 06:08 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Yes, but there are pianists out there who not only think they can alter the tone of an individual notes BUT TEACH WAYS OF DOING SO. Sadly Tobias Matthay was one. [/b]
Say the pianists who do teach ways of altering tone were tested: If their backs were turned to a piano and different notes were played and they could here a difference in the sound and they chose to call that a change in tone, wouldn't that make everything you are saying wrong?

(btw i have already done this very thing in the past and people who do advocate changing tone can hear a difference between a "tense sound" and a "relaxed sound")
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Houston, Texas

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#577299 - 09/08/07 06:13 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
It is contrary to the laws of physics. Period.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577300 - 09/08/07 06:49 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
This was posted on the forum a while back, but i think it applies to this discussion.


http://www.ofai.at/cgi-bin/tr-online?number+2004-02

Their research shows that musicians do hear something different depending on touch, though these differences cannot be heard when the musicians can't hear the type of touch used; however, if musicians are hearing the difference and choose to call this difference a change in tone then that is completely alright.
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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#577301 - 09/08/07 07:03 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
Yes, but there are pianists out there who not only think they can alter the tone of an individual notes BUT TEACH WAYS OF DOING SO. Sadly Tobias Matthay was one. [/b]
Also, since evidence shows that many musicians are able to discern a difference in the touch the pianist uses, that means that the people teaching ways of altering the tone are legitimately teaching things that others are capable of hearing. Not so sad anymore, is it?
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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#577302 - 09/08/07 07:24 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I suggest you find your nearest physicist and tell him/her the good news!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577303 - 09/08/07 07:35 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
If that's sarcasm, it doesn't convey very well in text...
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Houston, Texas

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#577304 - 09/08/07 07:37 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
No. If you've discovered a new force, I think the world needs to know.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577305 - 09/08/07 07:41 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
Have you actually been reading what I have been writing? I have said nothing about "discovering a new force"...
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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#577306 - 09/08/07 07:55 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
If you are able to change the tone of an individual note. You have discovered a force unknown to mankind.
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#577307 - 09/08/07 08:06 PM Re: The "weight of attack"
Loki Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/09/05
Posts: 1035
Loc: Texas
 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
If you are able to change the tone of an individual note. You have discovered a force unknown to mankind. [/b]
Again, i am saying that you are not changing the actual tone of the note, but the sound of the finger striking the key creates the illusion that there is a change in the tone.

If you actually took a look at my evidence, done by physicists (note that I have discovered nothing), you would see that half of the tested musicians could tell whether a single note was pressed or struck. Again, if musicians choose to call this difference a change in tone, then it is fine to do so.
_________________________
Houston, Texas

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