Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano?

Posted by: boyonahill

Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 12/31/12 01:42 AM

Hi!

I've got very sensitive ears, I haven't got the big T (tinnitus)(yet) but I can feel that my ears can't take a lot of a beating.

I used to own a small upright acoustic piano, but due to my (and my neighbors :-) ears and moving to another city, I sold it.

If we disregard the joys of playing an acoustic piano, and to tell the truth, I'm a sucker for high end analog things, like fine watches. Adding to that I'm somewhat of a (in selected areas, not clothes for example) snob, so owning a great looking grand piano would be something I would love to do. Even if my playing ability would be better matched with a not in tune garage sale piano...

But then again there are my ears. So I would have to play a grand, or any acoustic piano, with musicians ear plugs to avoid the big T.

Then, there is the digital pianos and their volume setting ability. Even if I will start much cheaper, I can see myself getting say a used Yamaha N2 or N3 in the future. (Given I continue to love playing the piano.)

As a furniture the high end grand digital pianos look rather pleasing too.

I would like to point out that we are discussing playing at home, public performances will probably be limited to occasions with paid (rather than paying) audiences.

So what path would you choose? Digital piano or playing with distorting earplugs?

I'm leaning towards digital piano, since I know the ear plugs will decrease playing time and destroy spontaneity since ear plugs have to be managed and cleaned not to itch.

I'm guessing I'm not alone with this problem. I would also like to warn people of playing a digital piano with headphones too much or too loud, headphones can really kill your hearing!

Any answer or comment will be appreciated, thank you!
Posted by: BDB

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 12/31/12 03:06 AM

You do not need to play an acoustic piano loud. In fact, the general rule is that the larger the piano, the easier it is to play softly. You sold a small piano. Try a larger one, preferably at a store where the pianos are well voiced, so that they sound even from note to note. (I suggest this so that you can find a technician that is a good voicer.)

I wonder whether your entire premise is wrong. Have you consulted an audiologist about your hearing? Do you know how much a piano contributes to your daily diet of sound? I often listen to music, television or radio at levels so soft that someone making just a little more noise renders what I am listening to unintelligible (and I am married in spite of that!), and yet except when I need to listen to a very loud piano very closely, pianos are not loud enough to bother me.

Perhaps it is the quality of the sound that disturbs you more than the quantity. I know that I can listen to music louder when the quality is good compared to when it is distorted, which is all too often the case. Again, this is often more of a problem with unvoiced smaller pianos than with voiced larger pianos.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 12/31/12 03:44 AM

^^ Excellent reply! ^^

I agree that the question sounds like it has some false assumptions, and that it's sort of the wrong question.

Boyonahill: I don't think at all that you need to restrict yourself to thinking of a digital piano. I'm very sensitive to sound also, and I have a large grand. I usually play with the lid completely closed, not because it would hurt to hear it louder but because I just usually prefer less sound if I'm playing for long periods of time, plus I really enjoy softness.

We ought to say also that pianos vary a lot. My large grand can have a very bright sound, but especially when completely closed, it can play very softly too. If you make a priority of finding a grand that can play very softly, I think you'll succeed.

That said, I sometimes also do wear earplugs when I play (no jokes allowed, anybody) ha ....like if it's real late at night and I want to totally wind down. Keeping the piano completely closed plus wearing earplugs, combined with just playing really softly, can create a whole other world of softness.

No need to restrict yourself as you think you have to. Think about it in these other ways and see where you wind up.
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 12/31/12 03:50 AM

Playing a digital piano with the volume turned down will ruin your technique. So that's not the answer, unless you don't mind destroying your ability to play other pianos.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 12/31/12 04:07 AM

I like playing really big pianos because of the feel of the action. Unfortunately big pianos are designed for the concert hall and not for one's living room.

As I see it there are two possible solutions. Buy the piano you really want to have and spend some money to quiet it down. I did that with my long gone C3. (I've had tinnitus for almost 20 years.) It doesn't take a lot of expertise to see what has to be done. If you crawl under a grand and take a good look you can easily imagine making (or hiring someone to make) a sealed enclosure. Also the space between the piano lid and the body of the piano can be filled with strips of felt ... and so on. They even make fitted covers for the string harp. Personally I'd avoid wearing ear plugs.


Or you can go out and buy a hybrid. My N3 looks very nice in my living room ... and it comes with two headphone jacks and a volume control ... and it never needs to be tuned ... and I've made my living from playing and playing a hybrid has not hurt my technique.

Everything is a trade off and everyone has to draw their own line so to speak.

Playing a hybrid piano (or even a weighted digital) will not ruin your technique as some here will state. You can easily listen to those who actually provide examples of their own playing and decide for yourself if their playing lacks finesse. This is a very quiet forum in some respects. smile

Have a great New Year! (Oh, if money is no object and you want the action of a nine footer in a hybrid, consider this ... http://www.alpha-piano.com/ )
Posted by: boyonahill

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 01:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne

...
Or you can go out and buy a hybrid. My N3 looks very nice in my living room ... and it comes with two headphone jacks and a volume control ... and it never needs to be tuned ... and I've made my living from playing and playing a hybrid has not hurt my technique.
...
Have a great New Year! (Oh, if money is no object and you want the action of a nine footer in a hybrid, consider this ... http://www.alpha-piano.com/ )


Happy new year to everybody!

I've read all your comments and I'll consider both the digital piano path and the path with a dampened grand piano.

Could anybody explain to me why a grand piano could be played more quietly than a small piano? I thought the grand pianos were grand to make a grand sound?

I must say that reading this thread
http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2007302.html
and reading about the "relative" reasonable price of used Yamaha C7:s makes my mouth water. All these nice links to C7:s makes me wonder if I really need such a nice car and that I probably would enjoy the beauty of a grand more.

But in the back of my head I think my piano life would be happier with a nice digital piano. Probably starting with something like a Yamaha CLP. A huge part of this has it's root in my personality - a chase to dampen a piano "the right way" would probably not end this decade.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 04:19 AM

There are two reasons why a larger piano can be played softly more easily than a smaller piano: Greater string weight and higher string tension. Both of them absorb more energy at the beginning of a stroke. That is not to say that a larger piano cannot be played louder than a smaller one, just that average playing is going to be a bit softer.

A larger piano also has purer sound, except perhaps at the very top of the range. The longer strings help with that. There is more music, rather than noise. This improves the quality, which as I said before, is desirable. This also explains why a larger piano can be played louder, as less energy is expended as noise, and why the loud notes are not as offensive as loud notes on a smaller piano.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 09:58 AM

Originally Posted By: boyonahill
[...]
But in the back of my head I think my piano life would be happier with a nice digital piano.[...]


A partial answer to the question may well reside in the type of repertoire you play.

Regards,
Posted by: sophial

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 12:54 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
There are two reasons why a larger piano can be played softly more easily than a smaller piano: Greater string weight and higher string tension. Both of them absorb more energy at the beginning of a stroke. That is not to say that a larger piano cannot be played louder than a smaller one, just that average playing is going to be a bit softer.

A larger piano also has purer sound, except perhaps at the very top of the range. The longer strings help with that. There is more music, rather than noise. This improves the quality, which as I said before, is desirable. This also explains why a larger piano can be played louder, as less energy is expended as noise, and why the loud notes are not as offensive as loud notes on a smaller piano.


Thanks, BDB. This is a really interesting explanation and makes sense to me.
Posted by: malkin

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 03:41 PM

Hearing is precious; earplugs are cheap enough to be disposable.

See an audiologist; track your noise exposure; take care of your hearing.
Hearing is like your teeth and many other things: ignore it, and it will go away.
Posted by: boyonahill

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/01/13 09:28 PM

Originally Posted By: sophial
Originally Posted By: BDB
There are two reasons why a larger piano can be played softly more easily than a smaller piano: Greater string weight and higher string tension. Both of them absorb more energy at the beginning of a stroke. That is not to say that a larger piano cannot be played louder than a smaller one, just that average playing is going to be a bit softer.

A larger piano also has purer sound, except perhaps at the very top of the range. The longer strings help with that. There is more music, rather than noise. This improves the quality, which as I said before, is desirable. This also explains why a larger piano can be played louder, as less energy is expended as noise, and why the loud notes are not as offensive as loud notes on a smaller piano.


Thanks, BDB. This is a really interesting explanation and makes sense to me.


Thank you both!

I've read a little and this is my "take" on the issue:


Since grand pianos have longer strings, the grand piano's strings can have lower mass (density) per length, and still give the same frequency.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibrating_string#Frequency_of_the_wave

Compare if a hammer strikes two strings, one with low mass per length like in a grand piano, and one with higher mass per length like in a upright piano. I think it perhaps is easier to play softly on a grand piano since you can get "a tone going" using a lesser impulse/impact ("force").

More nice info including grand piano vs. upright piano
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano#Grand
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics
Posted by: BDB

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/02/13 12:24 AM

Originally Posted By: boyonahill
Originally Posted By: sophial
Originally Posted By: BDB
There are two reasons why a larger piano can be played softly more easily than a smaller piano: Greater string weight and higher string tension. Both of them absorb more energy at the beginning of a stroke. That is not to say that a larger piano cannot be played louder than a smaller one, just that average playing is going to be a bit softer.

A larger piano also has purer sound, except perhaps at the very top of the range. The longer strings help with that. There is more music, rather than noise. This improves the quality, which as I said before, is desirable. This also explains why a larger piano can be played louder, as less energy is expended as noise, and why the loud notes are not as offensive as loud notes on a smaller piano.


Thanks, BDB. This is a really interesting explanation and makes sense to me.


Thank you both!

I've read a little and this is my "take" on the issue:


Since grand pianos have longer strings, the grand piano's strings can have lower mass (density) per length, and still give the same frequency.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibrating_string#Frequency_of_the_wave

Compare if a hammer strikes two strings, one with low mass per length like in a grand piano, and one with higher mass per length like in a upright piano. I think it perhaps is easier to play softly on a grand piano since you can get "a tone going" using a lesser impulse/impact ("force").

More nice info including grand piano vs. upright piano
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano#Grand
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_acoustics


Well, in theory, the strings of a longer piano could have less mass per length. In practice, that is not the case. All the scales I have come across have had more mass, and rely on even more tension to make up for it.
Posted by: boyonahill

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/02/13 12:33 AM

Originally Posted By: BDB


Well, in theory, the strings of a longer piano could have less mass per length. In practice, that is not the case. All the scales I have come across have had more mass, and rely on even more tension to make up for it.


Interesting, could you elaborate more on why high tension is sought after?
Posted by: BDB

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/02/13 02:02 AM

The more I look into them, the more I am convinced that piano designs are as much a result of custom as of theory. But higher tension improves tone quality and slows the decay of the sound (what is falsely termed sustain in a piano). I think more weight increases the maximum volume that a piano can put out, too. As I said, longer strings can make a piano capable of more volume, although not as much as one might think, and not at usual playing levels.
Posted by: Pogorelich.

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/03/13 09:27 PM

You're thinking of a piano as furniture.

I don't know....
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/03/13 11:31 PM

Originally Posted By: BDB
...and slows the decay of the sound (what is falsely termed sustain in a piano).


huh?

sus·tain
/səˈstān/

Noun
An effect or facility on a keyboard or electronic instrument whereby a note can be sustained after the key is released.
Posted by: Mark_C

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/04/13 12:23 AM

I wondered too.
BDB's posts on here have been terrific, but....I don't think there's anything wrong with using the term "sustain" that way. I'm guessing that he meant the word technically has a different meaning and he feels it should be reserved for that. But, this meaning of "sustain" is in common usage and is widely understood.

HOWEVER.... smile

Quote:
An effect or facility on a keyboard or electronic instrument whereby a note can be sustained after the key is released.

I don't think that's exactly what we're talking about here, nor the commonly-understood usage; it's too restrictive. I think what we're talking about applies whether the key is released or not.
Posted by: BDB

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/04/13 12:32 AM

Originally Posted By: Entheo
Originally Posted By: BDB
...and slows the decay of the sound (what is falsely termed sustain in a piano).


huh?

sus·tain
/səˈstān/

Noun
An effect or facility on a keyboard or electronic instrument whereby a note can be sustained after the key is released.


Release a key on a piano and the note stops sounding.* When people use terminology incorrectly, definitions stop making sense.

*The note stops sounding whether the key is released or not. The difference is in the decay and release because pianos have no sustain. Observe the relationship between the two uses of "release."
Posted by: Entheo

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/04/13 09:19 AM

makes sense; thanks.
Posted by: boyonahill

Re: Sensitive ears - Use musicians ear plugs or digital piano? - 01/07/13 07:40 AM

I would love to hear from somebody with experience from both damping earplugs and high end digital pianos. What gives the most revarding experience? Acoustic piano with good earplugs or digital pianos at reduced volume?