How do you play pianissimo?

Posted by: tonyf

How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 05:34 PM

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?
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 05:51 PM

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?
Posted by: Kreisler

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

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.)
Posted by: jon-nyc

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 06:23 PM

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.
Posted by: pianojerome

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 06:28 PM

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.
Posted by: jon-nyc

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 06:37 PM

Agreed.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 07:09 PM

True.

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

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 07:09 PM

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.
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 07:40 PM

 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.
Posted by: valarking

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 08:05 PM

"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.
Posted by: pianojerome

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 08:19 PM

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?
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 08:34 PM

 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.
Posted by: –anor

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 08:34 PM

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.
Posted by: Dubious

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 09:35 PM

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...
Posted by: Derulux

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 09:59 PM

 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. ;\)
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 10:17 PM

 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.
Posted by: Opus_Maximus

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 10:31 PM

 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.
Posted by: Dubious

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 10:46 PM

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! \:\)
Posted by: tonyf

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 11:01 PM

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.
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 08/31/05 11:26 PM

 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.
Posted by: Axtremus

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 12:43 AM

 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.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 12:50 AM

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. ;\)
Posted by: derekrs

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 01:47 AM

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.
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 01:51 AM

 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.
Posted by: dvdiva

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 01:52 AM

 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.
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 01:55 AM

 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?
Posted by: Derulux

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 02:54 AM

 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. ;\)
Posted by: Dubious

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 08:43 AM

 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]
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 09:46 AM

 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.
Posted by: John Citron

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 10:06 AM

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
Posted by: yhc

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 10:30 AM

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. ;\)
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 11:09 AM

 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.
Posted by: Dubious

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/01/05 11:25 AM

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.
Posted by: Herr_Gnome

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/03/05 02:34 AM

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 )
Posted by: Ronel Augustyn

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/03/05 05:19 AM

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
Posted by: Kreisler

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

Speed of key descent is not the same as the rapidity with which the notes go by...
Posted by: signa

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/03/05 11:20 PM

 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.
Posted by: Herr_Gnome

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 12:49 AM

 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.
Posted by: 808piano

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 02:35 AM

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.
Posted by: Ronel Augustyn

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 04:53 AM

 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
Posted by: signa

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 11:25 AM

 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.
Posted by: signa

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 11:27 AM

 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
Posted by: Mark Davidson

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 01:02 PM

 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.
Posted by: yhc

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 03:44 PM

 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.
Posted by: Siddhartha

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/04/05 06:51 PM

 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.
Posted by: Ronel Augustyn

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/05/05 08:50 AM

 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!
Posted by: Contrapunctus

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/05/05 04:30 PM

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.
Posted by: Piana Justice

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/06/05 10:05 PM

i think force has everything to do with it.
Posted by: BDB

Re: How do you play pianissimo? - 09/06/05 10:42 PM

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.