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#26812 - 07/05/00 11:51 AM Tone color
Dan Saydak Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 268
Loc: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
a quote from the most recent interview on the Piano Education page:"I think that there are many ways to play the piano, but it seems to me that one thing that all convincing "methods" share is learning to produce a wide palette of tonal color from the instrument, and maintaining a relaxed stance to avoid tension and resulting injury. "
my question (from someone just beginning to learn about such things) is, Just how exactly does one produce different tone colors from the piano? A beginner might think that all you can do is play a note louder or quieter, or maybe use the pedal. as a guitarist, I can produce a wide range of tone colors by subtle (or not so subtle) variations in right hand technique....use of fingernails/pick, playing over or far from the soundhole, various damping techniques etc. But what can you do to produce different tone colors on a piano, and how do you develop an ear to hear them in the first place???

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#26813 - 07/05/00 12:05 PM Re: Tone color
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Hi Dan!
One of the more interesting (and subtle) ways you are probably ready for experimenting with is the difference one can create on the damper pedal. I don't know what kind of piano you have, but, if you have access to a grand, listen to the difference in sound between half-damped and full damped. I always have my students look & listen to the dampers til they feel, hear & master the difference. (Half-damped would be applying just enough pressure til they are barely above the strings.) The impressionistic literature primarily calls for this "barely there" damping technique. It makes a world of difference in the end result. Do you have the Rollin Spotlight on Impressionistic Style? That would be a great book to start with. You might also experiment with the pieces in your Out of This World book to see the amazing difference it makes.

I can't wait to hear what others have to add!

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#26814 - 07/05/00 12:16 PM Re: Tone color
Dan Saydak Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 268
Loc: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Lisa, thanx for the fascinating reply. I have a crappy old spinet, unfortunately, and a baby grand is a far-off dream of mine. I love to play the Kawai grand at church when I get the chance though! (funny thing though, about my piano...althought the bass end sounds crummy and the tone isn't rich and full, it sounds good in the middle register with no pedal, so pieces like short Bach minuets and sonatinas and things sound pretty good.)I'm really looking forward to hearing from some other people about tonal colors. And thanx for the tip on the Rollin book...you no doubt know I'm a big fan, and I'll hunt that book down for sure. Is it original compositions of Rollin's?

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#26815 - 07/05/00 12:31 PM Re: Tone color
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Hi again! Even though you have a spinet you can probably still experiment with this. Can you take the front panel off so you can see the dampers lift? If so, you can achieve the same thing!

Yes, the Rollin book is all original composition. She has an entire spotlight series (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Ragtime, Jazz, Impressionistic.) The pieces are a little thinner in texture and designed to prepare students for the big works of those periods with emphasis on tone colors, pedaling, etc. They are absolutely wonderful for adults. I highly recommend that you check them out. Hmmm...something tells me this board is probably as expensive for you as for me!

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#26816 - 07/05/00 12:38 PM Re: Tone color
Dan Saydak Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 268
Loc: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Expensive? ya got that right....my poor wife groans every time she hears me mention visiting the music store ("just to look around")...whenever i think it's time to exersize a little more spending self-discipline, and concentrate on learning what i already have, I hear about exciting new music! sigh....

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#26817 - 07/05/00 01:33 PM Re: Tone color
Dan Saydak Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 04/04/00
Posts: 268
Loc: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I agree. But My biggest struggle, to be honest, is to be thankful that i have a piano at all, and have faith that someday I'll have a nicer instrument. Sometimes we just have to exersize contentment, and sometimes it's not easy, but as i keep pluggin' away I try to remind myself how fortunate I am to have a piano at all!
Anyways, an example of what i've discovered on my little ol' Gerhard spinet: when I practice the 'booming" chord passage near the end of Fur Elise, If I let my LH get carried away, the bass notes boom away with a very harsh unplesant sound ( i find it "brassy") that can totally overcome the RH chords, if that makes any sense. I thought for a while that there was nothing i could do about it, until i experimented with my LH touch; I discovered that If i REALLY concentrate on controlling my LH, I keep the "booming ' under control, and the passage has what i consider good tone, and a pleasant sound. I am then able to build tension through the passage with my RH, instead of the LH which is originally what i thought you had to do. My point? I think good piano sound sometimes has more to do with the hands ( and heart) that play, than the instrument we play on. I have a wonderful pianist friend who makes my piano SING; he doesn't let the piano's limitations get in his way. So, another question: can we, through intentional control of our playing technique, "make the most" of a piano that's not the greatest?

[This message has been edited by Dan Saydak (edited 05 July 2000).]

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#26818 - 07/05/00 07:40 PM Re: Tone color
Joy123 Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 05/22/00
Posts: 566
YES, Dan, HANDS and HEART! How I like that! Renelle is right, some pianos are just NOT going to be what others are. However,as she also agrees, I'm sure, the TOUCH is soooooooo important on ANY piano. Go for it----learn different touches as you already have in Fur Elise by playing your L.H. softer. I don't expect my beginners to play with the expression of older students, but one of the things I STRESS as soon as possible is balancing the MELODY and the ACCOMPANIMENT. You know-----playing melody louder and accompaniment softer. Dan, keep on trying out various touches. To me, that is one of the VERY MOST IMPORTANT things in becoming a GREAT pianist.

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#26819 - 07/05/00 10:41 PM Re: Tone color
Josh Allen Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/15/00
Posts: 534
Loc: East Texas, USA
I just want to say that I sympathize with you Dan!!! As of right now, I am teaching all of my beginners (meaning--all of my students...LOL) on my console piano in my home. I have all intentions of getting a baby grand or a digital grand in the near future, but I have to make do right now. Imagine not only PLAYING on, but being TAUGHT on a console My poor students--yet they still come to lessons. But, that being said, I have many lessons (a few of the lessons before auditions and performances) at a church located near my home. I am connected with the congregation there (family, friends, Christian aquaintances) and they wouldn't even HEAR of me paying money to rent the sanctuary in order to use their gorgeous Steinway baby grand! What a beautiful people...they deserve a beautiful piano!

So, what I'm saying is--don't give up hope...some beautiful person (or congregation) near you may want to "share" their piano with you--and then you can return the favor to your neighbors when you get your concert grand

[This message has been edited by Josh Allen (edited 05 July 2000).]

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#26820 - 07/05/00 11:34 PM Re: Tone color
Carole Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/08/00
Posts: 2229
Loc: southern California
On the subject of pedaling- I have two sisters who take piano and are progressing very nicely. They are 2nd and 3rd graders and are very small for their age. They are at the end of the Alfred level 2, and I plan to place them in PA level 3A. They have been into pedaling for a while now but it is so hard for them to reach. Their dad fixed a box that went over the pedals and pushed them down, but it does not always work. Plus, they don't get the feel of a real pedal nor learn to keep the heel on the floor. Don't want to develop bad habits!!! When they try to sit on the edge of the bench to pedal, then they get a poor hand position. I know there is a pedal "box" one can buy from catalogs, but they are terribly expensive. Any suggestions?

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