Sunday, January 11, 2015

Back to Pianos Talking

Add to the one-sided aspect of harmonic analysis imposed upon piano music, we have the all-fingers-are-equal approach to piano technique.  Get all the notes to sound even so that you won't have to notice touch differences between fingers and positions on the key.

Now pianos are being manufactured so that there is less and less inflection between black and white keys.  This is accomplished by manipulating the lead weights inside of the key to equalize the leverage on all keys.

It didn't used to be that way.  It was never meant to be that way.  After years of playing harpsichord, attuning my ear to temperaments other than equal-tempered--in other words, paying an altogether new kind of attention to the tiniest variables in intonation--returning to the piano revealed this aspect of expressiveness inherent in the instrument to a degree that had not previously been apparent to me.

At that time I paid a visit to David Stanhope, a technician who specialized in key leverage.  All the way out to his studio in the woods on Martha's Vineyard I talked about this phenomenon.  When we arrived at the studio he told me that he had worked on pianos for some of the top pianists in the world but I was the only one who initiated a conversation about key leverage.