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Topic: Piano as an orchestral instrument

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  1. #1

    Piano as an orchestral instrument

    How is the piano used as an orchestral instrument?
    Some composers use it as a non-solo instrument and I just don't get it. How on earth do you use an piano as an orchestral instrument without it sticking out like a sore thumb? And if I treat it as chromatic percussion like I assume most composers do, my piece always ends up sounding like a piano concerto for a couple of bars when the piano is present. I CAN'T MAKE IT WORK!!!!

    Have any of y'all used the piano as an orchestral instrument? Care to share mp3's/pdf's?

    -Chris

  2. #2

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    If you put the lid down you can bang on it with mallets...it IS considered a percussion intrument isn't it?

    ;-)

    Jim Jarnagin - no not THAT Jim Jarnagin, the other one.

  3. #3

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Reduce the volume and put it on a mono track, or narrow the stereo width.

  4. #4

    Smile Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    About the use, you are right. It is a component of the chromatic percussions family in the modern orchestration, and in early '900 this use was performed with vertical study pianos, instead of grand coda of course.

    But if you are working with the electronic environment everything is possible: today best studios have a grand piano inside, but the recording is filtered by every kind of mic positionning, Eq and sound editing, then the result is totally flexible.

    You may use your GPO piano in the same way, managing controllers, as Jeannot suggests. The reason is:

    - volume:
    it must be reduced to go back to an ensamble dimension instead of a solo protagonism.

    - stereo pan:
    it is designed to give you the feeling of distance between piano's strings, then low notes are panned left, and high notes are panned right, as if you are in front of the keyboard (or the tipical stereo mics positionning in recordings). It doesn't make any sense if you just want to find the right pan positionning for a piano in a concert hall. the best way is to put it on a mono track, and use pan to create the right place in the orchestra. The reverb will be anyway stereo, and it will give back to the sound a stereophonic dimension.

  5. #5

    Talking Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by southportJim
    If you put the lid down you can bang on it with mallets...it IS considered a percussion intrument isn't it?

    ;-)
    I think you'r right, but you'r perhaps using a very expensive way to create the sound, aren't you?

  6. #6

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Prokofiev and Stravinsky both wrote great orchestral piano parts. have a look particualry at Petrushka and Prokofiev 5.

    It's often used to add colour to a texture such as very high writing in with high winds and very effectively doubling deep bass lines.

    Yes its percussion and for something a bit more modern and freaky (even though written in something like 1908) try Edgar Varese Ionisation.

    I think the secret is to remember is to forget it is a solo instrument write for it sparingly as colour with occasional single solo lines, keep the polyphony and density down.

    Another excellent example is Messiaen Turangalila symphony - although this is almost a piano concerto there are loads of moments where it is part of the orchestra.
    David Carter (DaveTubaKing)

    Intel 8 Core i7 975 Extreme Edition 3.33GHz, Corsair 12GB (6x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz , Sibelius 6.1, Symphonic cube, MIR, Vienna Choir

    www.davetubaking.com

  7. #7

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabio
    About the use, you are right. It is a component of the chromatic percussions family in the modern orchestration, and in early '900 this use was performed with vertical study pianos, instead of grand coda of course.

    But if you are working with the electronic environment everything is possible: today best studios have a grand piano inside, but the recording is filtered by every kind of mic positionning, Eq and sound editing, then the result is totally flexible.

    You may use your GPO piano in the same way, managing controllers, as Jeannot suggests. The reason is:

    - volume:
    it must be reduced to go back to an ensamble dimension instead of a solo protagonism.

    - stereo pan:
    it is designed to give you the feeling of distance between piano's strings, then low notes are panned left, and high notes are panned right, as if you are in front of the keyboard (or the tipical stereo mics positionning in recordings). It doesn't make any sense if you just want to find the right pan positionning for a piano in a concert hall. the best way is to put it on a mono track, and use pan to create the right place in the orchestra. The reverb will be anyway stereo, and it will give back to the sound a stereophonic dimension.
    Ahh, yes!
    I forgot about the whole stereo/mono thing. I always have to correct that with the GPO timpani, too. Good point.

    Thanks, Fabio!

    -Chris

  8. #8

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Quote Originally Posted by cptexas
    Have any of y'all used the piano as an orchestral instrument? Care to share mp3's/pdf's?
    My demo on the Garritan site A View from Mount Fuji from Edo is my best example of "piano as non-solo" in a full orchestral context. There are a few measures here and there where it takes a predominate role, but the same can be said for most of the instruments in this piece.
    - Jamie Kowalski

    All Hands Music - Kowalski on the web
    The Ear Is Always Correct - Writings on composition

  9. #9

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    Have you heard Appalacian Spring by Copland?

    Here is a list of non piano-concertos that include piano: (The trick is to put it half-peg and with the percussion instead of out front. On Gpo, just pan it left and reduce the volume):

    Saint-Saens: Organ Symphony
    Aaron Copland: Rodeo and Appalacian Spring
    Bartok: Music for Celesta, Percussion, and Strings (highly recommend)


    A lot of modern composers include the piano now. Especially since every orchestra has one.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  10. #10

    Re: Piano as an orchestral instrument

    The best way I've found to do it (in addition to putting the piano on a mono track) is to use reverb wet/dry proportions to give the piano a bit of distance. It works amazingly well with convolution reverbs. Here's how I would do it using SONAR:

    First, create two intermediate busses which send their output to the master bus. Route the piano to one intermediate bus, and the rest of the orchestra to the other one.

    On the orchestra bus, apply SIR or PerfectSpace. Load in an appropriate impulse, such as the 1800 seat auditorium from NoiseVault. Mute the piano and play the piece, adjusting the reverb settings until it sounds the way I want it.

    Now copy the reverb instance over to the piano's bus. Unmute the piano and play the piece, lowering the Dry slider (and possibly raising the Wet slider to compensate for the attenuation of volume) until the piano has gotten the appropriate amount of distance that it sounds like a part of the orchestra instead of a soloist.
    -- Jeff Lee
    Etiam singula minima maximi momenti est - Even the smallest detail is of the utmost importance

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