Does the venue you’re performing at have an out-of-shape piano? Here’s a few tips that may help.
Every musician – from flutists, guitarists, trumpeters, and violinists – form a certain kind of bond with their instrument. This bond allows them to hone their skills and consistency while performing. Pianists, however, are not afforded this luxury. A piano is (by nature) large, heavy, and cumbersome. Thus, the specific instrument a pianist practices upon will most likely not be the instrument with which they perform.
This is a key fact that most budding pianists learn during their first few piano lessons. It creates an array of issues that the player must face when they enter a new location with an unknown piano. How do the keys feel? What type of sound does it produce? How large is the concert hall? How dynamic is the range of sound? However important these questions are, they are usually answered within the first few minutes of contact with the instrument.
The differences between a good piano and a bad piano are anything but subtle. Even an untrained ear can tell the difference between a rich, full sound when compared to a flat, dull note. It is also important to take the range of the instrument into account. How different do each of the notes sound? Does each strike of the same key sound the same every time? A pianist cannot take these questions for granted. Two pianos of the same make and year may look exactly alike, but their sound scope could be drastically diverse. What is important to keep in mind is not to judge a piano by its looks.
When dealing with a “bad” piano it is important to run through a few key practices:
- Arrive to the venue early to receive ample practice time
- Strike each key and make a note of which ones feel different or sticky
- Practice with the piano to make sure you understand the sound each note will produce
- Make sure there are no surprise sounds or creaks before you perform
- Take as much time as you need until you feel ready
While a good piano will give a fulfilling and enriching performance, a bad piano is not necessarily a death sentence. It will take longer to become accustomed with a bad piano and it often requires more effort to use effectively. Most of this comes down to the skill level of the pianist and their experience playing on new pianos.