‘THE PIANO IS TOO LOUD!’
Acoustical Considerations and Practical Solutions for Performance of String Instruments with Piano
“Close the piano!” is the conventional remedy for balance issues in a live performance of a string instrument with a piano. Are there better solutions to address this challenge? This common pairing of two such acoustically and physically disparate instruments presents a challenge which can, with careful consideration, communication, and control, result in a well-balanced performance. Is the piano objectively too loud or is the issue more nuanced? Where should the cellist sit or the violinist stand? Should the piano be fully opened, semi-opened or fully closed? Is there a certain position of the two instruments that is not commonly used but could contribute to a better balance between the two instruments? What is the string player’s role in contributing to a good acoustical balance? These questions will be answered in this lecture. Our recent acoustical study makes a significant contribution to these considerations. The study used controlled audio recordings (80) of excerpts from standard duo-sonata literature in different stage arrangements. Quantitative results include a summary of the survey taken by audience members during listening sessions of selected excerpts. The study included spectral analysis of the recorded samples and a blind audience survey. The results of the study question the age-old solution to lower or close the piano lid. Selected graphic images from spectral analysis will illustrate the benefits of certain stage setup options. Attendees will experience a demonstration of the stage setup options and other acoustical considerations using selected excerpts from sonatas by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Prokofiev. The lecture will include practical advice for performers and pedagogical approaches for teachers based on these findings. While the performance examples will be performed by cello-piano duo, the acoustical considerations, implications, and presented guidelines are applicable to all bowed string instruments.
Duration: 20 minutes + 10 minutes discussion (Q&A)