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Piano recording technique question

Discussion in 'Piano' started by Squaysh, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. Squaysh

    Squaysh Guest

    What is the technique called when a piano is given that very percussive sound? Are the felt covered hammers actually exchanged with hammers without felt that are all wood for example? Are they simply covered with something hard? OR, is it an actual particular type of piano? If so, can it be done with a standard upright/grand? Any input would be great.

    Take care everyone.

  2. zemlin

    zemlin Distinguished Member

    Sep 4, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    Home Page:

    I can't vouch for the accuracy of this information - but it seems to be in line with what I've heard before.
  3. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2001
    Los Angeles, CA
    Home Page:
    You mean like a tack piano... Usually an upright piano where there is a tack inserted into the felt of each hammer. It gives the instrument a very bright, metalic sound- similar to what you'd imagine from an old bar-room piano...

    I'd never do this to a piano I care about, though. You'll pretty much ruin it. Here in LA, one of the piano rental houses actually has one of these instruments available for rent.

  4. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    I have seen thumb tacks placed in the hammers on pianos for a single session with no adverse effects to the instrument... but I don't think I'd make a habit of it, and it's very tedious to install the tacks as you have to figure out how to pick up every one you drop... and whoever doing it will drop more than a couple into the instrument.
  5. bap

    bap Guest

    I would prefer to thumbtack a $600 piano and not an $80,000 one since I can't imagine that a refined sound would be the goal here.

    Some pianos acheive a sound close to that simply through years of neglect! :)
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Yes, it sounds like you're describing the old-timey effect of saloon pianos, badly out of tune ticky-tack uprights, etc. (The sound of Keith Emerson's honky-tonk piano in "Benny the Bouncer" or "Bitches Crystal" come to mind, among others.... I think that may have been a special piano made in the UK - at least the one he had on early tours in the 70's for the same sound onstage...)

    Thumb-tacks are of course the most radical and less permanent way to do it in a studio, but I wouldn't dream of doing it to a "priceless Steinway". (Not anymore! ;-)

    Many years ago, I wanted to brighten up my old spinet, and a piano tech showed me how to apply a thinned-out coat of laquer to the sides (shoulders) of each hammer. But it's tedious, (gotta use a hypodermic needle to do it properly), very time-consuming, and not easily reversible if ya don't like the results.

    For all the time & trouble of mucking around with a good piano (and risking some real problems afterwards), you'd do better using a sampled "Honky Tonk" piano, maybe even with a li'l bit of flanging & chorusing.
  7. Squaysh

    Squaysh Guest

    Thanx for the input everyone. Very helpful.

  8. bap

    bap Guest

    Yes, if you follow piano things and have ever read interviews with Franz Mohr, the great Steinway technician who worked in 'the Basement' [NYC], he tells an anecdote about how he had to bring a piano 'up' so far for Vladimir Horowitz, who was worried that his piano sound wouldn't carry over the orchestra, that the hammers had to be completely replaced after the performance.

    Horowitz always seemed to prefer a very bright but responsive piano.

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