What Makes a Piano Sound Great
One of my favorite phrases. The perfect example of a psycho-acoustic illusion: I walk into a really fine piano store in Los Angels, where I live. The manager, a good friend of mine, asks me to “just tune that [Yamaha] C7 in the back; it’s was prepped last month, and a player’s coming in to check it out later today.” I tune the piano, nothing else, no action regulation, no voicing, and 90 minutes later, my friend the manager comes back, plays the piano (he’s an awesome player) and says, “Wow. This feels so much better to play. What’d ya do to it?”
I smile big, and say, “I just tuned it.” He says, “Yeah, but it feels different.” I say “Hay! It’s a psycho-acoustic illusion: your ears were so happy they fooled your hands into thinking the piano was easier and better to play.”
Another great example; if you ever have occasion to play a grand piano that’s on a dolly, or easy toroll, check out what happens as you play a passage with the lid open toward the nearest wall; then stand up, move the piano 2 or 3 feet closer to the wall, and see how your perception of tone and touch alters. Move it closer still, and feel and hear what happens. Amazing. Whenever I’ve done this, as I get nearer the wall, the piano becomes noticeably “softer” and “stiffer.”
The biggest lesson from these examples is this: the same piano sounds radically different in different rooms and spaces, and great piano technician can significantly change your perception of how your piano sounds and feels.
Andersen’s Law: good dealers and manufactures know how to work WITH great pianotechs, and base their reputation and success on partnering with them, listening to them, and trusting them. In my opinion,