Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

Moderators: Feg, Gill the Piano, Melodytune

Post Reply
MrSonatina
New Member
New Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 17 Jun 2011, 19:29

Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by MrSonatina » 17 Jun 2011, 19:48

I have been asked to perform a piece of music at a friend's wedding.

I'm a little concerned that I may be too 'conditioned' to my own piano and will not be able to convey the same 'sounds' and emotion on an unfamiliar instrument. I own a Petrof Sonatina 100, not a particularly good piano, but the only one that I have the opportunity to practice on.

The piano that I've been asked to play will be a Steinway grand...

The particular piece of music requires the use of una corda. I'm aware that mechanically, the way in which this is achieved is very different on a grand piano, than it is on an upright.

There will be the chance for me to practice the piece a few hours prior to the service, is this likely to be enough?

Many thanks!

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by Colin Nicholson » 17 Jun 2011, 21:09

I would imagine about 20 - 30 mins practise on any grand would be enough to make any necessary adjustments, and you probably wont want to go back to your Petrof!!

Just a couple of things to note with a 'strange' piano...... you are not forced to use the una corda pedal, but it is nice.... and be aware that there might be a middle pedal aswell (sostenuto) .... and also sometimes the pedals are closer together on a grand, than an upright.... so negiotating your left foot position may take precedence over the tone your produce.... and of course, the whole keyboard will shift to the right slightly...... if you are using the music, you will probably not notice this.

I presume that during the pp sections, you use una corda on your own piano? but this wont actually change the sound (it just creates 'lost motion'/ slack in the mechanism) and it helps to create an more overall softer tone...... however, the sound is very much different on a Steinway (and correct!!) - so even some half- una corda pedal is sometimes desirable to create a more 'silvery' tone to the quieter sections of music.
Having said that.... is the piece Clementi by any chance? or Mozart? - well, just small doses of una corda should only be needed, and to be honest - your bride & groom will probably not even notice!!!!!

Good luck with the performance......
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

markymark
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1470
Joined: 04 Apr 2005, 18:50
Location: UK

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by markymark » 17 Jun 2011, 21:13

As I was reading, I was starting to wonder if practice time was going to get a mention. A few hours will be more than enough I reckon! After about one hour, you'll be more than acquainted with the feel of the instrument.

As someone who has never played a Steinway grand, I can't speak from experience but I have heard mentioned elsewhere that the Steinway grands have a distinctly lighter touch than most and so, may be more forgiving from your perspective, moving from an upright to a grand piano. I know that I often notice the actions to be heavier when moving from an upright to a grand but I thought I'd throw that point in about the Steinway action for consideration. Others who HAVE played a Steinway grand may be able to elaborate or correct as necessary.

rgreig
Regular Poster
Regular Poster
Posts: 62
Joined: 26 Jan 2009, 00:17

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by rgreig » 17 Jun 2011, 21:15

I would not get too worried about this if I were you. Being asked to play on an unfamiliar instrument completely cold is difficult but you have a chance to practice on the piano and that will help a huge amount.

In terms of conveying the emotion, I am sure that you will find the Steinway grand - assuming it is in good condition - extremely effective. Similarly, you will not notice the una corda action. The mechanics are different - the keyboard shifts - but it is very easy to get used to.

The only advice I would give is about memorising the music. I am not at all good at memorising, and I rely on the music. I personally find the difference in position between the music stand on a grand and upright extremely off-putting. If you are considering playing from memory, I would definitely do so.

What are you going to play?

Robert

MrSonatina
New Member
New Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 17 Jun 2011, 19:29

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by MrSonatina » 17 Jun 2011, 22:05

Thank you everyone for the advice, I really appreciate it.

I'm gong to play I Giorni - Ludovico Einaudi.

I hadn't intended on following the music; I have a strange habit of closing my eyes once I've started playing. However, the piece is approximately six minutes long and I'm wondering if I might feel more comfortable having the music in case of a sudden mental block?

Model V
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 156
Joined: 09 Nov 2008, 11:28

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by Model V » 19 Jun 2011, 07:57

Good advice, especially regarding position of the music desk. If you're not used to playing grands this can be a bit off-putting.

There's no substitute for having a bit of time on the instrument before you play. Hopefully the S&S will be so nice that the experience will be entirely positive.

I remember as a student being asked to play the organ for a service in Canterbury Cathedral. I was nervous until I started to play; the thing plays itself. I've always said it's like taking your driving test in a Rolls Royce.

Enjoy the day! :piano;

MV.

Gill the Piano
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 4210
Joined: 25 Oct 2003, 19:39
Location: Thames Valley

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by Gill the Piano » 19 Jun 2011, 18:23

You'll find the Steinway a little heavier in touch initially, and also it can be a tussle to get it playing pp; it's like trying to drive an Aston Martin at 5mph! But half an hour should be fine...and Colin's right, you may not want to go back to your Petrof! But don't get worried; as an organist for many weddings, I can tell you that the congregation use the signing of the register (when I presume you'll be playing) to discuss her dress, his suit, whether it'll last, how long till feeding time....don't be offended if you don't get total silence! Just enjoy the experience of getting your mitts on a lovely piano!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

User avatar
Colin Nicholson
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1839
Joined: 04 Jul 2010, 19:15
Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
Contact:

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by Colin Nicholson » 22 Jun 2011, 00:35

I played for a wedding a couple of years ago in Harewood House (between Leeds & Harrogate) on a Steinway B - and I struggled to keep it quiet!! - I had to play mostly with left pedal.... however at least the penguins in the sanctuary enjoyed it!
AA Piano Tuners UK

Colin Nicholson Dip. Mus. CMIT CLCM PTLLS
Piano tuning & repairs. Full UK restoration service
http://www.aatuners.com
Tuition ~ Accompaniment ~ Weddings
http://www.pianotime1964.com
Member of The Guild of Master Craftsmen

markymark
Executive Poster
Executive Poster
Posts: 1470
Joined: 04 Apr 2005, 18:50
Location: UK

Re: Performing on an unfamiliar instrument.

Post by markymark » 22 Jun 2011, 16:18

MrSonatina wrote:I hadn't intended on following the music; I have a strange habit of closing my eyes once I've started playing. However, the piece is approximately six minutes long and I'm wondering if I might feel more comfortable having the music in case of a sudden mental block?
If you're not used to performing from memory, having the music there would give you some reassurance. I know I like having the music there, not to read, but to glance at - subconscious thing probably.

Post Reply