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Can we rise above the hammer mechanism of our beloved piano?

I say yes to naysayers on various Internet forums. They would have you believe that playing a series of notes cannot be altered by a physical approach to the keys that includes a supple wrist. Their gospel is, it’s all the same no matter who plays C, D, E, F, G. These concrete thinkers, insist that you can take your pick starting anywhere on the keyboard and nothing really changes.

Essentially, they sermonize that the initiation of key depression ignites the hammers to STRIKE the strings which leads followers into the universe of PERCUSSION! (This launches a secondary argument about the nuts and bolts of pianoforte-making and playing)

Fortunately, the less religious persuaders concede that the use of sustain pedal makes one player sound differently from another– or that pokey finger plunkers can still manage a soft or loud sound through finger pressure alone, thereby escaping tonal conformity.

I say BAH HUMBUG to this crowd that pedals its audibly loud or soft-sell opinions in their Extremist effort to rip the HEARTS out of HAMMERS. (They insist HAMMERS like wooden puppets can’t “feel” or “express” emotions)

With all due respect, I declare that tone production is NOT the sum total of pedal plus loud and soft playing. It’s way more subtle than that: ATTENTIVE LISTENING, IMAGINATION, HARMONIC FLOW and a keenly nursed physical flexibility can and will individualize one player from another.

To wit, I enlisted Burgmuller’s Angels’ Voices for DIVINE INTERVENTION:

As a necessary preliminary, I adhered to the composer’s metronome marking, the quarter=152; then I demonstrated pokey finger entries into the keys with a relatively stiff wrist. (sustain pedal was used but without dynamics) Subsequently, I added dynamics with pokey fingers, before the final playing with a supple wrist and phrase sculpting. (My approach included delays into notes and resolutions by flow of harmony)


Video 1

Video 2-A play through of Angels’

Comparative You Tube performances set at the same metronome marking: (Yes of course, the pianos are different, but let’s consider the physical approach to the keys by each player)