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Playing Chopin and Clementi on the Steinway (that lives in my Mac)

by Bruce Siegel on September 22nd, 2010

It’s a quandary. I need to make recordings for this site, and I’ve been trying to decide what to use: my Yamaha upright piano, or my keyboard-plus-virtual-Steinway setup.

The Steinway in question is the library of recorded samples from Garritan. I trigger them by playing my Roland FP7 keyboard and record my performance as a MIDI file using ProTools.

Here are two movements of a Clementi Sonatina I just recorded using the Garritan.

Allegro

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Andante

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You can hear the Chopin (a gorgeous mazurka) on this page.

What I’m learning is this: my Yamaha is more fun to play. I don’t have to work so hard to achieve the dynamics I hear in my head. Unfortunately, pianos are notoriously hard to record and this one is no exception.

With the keyboard, on the other hand, recording is a snap. No mics to set up, no need to close all my doors and windows and pray that my neighbor doesn’t start using his power tools, no need for an expensive tuning.

And—joy of joys!—I can edit with ease. Never again do I have to re-record an entire page if I accidentally play one note too loudly.

As to the downside of the digital approach, I have to work really hard to get the dynamic nuances. And some of the softer effects seem completely impossible. Not to mention that I haven’t yet figured out how to make half-pedalling work. (Though I can’t say I’ve looked into it very deeply.)

No doubt, I’ll continue using both instruments. Though I have to say, it’s a pain moving back and forth between the two because they respond in radically different ways to my touch. Which means that by playing a lot on one, I’m setting myself up for a difficult period of adjustment when I need to play the other.

This week, for example, I recorded on the keyboard in the mornings, and taught on the acoustic in the afternoon.

Anyway, these are the Friday night ravings of a tired man. Come tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep, I’ll no doubt be feeling how fortunate I am to have two wonderful instruments at my disposal.

Oh—in the Allegro, I re-recorded, and pasted in, 4 measures that I was a little unhappy with. Other than that, I did no editing.

The Andante was a different matter entirely. Though there were no wrong notes to fix (maybe one, actually), I did do considerable adjusting of dynamics.

I hope you like the result.

3 Comments
  1. christophe permalink

    wonderful playing. Good job Bruce:)
    I particularly like the allegro, so light and playful, and the phrasing is exquisite.

    Christophe

  2. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Thanks!

  3. piano tuner permalink

    Yes indeed, it’s music to my ears that the Yamaha is more fun to play. The advances in digital piano sound have been phenomenal, and yet the acoustic piano still prevails when joy is the metric.

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