Author Topic: why an upright piano?  (Read 2148 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline franksolich

  • Scourge of the Primitives
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 57259
  • Reputation: +2174/-171
  • ^^^apres moi, le deluge
why an upright piano?
« on: January 08, 2009, 01:02:26 PM »
Now, I don't mean to be critical, because I don't know excresence about this stuff, for obvious reasons.

I just gone back from going over to the neighbor's house for a few minutes; he, his wife, and three infants live six miles up the road.

In the living room, there was a brand-new upright piano, recently arrived.

Of course, I complimented it.

However.

Now, again, I repeat, I don't know what I'm talking about, but it seems to me such instruments evolved from the medieval virginal into the renaissance harpsichord, and then devolved, backwards evolution, regressed, to the piano.

I have no idea why the piano ever became more popular than the harpsichord.

It might, or might not, be a matter of hearing, or "hearing." 

To me, a virginal or a harpsichord give out music that sparkles, glitters, while a mere piano gives out a flat, dull sort of sound.

I "listen" to such instruments, given the absence of ears, by standing on the side opposite the player, (a) my hands palm-down on the top of the instrument or (b) my elbows planted on the top of the instrument, my hands cupping my chin or in the case of really good stuff, (c) my arms laying lengthwise on top of the instrument, and my forehead pressing down.

It seems to me a piano is nothing, compared with a harpsichord.

I'm assuming playing a virginal, harpsichord, and piano is the same.

So why would one want a piano, when a harpsichord is more refined?

And a subsidiary question: if the choice is between an upright piano and a grand piano, why would someone select an unright piano?  It seems to me a grand piano has more class, more sophistication, and is more aesthetic, than an upright piano.

I'm assuming both upright and grand pianos cost pretty much the same.

Of course, a grand piano takes up much more room than an upright piano, but on the other hand, if one is talented enough to play it, and if one has invested so much in it, a piano after all deserves its own room, all for itself anyway.

I'm admittedly a cretin when it comes to these things, so please illuminate.
Democrats: A bunch of rich people convincing poor people to vote for rich people by telling poor people that other rich people are the reason they are poor

Life is short, and suddenly you're not there any more.

Offline Chris_

  • Little Lebowski Urban Achiever
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 46845
  • Reputation: +2028/-266
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2009, 01:04:57 PM »
Uprights are much, much cheaper.  There was a time when almost every American middle class household had a piano.  Uprights were needed because they take up much less room.

They don't sound nearly as nice as grands (baby or otherwise), since the sound is muffled and can't resonate.

If you want to worship an orange pile of garbage with a reckless disregard for everything, get on down to Arbys & try our loaded curly fries.

Offline Eupher

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 20203
  • Reputation: +2087/-1774
  • U.S. Army, Retired
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2009, 01:21:47 PM »
Freedumb2003 is correct about prices for uprights. They are much cheaper than grand pianos.

A piano's sound is generated by small felt-tipped hammers that hit strings (anywhere from 1 to 3, depending on the pitch/thickness of the string) that lay across a soundboard. The soundboard itself is made of a metal of some type because of the enormous tension that the strings endure. The internal wood, dampers, and other components of the piano certainly contribute toward the sound.

In essence, you get what you pay for.

But for most people, an upright is just fine at home. Doesn't take up much room and gets the job done. You don't have to fill up a concert hall with an upright's sound - that's why concert grands are built.

Anyway, harpsichords were/are limited in a couple of significant ways -- they are incapable of sustained sound (even a piano can "sustain" - not quite like an organ, but there is a sustained capability) and they are incapable of dynamics (loudness or softness of sound).

For those reasons, the earlier pianos were developed. In Europe, they were called "pianoforte" and while crude, they were able to offer reasonable dynamics and a bit more sustain. Pianos could also compete with orchestras when it came to piano concerti - a harpsichord and clavichord have a delicate sound based on the fact that the strings are not struck with the hammers a la the piano, but are plucked with quills (harpsichord) or tangents (clavichord). The key controls a mechanism which then plucks the string, producing the characteristic harpsichord sound as conducted through the bridge and then to the soundboard.

With the advent of pianos in the Classical Era (about 1750 (after Bach's death), the musical ornaments associated with Baroque music (~1650 till 1750 or so) weren't needed as much because they were essentially developed to compensate for the lack of sustain on the harpsichord.

Trills, mordents, gruppettos (turns), appoggiaturas, and similar ornaments all came into their own during the Baroque era, but aren't used as much today.

You can decorate a musical cake with only so much frosting.

Adams E2 Euphonium (built in 2017)
Boosey & Co. Imperial Euphonium (built in 1941)
Edwards B454 bass trombone
Bach Stradivarius 42OG tenor trombone
Kanstul 33-T BBb tuba
Shen SB-180 double bass (we're talkin' strings, baby)
Mouthpiece data provided on request.

Offline franksolich

  • Scourge of the Primitives
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 57259
  • Reputation: +2174/-171
  • ^^^apres moi, le deluge
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2009, 01:25:57 PM »
Wow.

Thank you both, freedumb2003 and Eupher.

Democrats: A bunch of rich people convincing poor people to vote for rich people by telling poor people that other rich people are the reason they are poor

Life is short, and suddenly you're not there any more.

Offline Chris_

  • Little Lebowski Urban Achiever
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 46845
  • Reputation: +2028/-266
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2009, 01:53:16 PM »
Wow.

Thank you both, freedumb2003 and Eupher.



I live to serve.
If you want to worship an orange pile of garbage with a reckless disregard for everything, get on down to Arbys & try our loaded curly fries.

Offline Eupher

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 20203
  • Reputation: +2087/-1774
  • U.S. Army, Retired
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2009, 03:16:23 PM »
Wow.

Thank you both, freedumb2003 and Eupher.



My pleasure.  :cheersmate:
Adams E2 Euphonium (built in 2017)
Boosey & Co. Imperial Euphonium (built in 1941)
Edwards B454 bass trombone
Bach Stradivarius 42OG tenor trombone
Kanstul 33-T BBb tuba
Shen SB-180 double bass (we're talkin' strings, baby)
Mouthpiece data provided on request.

Offline Chris_

  • Little Lebowski Urban Achiever
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 46845
  • Reputation: +2028/-266
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2009, 03:17:26 PM »
My pleasure.  :cheersmate:

You tootle the ivories?  That was a pretty impressive synopsis there, E!
If you want to worship an orange pile of garbage with a reckless disregard for everything, get on down to Arbys & try our loaded curly fries.

Offline Eupher

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 20203
  • Reputation: +2087/-1774
  • U.S. Army, Retired
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2009, 03:27:19 PM »
You tootle the ivories?  That was a pretty impressive synopsis there, E!

Thank you, but I did have to look up the business with the clavichord and its "tangent."

No, I don't play piano/keys - not yet. Of course I know the note names and read, but playing more than one note at a time on multiple clefs blows my mind.  :o 

Mrs. E and other keyboardists amaze me. Compared to them, I feel like a card-carryin' member of the Short Bus. Oh wait.... :-)

But after final retirement (hopefully in 10 years or less), learning to tickle the ivories is very much on my dance card. Mrs. E and I have already agreed to buy a baby grand when it's time.
Adams E2 Euphonium (built in 2017)
Boosey & Co. Imperial Euphonium (built in 1941)
Edwards B454 bass trombone
Bach Stradivarius 42OG tenor trombone
Kanstul 33-T BBb tuba
Shen SB-180 double bass (we're talkin' strings, baby)
Mouthpiece data provided on request.

Offline Chris_

  • Little Lebowski Urban Achiever
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 46845
  • Reputation: +2028/-266
Re: why an upright piano?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2009, 03:40:19 PM »
Thank you, but I did have to look up the business with the clavichord and its "tangent."

No, I don't play piano/keys - not yet. Of course I know the note names and read, but playing more than one note at a time on multiple clefs blows my mind.  :o 

Mrs. E and other keyboardists amaze me. Compared to them, I feel like a card-carryin' member of the Short Bus. Oh wait.... :-)

But after final retirement (hopefully in 10 years or less), learning to tickle the ivories is very much on my dance card. Mrs. E and I have already agreed to buy a baby grand when it's time.

It is funny how the brain works.  I played trumpet almost all my life and can sight read.  In my adulthood I taught myself how to play flute (Jazz flute).  The funny part is that I can't sight read using the flute but can jam like nobody's business (I LOVE counter-melodying to Traffic and Blues Traveler).  When I want to play from a musical score, I play it on the trumpet, then I follow that with the flute, adjusting for the Bb to C difference.  Also, I can't improvise very well on the trumpet.

Weird but true.
If you want to worship an orange pile of garbage with a reckless disregard for everything, get on down to Arbys & try our loaded curly fries.