I live in the mountains of Big Bear Lake, California where the relative humidity is often in the single digit to no more than 20% or 30%. What are the risks of keeping a piano in this type of climate? Do you have any suggestions to help with any potential damage caused by the climate?
You bring up an excellent point. Extreme dryness can also present major problems for pianos. The high desert in California, as well as parts of Arizona, can experience single digit humidity! The real danger is in drying out the soundboard. Cracks can develop, or hairline cracks which present no problem in most parts of the country can open up and cause buzzing. Other wood joints can also potentially suffer particularly if the piano was previously in a humid environment and gets moved to an extremely dry environment. So, a moderate humidity level is important for the longevity of pianos. You can mitigate the effects of weather in a number of ways which I described in my humidity video except in reverse.
– Buy and install a humidifier and make sure that you keep all the windows closed.
– Put a large, shallow pan of water underneath your piano.
– Install a Dampp-Chaser humidification system.
Be sure there are no heating vents blowing up at the soundboard of your piano (or behind an upright piano) no matter where you live. The key to providing the right environment for your piano is, if you would be comfortable sitting in the room where the piano is day and night, then your piano will probably be O.K. However, you may check the humidity level of your home and make adjustments if necessary with the previously described techniques.
I’m wondering if you have ever done a video on the performance practice of JS Bach ornaments. I know the specific ornaments like mordent and trill, etc but was wondering if you’ve weighed in on where and when to use them. My understanding is performers could add ornaments like spice, whenever they wished. It’s considered a type of improvisation in a sense. Please advise if you’ve made a video or have a link to someone else that has covered this online.
Ornamentation is a great subject for a video! It is also extremely challenging. The fact is, ideas about what is authentic Baroque ornamentation goes in and out of style through the ages. What was considered authentic practice today is different from what was considered appropriate 30 years ago, and different again earlier in the century. On top of that, there are varying ideas today. In my opinion, it’s impossible to really know for sure what the performance practices were hundreds of years ago. However, there are accepted norms in performance and deviating from them in a significant way raises attention to the ornamentation to a high degree. I still believe that there is a wide range of creative license in ornamentation, and you are right that it can be a form of improvisation.
Much Baroque music was improvised beyond just ornamentation. The trio sonata was often written in figured bass, a lead sheet type of form where the keyboard and continuo parts were realized by the performers, not scored note for note. So, there is a good reason to support the idea of freedom with ornamentation. The bottom line is to do what works and sounds musical. Different performers have unique ideas as to what that may be, but when the ornamentation supports the music, that is what is ultimately important. As for historical accuracy, we may never know for sure.
Here is a question about huge bass from a 158 Sauter.. Why and how can a super large high tension Base produce a better base than many 9 foot? It has more clarity and more vibrations and it is not duplex (per Ulrich Sauter)
One theory is that the low end has so much power that you bring into the tone short vibrations from the very heavy wires despite being padded.
What I found was an interesting tonal quality not found on my Mason and Hamlin upright. As you stated before sometimes the piano gets better as it gets older. I also recall your love of the grand. The piano has worked very well for our small and very hard working Chamber Music group..
There are many mysteries to pianos. One really interesting fact is that even the same make and model of piano, new or from the same vintage can have dramatically different qualities. It’s important to remember that pianos produce their sound from wood and no two trees are alike! Add in the variance of human labor and those factors alone are a big deal. Now, take scale design. You would think that a 9-foot piano would have a bigger bass than a smaller piano. But as you can attest, that isn’t always the case. Think of some small speaker systems that utilize creative technologies for getting huge bass out of a relatively small package. There are so many variables in design as well as in the preparation of a piano. Ultimately, your ears tell the whole story.