Expand all | Collapse all

Prepared piano survey

  • 1.  Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-09-2022 14:39
    Hi, All.

    How is prepared piano dealt with at your institution?
    There has been a rise in the prepared activity here recently.
    We have a Steinway model A designated to be used for prepared piano pieces.
    However, viewing our live stream concerts has revealed that our Hamburg D has been used for this,
    which is against policy. We are looking to find out how other schools, venues and institutions handle this issue.

    Thanks in advance.


    Dave Conte

    University of Tennessee
    Knoxville TN
    Owner: Rocky Top Piano

  • 2.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Posted 05-09-2022 15:56
    Firm rules posted and in the students recital info package for usage of a designated piano for ALL  prepared piano repertoire endorsed by the Director of Music School, Piano Faculty , set up a meeting with them  explaining the reasons so that in September everyone understands the protocols  , protecting the schools investment in the piano inventory etc and rubbing a chisel or other sharp object up the treble strings in an elusive search for the designated  pitch requested  by composer yup this is real!  is a no brainer. Make sure stage crew are familiar with protocols, and oh yeah  the players sometimes students and yes sometimes faculty will not present the whole  truth "oh there's 2 measures where I need to pluck the strings ", so have a decent 6' lower priority piano available for prepared usage, in my case at BU I had a Kawai KG3  backstage​ permanently for this usage. I spent a lot  of time over the years monitoring this, and I get it we should not be dissuading   students from performing these pieces but you need to stay on top of it , drop by their Dr.reh. to make sure stage crew has put out the designated piano, often of course the prepared piece is just one piece of the recital so stage crew again needs all the  info so 2 pianos can be on stage. This should not be your personal battle so get everyone on board because if there is damage to your D  during prepared piano usage  and btw it's often to damper  heads  that have been marked or taped badly  then it's you they'll complain to when dampers are ringing etc.

    Martin Snow
    South Burlington VT

  • 3.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-09-2022 15:58
    I'm probably in the minority, but I tend to question what damage can actually be caused be inserting screws or whatnot. Are we afraid they will get strings out of level? I can maybe see how some damper wedges could get squeezed. I want to know exactly what they are planning to do but I tend to let them do what they want and figure if they really manage to damage something, it shouldn't be too hard to fix.

    John Pope
    University of Kentucky School of Music
    Lexington, KY

  • 4.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2022 07:20
    I would echo John Pope in this. As it happens, before our Fazioli came to NIU, it was used by professional groups doing contemporary music on a number of occasions, and I never saw any damage to the instrument.
    I have been asked ( already!) about a concert of John Cage works next January, so I had a conversation with the faculty member about how to put things between strings and not tear up the dampers, using Teflon screws instead of metal, wearing gloves when preparing piano, etc. I will meet with him and the students again in Fall when they start rehearsals. 
    Tape on the damper heads is another matter. There are other ways now to mark the notes that do not leave a residue. That one does bug me, if they don't ask. Still, it hasn't really caused a problem and I've been here almost 39 years. 
    Hope everyone has good summer projects planned- now is the time to get to the pianos while they are less busy!

    Supposedly it is time for bike riding in preparation for my annual BikeMS ride. In any case, while I dodge rain and wind, here is a link if you wish to donate.Thanks!
    David Graham
    Graham Piano Service, Inc.
    512 S. Main St.
    Sycamore IL 60178

  • 5.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2022 16:28
    On the subject of tape on damper heads, one of the useful things I learned at the Orlando convention (hallway conversation) was a kind of tape that essentially leaves no residue (better than gaffers tape or painters tape). It is sold as Artist Tape and Console Tape, comes in different colors, can be written on. Amazing kind of adhesive. You can put it on paper and it stays, then easily pulls off without any tearing (or residue), for example.

    I wouldn't tend to leave it on something for months, but I wouldn't worry about it being left on for months based on my experience so far. 

    Try it, I think you'll like it.
    Fred Sturm
    "I am only interested in music that is better than it can be played." Schnabel

  • 6.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2022 12:05
    I believe Alan Eder made a very informative yet entertaining video on this very subject.

    At Cal Arts, I suspect he was confronted with this situation quite often.

  • 7.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-10-2022 12:35
    When I worked at Sacramento State we had the performers sign an agreement regarding prepared pianos and unconventional use of pianos. It stated that all modifications to the piano would be done by the technician under the supervision of the artist. This almost always satisfied the artist's needs as well as providing protection from damage to the piano. Some artists snuck in something that was not agreed upon but for the most part it was pretty effective.

    Ted Kidwell, RPT, CTE
    Kidwell Piano Works
    916 200 8747

  • 8.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Posted 05-17-2022 18:16
    While driving back from Piano Disc recertification training in Boston I heard a TED talk about a John Cage performance called 433 . Apparently it was a performance that was in complete silence for 4 minutes 33 seconds where the artist enters closes the fall board and sits there staring. I guess no implements, hardware or devices where involved and the music score has no notes written in .

    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC
    (843) 325-4357

  • 9.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-17-2022 18:53
    John Cage also write a piece either string quartet or woodwind quintet that was basics the same thing. The musicians would walk on stage with their instruments, put a sheet of music on the stands, and then just there in silence for 4 or 5 minutes. I saw a “performance” of that when I was in college.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 10.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Posted 05-18-2022 08:07
    Here are some photos of my early morning practice exercises. These are completely agreeable to my sleeping wife.
    The book leaf states:

    4' 33"
    For any instrument or combination of instruments

    John Cage

    Copyright 1960

    Jeffrey Cutler
    University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
    (651) 398-6293

  • 11.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Posted 05-18-2022 11:47
    James, but did they tune the piano beforehand? Surely that has to be part of it!

     Richard Adkins 
     Keyboard Tuning and Maintenance
     Curator of Instruments 
    This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. This message contains confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not named you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this email. Please notify the sender immediately and delete this email from your system.

    Warning: Although the sender has taken reasonable precautions to ensure no viruses are present in this email, the sender cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage arising from the use of this email or attachments.

  • 12.  RE: Prepared piano survey

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 05-18-2022 19:40
    cmon guys. This is not helpful and off-topic.