PLOG: Pianist's Blog

The Solo Piano Sound

On my last PLOG (“Pianist’s Blog”) I gave some background on why I use a Bösendorfer grand piano in my recordings. I am a big fan of Steinway and Yamaha (and the Shigeru Kawai as well – exquisite instrument!), but for me the B220 Bösendorfer Grand was the best option for my purposes as a producer and recording artist. I was sold on its tonal palette, touch and versatility. I have also found it to be an exceptional instrument for recording my solo piano music, a la Prayerful Improvisations. The main reason: sustain and resonance. The Bösendorfer company thought outside the box when creating their pianos and made some adjustments that all seem to work together to make their pianos some of the most resonant and longest sustaining pianos I have heard. Here are a few things that add to this unique characteristic:

SOLID WOOD CASE

Most pianos have a nice smooth curve – you know that curve at the side of the piano that makes a grand piano look like a grand piano? This is accomplished by layering/gluing multiple sheets of plywood together and then slowly bending and forming the wood into the exact curve needed. Bösendorfer took a different approach and cuts solid pieces of wood to form their case. This results in more angular edges where the curves normally appear. The thought behind this is that the solid wood provides more resonance throughout the case, while the multiple pieces of plywood and glue hinder some of that resonance to a degree. The solid wood also makes the piano very heavy! Not necessarily a benefit.

WIDER SOUND BOARD

The Bösendorfer B220 Grand is wider than most pianos of similar size. This is because the company felt that a wider (and longer) sound board would again add to the positive resonant characteristics of the piano, thus providing more space for the sound to travel along and through (as the theory goes). It also enhances the depth of richness of the lower notes! But what to do with this extra space…

EXTRA NOTES, EXTRA STRINGS

“I know, let’s add more keys and strings!” Yep, that’s what they did. The B220 has 4 additional keys and strings at the low end. These extra notes (Ab, G, Gb, F) are practically unusable as tones because they are so low. They have a more percussive sound, although paired with the octave above they can become quite striking. The addition of the strings, however, again adds to the sustaining characteristics of the piano, particularly enhancing sympathetic vibrations. It is quite remarkable that I can ever so lightly play an ending chord and it will continue to ring and very gradually decay for well over a minute. I love that!

There are other unique features that enhance the quality (and practicality) of this instrument. You can learn more by visiting the Bösendorfer website or check out my impromptu video tour of my own piano:


This video is also a great “peek” at their instrument philosophy/process
.  I thank the Lord for the blessing of being able to make music on this piano and share it with you.

Thanks for listening!

God bless,
Peter

p.s. I am speaking very generally in this post (and my last post) and want to be sure that no one hears me as saying Bosendorfer is “the best piano ever.” As I have stated, I am a big fan of a number of different piano manufacturers, and it’s important to point out that there are “good” and “bad” pianos from every manufacturer. Each piano has its own attributes and “color”, so it very much becomes a personal choice. If I had a large enough space (and money was no object) I would own a Steinway D, Yamaha C7, Bösendorfer Imperial and a Shigeru Kawaii! That would be quite a piano arsenal…

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