Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is a Prepared Piano?

Learn what "prepared piano" means, mostly in contemporary music

In this video, Robert tells you what a "prepared piano" is, and what it really means, with a practical demonstration.

Released on October 8, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to another special edition of as well as I'm your host, Robert Estrin. Today's question: what is prepared piano? I don't know if you've heard of prepared piano before. You may have heard evocative sounds in film scores that make use of these techniques. What is it basically? We're going to talk about that today and even have a demonstration.

Well you know, the piano's been around a long time, and the whole capabilities of the instrument evolved over many hundreds of years. The piano became more robust, more keys, different things with the pedals, the action evolved, but composers still want to get more out of the piano. So some composers like John Cage and others started experimenting with altering the piano by preparing it with different tools and screws and nuts and ways of altering the sound of the piano. So this piano has just been prepared inside with a couple of...some little hardware and such, so you can get a taste of some of the possibilities that a prepared piano can offer you.

[piano music]

Pretty demonic-sounding tones there, huh? Well, that's the whole idea is that you can expound upon the capabilities of a piano. There's amazing things that can be done with this instrument that are not traditional, that are not limited to just what you can do on the keys and with the pedals. Sometimes you'll see a pianist reach into the piano to pluck the strings and get different types of sounds. Why not? This is a musical instrument. It's all fair game.

Anything that is music, that is sounds that convey something, is valid. It's all then up behind the wheel, what you can do with your piano. You can experiment with your piano if you're brave. It doesn't actually hurt the piano to do these techniques if you do them properly. You don't want to go crazy getting things out of your piano, but with a little bit of hardware, you can dramatically alter the sound of your piano and experiment with new music. I hope this has been enlightening for you. Thanks for joining. Robert at here. Also at See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Bill McClellan * VSM MEMBER * on October 8, 2014 @4:46 am PST
Thank you for these videos. They are wonderfully informative.

What do folks mean when they refer to a European sound as opposed to an American sound?
Robert - host, on October 11, 2014 @10:55 am PST
Generally, European instruments and orchestras have a brighter, more open, clearer sound than American instruments and ensembles. Like a Steinway compared to a Bosendorfer, there is a fatness and blending quality to the American sound compared to the clarity and focus of the European concept of sound.
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