Tone Colour : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

How do you best explain tone colour? I'm reading "The Pianist's Problems" by William S. Newman and he discusses five factors that influence tone production: 1) relative volume, further elaborated on in a discussion of the necessity of developing nuanced control over the speed of key descent 2) the degree of legato, 3) the use of pedal, 4) the sense of direction imparted by intelligent phrasing, rhythmic grouping, and harmonic inflections which, though not changing the tone, calls more attention to it, and 5) the negative effect of external sound such as sympathetic vibrations in the room. He does add, however, that as one gains increasing mastery of these skills, the matter of touch and tone becomes less a question of technique and more a question of differences in personality and temperament. My students often come back from competitions and exams with the remark that they need to have more colour. Have you any teachers out there heard this comment frequently? Thus far I've taken the adjudicator to mean more dynamic contrasts. Please comment. Also, what are harmonic inflections?

-- anita (, March 19, 2003


Anita: I have often asked myself the same question as a beginning student of piano (grade 3). How do I create good tone, or color as I have come to understand what it is called. Interestingly, as I practice more and more, I can hear a greater difference between good piano players and bad. The good players can make a bad sounding piano sound great, and a great piano sound even better. I had a good player come to play on my piano and I was stunned at the sound he was producing. So I wonder how to create these wonderful tones.

Anyway, I have found an essay about the topic. It was of some help but I am still searching. I will watch this post for further answers. Anyway the link to the essay is:

What I have found so far is that it is the smooth accelleration of the key, as opposed to a quick and jerky impact that creates nice sound.

I hope this may be of some help.

-- freddie (, March 19, 2003.

I think that unless tone color exists in the ear of the player first, it probably won't come out of the piano. In spite of the physicist's approach (key speed and all that), I find the most effective way of producing color is to listen closely to what you are doing. Try to imitate your own voice, the sound of a cello or flute, or the sound of rain. In the case of harmonic color, listen to each chord and notice how it sounds different from the chords before and after it (dark, sweet, open, heavy...). Then make the most of this difference.

Harmonic inflections produce direction and intelligibility, just like inflections of the words in a sentence. Some words get more stress, some words clearly belong with the words after them, and they all lead to the end of the sentence. At the most elementary level, dissonant harmonies are more intense than, and lead to, their resolutions.

-- alan (, March 19, 2003.

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