RICHARD PARNCUTT & MALCOLM TROUP
On the basis of research on the physics and physiology of the keystroke, the acoustics and perception of piano timbre, and the psychology of piano fingering, we explain observations such as the following, and investigate their practical implications. The timbre of an isolated tone cannot be varied independently of its loudness but depends on finger-key, key-keybed, hammer-key noise, and on the use of both pedals. The timbre of a chord further depends on the balance and onset timing of its tones, whereby louder tones tend to sound earlier (melody lead, velocity artifact). Both the sustaining pedal and una corda can enhance sostenuto. Leap trajectories are curved and asymmetrical. Optimal fingering is determined by physical, anatomic, motor, and cognitive constraints interacting with interpretive considerations, and depends on expertise.
Scientific thinking, methods, and results have influenced piano performance and piano teaching for well over a century, and innumerable piano-pedagogical publications have claimed scientific validity. On the one hand, artistic writers— often great pianists and piano teachers—have tended to fashion complex pseudoscientific theories post hoc to match their beliefs, so that such theories can be controversial and unreliable. On the other hand, scientific writers tend to focus on simple hypotheses and assumptions that are easy to demonstrate and explain but are of limited interest to musicians. It is little wonder, therefore, that modern piano students are often unaware of the basic findings (Parncutt & Holming, 2000).
Ortmann (1929/1981) successfully challenged influential but unfounded assumptions on touch and relaxation. Like him, we begin with observations that are easy to demonstrate scientifically and move gradually toward more complex ideas that are more likely to be of interest to modern pianists and piano teachers. We attempt a fresh approach by combining old and new acoustical