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MMD > Archives > January 2002 > 2002.01.23 > 05Prev  Next


Pneumatic vs. Solenoid Power
By Craig Brougher

If someone owns a piano store and is invested in Yamaha Disklavier,
it would be understandable that he would promote the Disklavier.  In
my opinion, if a writer has a strong financial connection to Yamaha,
he should say so at the outset.

I have said myself that Disklaviers are a good instrument.  I enjoy
them on light classics and pop.  It's the synthesizer they are
connected to that attempts to take them out of the salon category and
places them into the combo accompaniment category.  However, this
feature can also be troublesome.  I was told that we had a clear
plastic prototype Disklavier in town a few weeks ago (a $300,000
promotional instrument) that was giving them trouble, even on tour,
and there wasn't any technicians around here that knew what to do about
it, so some of the fancier things it was able to do, like solo with
some computer music and other functions, weren't available to show.

A fellow MMD'er was kind enough to write me about it.  He asked if I
had seen it and I said no.  He wrote back and said, "You didn't miss a
thing."  Well, I've already seen a few, anyway.  I don't plan on paying
$46,000 for a grand that can only play background music.  But, like I
say, they sure are "nice."  I figure that Yamaha can do it right, if
they want to.  So let them belly up to the bar and get into gear.

Neither Ampico or Duo-Art will perform "Sing Sing Sing" because to
my knowledge that song was never cut as a piano roll, especially with
the computer accompaniments.  Why don't we compare things that are
available, like Hungarian Rhapsody #12?  I'll be happy to challenge
them on that one, or anything else that was on a reproducing roll,
for that matter.

As far as Yamaha being adjusted to barely move a hammer, that's a
moot point.  The point should not be how precise the static test of
individual note feedback is, but the total range of power and how it
holds up during a concert when everything gets hot.  Hearing one tune,
versus hearing a dozen heavy classics one after the other at full
power, is another matter.  Pneumatic instruments have no problem with
that.  They can do it for weeks or months on end.

I didn't realize that the larger the piano, the larger the solenoids.
I thought there was only two sizes -- one for grands, and the smaller
one for uprights.  That was some new information to me, and I'm happy
to know it.  But I have listened to a 7-foot ebony Yamaha grand player
at a local piano store in South Kansas City, and I have to be grateful
that I own a pneumatic instrument instead.  And, it was turned up to
its full power with that 'wonderful' volume control.

It is true that I love pneumatic players, but for a reason.  I would
never say that pneumatics are still better if they were not, since
there are many reasons besides a perfect performance that still put
pneumatics as the choice system, in my mind.

Look at it this way: The Wayne Stahnke CD series, "A Window in Time,"
published by Telarc, used Ampico rolls to perfectly reproduce
Rachmaninoff on a concert grand, using Wayne's electric piano.  Everyone
seems to agree that this is as near perfect as a recording can get.
His source was paper rolls designed for a pneumatic player.  If that
player, when exactly rebuilt as the factory intended it to be, were to
play that roll on the concert stage it would clearly sound just like
Wayne's piano did.  Otherwise, would have coded into the roll a lot of
"correction" and "compensation" to make up for the piano's weaknesses
and approximate Rachmaninoff's performance that way.  That is, unless
the piano didn't have those claimed "weaknesses".

As I said before, few people have heard an Ampico or a Duo-Art play
the way it was able to, particularly on the concert stage.  From
certain remarks I appreciate that everyone has their own individual
level of appreciation, and I accept it.  But on the other hand, I
expect them to be sensible and reasonable, and to understand that when
the premier reproducing electric concert grand Boesendorfer uses the
e-roll based on Ampico rolls as the basis of perfection to reproduce
Rachmaninoff (and musicians the world over have now agreed to its
precision in doing so), then there must be another reason that anyone
would think otherwise about the capability of pneumatic reproducers
versus the Disklavier.

Craig Brougher


(Message sent Wed 23 Jan 2002, 15:59:19 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Pneumatic, Power, Solenoid, vs

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