6 fingered piano player

This kind of piano is believed to have been made by Johann Sebastian Bach. The 6 fingered piano is also known as a “pianola” and can be played by using only the middle fingers on each hand. It was an unusual musical instrument for its time because the music sounded unlike any other.

If someone had six fingers on each hand, would they be able to play piano better than a five-fingered person?

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level 1

·9 yr. ago·edited 9 yr. ago

Sure, one example: An F#9 in the voicing E F# G# A# C# E is, for most people, impossible but would be easy with a sixth finger. Arpeggios across such voicings would also, at the least, be made vastly easier.

edit: And as to how composting works, if you’re using counterpoint or other techniques, yes, you can make something you probably can’t play very easily. Part of composing for an instrument is resolving that for the instrument.

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level 2

I see what you’re saying, but I wanted to comment on the topic of voicings if I may.

In your example, F# and the second E are mostly a waste. They may serve to thicken up the texture of a chord a bit, but they aren’t bringing any color to the table. There’s a reason why there is so much focus in jazz on rootless voicings. I find voicing on piano to be the most fascinating part of the instrument. There are just so many ways to rearrange notes and get a different sound out of a chord. We don’t need more fingers, we just need more creativity!

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level 3

I agree with you that voicing for piano is part of composing for the instrument. However, having played lots of orchestral reductions, some voicings that meet the composer’s intentions are not physically reachable and sacrifices and compromises have to be made.

I personally hate the use of the phrase “color tones,” at least when you limit it to only those notes outside of the basic triad. Every note in a chord, regardless of whether it’s 7, 9, 1 or 5, affects the color of a voicing. In jazz we prefer the more different ones, but adding in a 5 changes how a chord sounds to the listener and opens new voice leading possibilities.

Naturally, some of these might not be physically reachable. As the performer in this example we’d have to decide the important notes to play (again, cut out the 5 obviously, or one of the 7s if you have a short hand span) but this modification does not completely fulfill the composer’s intent if it’s not what he wrote.

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level 4

I just read on Wikipedia that “timbre” can be called color.

However, I have also read that “color” refers to the upper harmonies of a chord (7th and above) and “quality” refers to the triad type.

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level 5

Yes, it’s true, but remember that these terms are defined more for the relevance to musical perception than anything else.

I’m disagreeing with the very definition of “color” as upper harmonies. The 7 is important, but the 7/3 combination is more important. In major or minor modes, the 7 defines whether we’re looking at something that’s tonic/dominant sounding in a very broad definition but we need the 3 to know what key we’re in. In minor keys, we may need the 5. (I’m using basic circle progressions ii7-V7-IM7 and iib5, V7b9, iM7 as my basis here but this works with many cadence types.)

Color is probably most useful to study as its own thing because it’s what your average musician will less intuitively find. However a better name might be “degree of color.” Using only color tones to flesh out a piece is like trying to recolor a photo, you can miss lots of stuff. And the difference between red and blue polka dots can have a major effect on a reproduction. An informed, good musician knows what colors to pick where. This depends on an understanding of “quality” as you define it.

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level 1

Six fingers might make some repertoire harder but I’d rather have longer fingers than more fingers. To make the piano sound good you generall want to spread the notes out, not play clusters of notes close together. A player who could reach a full 13th in both hands could play some amazing stuff.

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level 2

To make the piano sound good you generall want to spread the notes out, not play clusters of notes close together

I disagree and so would Bartok

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level 3

Bartok was a goddamn genius who broke all the rules because fuck convention. And even he would not disagree – he used a voicing similar to the “Kenny Barron voicing” in his piano concertos that consist of all open fifths with a whole tone or semitone in the middle (e.g. CGDEbBbF).

I stand by my statement that “open” chord voicings generally are stronger than close position chords. Such voicings may contain a few voices close together if a “crunchy” feel is desired (that’s what makes that kenny barron voicing so delicious), but the overall effect is still pretty open. Playing C in the LH and CEG in the RH is boring. Playing CG in the LH and EC in the RH is better. Playing a CE tenth in the LH and something like GCG in the RH is stronger still.

And that’s not even getting into jazz. If you’re going to play a C13 it would be boring to play CEGBbDFA. A better voicing most of the time would be C-G against something like Bb E A. I’m not at my keyboard to check that particular voicing but I’m sure you get the idea.

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