Pianists are unlike any other musicians. They don’t just have an instrument, they have a huge instrument. They can’t carry it around and jump all over the stage or dance about, they have to sit there and face the music literally.
Of course there are portable mini keyboards but we’re talking the real deal piano, not something that’s a hybrid or a gimmick device.
A real pianist has so much to take into consideration before they even sit down and play that it’s like what one sees when the NASA organization begins the launch of a spaceship. Everything has to be in the right place which calls for preparation of great precision. The instrument itself, the piano, has to be just the right one for the the hall or outdoor venue. Not all pianos can do the same job and each is designed for specific purposes like outdoor or indoor and many other factors.
The pianist knows what to choose. The piano has to be made of the right materials that perhaps the public is unaware of. Nowadays materials have changed to different composites but the old is still fresh regarding wood and internal mechanisms that make the piano work. It’s because the sound emanating from the piano has to be spot on precise. No room, absolutely no room for error is allowed and the tuning process will reveal it all.
The true pianist can tell when a key is off or if a piano itself is not up to specs. Coupling that with their staff who set up the performance, a pianist is going to have several people around to make sure things are up to spec. This can include an entire day or even week before an performance whereby acoustic tests and piano testing need be done. Every area where the audience sites is going to be tested to make sure the tones can be reached and heard clearly. Even in the cheap sets it’s important to be heard clearly and any pianist worth their salt wants everyone attending to be entertained.
Some pianists put on more of a show than others. Some just sit down while wearing a tuxedo or gown, and others can emerge in the most elaborate costumes ever created. One need only look up one of the most popular pianists of all time, Liberace. He owned Las Vegas during the 50s and 60s and for years was the highest paid entertainer of all time. He would wear the most outrageous costumes and jewelry and the halls he played were tailor made for him with acoustics and ornamentation. He may have been outlandish, but Liberace was spot on when performing.
Legends like Duke Ellington presented elegance and spanned so many music genres that there were none he could not master. Well dressed and eloquent, he played before the heads of Europe and delighted generations of fans to this day. He knew his pianos inside out and upside down.
Today’s concert pianists cannot afford to miss a note or they will be barraged by critics, manufacturers of pianos, fans, and more. It’s either spot on precise, or it can be a career bruiser for sure.
That all being said, add in audiences and other things and a pianist really does have their hands full.
Image credit: alenavlad