The Danger of Composing on the Piano

Composing on a piano is a great tool but can also be quite limiting. For example, chord voicings that sound good or decent on a piano don’t neccessarily translate too well to real orchestra.

Usually, the biggest problem with such voicings is the gap between left and right hand and the limited spread of the hands. You will often end up with quite hollow chord structures and muddy low registers when translating piano chords as they are to orchestra. A wide spread fortissimo chord on the piano is bound to have a large gap between left and right hand. In most cases this is something that will make an orchestral voicing quite unbalanced.

As a consequence you should never record complete chord sequences by playing them on your master keyboard. Rather prefer recording them in several run throughs with focus on voice leading and proper balancing. It is important that you try to develop an inner ear and imagination for orchestral structures instead of relying on what you can play on your piano. It helps quite alot to notate things instead of playing them into your sequencer even if you might find it much harder at the beginning. But the control you gain by doing that as well as the thought that you’re forced to put into it by writing things down will eventually produce better results.

2 Comments

  1. Eugene

    Thank you, very interesting notes.
    Sometimes you don’t actually realize these ideas until them being put in words.
    I agree that piano just suits for quick prototyping – to hear your music in real life, but if you continue developing the piece using just piano, you probably fall into chiefly piano technics, it doesn’t really work for the whole orchestra.
    I’ve been working upon one music piece I created for piano and now I need to orchestrate it. I literally just re-create the whole thing from the beginning, because it is so piano-like and missing the whole world within.
    Sorry if it doesn’t meet your idea of commenting the articles, but your words vibed in me 🙂

    Reply
    • Robin

      Thanks for your feedback, Eugene! Good luck with the orchestration!

      Reply

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