Prepared Piano Project? (PPP)

#1

So, I was listening to some work by Ryuichi Sakamoto today, and on one of his albums, he used a Prepared Piano. I started looking into it, because I had heard the term before, but never got a concrete definition.

Today, I got them. Taken from here:

Although theoretically any object could be used to prepare a piano, in practical application preparation objects are usually expected to have certain characteristics:

They are applied directly to the piano strings;
They must fit in the desired location inside the piano;
They (usually) should not move from their location during playing;
They must be reversible (that is, when a properly prepared piano has been "unprepared", it should be impossible for anyone to tell that it had ever been prepared; no permanent damage is done to the piano).

Additionally, most preparations will change the timbre of the string in such a way that the original pitch of the string will no longer be perceptible, though there are occasional exceptions to this.

Using these parameters, I think it would be really fun to make a “Prepared Piano” in Sonic Pi.

The way I can see this implemented is.

1.) You must use the stock piano synth preset in sonic pi (Simulating an irl piano)
2.) The piano can be “prepared” using effects.
3.) Every preparation is a function that can be called. For example, lets say you have one prepared piano where you are emulating a screw inbetween the strings, then another where you have that as well as a book on some of the strings. (This is done in service to the “reversible” part)
4.) The only rule is you CAN NOT modify the original piano synthdef, since that would be, in my opinion, breaking the last rule about “reversible” because it is not the same instrument.

They can be realistic, like trying to emulate real life effects, or your own that you come across. As long as it fits in the parameters, it is fair game.

Examples:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgph8aPmRJs(I really like this one. I would love to try to recreate the sound of the ping pong balls on the strings)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0-y8oNDLgU(The original, John Cage’s Sonatas for Prepared Pianos)

Would anyone be interested in exploring this idea? in making a “prepared piano” for Sonic Pi?

If all else, I think it would be a fun experimental exercise. :slight_smile:

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#2

Also, it doesn’t have to be emulating objects on the strings.

You can build a function to emulate running your fingers on the strings.

Edit : Side note, if I, or anyone else, figures out how to get this effect, I AM going to do a cover of this song, because it is super badass

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#3

Also, remember, the goal is not just to emulate “real world effects”, but to see what kind of weird sounds can be produced from the limitation of using the stock preset

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#4

Also, another tidbit that I came across that may get your ideas flowing is that the effects don’t have to affect the whole piano. You can make it so that if the notes are in a certain range, this effect will happen, but the rest will stay the same.

This idea also comes from the Wiki I linked in the original post.

“In his Ragamalika (1912–22), based on the classical music of India, French composer Maurice Delage calls for a piece of cardboard to be placed under the B♭ in the second line of the bass clef to dampen the sound, imitating the sound of an Indian drum.”

This can lead to a function that has multiple “preparations” on different string groups, allowing for multiple parts to be called and combined in the same piece, making for a very modular approach.

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#5

I have created a working list taken from the FX docs

I tried to organize them into “Acoustic” (Effects that could be replicated in the physical world by manipulating the instrument) and Non-Acoustic (Digital effects that could not be implemented practically in real life.)

For example: Reverb is acoustic because of different size rooms.
Distortion, however, is digitally applied, with no real world acoustic application outside of pedals.

Acoustic:
-Reverb
-Gverb
-Echo
-slicer
-compressor (maybe?)
-whammy
-All Filters not normalized (maybe?)
-Pitch Shift
-ring modulator
-octaver
-vowel

Non-Acoustic:
-Bitcrusher
-krush
-pan slicer
-Wobble
-ixi_techno
-normalizer/normalized filters
-Distortion
-Pan
-EQ (Maybe?)
-tanh
-Flanger

I haven’t used some of these in practice, so I may be wrong on some of these, but for the most part, I think this is a good list to start working from in terms of organization

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#6

The construction I can see in psudeocode
1.) You have multiple preparation functions. They can come in two catagories, or a combination of both.

  • Component - this is a function that simulates an effect. In a traditional Prepared piano example, this would be the screw you put in between 2 strings.
  • Position - This is a function that specifies a part of the piano. This can be a single note or a range.

2.) You have a finished piano that is made up of multiple preparations combined to make an instrument
3.) You have the actual arrangement of the song, using your finished piano

You can then use the first parts in multiple prepared pianos, that can then be used for suites, or switched out for the next piece.

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#7

I wanted to get my ideas done somewhere before I forget it.

I am finishing up some Vaporwave tracks, and some horror song snippets I have lying around, then I’m going to get to work on this idea.

I should have some samples by the end of the weekend

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