Prepared piano

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A prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects (preparations) between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers.

The idea of altering an instrument's timbre through the use of external objects has been applied to instruments other than the piano; see, for example, prepared guitar.


Background information

The prepared piano is interpreted by some musicologists[weasel words] as an aleatoric technique (although many composers, such as John Cage, often indicated precise measurements for placement of preparations), which was pioneered primarily by the aforementioned composer John Cage.[citation needed] However this is an oversimplification of the technique's desired results. Richard Bunger wrote a book The Well Prepared Piano in which he explains how Cage prepared his pianos and even which pianos are suitable, because of the deviation of string lengths within different types of brands. Bunger also clarifies why the preparations were done in such ways, in other words, what sound it causes per adaption (harmonics obtained, timbrel effects, etc.). The timbre of the instrument changes dramatically when preparations are introduced. Much of the technique is related to the harmonic positions of the strings. For instance a preparation on 1/2 of the string length causes a different sound than on 1/3. Cage was aware of this and made use of this knowledge.[citation needed] In other words, the preparations don't cause a random sound as often assumed. Parenthetically, many modern scores refer to a previously recorded sound, or include recordings that allow a pianist to imitate a desired sound on their instrument (see "Haiku," by Montague, or "My Closing Remarks," by Learn).[citation needed]

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