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OFAI-TR-2000-11 ( 184kB g-zipped PostScript file,  147kB PDF file)

Skilled Piano Performance: Melody Lead Caused by Dynamic Differentiation

Werner Goebl

Background: Simultaneous notes in the printed score (chords) are not played strictly simultaneously by pianists. As reported in the literature, an emphasised voice is not only played louder, but additionally precedes the other voices typically by around 30ms (melody lead). It is still unclear whether this phenomenon is a common expressive feature in music performance that aids listeners in identifying the melody in multivoiced music, or that it is mostly due to the timing characteristics of the piano action (velocity artefact) and therefore a result of a dynamic differentiation of voices. Especially in chords played by the right hand, high correlations between velocity difference and melody lead (between melody notes and accompaniment) seem to confirm this velocity artefact assumption.
Aims: The investigated data, derived mostly from computer-monitored pianos, represents the asynchronies at the hammer-string contact points. The present study will be focused on asynchrony patterns at the finger-key contact times as well. Finger-key profiles represent what pianists initially do when striking different keys simultaneously. In this paper, we show that the melody lead phenomenon disappears at the finger-key level. That means that pianists tend to strike the keys almost simultaneously, only different dynamics (velocities) result in the typical hammer-string asynchronies (melody lead).

Keywords: Music Expression, Piano Performance

Citation: Goebl, W. (2000). Skilled Piano Performance: Melody Lead Caused by Dynamic Differentiation. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC'2000), Keele, UK.