I've just finished reading the article quoted earlier by cocobill. There is quite a bit to take issue with. While the fundamental point, that different striking techniques can provide some extremely subtle variety of tonal effect on a given piano (we are, after all, talking about an acoustic instrument sensitive to every minute environmental condition), is, of course, valid, the author jumps from this basic, isolated fact to a far-off conclusion: that adherence to one technique over another will yield vastly different results, and, much further, that one of these tonal results is absolutely preferable over another.
I should state here that I steadfastly believe what I wrote earlier, that technique and tone need to be considered in the context of music. Supposedly controlled lab tests of musical instruments are of no great use; the entirety of a fine instrument's sonic character is imparted through the vast nuances of the materials and methods used to construct and operate it, and any attempt to isolate and examine the tiniest of distinctions is doomed to meaninglessness. Myriad failed attempts to study and replicate Stradivarius violins have proven this point true.
This is certainly not to say that all instrumental/acoustical research is pointless, but just to point out that the sheer infinity of variables involved in certain types of experiments inevitably leads the scientist down such an involuted path that he drifts farther and farther from relevance to the actual fundamentally performative, essentially artistic function of the instrument.
This article on "Tone" is an example of a person attempting to squeeze musical meaningfulness from raw data, and falling flat on his face in trying to do so. In the article, he spends pages explaining the initial sound created upon the impact of the hammer on the string, the "prompt sound," as a 6 or 7 millisecond window of sound during which the energy of the dissonant natural frequencies of the hammer are translated into the harmonic frequencies of the string. He says, "the prompt sound, which lasts for the first one or two hundredths of a second, contains the harsh dissonant frequencies; the after sound consists of only the natural string frequencies."
However, the entire scientific endeavor is proven pointless by this single sentence: "One wants to reduce the prompt sound, but it is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate it completely; its presence contributes to the unique sound of the piano." Thus, after going to such great lengths to explain the physics of the piano, the author returns to a statement fully verifying and validating the subjective nature of music and the pointlessness of such ridiculous examination. First of all, a question: does one really want to reduce the prompt sound, if its presence contributes to the unique sound of the piano? In fact, "contributes to" is a bit of an understatement; the Wikipedia entry on "Timbre" states the issue as such:
"...if one takes away the attack from the sound of a piano or trumpet, it becomes more difficult to identify the sound correctly, since the sound of the hammer hitting the strings or the first blat of the player's lips are highly characteristic of those instruments.
So the "attack" sound of a piano is, indeed, what makes it sound like a piano. And does one truly want to play an instrument in a manner which seeks to make the instrument sound less like itself? The answer, at least to me, seems obvious. It is why digital piano manufacturers record the attack sound as well as the sustain sound for a piano key sample. When I play a key on my digital Yamaha piano, I can hear the actual recorded "thud" of the hammer mechanism moving and hitting the string, as well as the real "thud" of the weighted action of the keyboard.
There are so many variables in the creation of a piano's sound, from the construction of the piano itself to the way it is played, and this, of course, makes up the enormous bulk of any acoustic instrument's appeal.
Suffice it to say, the point of all this must be that in the end, after all the minute scientific data in the world is collected on the nature of an instrument's sound, even the most rigorous scientist still has to make a completely subjective, personal, emotional decision on the value
of any data in actual, performative application.
Maybe someday I'll figure out a way to get some recordings of myself actually playing the piano onto this site, and spare you all these words