I don’t have much in common with Stephen Hough. He plays piano, I play piano. He is regarded by some as Britain’s finest pianist. I am… currently supporting myself by working for an advertising company.
One other thing that we have in common, if I can believe the programme from the concert that I attended at the St. Lawrence Centre a while back, is that neither of us like knowing our neighbours can hear us practice. Mr. Hough’s solution was to win a prestigious fellowship and use a portion of it to finance the soundproofing of his rehearsal space. My solution was to ask my wife to pick up a few yards of felt and a dowel at the mall.
As any fool who reads Wikipedia on a regular basis can tell you, some modern upright pianos are equipped with a “practice pedal” which, when depressed, lowers a curtain of felt between the hammers and strings. My Yamaha U1 is not. I duplicated the effect, if not entirely the convenience, by the following method:
- measure the distance from the lowest to the highest hammer
- cut the dowel to the above length
- cut a piece of felt to this length as well, and about 6-8″ wide
- screw a screw eye into each end of the dowel
- wrap the felt around the dowel and glue in place
- run a length of string (or ribbon, my aesthetic preference) through the screw eyes and loop it around the lid of the piano
- adjust length of ribbon
- play your piano very quietly
It’s been said many times that there is nothing to be gained from practicing on a “dumb” piano, and this procedure, like the practice pedal after which it is modelled, only renders my U1 slightly better than a dumb piano in that respect. You’re not going to develop a lot of nuance while this mute is in place. But even the most patient neighbour or housemate will tire of your scales and Hanon exercises sooner or later – and this mod will help you develop finger strength with impunity.