A “prepared piano” is a piano that has been modified with objects placed in it in a very special way as dictated by a composer of a “prepared piano” composition. This is a valid practice, but may only be done as prescribed below, and only on a piano designated by Piano Shop technicians and under their supervision.
Non Traditional Piano Use Guidelines
Prepared Piano Policy
1. All structural changes to any piano must be approved by and, in most cases, performed by a Piano Shop technician. This includes removing the lid or other case parts and attaching anything to strings or soundboard to modify the sound.
2. Marking strings. Small stickers may be used on dampers or agraffes to mark notes. Please purchase stickers that are easy to remove such as the small colored dots. Care must always be used when touching dampers as they are easily bent. Never use masking tape or any other adhesive that may leave a residue. The performer is responsible for removing any stickers immediately after any performance. There should be nothing applied directly to the strings. This includes white-out, tape, stickers, nail polish, etc. In some cases chalk may be used to mark steel strings but never the copper-wound bass strings.
3. Striking and plucking strings. Strings may be struck or plucked with fingers or guitar pick. (Since oil from the skin can tarnish strings please wash hands well before touching any string.) Other devices must always be of a material that will not mar or scratch strings. On steel strings, only materials that are softer than the steel string may be used, such as brass or aluminum. Copper-wound bass strings must also be struck or plucked with a material softer than the copper. Acceptable material includes wood, plastic, rubber, etc. Piano Shop technicians are available to help the performer select materials that will not damage the piano. In some cases, literature calls for the insertion of screws or mutes between piano strings. Again, a material softer than the string must be used, such as brass or aluminum.
4. Extreme volume. There is a fine line to be drawn between passionate musical expression and outright banging on a piano. Please use good judgment when playing above a forte. Harsh playing is damaging and will not be tolerated.
5. Common sense. Most damage to pianos can easily be avoided by using good judgment. Please consult with the Piano Shop technician before using unconventional techniques. Usually, an alternative can be found to satisfy both the performer and this policy.
Remember that a “prepared piano” is a special preparation required for a “prepared piano composition”, and except for this unusual circumstance pianos should only be used in the “normal” way.