All About Prepared Piano

Source: Smithsonian.

Every musician has a particular set of tasks and warm-ups before a performance or practice session—oiling the valves, rosining the bow, tuning, long tones, scales, stretches. For Kelly Moran, a composer and pianist based in New York City, this ritual includes peering inside the lid of the piano to carefully place screws and bolts of various sizes in between the delicate strings.

Moran composes for a technique known as the prepared piano, in which everyday household items are used to alter the sound of any given note on the instrument. While screws and bolts are Moran’s objects of choice, other potential preparations include paper clips, straws and pencil erasers. Placed on the 230 strings inside the piano, these objects muffle or choke the timbre of the sound produced when a key on the keyboard is pressed.