The Bass Piano
The Bass Piano is a regular old piano that I tune down a full octave from standard A440 concert pitch. Other than the obvious lowering of pitch, the tonal quality of the instrument changes drastically with the strings having a lot less tension.
My musical exploration has always revolved around the idea of alteration. Tape manipulation, altered records, circuit bent casio keyboards and electronic music consisting of chopped up field recordings is all part of my history in experimental music. When I went back to school to study Piano Technology, it was only natural that I started experimenting with altered pianos. During the process of restringing a piano there were so many wild sounds that would come out of the instrument and I started collecting recordings of these sounds.
The Bass Piano came about when I noticed how different a string sounded if it had very little tension. I also saw so many old uprights going to the dump due to loose tuning pins so i thought i could save these instruments by bringing the pitch down therefore loosening the tension on the strings and eliminating the need for tight tuning pins. I chose to tune it down an octave so that it could still be played with other instruments.
The result was surprising and beautiful. Since then I have been exploring the bass piano as a new instrument, one that has a unique timbre and resonance and one that is totally unpredictable. I have been collaborating with other pianists performing on the Bass Piano in order to explore the sonic possibilities of the instrument.
The piano, and other keyboard instruments are some of the few instruments that are constantly locked into equal temperament tuning. Most other instruments can bend notes and tune to people around them. The Bass Piano starts to open this up, but in an uncontrolled way. The tuning is usually fairly unstable, and is shifting around slightly throughout a performance. Its almost like you are interacting with something that is alive. The even tonal quality of a piano from top to bottom is gone as well. every area on the keyboard is different, some strings buzz together, strange things happen. It is a step towards breaking the piano free from it’s constraints.
The next phase of the Bass Piano project that is in motion is to commission works from composers specifically for the Bass Piano.
Bass Piano II
Creatures Creating Gallery, Toronto ON
Andrew Wedman (Bass Piano), Robin Buckley (Percussion)
Listen to the set
Bass Piano III
The Transact, Toronto ON
Ryan Driver, Bass Piano, Analog Synth and Voice
Andrew Wedman, Bass Piano with Julia Hamilton and David French, Bass Clarinets and Rebecca Foon, Cello performing work by
Live recording of Ryan Drivers set
Bass Piano IV
Janet Cardiff, George Bures Miller opening reception, Salmon Arm BC
Andrew Wedman, solo Bass Piano performance
Bass Piano VI
The Untempered Festival of Dissonant Arts, Penticton BC
Folk guitar legend Peter Walker
Italian Free Jazz giants The Jooklo Duo: Virginia Genta and David Vanzan
Naramata’s inventor of the Bass Piano, Andrew Wedman
Single reed quester from Oliver,
Plus local musical guests including jazz guitar wizard Tavis Weir
Bass Piano VII
October 2016, Montreal QC
Bass Piano VIII
May 2017, Naramata BC
The eighth Bass Piano was created in my studio / shop in Naramata along side the 240 note piano (a regular piano but with bi-chords and tri-chords all tuned to different notes). The 240 note piano was also used as a “resonator” to the Bass Piano. With the sustain pedal depressed it was strapped to the back of the Bass Piano to ensure sound transfer and thus dubbed the Strap-on Piano. Bass Piano VIII was used mainly for recording with people like Stanley Zappa, Brodie West, Mat Weston, the Jukloo Duo and more.
I also recorded a solo Bass Piano album on this instrument with Paul Shrimpton as the recording engineer. This album will be released some day soonish!
Bass Piano IX
June 2017, Prince George BC
This was the first Bass Piano that I did not prepare myself. MANZAP (Stanley Zappa and myself) were invited to perform at the Casse-tete Festival in Prince George. Peter Stevenson expertly de-tuned the piano in anticipation of our arrival. It was a little thing, but held up well in the cozy theatre.