I’ve found that my choices of pianos tend to be very samey, and my treatment of pianos in the mix is rather boring (for want of a better word). I believe it’s down to my lack of a deeper understanding of the subtler differences between differing types of piano, which I find makes me rather reticent to make informed decisions.
For a start, an interesting mix choice is presented in this article:
Despite the boring audio representation (I feel like a better job could be done with the effects applied), I like the idea of tremolo on a piano, as it makes it less of a boring, static instrument. I feel that maybe thinking about a piano in the same way that I may think about a guitar in terms of creative processing may open my mind to these types of interesting FX, and bring more interest to my mixes.
The above link, again Radiohead related, talks briefly about the piano used in “Subterranean Homesick Alien”. This is a very interesting use of a piano, as its used as a melodic element, as well as a pad, due to the type of piano used (e piano) as well as the combination of long reverb and delay used. This is another interesting way of using a piano, and once again, points to the fact that I should maybe think about piano more like an electric guitar in the sense that the tone should be picked to compliment the song and add interest, rather than just sounding like “ooh that’s a piano there”. This frame of mind could definitely help me in the choice of piano “tone” as well as processing.
This train of thought is a good start to a better approach to pianos, although I feel I should gain a better understanding of the mechanics of different pianos, in order to better understand their distinct aural characteristics. This will be a topic of deeper research.