Initially, I wish to establish a knowledge of the different types of piano.
This video was a good introduction into the differences between a grand and an upright.
The Nord website sample libraries also have good examples of different types of piano:
To my ear, I couldn’t necessarily tell a huge discernable difference between uprights and grands in general. These differences were subtle. The main difference was in the size of the piano overall, and I think this is more of a concern when picking a piano that will be appropriate for a song, rather than upright vs. grand.
Regarding electric pianos, there seems to be many similarities between different types, with the main differences being in the ways that they distribute their frequency energy. Some are warmer and darker, and some are brighter/thinner. There is also a marked difference between the way that differing models of E-piano distort when played heavily, with some having harsher, more distorted peaks, and others rounding off more softly. These are considerations that I’ll make in the future when picking pianos.
Now for listening:
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs:
There are two distinct pianos, a smaller, more honky tonk piano playing the “lead” section. Quite thin, maybe upright? A larger, more grand piano is playing the sustained low chords. The lead seems relatively wide, drawing attention to itself, whereas the lower piano is less wide, and panned slightly off to the left.
Elliot Smith – Waltz #2:
“Lead/hook” piano is a wide, medium sized piano. Width draws attention to hook riff. Possibly double tracked?
Piano accompaniment in verse is mono (or close to it) less obvious. Same size of piano as main riff.
Quick use of an organ, or heavily altered piano sound nearer to end of song. Adds variation.
The Fray – How to Save a Life:
Very grand, super wide. Bright and deep. Sustained. Quite “pop”. More instrumentation added, piano is bandwidth limited to make room.
Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien:
E-piano, soft. Reverb makes it have a “pad” quality, not very dynamic. Soft distortion. Tremolo and movement.
Radiohead – Karma Police:
Bright, quite small piano sound. Honky-tonk-ish. Maybe two or more piano sounds layered/alternated? Or at least alternation, as tone varies throughout different sections. Quite wide, although not as wide as acoustic guitar.