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The Klavins 450i grand piano plays the same pitches as a conventional piano, but its bass strings are about twice as long (and presumably have different density and more tension, to compensate). The lowest note's string is about 12 feet long.

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How does this affect the instrument's sound, compared to a conventional grand?

As a short-scale bass guitar has a "fatter" sound than one of normal size, the 450i's low notes would sound "thinner" than a Steinway D.

On the other hand, a Steinway D sounds "richer" and "fuller" than the smaller Steinways.

Does the 450i's larger soundboard also affect the higher notes, whose strings aren't unusually long?

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    Short scale basses definitely sound different from long scale, but I wouldn’t use the word “fatter” to describe it. Certainly there are many very fat sounding long scale basses. – Todd Wilcox Feb 20 at 0:32
  • I just took Sweetwater's word for it. My own ears are more familiar with pianos -- but only up to the D. – Camille Goudeseune Feb 20 at 2:35
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Haven't played or heard such a piano live, but I can make some “educated guesses”.

The most clear-cut difference is that longer strings have less inharmonicity. Thus they will sound clearer / cleaner, and reduce the need for stretch in the or even make it unnecessary entirely. The only flip side of this is that it will sound in a way “too perfect”, perhaps sterile.

All other effects will come not from the string length alone, but from a combination of it with other factors. Indeed that's also true for electric bass – the article claiming that short-scale basses sound inherently fatter is frankly a bit rubbish. Both short- and longscale basses have fundamentals plus harmonics in similar proportion. The differences are

  • Short strings have a quicker decay, in particular quicker decay of the higher harmonics.
  • Shortscale basses will be operated with thicker strings and/or less tension, and often higher string action. All of this facilitates that the player can more easily put a lot of energy into the strings. On the flip side, you can't put in as much energy before the strings start rattling against each other and/or the fretboard. Thus, a shortscale bass has in a sense some dynamic compression built-in, which is well known to help with “fatness”.
  • Longscale basses have more stable and clear-sounding harmonics, which encourages bringing those out in the EQ. That however may end up overpowering other instruments in the mix, and if the result is that the bass volume will be turned down then you also lose “fatness”.
  • The inharmonicity aspect can also be perceive as some “fatness”. It's kind of a bit of a chorus. In particular when playing over a saturating amp, you'll get both the detuned original harmonics and overdrive harmonics which are exact integer multiples. I.e., a shortscale bass has in practice not only slightly different harmonics but actually more of them. Of course, exactly that also contributes to them often coming out muddier.

Unlike with electric bass, on piano you don't get to apply EQ to the signal as you like. However, the instrument itself acts as an EQ too, and specifically the large size does make it easier for the body to bring out the low fundamentals. Also, more so than with bass, a piano can be designed to put much more energy in such long strings. So I'd expect the 450i to sound significantly more powerful in the bass register than a normal grand, certainly not “thin”. It may also have such an open overtone spectrum that it becomes overpowering – however unlike with turning down the bass in the mix, simply playing the low notes at a quieter dynamic level will also make them sound rounder, fuller, so that should never result in a “thin mix” either.

And because a piano isn't played through a nonlinear amp, the “multiple extra harmonics” aspect doesn't apply at all.

In Pianoteq, you can freely vary the lenght of the simulated strings. At least there, it affects pretty much only the inharmonicity amount. That may not be quite realistic, but you can give it a try and decide whether you feel that eliminating inharmonicity does in any way take away from the “piano quality”.

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  • You say that short strings have "in particular quicker decay of the higher harmonics", but also that "Both short- and longscale basses have fundamentals plus harmonics in similar proportion". If the short scale bass is just as bright as the long scale, but only at the very beginning of each note, then it might as well be considered a darker sounding instrument. Hence the people saying that it sounds "fatter". – Edward Feb 20 at 21:00
  • An experiment, if you have a 5 string bass- play a lick on the EADG strings, and then capo the 5th fret to make it a (very) short scale bass. Play a lick again on the new short EADG strings. Whether you choose to describe it as "fat" or something else, there is a particular difference in the tone. You could also tune down 2-3 steps and capo back up to EADG to see what would happen if you use lower tension strings instead of heavier strings. – Edward Feb 20 at 21:14
  • @Edward playing the same part on lower strings sounds fatter mainly for a different reason: it “moves” the pickup closer to the middle of the vibrating part of the string, i.e. it's like switching from the bridge PU to the neck one, which of course gives a more fundamental-focussed sound. But that doesn't apply for short-scale basses, because they're just smaller in every dimension, including the distance between bridge and pickups. – leftaroundabout Feb 20 at 21:55
  • But, yeah, playing higher on the neck does in many a sense give a similar experience as playing short-scale, which is one of the reasons why I don't think much of them: a long-scale can simulate a short-scale, but not the other way around. – leftaroundabout Feb 20 at 21:57
  • You can hear a difference in tone without even plugging your instrument in, removing the pickup from the equation. – Edward Feb 20 at 23:51
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I'd suggest a simple experiment.

Listen to an action movie teaser (like this) in a well built and designed movie theater, then with your home computer, your laptop speakers, your tablet and your smartphone.

The sounds are "the same". But the result is quite different.

While it's true that "size doesn't [always] matter", it normally does in physics - and, thus, in acoustics. They are simple physical objects that can move air in simple ways: making air vibrate just as they're "told".

Strings that long will certainly sound different due to the amount of air they are able to move, which means that they will be able to pass along a much greater amount of harmonics, which is (mostly) what our ears - and brains - perceive.

BUT.
Keep in mind that "big instrument" doesn't always mean "big sound": a single piccolo flute is clearly more easy to be listened and recognized than a doublebass, at least to our ears, brains and... tolerance ;-).

Sound relevance is a matter of physics and perception. Loud sounds can be perceived as soft and vice-versa, depending on the sound and also physio/psychological context (that's why it's called "psychoacoustic").

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    It seems like your goal is to convince the reader that it will sound different, with little focus on how exactly it will sound different or why. Also, the strings themselves don't move much air at all- that's the sound board's job. – Edward Feb 20 at 2:39
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    1. The proposed experiment suggests, uncontroversially, that the presence of midrange drivers, woofers, and cabinet subwoofers affects frequency response. The devices producing sound in the question are rather different. 2. How does string length affect air moved? 3. This answer dances around the question, but doesn't yet try to answer it. – Camille Goudeseune Feb 20 at 2:43
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    I have to agree with both of you: my answer was an oversimplification. But the board is just a mean: despite I agree with the fact that air movement has little difference considering the direct source (the string), string size extent (and width) does affect the result on the board. I'll try to address those aspects and edit the answer accordingly, thank you! – musicamante Feb 20 at 2:48
  • This answer provides no information. You mention "physics" and "perception" but you don't refer to any particular mechanism that makes an instrument with longer strings sound differently. As Edward pointed out, you also miss the fact that only a minor fraction of the sound emitted by the piano is transferred by the strings to the air directly. – user1079505 Feb 20 at 20:08

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