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#1324719 - 12/13/09 07:30 PM Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever?  
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charleslang Offline
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I know there's one being developed using heat on the wires. But also, as far as I understand, even though this would be a huge achievement, you will still need to have a professional tune it once every year or two, since the heat can only tune within a certain range.

But, since this is still in development, I'm just wondering -- has any automatic tuning piano ever been constructed? Even as a one-off project? (I'm assuming it would be too expensive or complicated to mass produce, maybe?)

I understand it's a large engineering challenge. But am I naive in thinking that if it were something extremely important to very many people, like winning a war or building a bridge, this would have been figured out by now?





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#1324744 - 12/13/09 08:10 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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I may be wrong, but this is my perspective on this. ( I'm not a tuner)

Even if you could achieve such a thing as a self tuning piano, I would think the added cost would make it have a very low uptake in the market.

My view is that if any new invention would greatly improve the tuning picture, it would be an improved pin block. I am starting down the road of learning to tune my piano and find that the hardest part is simply moving the pins and having them and the string stay where you leave them. Do that, combine it with tuning software and either you or your tuner will be able to do it so quickly, you won't think about a self tuning piano again, IMHO.

Want support for this? Check out my yahoo group- http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/DIYPianotuning/?yguid=74281353

Neil


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#1324766 - 12/13/09 08:37 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: Neil Sundberg]  
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Originally Posted by Neil Sundberg
I may be wrong, but this is my perspective on this. ( I'm not a tuner)

Even if you could achieve such a thing as a self tuning piano, I would think the added cost would make it have a very low uptake in the market.

My view is that if any new invention would greatly improve the tuning picture, it would be an improved pin block. I am starting down the road of learning to tune my piano and find that the hardest part is simply moving the pins and having them and the string stay where you leave them. Do that, combine it with tuning software and either you or your tuner will be able to do it so quickly, you won't think about a self tuning piano again, IMHO.

Want support for this? Check out my yahoo group- http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/DIYPianotuning/?yguid=74281353

Neil


Hehe . . . Yes I suppose it's people who are learning to tune their own pianos who think about self-tuning pianos the most blush And I agree that getting things to stay where you put them is also my own biggest challenge.

But I would think that a self-tuning device would have a market if you could sell it for less than about 5,000 dollars, which doesn't seem to me to be obviously impossible for the engineering geniuses out there to accomplish.

Yes, for the 1-tuning-per-year folks, that's forty years of tunings, but imagine how nice it would be to have a *perfect* tuning all the time. No slipped unisons, with that perfect 'vowel' sound when you hit each note. For that, people will pay 5,000 I'm sure, at least for a certain part of the market.


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#1324784 - 12/13/09 08:58 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Well, Yes, I would love it if my piano was in perfect tune all the time. I suppose since such an invention would involve a computer interface, it could also be programmed to tune it in any style, temperament or even a historical temperament if you wanted. Who knows, maybe it'll happen. I would imagine that part of it would involved a new kind of pin block where the pins would be easier to move as part of it.
I thought there was a company working on one. I'll have to do some searching.

Neil


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#1324791 - 12/13/09 09:11 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: Neil Sundberg]  
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NPR has a short pod cast about the heat tuned piano. Listening to the podcast it sounds like the idea is nearly a reality.

It is on this page: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=878091

Neil

Last edited by Neil Sundberg; 12/13/09 09:18 PM.

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#1324798 - 12/13/09 09:18 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: Neil Sundberg]  
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Originally Posted by Neil Sundberg
NPR has a short pod cast about the heat tuned piano. Listening to the podcast it sounds like the idea is nearly a reality.

It is on this page: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=878091

Neil


Whoa that's from seven years ago -- I wonder if something went wrong or if it's still happening. I checked the Story and Clark site and there's no word of it there.


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#1324804 - 12/13/09 09:36 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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The inventor, Don Gilmore or eromlignod, has posted here from time to time. You can check his posts to see what he has said about it.


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#1324848 - 12/13/09 10:47 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: BDB]  
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Thanks. I guess I read a reference from grandpianoman to Don Gilmore a while back and I'll go look at eromlignod's posts.

It seems like it would be a very enjoyable engineering challenge to solve, to do it mechanically.

Piano technicians and builders are used to doing lots of things 88 times. Why not 88 little gear boxes with 88 little motors?

The challenge is getting enough torque to withstand the tension on the string, on the one hand, and enough precision to keep it perfectly in tune, on the other. Finally, you would need it to hold its position precisely after the motor was finished getting the string in tune.

The advantage is that you don't have to do it quickly; this is not like power steering in a car for example. If the system takes ten minutes to tune the piano, or even an hour, customers will still be giddy about it.

Why not have 88 extremely heavy-duty servos? A servo is a small gear box with a motor that is geared down so that the output shaft can be moved with precision.

Usually they have plastic gears which would never work, but you could use steel gears and increase the gear ratio much more to get the necessary torque.


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#1324872 - 12/13/09 11:43 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Actually, there are about 230 strings in a piano. Also, the precision needed for tuning is extremely precise, more precise than can be done with an inexpensive mechanical device.


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#1324878 - 12/13/09 11:48 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: BDB]  
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Of course, I know that there are about 230 strings in a piano. Not sure why my mind was thinking in terms of 88.

The other way to do it would be to have one device that moves between the pins, and does a whole tuning in a certain amount of time, say, half an hour. They could be screws, like those old Mason and Hamlin uprights had, without any pinblock.

Then you'd only have one expensive, highly precise device. You'd need a kind of system to automatically move it from pin to pin. Maybe it could move a little bit like the head on an inkjet printer, with some kind of belt-driven positioning system.


Last edited by charleslang; 12/13/09 11:53 PM.

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#1324886 - 12/14/09 12:01 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Have you seen the Gibson "Robot Tunner"? It is a guitar tuning pen with a very small electric motor built-in. It is no larger then the standard tuning machine on normal guitars. It moves slow and takes a couple minutes to tune.

There is a pickup under the string and a computer that compares the sound from the pickup to a reference and turns the pin to correct the difference between the string and the reference. I think it can handle standard tuning as well as some others

See here for details
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_Robot_Guitar

This is a real product that sells in retail stars. You can buy it now. Gibson builds guitars not pianos not the idea could be adopted. The problem is the cost. Guitars only have six strings. Would you pay an extra $10,000 for this?

Why use this for a piano? It might allow you to do things you otherwise could not. Like adjust the temperament to be historically correct for a given piece and then change it back for the next, just like a digital piano can.

But there is another good reason for self tuning: Currently pianos are built strong so they stay in tune. But if a piano could be tuned several times a day in just a few minutes maybe you could reduce the structure and build it cheaper. I bet you could build a lower cost piano if it only had to stay in tune for half a day. So could the system might allow lower cost pianos to be built? I don't know.


#1324892 - 12/14/09 12:14 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: ChrisA]  
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Gibson does make pianos. They own Baldwin.


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#1324899 - 12/14/09 12:31 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: ChrisA]  
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Originally Posted by ChrisA
Have you seen the Gibson "Robot Tunner"? It is a guitar tuning pen with a very small electric motor built-in. It is no larger then the standard tuning machine on normal guitars. It moves slow and takes a couple minutes to tune.

There is a pickup under the string and a computer that compares the sound from the pickup to a reference and turns the pin to correct the difference between the string and the reference. I think it can handle standard tuning as well as some others

See here for details
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_Robot_Guitar

This is a real product that sells in retail stars. You can buy it now. Gibson builds guitars not pianos not the idea could be adopted. The problem is the cost. Guitars only have six strings. Would you pay an extra $10,000 for this?

Why use this for a piano? It might allow you to do things you otherwise could not. Like adjust the temperament to be historically correct for a given piece and then change it back for the next, just like a digital piano can.

But there is another good reason for self tuning: Currently pianos are built strong so they stay in tune. But if a piano could be tuned several times a day in just a few minutes maybe you could reduce the structure and build it cheaper. I bet you could build a lower cost piano if it only had to stay in tune for half a day. So could the system might allow lower cost pianos to be built? I don't know.



Wow. That's very helpful. Looks like they use an individual servo for each string. Comparatively easy with six strings and low tension, but still interesting. If you could get a heavy-duty servo down to $10 in cost, 220 of them would be about 2200 dollars. Improbable perhaps but there might be some economy of scale. Even if they go in just 1,000 pianos per year, there are 220,000 of that little device. You could make it a joint venture between Samick and Yamaha or something, like the car companies did for Hybrid systems.


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#1325533 - 12/14/09 09:30 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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While listening to some recordings of big-name, professional musicians today, I noticed that probably more than ten percent or more of these recordings have a piano that is to some degree out of tune. Mostly I'm assuming these pianos were tuned right before the performance but slipped during the playing.

So I guess even a self-tuning system that cost 100,000 dollars would probably have a market for large performance venues and studios.

Assuming of course that the system could, in addition to tuning the piano, also maintain that tuning during a performance.

But I bet if the strings were attached to servos, there would be much less 'slipping', like there is with pins set in wood, regardless of whether the technology were capable of actively maintaining a tuning during a performance. So, it would probably still be advantageous over traditional pins in wood, regardless of this ability.


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#1325539 - 12/14/09 09:41 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Most of the time pianos go out of tune because the music wire streches due to soundboard/bridge expansion and contractions and to being struck, not because the tuning pin slips in the pin block.

Actually there is a guy who is currently working on a project of a self tuning piano design that applies small amounts of heating electrical current to the strings to adjust the pitch. An original good tuning is placed on the instrument, then periodically a switch is thrown or button is pushed that activates a combination measurement system and then applies the exact amount of current to achieve the required stored pitch. This happens for each string and in a matter of seconds. There was a thread several months back on the Technician's Forum about this. Very cool.


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#1325551 - 12/14/09 09:54 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: Marty Flinn]  
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Interesting thread, Charles.

To tell you the truth, I have a very sensitive ear regarding musical tone and intervals. And, there is nothing in the world that sounds better than a well tuned piano.

However, I’m not so sure I’d want my piano in perfect tune 100% of the time. I think the slight and subtle nuances and blends of tonality that an ever so slightly out of tune piano can make gives it a unique character and personality. In fact, if I wanted a perfectly tuned piano, I’d buy a high quality digital piano. And what about temperament, inharmonisity and stretch? Is there a universal perfect tuning?

Of course, the closer to being “in-tune” a piano is, the better; but that particular “sweet spot” that an acoustic piano can have at times sure does sound nice.

As far as a perpetual self-tuning acoustic piano is concerned, it might be a reality as a novelty, but it will most likely never be very popular. (Of course, I’ve been wrong before)

Take care,

Rick




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#1841531 - 02/09/12 09:23 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Does anyone else smell something fishy about this topic? I think it is a early April Fool's joke on this forum.

#1841556 - 02/09/12 10:59 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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This thread is from 2009.


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#1841641 - 02/10/12 03:03 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: Eric Gloo]  
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Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
This thread is from 2009.


That's probably why Guapo said it's a bit fishy. The timeline is quite strange when you take in account the relatively recent thread from earlier this year. crazy

#1841642 - 02/10/12 03:10 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Don Gilmore has been working on his auto-tuning system for years. It has been written about and discussed quite a lot, there was an article in the PTG Journal some years back. This one is only one of the numerous threads in the PW archives going back a fair ways. Nothing fishy, just old.

#1841644 - 02/10/12 03:14 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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Ah I see now. i haven't been 'round here that long to know. Thanks for the pointer, Jurgen! smile

#1843106 - 02/12/12 10:56 AM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugAxXm2SAXw&context=C3b73aebADOEgsToPDskLnqxc84WSUmsFxMTRPVGso

An article will be out soon in Popular Science magazine. I'll let you know what issue when I find out.

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#1843163 - 02/12/12 12:05 PM Re: Any successful auto-tuning piano, ever? [Re: charleslang]  
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The idea of the self-tuning piano has been around for some time. The following quote is from Piano Tone Building, the first of the New York City meetings held on February 19, 1919: It’s a little long but I thought some might find it interesting:

Quote
We are privileged to witness the first presentation of a device for keeping the piano in tune—“once tuned, always tuned”—the principle of which is not difficult to understand or explain. It is the invention of Mr. A. J. Ostrander, of Lyons, N.Y., and will be demonstrated by the inventor and Mr. Gould.

A. J. Ostrander: Three conditions govern the pitch of a vibrating string: (1) length, (2) weight per unit of length and (3) tension. In the piano as now constructed the first two of the above conditions remain virtually constant. It therefore is necessary only to remedy the variation in the third condition, the change in tension due to the contraction and expansion of the wires under atmospheric conditions or change in tension due to any other causes.

This is accomplished, in this device, through the operation of what is known as Pascal’s law of internal pressure of fluids (or semi-fluids), which states that the pressure in all parts of a chamber containing such fluid under pressure is equal.

It therefore follows that a freely-moving piston, having a given cross-section area, will always exert an amount of pressure directly proportional to the pressure in the chamber. By means of a simple lever of the second class, this pressure is stepped up and applied directly to the string, the necessary amount of pull being accurately obtained by adjusting a movable fulcrum to give the proper ratio between the two members of the lever. Once this adjustment is made, with a given piston pressure, a given pull on the string is maintained, regardless of its contraction or expansion, thus meeting the third condition mentioned.

Another law of pitch in vibrating strings is this: To raise any string a halftone in pitch, an increase of 12.35% in the pull already exerted must be applied. Thus, a string having 100 pounds pull would, in going up half a tone, require a pull of 112.35 pounds, while one having 200 pounds would require 224.7 pounds.

An illustration of the working of the device under normal conditions may be given as follows: Suppose 100 strings to be tuned to middle C, and one string contracts (or is drawn up) enough to raise the pitch one-half tone, all the other strings remaining the same in length. The increased pull of the contracted string immediately transmits, through the lever, increased pressure to the piston controlling this string. But, by the law of internal pressure, this increase of pressure on one piston is immediately transmitted to the entire compression chamber, affecting all the other pistons. The result, then, is that, instead of the one string going up half a tone and all the others remaining constant, all the strings go up 0.01 of a half tone, thus maintaining a musical instrument, though at a slightly different pitch.

To maintain a given pitch in all strings it is only necessary to provide a master piston controlled by a weight or spring.

As the pressure of any piston is directly proportional to the pressure in the chamber, and as the amount of pressure by one member of a lever is directly proportional to the amount of pressure applied to the other member, it follows that with this device it is possible, by merely changing the amount of pressure in the chamber, to raise or lower the pitch of the entire instrument at a moment’s notice.

The small increase in the cost of construction that may result will be offset by the reduction in selling cost, elimination of gratuitous tuning after the sale and changes in construction such as doing away with the wrestplank and pins. Other important items can be mentioned.

In closing it is only fair to say that the present model was intended merely for experimental and research work. It is made entirely by hand and is necessarily crude and inaccurate. Also it is the first model of its kind, and it is obvious that it is open to great improvement in mechanical refinement, both as to material and in design and arrangement of parts. But we believe it is entirely conclusive in its demonstration of the principles involved and their applicability toward the desired result.

F. E. Morton: It may not be popular with tuners. The most important thing in making a radical change or in the installation of labor-saving machinery is first to sell it to the workman. If this is not done, your product meets with antagonism and your sales propaganda is handicapped from the start. The best sales argument I know for improved machinery is found in the automobile. When it first came on the market it was opposed by every man who had a livery stable or blacksmith shop. It would have taken some time to have sold the automobile idea to these people. The man who had a livery stable has now a garage, and the blacksmith has a repair shop or service station and apparently makes more money than before.

J. J. Schwab: Can you change the pitch right here?

A. J. Ostrander: Yes, sir. It is now below pitch. I will demonstrate putting it in tune (raising pitch one-half tone). You can raise the piano to the pitch desired by singer or orchestra. Once the tuning is done it is self-compensating after that.

H. J. La Joie: What would it cost to incorporate the device in a piano?

W. M. Gould: It is not on a selling basis as yet. It is only here for your consideration.

B. P. Sibley: Will it do away with tuning pins?

W. M. Gould: Yes, and the pinblock.

August Richter: This instrument has to be tuned originally perfectly?

W. M. Gould: Yes.

Dr. D. R. Hodgdon: How do you maintain that pressure?

W. M. Gould: By a master piston.

Dr. D. R. Hodgdon: Do you use mercury?

W. M. Gould: No. Wax and oil.

W. B. Williams: How do you get and keep these pistons tight?

A. J. Ostrander: There is where I had a fight. There are several ways of doing it. This is a tubular diaphragm.

F. Pfannstiehl: In this construction is it necessary to put an eye in each end of the wire?

W. M. Gould: Not necessarily an eye.

Dr. F. S. Muckey: It seems to me we can think of this as a three-horse evener. The fulcrum gives the same advantage you give one horse or one team over another.

F. E. Morton: Does it strike you as being practical, Dr. Muckey?

Dr. F. S. Muckey: The only thing which might interfere is the condition of the fluid or wax. If that can be controlled I should think it would not get out of tune.


ddf


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