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#1944391 - 08/17/12 10:12 AM Piano tuned sharp  
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RyanS Offline
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RyanS  Offline
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After my full D-C was installed for three weeks my tech came out. He said the piano was sharp just tuned it to A=442. He said it would be closer to 440 this winter. The room humidity stays at around 60%. (I'm in apartment where air for the entire building is circulated so it's hard to control humidity in my apartment.)

Is it normal to tune things a little off 440? I thought the D-C was supposed to keep it at 440 year round.

Last edited by RyanS; 08/17/12 10:14 AM.
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#1944404 - 08/17/12 10:34 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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It won't hurt it any...


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#1944447 - 08/17/12 11:52 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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RyanS,

The D-C system won't change the pitch, it will just help to hold whatever pitch the piano has been tuned to and keep it in tune with itself. We tend to think of A=440Hz as some sort of great and cosmic "A." It isn't. Accepted pitch is tending to creep upwards in the musical community. Many, if not most, of the great orchestras are now tuning to A-442. The finest wind and brass instrument builders are tuning instruments to the higher pitch and you have to specify otherwise if you want A-440.

It only becomes a problem if you are playing with an absolute and generated fixed pitch instrument such as an electronic organ or keyboard. The 438-443Hz range would be considered to be an "A." Your piano is just being a piano acting like all pianos.

Trust your tuner, relax, and enjoy your new piano.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1944470 - 08/17/12 12:46 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I didn't see what type of piano it was, but some European makes actually tune them to pitches higher than 440 in the factory. 440 is really an American standard.

For example, Bösendorfer says that they're tuned to 443:

Quote

The pianos are manufactured in the factory at a tuning pitch of A443 Hertz, however it may be altered between A440 Hertz and A445 Hertz according to need.


Mine's at 442 right now, and I'm not worrying about it.



Last edited by Thrill Science; 08/17/12 12:46 PM.

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#1944487 - 08/17/12 01:20 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Exactly. If it's tuned to 443 now, by January, it'll be down roughly (at least in Michigan) to 440 or even 438 or lower depending on what the temp and RH are. It's called floating the pitch. The tuning will also hold better when the pitch isn't moved all over the place too. Another plus.


Jerry Groot RPT
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Grand Rapids, Michigan
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We love to play BF2.
#1944619 - 08/17/12 05:11 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]  
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Now I am curious, is there a reason why a piano would be tuned to a higher pitch than the standard A440? Is there an advantage to to having a piano tuned otherwise? Better sustain, clarity of sound, volume, all/none of the above?


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#1944624 - 08/17/12 05:18 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: allthumbs]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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On a piano, probably not, or very little. It really has an effect on orchestral string instruments. It adds a bit more "shimmer" and "brilliance." The orchestras are going up and the pianos are following along.

As Jerry said, it won't hurt a piano at all. It is well within the standard seasonal pitch swing.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1944685 - 08/17/12 07:04 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Mine is tuned to 442-443.

#1944730 - 08/17/12 08:53 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I must be in the small minority, but I actually would prefer a pitch lower than 440 if it's not 440. Something like C-256 (Middle C), which would make A4 around 430 or 432 or so, might be something I would like. A435 might be ok, too, as well as (of course) A440, but I really don't like it any higher, except when the pitch creeps up due to humidity swings, or when chip-tuning a newly strung piano. For me, if a piano is tuned to, say, A445, the A sounds almost like an A# to me. On the other hand, A420 or A425 would still sound like an A to my ear.
When I've listened to pianos at a higher pitch, it seems they lose a little bit of the sparkle that the upper harmonics have compared to being tuned at a lower pitch. I suspect that this could, in part, be due to my hearing cutting off at a certain range (around 15 or 16 kHz last I checked unprofessionally a few years ago), and tuning higher puts some of that sparkle out of my range. (I also happen to like the way a lot of 1950s Baldwin Hamiltons sound.)
I usually tune both my 1950s Baldwin Hamiltons to A440, btw.


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#1944792 - 08/18/12 12:11 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: 88Key_PianoPlayer]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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You are right, you are in a very small minority. Usually lowered tuning is only used with period instruments.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1944804 - 08/18/12 12:33 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I have to keep mine at 440 because I have an electronic organ. I have spent more money on cooling this Summer than I ever have, And I can't wait for the gas bills this Winter. As I have mentioned before, I used to keep it at 65 Winter, 78 Summer. Ever wonder why I am divorced? (I used to use an automated thermostat, so no matter where the wife and kids changed it, shortly it would go back to my settings, hehehe!)


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#1944927 - 08/18/12 08:21 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
You are right, you are in a very small minority. Usually lowered tuning is only used with period instruments.


Indeed. My son's new baroque flute is A=415. That makes playing duets on an A=443 piano rather .... interesting. grin

Actually, duets aren't happening unless and until a harpsichord makes its appearance in the house, which isn't too likely.

#1944953 - 08/18/12 09:23 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Accepted pitch is tending to creep upwards in the musical community. Many, if not most, of the great orchestras are now tuning to A-442. The finest wind and brass instrument builders are tuning instruments to the higher pitch and you have to specify otherwise if you want A-440.


I was unaware of this, and it leads me to a question.

I thought that oboes were fixed pitch instruments, set at 440 here in the U.S. If that is so, and since they are a part of all orchestras, how do they handle that?


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#1945010 - 08/18/12 11:32 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I won't say this is absolutely true for oboes but most woodwinds can be pulled sharp through increased air speed/pressure. I'm sure you're aware that 2 cents is 2 100ths of a half step. In amateur orchestras, the conductors are ecstatic if any section, string or wind, is within 2 cents of each other.

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#1945100 - 08/18/12 02:44 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Steve,

Oboes now are most commonly produced using their scale design based on A-442. About 10 years ago I purchased a new Powell flute as I was tired of "lipping up" on the instrument I was then playing.

Fixed pitch on a woodwind or brasswind is a 'concept' at best. It really doesn't exist in the reality of playing the instrument as each pitch is constantly, and instantaneously, adjusted to, and amongst, the other players. It is very fluid in practice.

Equal Temperament is also rare with instrumentalists or vocalists. It is a limitation of the truly fixed pitch instruments. Take a piano concerto performance as example. Tutti with the piano, the orchestra will match the intonation of the piano. When playing piano tacit, the orchestra will immediately hear just intervals and the temperment immediately shifts to key based tonality. A listening audience will not even be aware of it as it is so slight, but manifests itself in the perception of key 'color.'



Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1945106 - 08/18/12 03:08 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Steve,

Oboes now are most commonly produced using their scale design based on A-442. About 10 years ago I purchased a new Powell flute as I was tired of "lipping up" on the instrument I was then playing.

Fixed pitch on a woodwind or brasswind is a 'concept' at best. It really doesn't exist in the reality of playing the instrument as each pitch is constantly, and instantaneously, adjusted to, and amongst, the other players. It is very fluid in practice.

Equal Temperament is also rare with instrumentalists or vocalists. It is a limitation of the truly fixed pitch instruments. Take a piano concerto performance as example. Tutti with the piano, the orchestra will match the intonation of the piano. When playing piano tacit, the orchestra will immediately hear just intervals and the temperment immediately shifts to key based tonality. A listening audience will not even be aware of it as it is so slight, but manifests itself in the perception of key 'color.'


Verrry interesting! Thanks for the explanation.


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#1945251 - 08/18/12 11:35 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Dave B Offline
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When we asked Sawallisch where he wanted us to tune the pianos, he said, "They don't have to be right on A440, just don't be flat." I haven't had a complaint since.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
#1945871 - 08/20/12 12:00 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: 88Key_PianoPlayer]  
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By the way, C-256 is the physics (as opposed to music) standard tuning. Being a power of 2 makes the math easier when explaining the Pythagorean comma, the difference between twelve just perfect fifths and seven octaves.

#1945879 - 08/20/12 12:12 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Tuning in music has nothing to do with the standards of physics as a discipline. ET is not important to musicians, but, it is a hot topic to tuners. (Bloody battles) But, it was the AFM which first pushed for some sort of standard to derivate from.

BTW - Only unisons, fourths, and fifths are perfect. All others are just intervals. The usage of "just" does not mean "merely" in this context. It is used as a musical term only.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1945904 - 08/20/12 01:46 AM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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I'm afraid I threw Marty a bum steer. Substitute standard Pitch for tuning. The standard medical (and sometimes physics) standard pitch is C=256. Want tuning forks?

Tuning Forks

By the way, the first official standard pitch was made law in France in 1859 at A=435. In 1896 London's Royal Philharmonic Society got to A=439 by what is thought to be a fudge. They assumed (incorrectly) that the French had measured their oboe at 59°F and so corrected for (British) room temperature of 68°F and got A=439.

In 1939, encouraged by international broadcasters, a London conference settled on A=440. The BBC noted that 339 is prime and would be hard to derive from a standard crystal, but 440 could be done.

A brief history of the establishment of international standard pitch a=440 hertz

See... Physics IS involved. wink

#1946091 - 08/20/12 12:08 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: cyclotron]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Of course physics is involved, as an academic discipline in acoustical engineering. I don't dispute that. However, the legally standardized version only applies to a musician as a starting point of commonality, rather than as an absolute.

Also, the use of "C" as the starting point is irrevelant. Some piano tuners prefer to use "A" as the reference point and others use "C." Orchestras use "A," while bands and wind ensembles use Bb."

The issue that I have with the article you cite is that it attempts to codify historical knowlede into modern Hz. terminology. This is impossible and is only conjecture. We have no way of knowing the exact frequency perceived by Mozart or Handel as to how they heard a "C." We only know that they identified a given "note" to be different from each other's perception.

The reference to vocalists is a good one, however. As singer would certainly know their own vocal range, and when the limits of their personal range of notes changed from any given keyboard to another, as to "names" of notes, the inconsistencies of "pitch" were revealed.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1946125 - 08/20/12 12:47 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
The issue that I have with the article you cite is that it attempts to codify historical knowlede into modern Hz. terminology. This is impossible and is only conjecture. We have no way of knowing the exact frequency perceived by Mozart or Handel as to how they heard a "C." We only know that they identified a given "note" to be different from each other's perception.

Handel's tuning fork (422.5 Hz) dating from 1751 is in the Foundling Museum in London.


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#1946135 - 08/20/12 12:56 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Withindale]  
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Ian,

Now that is interesting! Is it identified as to which note it is reference to?


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#1946163 - 08/20/12 01:42 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I was playing in a church one time and we had some musical guests with us that morning. They had brought in a really fantastic sound system and they had a keyboard player that had his own rig. Rather than setting up my own rig I just made arrangements with the other keyboard player to use his rig, since it was already set up. The rest of the worship band used their own instruments except the drummer, who also used the guest band's drumset. All during the morning music I kept thinking how off everything sounded, after worship with our band was over I started checking the keyboard players rig and found his keyboard tuned to A-432. I was very disconcerting to me, but I think most people didn't notice.


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#1946264 - 08/20/12 04:09 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: Minnesota Marty]  
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Originally Posted by Minnesota Marty
Originally Posted by Withindale
Handel's tuning fork (422.5 Hz) dating from 1751 is in the Foundling Museum in London.
Now that is interesting! Is it identified as to which note it is reference to?


Marty

The cognoscenti say it's A in this table, and who are we to argue?













Ian Russell
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#1946371 - 08/20/12 07:10 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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I've always wondered what method was used to measure pitch in the 1500 and 1600 hundreds? Tuning forks don't move much but they do need to be checked and adjusted periodically. Not to mention they change pitch with temperature, or drop one on a hard surface and it can take days before it's re-tuned.

I find it impossible to believe that a 400 year old tuning fork will still give the pitch it did when it was new.

Last edited by Dave B; 08/20/12 07:11 PM.

"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
#1946390 - 08/20/12 07:48 PM Re: Piano tuned sharp [Re: RyanS]  
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Minnesota Marty Offline

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Or, Dave B, a 400 year old organ!

There is no doubt that the pitch of any given named note has been on the rise for a long, long time.

And, its on the rise again. This time, it is easier to document what that actually means through accurate measurement.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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