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My Whittier full size upright was very professionally tuned a few months ago and overall is holding pretty well. But not so much the bass. I replaced all the bass strings about a year ago, and all the hammers, shanks and hammer butts in the entire piano. I have the ability to half-ass tune a string that has slipped badly. but make no extravagant claims to my tuning expertise or even an understanding of beats, intervals etc. I have a couple of programs on my Android phone of which the more advanced is "Piano Tuner." I feel pretty good about using the phone to keep most of the bass notes in the ball park, but on the very bottom A, A#, C, C#, D the program reads nothing consistent and the program is useless. I guess it comes with the territory that these notes have lots of inharmonicity (sp??) Even with new strings this is a full size upright, not a 9 foot Bosendorfer! It seems depending on which harmonics your ear zeros in on, the note can sound a little sharp and a little flat both, so there is inevitably compromise. My technique is to play the bottom note and alternately the note an octave higher and just go for whatever sounds the most like a clean octave.

Is this a reasonable approach? At least I do not feel a need to avoid these very lowest notes like I did before the new set off bass strings, and also good news is, the bass is just about stable now.

Don in Austin thanks you in advance for your comments!


Don, playing the blues in Austin, Texas on a 48" family heirloom Steinway upright, 100 year old 54" Weber upright, unknown make turn of the century 54" upright -- says "Whittier NY" on the plate, Starr, ca. 100 years old full size upright.
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Don that is a usual first step (checking by octaves) and gets you in the ballpark. Depending on where the scale break in to the wound strings ends up, I also might reference 3rds,4ths, 5ths and 10ths. When those get to be a bit too active with extraneous harmonics I drop the closer intervals and also use a flat 14th to offset the IH and use it all the way down.

If your bass strings are still moving about are you happy with the tightness of the pins?


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Your approach is reasonable and your observation that Inharmonicity is a factor is very correct! For the very lowest notes, one technique can be (after the whole rest of the piano has been tuned) is to hold the damper pedal wide open. Then flatten the string to be tuned until it is obviously too flat, while playing a single octave with the note to be tuned and the note an octave above it, then sharpen it just until it seems to ring true with all of the rest of the strings that are already tuned above it while playing that single octave.

This could end up with you tuning the low note a bit flatter than you really want but if so, return to it and sharpen it a bit until you hear a nice resonance.

The problem you have identified is that the upper harmonics (technicians call them "partials"), are very sharp to the fundamental tone (the pitch you think of the note as being). The higher the harmonic, the sharper it is!

This means that the final, pleasing "resonance" that you will hear is actually a conflict between the higher harmonics (partials) of the lower string compared to the higher string. There is no way to get all of the harmonics to match and get a completely "pure" sounding octave in the low Bass. The mis-match of higher harmonics need not sound bad or "out of tune", however.

What you will be listening for will be a compromise between a low "rumble" and a very faint, rapid beat that will be perceived more like a pleasing resonance than something that is out of tune.

Every pianist will have his or her own preference in that range. Basically, the flatter you tune those lowest strings, the more depth in tone you may experience. The flatter you tune them, the "larger" your piano will sound!

By contrast, the sharper you tune those lowest strings, the more beautiful "resonance" you may perceive. You have to be the final judge of what sounds right to your ear.

In the link below, I offer you an example of where I tuned a Mason & Hamlin 7 foot piano to have the maximum possible stretch in the lowest octaves. Some technicians immediately condemned it but others rather liked it. Listen and hear what you think:

https://app.box.com/s/4e01a29d1fcddd5e59ef

I am sure you will hear how it made the piano sound "larger" than it is but if that did not please you, you will want to make your lower octaves "tighter".

Good luck in your experimentation!


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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Your approach is reasonable and your observation that Inharmonicity is a factor is very correct! For the very lowest notes, one technique can be (after the whole rest of the piano has been tuned) is to hold the damper pedal wide open. Then flatten the string to be tuned until it is obviously too flat, while playing a single octave with the note to be tuned and the note an octave above it, then sharpen it just until it seems to ring true with all of the rest of the strings that are already tuned above it while playing that single octave.

This could end up with you tuning the low note a bit flatter than you really want but if so, return to it and sharpen it a bit until you hear a nice resonance.

The problem you have identified is that the upper harmonics (technicians call them "partials"), are very sharp to the fundamental tone (the pitch you think of the note as being). The higher the harmonic, the sharper it is!

This means that the final, pleasing "resonance" that you will hear is actually a conflict between the higher harmonics (partials) of the lower string compared to the higher string. There is no way to get all of the harmonics to match and get a completely "pure" sounding octave in the low Bass. The mis-match of higher harmonics need not sound bad or "out of tune", however.

What you will be listening for will be a compromise between a low "rumble" and a very faint, rapid beat that will be perceived more like a pleasing resonance than something that is out of tune.

Every pianist will have his or her own preference in that range. Basically, the flatter you tune those lowest strings, the more depth in tone you may experience. The flatter you tune them, the "larger" your piano will sound!

By contrast, the sharper you tune those lowest strings, the more beautiful "resonance" you may perceive. You have to be the final judge of what sounds right to your ear.

In the link below, I offer you an example of where I tuned a Mason & Hamlin 7 foot piano to have the maximum possible stretch in the lowest octaves. Some technicians immediately condemned it but others rather liked it. Listen and hear what you think:

https://app.box.com/s/4e01a29d1fcddd5e59ef

I am sure you will hear how it made the piano sound "larger" than it is but if that did not please you, you will want to make your lower octaves "tighter".

Good luck in your experimentation!


That sounds good to me, Bill.

You wouldn't happen to have a recording of the lower
octaves "tighter", on the same piano? That would
be interesting to compare the recordings side by side.

This makes me excited to try 8:4 in the bass
in Tunelab on my next tuning, and perhaps 4:2
in the treble as well. Someone mentioned that
they reserve the higher bass stretch for pianos
6' or larger. So I would guess 8:4 in the bass
might be bad sounding in a spinet?


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Originally Posted by SMHaley
Don that is a usual first step (checking by octaves) and gets you in the ballpark. Depending on where the scale break in to the wound strings ends up, I also might reference 3rds,4ths, 5ths and 10ths. When those get to be a bit too active with extraneous harmonics I drop the closer intervals and also use a flat 14th to offset the IH and use it all the way down.

If your bass strings are still moving about are you happy with the tightness of the pins?
The bass is becpomine more and stable and I don't expect to touch it up again for some time. My tuner/tech friend told me -- in a very nice way -- that some of the stability of the new bass strings depended on how they were installed. It was my first time. I drove a few pins in a little and, if anything, I think they might be a little too tight. I checked with a torque wrench and I don't think there is a problem. (The Webber is the sad story -- put all new hammers and hammer butts on it and it doesn't hold a tune too well.)

You lost me with the flat 14th, etc! smile


Don, playing the blues in Austin, Texas on a 48" family heirloom Steinway upright, 100 year old 54" Weber upright, unknown make turn of the century 54" upright -- says "Whittier NY" on the plate, Starr, ca. 100 years old full size upright.
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Originally Posted by Blues beater
Originally Posted by SMHaley
Don that is a usual first step (checking by octaves) and gets you in the ballpark. Depending on where the scale break in to the wound strings ends up, I also might reference 3rds,4ths, 5ths and 10ths. When those get to be a bit too active with extraneous harmonics I drop the closer intervals and also use a flat 14th to offset the IH and use it all the way down.

If your bass strings are still moving about are you happy with the tightness of the pins?
The bass is becpomine more and stable and I don't expect to touch it up again for some time. My tuner/tech friend told me -- in a very nice way -- that some of the stability of the new bass strings depended on how they were installed. It was my first time. I drove a few pins in a little and, if anything, I think they might be a little too tight. I checked with a torque wrench and I don't think there is a problem. (The Webber is the sad story -- put all new hammers and hammer butts on it and it doesn't hold a tune too well.)

You lost me with the flat 14th, etc! smile


Oh well, I haven't yet converted to using a machine. Using essentially a flat 7th one can tune the bass with a rapid beating interval that allows a smooth progression of stretch. I haven't seen the technique discussed recently.


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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Every pianist will have his or her own preference in that range. Basically, the flatter you tune those lowest strings, the more depth in tone you may experience. The flatter you tune them, the "larger" your piano will sound!

By contrast, the sharper you tune those lowest strings, the more beautiful "resonance" you may perceive. You have to be the final judge of what sounds right to your ear.

In the link below, I offer you an example of where I tuned a Mason & Hamlin 7 foot piano to have the maximum possible stretch in the lowest octaves. Some technicians immediately condemned it but others rather liked it. Listen and hear what you think:

https://app.box.com/s/4e01a29d1fcddd5e59ef


Thank you Bill for this reply.

I just experienced the same yesterday when I retuned my piano for the cold season. This time, I ended up choosing a slightly wider stretch - and thought a few of the lowest strings sounded better almost 10 cents flatter than the "theory" shown on the ETD.

Also, I think your tuning sounds superb everywhere (whole register)!

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Thats the one I use. You want to hear the low c to b flat below mid c interval beat like a major third. I start using it when I hit the single strings.

Most professional electronic tuning programs result in a sharper pitch than this test produces in the low bass.


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OT, but in general, I hear unexpected intervals, and most notably between 1:14-1:35.

Were these meant to be tuned that way?

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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Your approach is reasonable and your observation that Inharmonicity is a factor is very correct! For the very lowest notes, one technique can be (after the whole rest of the piano has been tuned) is to hold the damper pedal wide open. Then flatten the string to be tuned until it is obviously too flat, while playing a single octave with the note to be tuned and the note an octave above it, then sharpen it just until it seems to ring true with all of the rest of the strings that are already tuned above it while playing that single octave.

This could end up with you tuning the low note a bit flatter than you really want but if so, return to it and sharpen it a bit until you hear a nice resonance.

The problem you have identified is that the upper harmonics (technicians call them "partials"), are very sharp to the fundamental tone (the pitch you think of the note as being). The higher the harmonic, the sharper it is!

This means that the final, pleasing "resonance" that you will hear is actually a conflict between the higher harmonics (partials) of the lower string compared to the higher string. There is no way to get all of the harmonics to match and get a completely "pure" sounding octave in the low Bass. The mis-match of higher harmonics need not sound bad or "out of tune", however.

What you will be listening for will be a compromise between a low "rumble" and a very faint, rapid beat that will be perceived more like a pleasing resonance than something that is out of tune.

Every pianist will have his or her own preference in that range. Basically, the flatter you tune those lowest strings, the more depth in tone you may experience. The flatter you tune them, the "larger" your piano will sound!

By contrast, the sharper you tune those lowest strings, the more beautiful "resonance" you may perceive. You have to be the final judge of what sounds right to your ear.

In the link below, I offer you an example of where I tuned a Mason & Hamlin 7 foot piano to have the maximum possible stretch in the lowest octaves. Some technicians immediately condemned it but others rather liked it. Listen and hear what you think:

https://app.box.com/s/4e01a29d1fcddd5e59ef

I am sure you will hear how it made the piano sound "larger" than it is but if that did not please you, you will want to make your lower octaves "tighter".

Good luck in your experimentation!


That's what I do, but since I tune RW, what the heck do I know?

(I slay myself...)



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Remember that the very lowest notes are very close together. The very lowest note, A-27.5, is 1.6 Hz below Bb, which is 1.7 Hz below B. Divide those intervals into 100 cents, and you are talking really tiny intervals.

Tuning by beats is very tricky. One has to test lots of different intervals and find a good compromise. It takes practice and experience, two things electronics do not profit from.


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Originally Posted by Hakki
OT, but in general, I hear unexpected intervals, and most notably between 1:14-1:35.

Were these meant to be tuned that way?


Hakki,

If you are referring to the short clip I posted, it is because the piano in not in ET.


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Originally Posted by Paul678


That sounds good to me, Bill.

You wouldn't happen to have a recording of the lower
octaves "tighter", on the same piano? That would
be interesting to compare the recordings side by side.

This makes me excited to try 8:4 in the bass
in Tunelab on my next tuning, and perhaps 4:2
in the treble as well. Someone mentioned that
they reserve the higher bass stretch for pianos
6' or larger. So I would guess 8:4 in the bass
might be bad sounding in a spinet?



The piano you heard was Grandpianoman's who writes frequently on this list. He has recordings of that same piano tuned in many different ways. I am sure he would be happy to provide you with a smorgasbord of tuning styles if you ask him.


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Originally Posted by OperaTenor


That's what I do, but since I tune RW, what the heck do I know?

(I slay myself...)



I never said you tuned RW. You are innocent of that until proven guilty with a video of how you tune a temperament. Do you dare?


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Tuning the bass section is not rocket science. I like testing with double octaves, and triple ocataves and thirds, and tenths. But if you are experienced you will trust your ear to tune a simple octave. The tuner's job is easier when it's a big grand piano. Not so much when a whitney spinet


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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Originally Posted by OperaTenor


That's what I do, but since I tune RW, what the heck do I know?

(I slay myself...)



I never said you tuned RW. You are innocent of that until proven guilty with a video of how you tune a temperament. Do you dare?


One of these days I will. Just a little bad humor on my part...



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How do the pros tune the very lowest notes? Not sure about "the pros" part, but at first, it is only with great difficulty. Bill Bremmer points out the reasons and the challenges. With much education and practice it is completely doable if you possess the patience and the requisite aurally sensitivities to match or balance these rather wild partials in tandem with octaves and intervals. An ETD will be of little use here. However, a mentor would be of great help. Contact the PTG chapter in your area for a good recommendation. Live online steam classes are available too. These may be more convenient for you. Best wishes.


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Originally Posted by bkw58
An ETD will be of little use here.


That is the very reason why, even though I now customarily use an ETD, I turn it off when I am tuning the Bass. It is of no use to me, either with a calculated program or by direct interval.


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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Originally Posted by Hakki
OT, but in general, I hear unexpected intervals, and most notably between 1:14-1:35.

Were these meant to be tuned that way?


Hakki,

If you are referring to the short clip I posted, it is because the piano in not in ET.


Yes, the intervals at that clip was not familiar to me.

Thanks for the clarification.

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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Originally Posted by bkw58
An ETD will be of little use here.


That is the very reason why, even though I now customarily use an ETD, I turn it off when I am tuning the Bass. It is of no use to me, either with a calculated program or by direct interval.


I might agree with this if it were changed to (most) ETDs will be of little use here... I don't know about Dirk's, but I've finally developed and shared a tuning style on the Verituner forum that emulates the open pedal tuning approach in the bass. Gotten good feedback from techs trying it out on all pianos - big or small. Other ETDs that use a single partial, smooth curve approach aren't able to use the same methods.

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