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So, I have read in this forum that in tuning two pianos to be played together in concert, it is critical for these pianos to be exactly in tune with each other.

Then, tonight I received an e-mail from a friend who is playing in concert tomorrow on one of two pianos that was freshly tuned for the event (not tuned by me, and won't be tuned by me--so this question is purely theoretical.) She is playing the "primo" part. She said she was disturbed by how some of the upper octaves were behaving, and was not happy with what she was getting from the piano. She said, "I guess I could just play louder..."

And that made me wonder--does the stretch principle apply between two pianos? I mean, would you want to nudge the "primo" piano just a bit north in order for it to ride ever so slightly above the "secondo"?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
--Andy


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Hey Andy-

There are so many potential variables here that it is difficult to guess about the tuning stretch!

1. Could be a voicing issue.
2. Could be a piano with a dead board in the 'killer octave'.
3. Could be action regulation issues
4. And yes, it could be a contracted tuning that is missing some lift that might help

But generally speaking, tuning for 4 hands shouldn't require any different tuning than your best - clean unisons to the top, and bass notes supported by the rest!

Ron Koval

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In most two-piano repertoire the two pianos are equally important: the instruments should be tuned and voiced to match as well as possible. In certain specific situations, for instance if one pianist is playing the solo part of a concerto and the other the orchestral part, it can be useful to make one piano stand out a little more, but this should be done with voicing, not with tuning. Two pianos slightly out of tune with each other just sound nasty!

If your friend is not happy with the upper octaves, it could be any of the reasons that Ron mentions. I think that voicing is the most likely culprit.


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I think people worry about this too much. If the piano did not sound right, it probably was not tuned right.


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Originally Posted by BDB
I think people worry about this too much.

I don't see anybody worrying. The OP posed a question: should two pianos played together be tuned differently. The answer, for standard repertoire, is: No, they should be tuned exactly the same.

There is a specific category of two piano repertoire where one piano is tuned exactly a quarter tone lower than the other, in order to produce a complete quarter tone scale, but that is another story.


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People do worry too much. Each piano needs to be tuned to themselves as well as possible with the same method and with the same reference. It is futile worrying about whether every note matches. It is better to have each piano tuned well. Let the music and the performers shine. Certainly, deliberately tuning one piano sharper in the treble to make it sound like a primary piano sounds wrong to me.


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i have four pianos, (not counting Yamaha electric). No two have the same qualities. I sometimes play one with the left hand and another with my right hand. The different voicing and stretch of the two pianos makes for a very rich full sound to my "I'll play the blues for you"' ears. I especially like the sound when both hands are in the same octave.


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 RonTuner
Hey Andy-

There are so many potential variables here that it is difficult to guess about the tuning stretch!

1. Could be a voicing issue.
2. Could be a piano with a dead board in the 'killer octave'.
3. Could be action regulation issues
4. And yes, it could be a contracted tuning that is missing some lift that might help

But generally speaking, tuning for 4 hands shouldn't require any different tuning than your best - clean unisons to the top, and bass notes supported by the rest!

Ron Koval


Thank you, Ron! Of course, I should have said, "All other things being equal." These are two Steinway Ds which are in good shape, and the person who tunes them does excellent tunings--very smooth and whole and hummy. In general, when I listen to performances on either of these pianos when he's tuned them, they sound rich and lush and gorgeous. This particular pianist likes sparkly upper registers. I don't think I've ever heard these two pianos "sparkle" at the very top. They sing nice lines, and they have good volume, and at the concert last night, they were fine. Between the two piano parts, there was definition where definition was needed, and blending where blending was needed, and it seemed to me that everyone, including the tuner, did their part equally well.

--Andy


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.
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Originally Posted by Chris Leslie
People do worry too much. Each piano needs to be tuned to themselves as well as possible with the same method and with the same reference. It is futile worrying about whether every note matches. It is better to have each piano tuned well. Let the music and the performers shine. Certainly, deliberately tuning one piano sharper in the treble to make it sound like a primary piano sounds wrong to me.


Thanks, Chris. I like this answer a lot.

--Andy


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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