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Could anyone offer a website or written text online describing different tunings available to modern grand pianos today? I asked this question of a friend harpsichordist and he remembered from his university class about 10 variant tunings for modern grand pianos from a book titled’ tunings and temperament“ by Barber.
Once I experienced a fascinating tuning of my 1951 Grotrian 185cn that had gorgeous sparkling colorful tritones, major sevenths, and minor seconds.
I’d really like to educate myself about tuning possibilities of the modern ground— thanks for any observations.

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Greetings,
Ok, here goes another fracas in the temperament wars! The modern grand piano can be tuned in any of the historical approaches, from mean-tone to Victorian style equal,(I know, I know, "equal" is a term that is relative, debatable, controversial, and, to some, inflammatory.). I only use equal temperament for recording studios, in which the key of the song may be moved up or down a half-step to suit the vocalist's preference. Was told that they didn't want the 'feel' to change just because of a half-step modulation. Virtually all of my classical customers prefer something else. Even several jazz artists here prefer the well-tempered sound. Who would have guessed?

When we depart from "equal" we can follow the past templates of various forms that follow Werckmeister's general philosophy. That is, correlating the tonic thirds of the keys with the circle of fifths. This means that the keys with the most accidentals have the widest tonic third and the keys with the least have the smallest thirds. All thirds are either Just or tempered. I know of no tuning that uses a "narrow" third.

You are referencing Murry Barber's early work. This was greatly expanded by one of his students, Owen Jorgensen, in his big red book "Tuning". It lists a lot of previous tuning schemes, as well as giving some historical context.

The unequal temperaments create their difference by the progressive size, (hence, dissonance), of the thirds. Modern ears will usually discern a third that is wider than 15 cents,(ET has all thirds at exactly 13.7 wide). The larger thirds beat faster and create more musical tension. The smaller thirds, such as found in the keys of C, F, Bb, G, create a less stimulative, more consonant sound. Virtually all tunings from 1700 on follow this same progression of dissonance, with C being the calmest and F# being the most edgy. A Young temperament is evenly ordered from a 5.3 cent C-E third to a 21.5 cent F#-A#. This 21.5 cents is the full syntonic comma and was commonly the maximum amount of tempering used in the genre.

I would direct you to Rollingball.com for a full examination of the alternatives. The web sites on my signature will also add some fuel to the journey.
Regards,

Last edited by Ed Foote; 02/23/21 08:13 PM.
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When I did my lecture recital class at conservatory I did mine on potential ways of expressing musical colours found on well temperaments on pianos tuned to equal temperament. I used the Jorgensen book extensively that Ed mentioned above.

I’d highly recommend that book if you can find it for a not outrageous price. It may also be available at libraries (coincidentally it was in the library where I attended so it didn’t matter that my own copy was in a different country smile ).

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EBVT-Equally Beating Victorian Temperament: Has a distinctly different yet mild and tolerable to the ear tonality for each of the 24 Major and minor keys. Useful for all kinds of music from Baroque to Contemporary. The key signature of the music is readily identifiable.

also:

ET via Marpurg: essentially Equal Temperament but has all 4ths, 5ths and octaves with the same amount of tempering which yields a very "clean", supremely "in tune" sound across the entire piano but has no distinction in Cycle of 5ths color.


Bill Bremmer RPT
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I am a proponent of EBVT as well as Young's (to personal taste) in the big red book. I also am slightly familiar with Kellner (as promoted by David Pinnegar in the UK), but not yet enough to comment intelligently on it. David can speak very well on his experience with it.

I feel they SHOULD be tuned by ear.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Last edited by P W Grey; 02/24/21 02:08 PM.

Peter W. Grey, RPT
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For what it's worth, I too became interested in learning about options for different temperaments for my piano. I found this site and started reading. I then decided to learn about piano tuning just so I could experiment with different temperaments. I bought a nice Levitan tuning hammer, enrolled in an online tuning course, and read up on tuning technique. The punch line is that I never got very good at tuning as it takes a lot of practice to develop the necessary skills, but I remain very interested in temperaments other than equal temperament (ET).

I started shopping around my city for a tuner who would tune EBVT by ear and could not find anyone willing to do this. I did find a tuner who was willing to tune EBVT via his electronic tuning device (ETD). I like it a lot and plan to keep having my piano tuned in EBVT.

So from a piano owner's point of view, I'd say finding a tuner willing and able to do a non-ET temperament by ear (aurally) is ideal. But this may or may not be an option depending on where you live.

EBVT done using an ETD is, to my ears, still a very nice temperament.


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By the way, I gave my tuner Bill's EBVT ETD parameters. He reached out to Bill via email and Bill was very gracious in giving him some pointers. Thanks Bill! You are very generous in your training of tuners in this temperament (and others).


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Still there, Coda9?


Steve W
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