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#621841 - 06/02/05 04:07 AM a new online piano tuning tutorial
Colin McCullough Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/01/05
Posts: 12
Loc: Sutton, Massachusetts
I put together a free online piano tuning tutorial that may be of interest to people. This site is free of charge, so this is not spam or a solicitation. This is different from any other tuning website because it features the entire tuning process on MP3, an in-depth explanation of tuning and related topics, and the temperament which I created. The url is www.blackstonepiano.com, and just click on Tuning Tutorial.

I am not trying to promote any business (or myself) here or make money. This tuning tutorial is meant to give a free introduction to people interested in learning how to tune, and for tuners who are curious about someone else's method. I've put a lot of work into the creation of this tutorial, so I hope people find it useful. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

Colin McCullough
Piano Tuner-Technician

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#621842 - 06/02/05 06:06 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3844
Loc: Madison, WI USA
I'm interested to see what you've done but the link doesn't work.
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA

#621843 - 06/02/05 07:20 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Dale Fox Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 1201
Loc: Nor California Sacramento area
Originally posted by Bill Bremmer RPT:
I'm interested to see what you've done but the link doesn't work. [/b]

Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician

#621844 - 06/02/05 08:02 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
BDB Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24645
Loc: Oakland
Colin, use the edit button to take the comma out of the end of the URL.
Semipro Tech

Piano & Music Accessories
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#621845 - 06/02/05 09:10 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
AaronSF Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/07/04
Posts: 732
Loc: San Francisco
From McCullough's website:

"A word about equal temperament.
Okay, a number of words, actually. J.S. Bach is responsible for the equal temperament system we use today, which gives equal treatment to all notes within the temperament section. Before him, temperaments favored some notes over others, depending on which key the music was written in. Today there are a number of equal temperaments. Which one to use is largely a matter of personal preference (most tuners probably use whichever temperament they were originally shown). Some temperaments are, by design, more accurate than others. On an individual level, some temperaments are easier for a person to use than others. Temperaments are all really just different solutions to the same puzzle."

I'm puzzled by this paragraph. I was not aware Bach used and equal temperament. I though he used several different "well" temperaments (e.g., Kirnberger) that all created more pure intervals and less beating in thirds in the "lower" keys (C, G, F, etc.) and more distortion in the more distant keys. As I understand it, these "well" temperaments were more of a compromise than, say, mean temperaments, so in that regard they were headed in the direction of equal temperament. I believe equal temperament was around in theory in Bach's time, but it was rejected for aesthetic reasons. At the time it was desirable that the "simple" keys have the least "color" and the "remote" keys have the most "color." ("Color" = "how rapidly intervals beat".) Removing "color" from keys was undesirable, so the relatively colorless equal temperament was not favored.

I also thought there is only one equal temperament, by definition. There are different ways of approaching the tuning of ET, but ET is ET. The space between all notes is (theoretically) exactly the same number of cents, which is what makes it "equal."

I could be wrong...it wouldn't be the first time! ;\)

#621846 - 06/02/05 10:24 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3844
Loc: Madison, WI USA
I'm afraid you're right, Aaron. I haven't had time to access this site yet but if this is what it says, it's one huge load of misinformation. Every statement made here is incorrect.
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA

#621847 - 06/02/05 10:48 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
palley Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/05
Posts: 708
Loc: Binghamton, New York
If it walks like a promo and quacks like a promo ... :rolleyes:

#621848 - 06/02/05 11:27 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Colin McCullough Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/01/05
Posts: 12
Loc: Sutton, Massachusetts

Many thanks for the corrections about equal temperament. I was going by memory and was incorrect - that's why I spent a lot more time exploring the practical level rather than theory. There are a number of books that get really get into tuning theory. I'll read up on the history of equal temperment and make the corrections necessary.

As far as the promo bit, I'll say again I'm not trying to promote anything that benefits me as a business. People reading my site in Minnesota won't call me for tuning. If you look at other in-depth online tutorials, they aren't free. In my tutorial, the audio files and text are there for free. If I wanted to make money I would have made it a pay site like the others. There are so many promo tricks online it's natural to be skeptical.


#621849 - 06/02/05 02:28 PM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3844
Loc: Madison, WI USA

I had enough time this afternoon to browse through your site and I commend you for trying to do some good. As far as I know, there hasn't been a good book written about tuning since before I was born, over 50 years ago.

What immediately hit me with Aaron's post is what a number of people have been talking about for the last 20-30 years. All of the books say the same thing: "Bach invented ET" or at least words to that effect. Whatever is said or however it is said, it leads you to that conclusion. "Bach invented ET and wrote the Well Tempered Clavier Music to show how good it is and ET has been universally accepted ever since.", so they say.

The story goes a little like this...

Oh yes, many centuries ago, there was this *other* way to tune but by Bach's time, there was this yearning to be able to play in *all* the keys, so good ol' Bach just came up with an idea about as good as Nancy Reagan's, "Just say NO". He didn't see why we should have only *some* of the keys we play in sound good, let's have 'em *all* sound good and so one day he declared, "Just tune ET" and everybody's been doing it ever since. If you don't believe it, just read Isaac Isacoff's recent book, "Temperament". The fact is that ever since good ol' Bach invented ET, where "every note is unequivocally equidistant from the other (sic)", we've had music that we can actually enjoy. It provided the very foundation for ALL music ever since. We could not have had *any* of the music we enjoy today (all with *complete freedom of modulation*) had it not been for the "Just tune ET" declaration.

That's what they want you to believe anyways and unfortunately, most people do. Who are "they"??? While I don't really believe in an actual conspiracy, it seems as though the effects of the so-called, "Conspiracy of Equal Temperament" are there just as if there had been one. It almost seems as though people with an agenda had deliberately tampered with history books and changed them to reflect what they wanted (and want you) to believe. The one and only right, the only real truth, the only possibility, the almighty ET.

You mentioned that you had training at Steinway and so did I and yes, I heard the same baloney there too. But just because somebody who works for Steinway says it does not make it so.

Here are the cold, hard facts: Bach did NOT invent ET. Bach was not "responsible" for ET. Bach did NOT tune in ET, Bach did not use ET. "Well-Tempered" is NOT the same thing as ET, in fact, they are two different tuning systems which are mutually exclusive. In other words, a tuning in ET can NOT be "well tempered" and a "well tempered" tuning can NOT be ET.

So, as much as I appreciate your desire to show evenness and smoothness with the example from Book 1 of "Das Wohltemperierte Musik", it was never intended to sound that way and never did sound that way to Bach or any of his contemporaries. To me, it simply sounds slightly out of tune and inappropriate. Nevertheless, there are scores of recordings made on the modern piano of this music, all in inappropriate tunings. Not a single one exists, to my knowledge, in a true well tempered tuning. There are only some obscure harpsichord recordings that have a WT.

I can't really agree that the piece provides for a "test" of the tuning. It doesn't modulate out of the key of C into any remote keys, which is what would really demonstrate equality of temperament. What really does demonstrate the effects of Well Temperament is going from the first piece to the very next one if you have the piano tuned in a true WT. There is a distinct contrast between the two, which is what there is meant to be. Each piece in the book is *intended* to sound different from the others, based upon how many sharps or flats there are in the key signature.

Your use of the word "temperament" I can tell has been affected by the likes of the Steinway people and books like Isacoff's. (If we only talk about *the* temperament long enough, people will start to believe there is only one possibility). Aaron was right, there is only one ET. An ET can be spread upon a narrowed octave, a "pure" octave or an expanded octave and each choice will have some limited and subtle effects but the very word "equal" is in itself, limiting. A temperament is either equal or it is not. One temperament cannot be "more equal" than the other, even if John Travis did write that in one of his books.

What there are, are different *sequences* (often called bearing plans) which people use to effect ET. Most of them were handed down from the Well Tempered tuning days. That is, a series of 4ths & 5ths that you run through to get to all 12 notes of the octave. I see in yours that you throw in some 3rds here and there. The problem with a cycle of 5ths based sequence is that it will often lead to cumulative and compound errors. The tuner will either temper too much or too little and end up with uneven 3rds but not know where the error is.

That is why when I wrote such a tutorial late in 2003, I deliberately avoided a cycle of 5ths sequence. This helps each note that you tune be verified as you go and leaves little or no doubt.

One last thing I saw in your writing about "favoring one note over the other": that is not exactly the idea. Well tempered tuning involves favoring of whole tonalities (Major and minor chords), not just single notes.
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA

#621850 - 06/02/05 10:42 PM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
velopresto Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/05/04
Posts: 605
Loc: Santa Clara, CA

I only briefly browsed your site, so I can't give a full critique of it, but I'll give you some initial impressions.

While you are trying to explain to the consumer what is entailed in tuning a piano, it has been my experience that many people don't want to know the difference between an equal temperament and an uneven temperament(like my ex-wife), just as I don't really want to know the details of setting the fuel injection in my car. But there are people who do want to know, and for those people, having accurate information is important.

In my brief glance at your website, I found some good basic stuff there. But my feeling is that if you are going to have a website that is touting itself as being educational for the consumer, you should, yourself, be aware of the current state of tuning, via the PTG, the PTG journal, conferences, conventions, and the various e-mail forums available to technicians around the world.

Colin Wrote:

"I use different checks for the top octave since most of my usual checking intervals are hard to hear that high up. I tune primarily with octaves in this section, paying close attention to the last few notes I just tuned. I then check with double octaves, then with the octave above middle C. This helps me to relate how the top octave interacts with the rest of the piano.

One technique I used earlier on to maintain a consistent tuning in the top octave was to tune C8 immediately after C7, then tune each note from C8 down to C7 with octaves. Drawing a straight line is easier if you have two points to connect, and this technique uses the same concept."

I used to tune my treble that way, but thanks to various people in public forums, including Bill Bremmer, I've begun tuning the upper end of the piano in a different way that creates an incredibly open sound.

My point is this: instead of just explaining how YOU do things, perhaps it would seem less like self-promotion if you were to include other methods and techniques used by other technicians.

Now for an admission...I'm a bit envious of your skills in web page construction....Maybe you should include THAT in your tutorial. For a bunch of geeky (more like artsy fartsy) types, piano techs seem a bit slow on the uptake in computerese.
Dave Stahl
Dave Stahl Piano Service
Santa Clara, CA
Serving most of the greater SF Bay Area

#621851 - 06/03/05 04:32 AM Re: a new online piano tuning tutorial
Chris Aher Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/31/01
Posts: 299
Loc: Brookfield CT

I find it facinating that there is now interest in tuning pianos in other temperaments.

When I was active in the trade during the seventies in NYC, I was never asked to tune modern pianos to anything but equal temperament. On the other hand I also involved in the early music scene. I was introduced to my wife, a professional baroque violinist, by the harpsichordist, Albert Fuller. In addition to my piano work, I did a lot of harpsichord and fortepiano work and was frequently asked to tune in any number of historical temperments. One of the people that often asked me to tune in some of the more obscure temperaments was a very well known baroque oboist.

About 20 years ago I got interested in systems and network engineering, changed careers, and have been working in international telecommunications ever since. A few years back I had to terminate a Database Administrator consultant for accessing inappropriate content on the Internet at work. (We have a zero tolerance policy) When his PC was reallocated, we found a CD in it. It was the Academy of Ancient Music recording of a Vivaldi Oboe Concerto with my old collegue as the as soloist. And then! The following day a I received a resume from a headhunter for a network engineer. It was his daughter, who babysat for my kids (now adults) when they were little. Life is full of strange coincidences, sometimes.


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