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Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635209 03/23/08 12:45 PM
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Does anyone know what happened to Don Gilmore's automatic tuning system that relied on the thermal expansion of piano strings. The last I heard QRS, the piano roll people, took over the patent in 2003 and were keen on developing the idea further but, since then, silence.

Did it die the death, or is it still regarded as a viable solution?

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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635210 03/23/08 04:23 PM
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I havent seen anything written about it since an article I saw around the time you mention Thyde.

I know you piano players are waiting with baited breath for a self tuning piano. But I'm not looking in the classified ads for part time employment when all those self tuning pianos come rolling off the assembly line!!!!!


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Ron Alexander
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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635211 03/23/08 06:11 PM
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Don Gilmore is on the piano forum. He would know best what is happening.
I believe his forum tag is Eromlignod (his name backwards)
You could post there or PM him directly in case he doesn't see the thread.

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635212 03/23/08 08:08 PM
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When I get thermal expansion I grab a cold one.....


Peter Sumner
Concert Piano Technician


Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635213 03/23/08 11:10 PM
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Kind of reinventing the wheel.

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635214 03/24/08 12:02 PM
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I wonder why the system hasn't made a debut with guitars?

If it is ever an option for new pianos I doubt it will impact piano tuning much. Damp-Chasers do a great job of prolonging a tuning, and they aren't as popular or as well maintained as you might expect. I don't think many buyers will be interested in paying for the option.


Part-time tuner
Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635215 03/24/08 12:46 PM
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I don't think any of these "add-ons" will represent a threat to anyone posting on this website. However I have often contemplated the fact that the acoustical piano is 19th century technology. What would happen if, say, a Chinese manufacturer decided to apply modern engineering to the acoustical piano. I am certain that, with the right investment in R & D, they could come up with something that would compete with the conventional piano for sound, but would tune and regulate itself.

Every branch of industry should beware of complacency. We British have many sad tales to tell about how we lost out to foreign competition, because we thought things would never change. The tragic loss of Ibach is perhaps a foretaste of the effects of Far Eastern competition.

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635216 03/24/08 01:02 PM
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I must agree with Tooner's comments. I dont see most people paying for an extra bell or whistle on an acoustic piano. Perhaps they would if the sales pitch were, "You wont have to tune it." But then like a Dampp-Chaser, what maintenance would have to be done on it? My experience shows, many people hate the maintenance aspect of a product.
Look at Dampp Chasers, I know of so many that are not having the intended affect, because water is not added in a timely manner, or the pads are not changed. I saw one recently, I bet the pads had not been changed since it was installed 20 years ago.

Thyde makes some interesting suggestions about updating 19th Century technology. I think the reason this has not happened, nor will happen in the forseeable future is the cost factor. Yes there are materials that will not react to temp and RH like wood does, but obviously the cost of manufacturing carbon based soundboards or bridges are cost prohibitive. As are materials other than carbon based materials.


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Ron Alexander
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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635217 03/24/08 02:07 PM
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Hi guys:

I'm still plugging along. I fired Story & Clark (QRS) last year and am engineering the prototype myself using the royalty money they paid me. It has been very time consuming. The logistics of getting it all done and getting it all right has been nerve-wracking. I want to be absolutely sure that everything is simple, reliable and easy to service.

After several months of electronic experimentation, I have [finally] arrived at a sustainer design that is modular and universal. In other words, I have one sustainer that can drive any note in the piano. It drives three unison strings (or two or one as the case may be). There is one sustainer per note, so they are individually replaceable if they are damaged or malfunction. They simply plug in.

The vibration sensing is now totally optical, so there is no magnetic interference. The sensor literally "looks" at the string to determine its vibration. It is easy to install and needs virtually no adjustment. You just eye-ball the sensors close to being directly under the strings and that's good enough. The only adjustment from note to note is a tiny volume control (high treble strings need more drive power than long strings). This adjustment only needs to be done at the factory and is permanent for that note.

I'm getting the PC boards for the final generation made now. Once I get them in and running I'll make a recording or a movie so you guys can hear what it sounds like. It's pretty wild.

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635218 03/24/08 02:25 PM
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Don: Your invention sounds interesting. I've followed the different threads and opinions on it.

Something I haven't seen posted is how exactly the string is heated. Is there electrical conductors touching the strings? If so, do they go to individual power supplies? Or is current induced from a magnetic field? Or is there some other way?


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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635219 03/24/08 02:25 PM
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Don, good luck with your work.

I am surprised that so many techs seem anaware of the impact of string temperature has on the tuning. Perhaps you would care to chime in with some specific details and numbers on the "new piano action" thread?

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635220 03/24/08 02:56 PM
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Yes, this is all very interesting and I too wish Don good luck with this work.

I'm really not that surprised that so many techs do not factor in string temperature. I know I never have, until the "new piano action" thread.
I think most of us are trained to understand the inconsistency of wood, but the inconsistency of metal another matter. It all depends on who we trained with, and their understanding of it.


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Ron Alexander
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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635221 03/24/08 03:21 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by UprightTooner:
Don: Your invention sounds interesting. I've followed the different threads and opinions on it.

Something I haven't seen posted is how exactly the string is heated. Is there electrical conductors touching the strings? If so, do they go to individual power supplies? Or is current induced from a magnetic field? Or is there some other way?
Electrical current is passed directly through the string. I use 5 volts DC. The current is turned on and off on a constant duty cycle. So, for example, if it is on 65% of the time and off 35% it gets warmer than if its only on 20% of the time and off 80%. All the strings are connected to the same 5V power supply, but each has its own tiny switching transistor to turn it off and on and control its pitch.

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635222 03/24/08 03:49 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Supply:
Don, good luck with your work.

I am surprised that so many techs seem anaware of the impact of string temperature has on the tuning. Perhaps you would care to chime in with some specific details and numbers on the "new piano action" thread?
I'll have to dig through my notes to get the exact figures and post them later.

I don't really worry much about the temperature. I translate directly from "pitch measured" to "electrical current out" to the string. The temperature is technically what tunes the string, but my program only thinks in terms of electrical duty cycle.

I did do some temperature measurements back in the beginning to make sure the strings would not get too warm. I have a thermocouple wand that I can touch to the string and get a temperature reading. If I remember correctly, I found that for reasonable detunings (like 30 or 40 cents or so) the temperature only gets up to around 95 F. If you put your hand on the strings it just feels like someone else had their hand there (like sitting in a chair that someone just left).

It varies from note to note, but a rule of thumb is around one or two cents per degree F.

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635223 03/24/08 09:12 PM
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I can't see how that thing could keep a piano on pitch and in tune all year long with major weather fluctuations seeing as how a piano is about 70 % wood with roughly 20 tons of tension on it?


Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.
Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635224 03/24/08 09:44 PM
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It doesn't keep it in tune all year. But you can retune your piano yourself in about two minutes (right, Don?) just by pushing a button.

It makes it more like a guitar, where you tune before every time you play.

--Cy--


Cy Shuster, RPT
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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635225 03/24/08 10:03 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Jerry Groot RPT:
I can't see how that thing could keep a piano on pitch and in tune all year long with major weather fluctuations seeing as how a piano is about 70 % wood with roughly 20 tons of tension on it?
A study was done at the University of Washington where a piano was observed for three years. During this time it was neither tuned nor played and it had no humidity control. They just took a measurement of all the pitches and the relative humidity every few days.

They found that the largest total variation in pitch (sharpest to flattest over the entire three years) for any note was about 18-1/2 cents. This was the worst note (high-C). The best note was octave-C below middle-C, which only varied 8-1/2 cents.

The amount that the self-tuning piano can tune is complex to predict. Since different notes go out of tune by different amounts, stable notes require less energy than ones that vary a lot. Also, the lowest 20 bass strings take more energy to tune than the rest of the gamut. I have designed the system to be able to deliver 30 cents of tuning power to every string, on average. That means that if one string only needs 10 cents, that allows enough power for another string to have 50 cents if necessary.

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635226 03/24/08 10:20 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Cy Shuster:
It doesn't keep it in tune all year. But you can retune your piano yourself in about two minutes (right, Don?) just by pushing a button.

It makes it more like a guitar, where you tune before every time you play.

--Cy--
Right, Cy. The system is only "on" while you play. You switch it off when you're done. I'm thinking of adding a cash register noise that sounds when you turn it on, since it could be thought of as spending $100 every time the button is pressed. wink

The time for the tuning process that I originally touted was 20 seconds. That was simply the time that it took to tune a single string. That was when all the strings were tuned simultaneously. I tenaciously tried to keep this number for a long time until I realized that even a couple of minutes is nothing compared to the hour it takes for a manual tuning.

Once I resigned myself to this, it allowed me to make the system much more economical. Now there is a sensor for every string, but only one magnetic coil per note. I also only sustain every other note at any given time to avoid magnetic interference from an adjacent coil. So actually I go through the tuning process six complete times to be able to tune all the strings. That results in a time of 6 x 20 = 120 seconds. So your 'two minute' guess was pretty accurate!

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635227 03/24/08 10:24 PM
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Don, how does it maintain Standard Pitch?


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Ron Alexander
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Re: Don Gilmore's thermal tuning system
#635228 03/24/08 10:37 PM
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Originally posted by rjalex:
Don, how does it maintain Standard Pitch?
I'm not sure exactly what you're asking, but I'll try to take a stab at it.

The piano is actually tuned at the factory by hand. The strings are warmed to a medium temperature and then the piano is tuned. This tuning is stored for future reference in subsequent automatic tunings. Since it is tuned when warm, this allows the system to tune sharp, by letting the string cool, or flat, by heating the string more.

You can change the tuning anytime you want. There is a hidden switch that your tech can flip, tune the piano how you like, then flip it back. This new tuning is then stored and replaces the factory tuning. A deluxe model will allow you to store numerous tunings for various temperaments, etc.

So the system is actually a means to record and play back tunings on an every-day basis.

Don A. Gilmore
Kansas City

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