Tuning question

Posted by: RemoGaggi

Tuning question - 08/07/03 01:23 PM

I used to have a YC pramberger signature 48" studio. I had it tuned by the store tuner who tuned it to equal temperment and it sounded ok. Later I had another tuner tune it who tuned it and it sounded like a completely different instrument for the better! It was such a drastic change. The tuner told me that equal temperment doesn't work well on all pianos although everyone does it. He said each piano requires a different temperment and he determined this by doing some measurements with his digital meter. Anyways, that tuning was great. Any ideas on what he's talking about or comments?
Posted by: Ron Alexander

Re: Tuning question - 08/07/03 08:17 PM

Remogaggi, since I obviously cannot hear the tuning, I'm kind of shooting in the dark with my comments. Others in this forum can probably better communicate the technical aspects of what I am going to state, and I'm sure others will chime in.

In the absolute most simple terms possible, equal temperament is tuning the piano so as to achieve 12 semi-tones (1/2 steps between notes) in a middle octave of the piano and then tuning octaves and unisons from this middle octave throughout the remainder of the keyboard. It is possible this tuner used some other tuning method than equal temperament, but I personally find this kind of hard to believe. Mean tone temperament or other barque tunings. or other modern tuning methods do not allow all notes to sound as they normally do with equal temperament. An example some of the key signatures, especially sharps or flats do not sound exactly "right" to the modern ear. But I know a few pianist who really like the "old style" tunings or other alternative tuning.

I hope I explained that using the best terminology. My guess is your piano was tuned using equal temperament. There are several different temperaments tuners use, all still divide notes into semi-tones, all still in equal temperament. Two of the most common temperaments is an F temperament, and a C temperament. Both achieve A-440 standard pitch and are equal temperaments. Though there are ongoing arguements about which is best.

To say that not all pianos sound best tuned in equal temperament is kind of a stretch. If you like the tuning, that's all that matters regardless of how he did it.

Posted by: Rick Clark

Re: Tuning question - 08/07/03 08:33 PM

Although there are academic arguments to be made about various temperaments, what I suspect has actually affected how nice it sounds is not a difference in temperaments, but simply that brand new pianos are very unstable tuning-wise, and tend not to sweeten up until they've been tuned again.

Also it is quite possible that tuner #2 is simply a better tuner. Many store tuners are beginners. But even if the store tuner was great, the free store tuning tends to be unstable. Many new pianos I would actually like to tune 2 or 3 times before calling it "good", but the stores usually won't pay for more than 1.

Actually you could use almost any temperament, but if you get really nice stable unisons, most people will be impressed with how good it sounds.

If in fact you are actually hearing a difference in temperaments, congratulations on your good ear. It would certainly put you well into the upper 1 percentile.


Rick Clark
Posted by: TomtheTuner

Re: Tuning question - 08/07/03 08:39 PM

All of the above are right. I use some unequal temperaments and have made several converts among my customers. Some of whom are awesome pianists. I prefer the coleman 16 and EBVT
Posted by: Jim Volk

Re: Tuning question - 08/07/03 09:34 PM

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way, but I see Remo's situation from a different angle.

The way I interpreted this anecdote was to assume the first tuner was in fact setting a temperament in which the distance between all 12 notes of the temperament octave were, in fact, equi-distant from one another.

Everyone knows that the intervals of the temperament octave require a little stretching toward the upper end, and that the unique inharmonicity of each individual piano dictates the degree of stretch.

But heck, if you don't stretch the temperament octave at all, you may get something that sounds marginally "OK"--but not nearly as pleasant as it could be. (I've met some "professional" tuners who use a simple electronic tuner to set a pure octave, quick and dirty, and that may be what Remo's tuner was referring to, hmm?).

Posted by: Bill Bremmer RPT

Re: Tuning question - 08/08/03 08:49 AM

I agree that there is not enough information to know conclusively what the difference between tuning #1 & #2 was. As much as I have my own angle, I'd still guess, as one respondent did that the "store" tuning was rough and incomplete and that the second was done more professionally and thus it sounded much better.

What I did see in these comments were the same half truths and misconceptions which I've been working to undo for nearly 20 years. Thanks to Thomas Cobble for being a loyal practitioner of the most advanced ideas in the tuning profession today. Stuart Isacoff's recent book while well researched and written, is an over simplification and ends up being a net misrepresentation of what good piano tuning is all about.

The very idea of "each note [being] unequivocally equidistant from the other" is only theoretical. It does not at all describe a good piano tuning. It would be possible to tune a piano this way but if anyone heard one tuned that way compared to the unique way a professional piano technician would tune a piano, the distinction and choice of which sounds more like music would be a clear and easy one.

There still seems to persist the idea that that there can only be two kinds of temperament: nice smooth, natural sounding "equal" and this horribly awkward, unacceptable, obviously weird and musically useless sounding ***MEAN*** tone. After all, doesn't the term itself say it all? ***MEAN*** tone??? Either Isacoff himself believes that or he wants you to believe it for whatever reason I will never understand.

The truth is that Equal Temperament never was widely practiced before the 20th Century when efforts were made to teach and promote it as the one and only acceptable way to tune. William Braide White's book, "Piano Tuning and Allied Arts" from which most piano technicians studied presented the same distortion of the truth that Isacoff did. In the appendix, it tells of this old, antiquated and obviously obsolete, useless way that people *used* to tune before the wonderful way we now know.

It makes it sound as obvious as the ridiculous notion that the earth is the center of the universe and everything else revolves around it. We all know that is what people *used* to believe but that the truth was discovered centuries ago. Isacoff wants you to believe that the only reason to even mention the dreaded thought of the evil ***MEAN*** tone is for you to know what ***NOT*** to even wonder about.

He even gos as far as to say that the music we have today wouldn't exist unless every piano or keyboard since the time of J. S. Bach had been tuned in the almighty Equal Temperament (each note *unequivocally equidistant from the other). If any piano technician ever even suggests that there might be some other tuning alternative which may please you, you are to immediately think that it means an idea as unfounded and ridiculous as the earth being flat. You are to dismiss the idea and the tuner and get somebody who has some common sense.

Well, I am here to tell you that Isacoff's book and premises are fundamentally incorrect. Piano Tuning is an art whose development has come a very long way in the last 30 years or so. If you are a pianist, you'll be fortunate to find a technician who knows about the finer points as opposed to believing in one who knows only one way to tune.

Please see my website for in depth articles on the subject of tuning and links to other websites such as "The Conspiracy of Equal Temperament" whose author really believes that the "one size fits all" approach to piano tuning is being force fed to pianists and piano technicians alike. We don't need another book like Isacoff's but we do need some which offer some true enlightenment.