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#1125605 06/08/04 08:46 PM
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Do piano players on this forum notice any difference between a piano that has been tuned by ear or one tuned by a machine? I am not posting this in the technitian's forum, because I want to know the opinions and experiences of piano players who have had their piano tuned different ways. Of course, technitians are also welcome to post their opinions as well. I have read the back postings in the Tech Forum, but there seem to be no threads by players on this topic.

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The fellow sent by the dealer tuned with a machine. The one I currently use tunes with only one single A tuning fork. The latter does a better job. But then he also tunes for Anton Kuerti when Anton plays in town. My conclusion is that it doesn't matter whether the tuner uses an electronic gadget or not. A good tuner is a good tuner is a good tuner. By the way, the better tuner doesn't even play the piano.

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My new piano has already been tuned 4 times in just under a year by three different techs. I'm pretty picky and would probably want my piano fine tuned every month if my budget permitted. One tuner (in fact, the most expensive $135-175/visit) used an electronic tuning device. Although the results were satisfactory, the other times my piano was tuned by ear and produced much more pleasing results to my ears! Goes to show the most expensive isn't necessarily always the best.

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I'm with "me" 100%. It's the tuner who does the tuning, not the tool. There are great and poor tuners using either method. And some are perfectly able to tune excellently both ways- they simply find it a little less stressful or faster to use a machine.

To achieve PTG RPT status one must prove one can tune aurally- but it's recognised by the PTG to be perfectly fine to use machines in fieldwork.

What I *would* avoid is people incapable of tuning well by ear, which is quite different from someone capable who simply chooses the machine. Also avoid anyone who tells you that machines are superior. The results of good ear tuning should be virtually indistinquishable from the results of good machine tuning and tuning contests conducted by the PTG have shown this to be true.

(BTW, I don't use a machine. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't.)

Regards,

Rick Clark


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I agree with Rick and "me." It is the tuner, not the method of tuning, that makes it or breaks it.

Like many other people I know, I tune by ear or machine. Which method I use depends on two things: time, and quality of piano.

With a small amount of time to tune a funky little spinet, I'll use my machine, for the temperament section at least(middle F through A for me). This is because it is often difficult to hear what one needs to hear in pianos with shorter strings that are likely to have all kinds of strange sounds going on besides the fundamental tone. I always check by ear when I'm done to make sure it sounds good(if that's possible with a Kincaid spinet).

Octaves and unisons I do almost exclusively by ear, though I admit I occasionally seek the approval of my device in the bass of smaller pianos that never sound in tune no matter what one does...:-(

I tune nicer pianos by ear(unless someone asks me specifically to tune it by machine). Good quality uprights and grands practically tune themselves.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what a tuning looks like on a screen, it's the sound that matters. If a tuner is unable to differentiate between what sounds good and what doesn't, you should probably look for somebody else.

Just my two cents

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ON this topic, can somebody explain why it is necessary to add drift to a tuning?

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Pete I assume you mean 'stretch'. When we say 'drift' we usually mean 'going out of tune'.

The natural harmonic series of piano strings exhibits inharmonicity, which means that the harmonics are ever so slightly sharp in relation to the fundamental. In example, the 2nd harmonic of a string is just slightly more than 2X the frequency of the fundamental. The exact frequencies that occur in the harmonics will vary from model to model.

It is for this reason there is no "one size fits all" tuning for pianos, and you can't use things like guitar tuners or attempt to match tune to an electronic keyboard. Each piano must be tuned based on its own inharmonicity.

When you take the inharmonicity into account, you will be tuning octaves just slightly sharp or 'stretched'. This actually means it is more in tune than if you tuned the top note of the octave to 2X the frequency of the bottom note of the octave. In a proper ear tuning this happens naturally because it sounds right to the ear.

However, when using a machine, the inharmonicity must be calculated by computer individually for each individual piano so the right degree of stretch is achieved. That's what proper piano tuning devices really are- computers. OTOH there are poorly skilled tuners using electronic devices who do not even understand or use the machine capabilities to individually calculate a tuning- instead they simply recall a "one-size-fits-all" from the machine's memory. Not good.

But there is another application of 'stretch' also. In the highest octave there is a psychoacoustic tendancy to perceive in-tune notes as slighly flat, so some tuners might stretch that top octave even more in an attempt to compensate. It's perfectly acceptable, but I find that while it is true that psychoacoustic tendancy exists when playing arpeggios or runs up to the top, it does not exist when paralleling octaves or double octaves. So whether or not to add additional stretch to the top octave more is a judgement call with no right or wrong answer.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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Rick, do longer pianos have less interharmonicity, and stretch, than shorter ones?

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Theoretically, that's the case. However, poor design can make a long piano sound worse. I find that can be especially true in the bass.


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My technician uses the machine (Verituner) but also listens. He told me that there is a certain note in the bass where the two strings exhibit considerably different inharmonicity. (He insisted that he also found this on the other two Estonia 190 pianos he has serviced!) He demonstrated what the electronic tuner produced (terrible beat) and then tuned it so it sounded right.

He is one of the technicians who tests for the PTG here, so I'm sure that he can tune very well by ear. They use a Steinway B at our school, not my Estonia. wink

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Kenny,

Large and small pianos differ mostly in the bass. All things being equal, the longer piano would have less inharmonicity in the bass than the smaller one. Depending on which models you are comparing, the difference can be quite large or rather small.

Rick


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MarkS makes a good point. The tuners who rely on the machines for the bass get some really bad results. Rick's point about it being the tuner doing the tuning rather than the machine is worth repeating.
The best possible tunings can be achieved with or without a machine, but less talented tuners, can do a much better tuning with a machine ( if they tune the bass by ear)


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Rick thanks for the explanation about stretch. I have detected the psychoacoustic phenomenon of upper octaves sounding flat. In the seventies, I had a friend that had Moog synthesizer. On a pure sine wave this effect was very noticeable.
Query does the stretch utilized on acoustic piano tunings mean they will not be in tune with an electronic keyboard, or do most digital pianos also have stretch?

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Pete,

Don't be quick to assume that an old analog Moog wasn't pretty out-of-tune itself. Tuning was always drifting on those.

A piano is not likely to be *perfectly* in tune with another kind of instrument, moreso at the extremes of it's ranges. Even if a digital has stretch built in (some do some don't some are programmable), it's unlikely to be exactly the same as another acoustic piano. But that is not neccessarily a problem and slight differences in tuning exist almost everywhere in the world of real, acoustical instruments. In fact, too perfect a match in tuning can create a noticeably thin sound. Synthesists who try to emulate different instruments of the orchestra utilize slight mistunings to create a more natural and lush acoustical interaction. Those who don't create a noticeably cheesy fake ensemble.

Neverthless on occasion I have "goosed" a piano's tuning because I knew it would be used in a certain way. For instance if I know it's going to be playing in a combo with a well tuned electric bass guitar, and both instruments are going to be playing in the same range at the same time, I might tune the piano with less stretch in the bass to better match the bass guitar. However, if the piano is playing solo or without competition in the bass region, it sounds better stretched.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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For efficiency and to avoid ear fatigue, I tune primarily with my PDA.

That being said, I can also tune aurally, and the tuners I consider to be the finest tune by ear (Virgil Smith, etc.).

It is important (I think) for a tuner to understand the fundamentals of tuning, and to be able to do it by ear. Even when tuning by machine, I frequently check my work aurally, and always tune unisons by ear (doesn't everyone?!)

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KB,

I remember when ETDs first became popular and there was a Greek chorus chanting "no one could possibly tune a unison by ear as well as by machine".

My ear told me different and I also started pointing out Gabriel Weinreich's paper in the old Scientific American verifying the superiority of the ear and it's natural ability to slighty mistune unisons in order to overcome wave reflection and phase problems. Over time the Greek chorus started to mumble and cough. But then it started a new chant- "use the machine for the temperament but always tune unisons by ear".

However I've talked to some techs who use the machines to purposely mistune the unisons by some fraction of a cent to achieve "ear-like" sound quality.

So I figure there are no rules, it just goes to the cleverness of the tool-user.

Regards,

Rick Clark


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thanks, guys, for the informative discussion.

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Rick, that's been my experience as well.

I remember several years ago Virgil Smith teaching a class on unison tuning, and was saying much the same thing you just stated.

To me it's a no-brainer:
If the purpose of tuning is to get it to sound it's best, and by "sound" we mean what our ears pick up, then clearly our ears have to be a part of achieving that.
What's the use of having the tuning that's the most mathematically pure if it just doesn't sound good?
Certainly as you said there are some amazing things our ears can pick up, that I know the machine cannot.

And for people who argue that the "ear can't hear a difference of 1c", I know that it can. Given the proper checks the ear can here even smaller differences

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I'm not certain I understand the concept of "ear fatigue." I never get tired of listening to a piano. Especially for tuning, where the sounds never fail to fascinate me. I get physically tired from turning the pins, but never from listening. I've always thought hammer technique was much more difficult than listening.


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I definitely think there's something to be said for hammer technique BDB.
The amplitude of sound coming from a piano though is pretty significant. Especially when tuning an upright, you ear is very close to the origin or sound, and hearing damage is a risk for tuners tuning without ear protection (I know it sounds funny... ear plugs to tune a piano).

But when I say ear fatigue, I'm talking about the fact that we can only listen to certain frequency ranges for so long before our ears get tired and begin to give us false positives.
It's very easy (at least for me) to strain while tuning the temperament, then have a hard time hearing other parts of the tuning, almost because I've "worn myself out".

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I add only that, IMO, you don't have to be good at anything more that aurally tuning unisons to tune well by machine. There is huge amount of skill level in making the jump from clean unisons and computed stretch, or drift, and coming up with an appropriate amount of stretch on your own. Actually, its this belief that I think has put quality tunings in reach of non-professionals. I find the limiting factor, in my case, is tuning stability.

As an aside, I find my tuner who tunes for the BSO and some of the local colleges, uses zero, or no stretch, in the bass and only adds it on the right side of the keyboard. He tunes aurally, FWIW. I have gone back twice with my ETD to sample.

My beef with machines is they don't seem to deal well with those bass notes whose upper partials ring loudly vs those they can hear, that I can not. Sometimes the fundamental is beatless, but the partials take on an annoying ring. I forget whether this is falsing, but find ears help where the machine does not, even to the point of leaving the fundamental imperfect to fix the beat in the upper partial.

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I've never had problems like that with my hearing. I don't do a lot of tunings in a single day, almost never more than three, and I am never affected by the unamplified sound of a piano, except maybe if I stick my head under the lid of a concert grand when someone else is playing.


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Quote
Originally posted by Chris W1:

[1] I add only that, IMO, you don't have to be good at anything more that aurally tuning unisons to tune well by machine. There is huge amount of skill level in making the jump from clean unisons and computed stretch, or drift, and coming up with an appropriate amount of stretch on your own. Actually, its this belief that I think has put quality tunings in reach of non-professionals. I find the limiting factor, in my case, is tuning stability.

[2] As an aside, I find my tuner who tunes for the BSO and some of the local colleges, uses zero, or no stretch, in the bass and only adds it on the right side of the keyboard. He tunes aurally, FWIW. I have gone back twice with my ETD to sample.

[3] My beef with machines is they don't seem to deal well with those bass notes whose upper partials ring loudly vs those they can hear, that I can not. Sometimes the fundamental is beatless, but the partials take on an annoying ring. I forget whether this is falsing, but find ears help where the machine does not, even to the point of leaving the fundamental imperfect to fix the beat in the upper partial.

Chris
[1] This is, of course, the assertion of many who wish to bypass the work and practice time involved in learning to tune aurally. Just buy a machine, spend a bit of time on unisons and hammer control and I are a tuner. I’ll not say it can’t be done, but it is rare. So rare that I’ve not found a piano tuner yet that I would hire who has not learned to tune a piano acceptably by ear without the aid of an ETD.

Now, once those fundamentals have been learned and become second nature, I’d agree that many, if not most, tuners can enhance their work, make it more consistent and certainly less stressful by incorporating the wonders of modern technology. But I’ve evaluated too many tunings that have gone astray simply because the tuner could not identify the problems by ear and could rely only on what the machine told him (or her).

Working out an appropriate amount of octave stretch is not really the problem. As the skills and fundamental knowledge of basic piano tuning are acquired things like applying an appropriate stretch to a given scale become second nature. The problem with depending on an ETD to be the last word in things like octave stretch is that inharmonicity is not a constant throughout the scale. Indeed, in most pianos it is quite erratic. Which note, or set of notes, is the ETD going to use as a basis? The ear, once trained, handles these irregularities easily. It constantly adjusts and adapts the stretch to compensate for even the poorest example of string scale design. Only the Verituner claims to accommodate these irregularities — the jury is still out on this.

{2} You might well find the stretch going in the opposite direction down in the low tenor and bass. That is, the fundamental pitch should be going a little flat of the theoretical ideal.

The problem is that the inharmonicity curve should not really be a curve at all but, when plotted on a log scale, a straight line. In the real world, however, it is not. Nor can it be. It will be highest at C-88 and will decrease to some minimum down somewhere towards the lower end of the tenor bridge. (This minimum would occur at the lowest unison on the tenor bridge were it not for the ‘foreshortening’ of the last unisons typically found on most traditional scale designs.) From this minimum it typically goes up some with the last few unisons. Then into the bass where anything can happen. Usually it goes back down because, for some inexplicable reason, most traditional piano makers insist on using quite small core wires on the upper bi-chord wrapped strings. Finally, it goes back up — usually rather dramatically — because those same manufacturers like to use rather larger than optimal core wires down in the mono-chord section. In between there is little uniformity since no effort at all was made to smooth out the inharmonicity curve through the bass section. Probably because inharmonicity itself was not at all understood until well into the twentieth century and few really new scales have come along since that time.

While all of this becomes second nature to the ear of the experienced tuner it becomes a veritable minefield for the ETD which plods straight through the whole mess oblivious to how the end result actually sounds.

[3] The closer the scaling gets to ideal the better the machines work. Unfortunately most string scales are far from ideal. In the end the tuning and the piano must sound good to the ear. While I have great respect for the progress that has been made in developing the modern ETD I’ve not yet seen one that can really replace the human ear in this regard.

As a disclaimer I should mention that I learned to tune by ear and worked that way for approximately the first twenty years or so of my tuning career. I then began to incorporate various ETDs into my work, came to like them and have worked with one ever since. Having said that I would much rather trust my piano to the average ear tuner than to a more experienced technician who could not be bothered to learn the most basic fundamentals of his or her craft — the simple technology of piano tuning.

Del


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I think a lot has been said about the finer points of tuning and how an ETD effects these points but not a lot has been said about other reasons why one tuning sounds better than another. It could have nothing to so with the method used. It could be the level of skill the tuner has with the physical aspects of tuning. It doesn't matter if you can put the piano in tune, if you can't set the strings so that they stay in tune even through fairly hard playing. If your hammer control is no good, then your stability probably isn't any good. You can bend those pins until the note sounds in tune, but if you don't know how to set the string, as soon as someone gives the note a good shot, or even as you tune the unisons, the note will go right out. I think that the hardest thing about being a great stable tuner is fine hammer control. Being able to move the pins in very exact increments in the block to achieve the highest level of stability.
The honest truth is that I could probably go to someones home and tune a sub par temperament, but if the octaves and unisons are good then they probably won't even notice if the stability of the tuning was good. (I really don't do this.) However, if I went and tuned someone's piano and did a lousy job of pin and string setting, they will be calling me two days later because they have unisons wining all over the place. My point is basically the same as all of the other technicians here. I have heard fine tunings done with both methods, but neither is any good without a mastery of hammer control and good stability.


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Thanks for all the replies. I just had my first piano tuning, and was impressed/surprised that the tuner did it all by ear. I had assumed that "tuning" a piano was just a matter of setting each key to the right Hz frequency (like the A above middle C is 440 Hz) and that was it. Thanks for all the information!

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I wrote:
[1] I add only that, IMO, you don't have to be good at anything more that aurally tuning unisons to tune well by machine. There is huge amount of skill level in making the jump from clean unisons and computed stretch, or drift, and coming up with an appropriate amount of stretch on your own. Actually, its this belief that I think has put quality tunings in reach of non-professionals. I find the limiting factor, in my case, is tuning stability.

DF writes:
[1] This is, of course, the assertion of many who wish to bypass the work and practice time involved in learning to tune aurally. Just buy a machine, spend a bit of time on unisons and hammer control and I are a tuner. I'll not say it can't be done, but it is rare. So rare that I've not found a piano tuner yet that I would hire who has not learned to tune a piano acceptably by ear without the aid of an ETD.

Or, Del, it is the opinion of a consumer, who is the only one who has to be satisfied with his work. I guess I won't win a popularity contest with the aural tuners for the above comment. Take heart, I am an "amature at large", anyway, so most probably just moved on to the next post.

My needs are a basic tuning with some stretch and that is my idea of quality. I have found what I previously described to work quite well and volunteer it here. YMMV.

[2][3] Thanks for the feedback. You know your way around this stuff and it makes for some interesting reading. It doesn't, however, change my view that, as you so sophisticatedly described, the subtleties of inharmonicity and scale go *beyond* what the "average ear tuner" can hear, as well as what ETD's can currently be used for. These are truly subtleties. I, for one, am keeping my imperfect scale. Thank you.

Chris


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If you tune aurally and check on a variety of intervals, the accuracy with which you tune is remarkably good, at least as good as claimed by ETDs. It's probably at least as good as the best tuner's hammer technique. And the fact that you are tuning with a number of intervals guarantees that all those intervals sound good, which means that you have the proper stretch.

The advantage is that there is nothing to calculate. It's just the way that it is.


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Stretch is not something you do, it's something that happens.


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Setting temperment and stretch have nothing to do with one another. If you are achieving your intervals in the center of the keyboard aurally, you haven't even begun to accomodate inharmonicities in the bass, for instance. You will simply have a nearly even 440 - 880 octave and a clean temperment, assuming you got that far. If you guys honestly end up with a frequency that is slightly wider, and yet in proportion with the inharmonicities on down the keyboard, then my hat is off to you. A simple description of your technique would reveal how you are accomodating stretch. If you call yourself done after the temperment is set and you haven't played a good number of bass notes, then you can't possibly have got it right. If you go deliberately wide by smidgen, then you just took a shot in the dark as to what that particular piano might need. Maybe you go back to your temperment to add stretch latter, I don't know and am not saying it isn't possible. I am, however, much less in a position to fight technology as someone who doesn't have the time to be a diciple of beat rates. FWIW, I don't even have the time to tune with the computer and am using the person I mentioned. Kids do that to you wink


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Franz Mohr,for many years before,has challenged
techs to visit him at Steinway in New York and give him a "perfect" machine tuning.

That *stays* in tune - once the concert pianist starts hammering.

Don't know if anybody ever did the trick.

But curiously - there still ain't no concert tuners on any of the world's major stages using a machine - I know!

Well, Timbucktwo....perhaps: your home or mine! :rolleyes:

...er..... YOURS!! laugh

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Temperament and inharmonicity may be separate phenomena, but they certainly come into play with each other. Your octave from 440 to 880 may actually be from 440 to, say, 881, due to inharmonicity, so every interval in between is affected. By ear, you are tuning so that the relationships between intervals are correct, that is, so that there is the proper relationship between the way that the intervals sound. If an ETD only deals with the pitch numbers, it may be correct by the numbers, but the relationships won't be right.
I don't even bother much with counting beats exactly when I tune. I'm not good at judging fractions of a second, and the beats vary from piano to piano. The temperament on a cheap spinet is not the same as that on a concert grand. But it's no big deal to get the intervals correct on both of them. (It's usually easier on the concert grand, though!)


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I won't jump in the middle of the ETD vs Aural debate. I've had tuners that use an ETD (Accutuner) and tuners that do it by ear only. I will say that I have been most pleased/satisfied with tunings done by aural-only tuners.

I would also point out, fwiw, that in Germany I have not met a tech that uses an ETD. They are all of the old school over here I guess. wink

But I'd also note that technology/design improvements in ETD in recent years has been pretty impressive. I'm talking about the Verituner specifically. It will not, imho, replace aural checks/tweaking but it has a lot of potential to save the tuner's ears for where they are really needed. And that's why I think that this particular ETD is gaining acceptance on this side of the pond. Several highly regarded technicians in the BENELUX have started to use it and spread the word. Whether their enthusiasm will sway their conservative, hide-bound colleagues to the east remains to be seen. laugh

It will be interesting to see if Verituner's competitors can come up a design that will take ETDs to the next level.

JP


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Just what am I supposed to be saving my ears for, if not for tuning?

If you don't tune by ear, you aren't getting practice listening.

As far as I am concerned, saving my ears means leaving when the sound is too loud. If it were too loud when I'm tuning by ear, it would be too loud if I were tuning with and ETD.

(I've got two shows tomorrow before the play-offs of my bocce league, where my team went from dead last in the first half to tied for first in the second half. Maybe the play-offs are important, but not as important as the shows, and I don't need to save my ears for them. smile )


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Quote
Originally posted by Norbert:


But curiously - there still ain't no concert tuners on any of the world's major stages using a machine - I know!

norbert
If you take the double negative here literally, this is true. If what Norbert means is that no concert tuners on any of the world's major stages use machines, that is absolutely false. There are many tuners regularly tuning for major pianists on the world's major stages absolutely using the Reyburn cyber tuner and the accutuner. I don't know any using the verituner, but it wouldn't surprise me. I don't know what the percentages are, but a concert tuner using a machine is not an annomaly.


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Jim Coleman and Virgil Smith had a contest at a PTG convention a few years ago. Jim,tuning electronically, beat Virgil, tuning aurally. The next year Virgil won. The pianos were voted on by several tuners and pianists. Jim is also an excelent aural tuner and teacher as is Virgil.


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Keith:

At least in Europe it's apparently a total no-no.

Perhaps over here it's different.

It's not a battle for me.

I don't even tune myself.

But I can tell when the tuning is good and - holds!

norbert smile


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I dont think the relationship between machine, and aural tuning staying in tune, is relevant. Hammer technique, pin setting, and string rendering, are what keeps a piano tuned. If those cant be done solidly it wont matter what you use for temperment and octaves , unisons and so on. smokin


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16 years later do you all hold the same opinion?

I downloaded Entropy Piano Tuner on the app store. I tried tuning my piano with it and it made it sound worse.

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Originally Posted by JPM
I won't jump in the middle of the ETD vs Aural debate. I've had tuners that use an ETD (Accutuner) and tuners that do it by ear only. I will say that I have been most pleased/satisfied with tunings done by aural-only tuners.

I would also point out, fwiw, that in Germany I have not met a tech that uses an ETD. They are all of the old school over here I guess. wink
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About 7 years ago, when I played a recital at a piano festival in Feuchtwangen, Germany, the tuner was using an ETD on a cellphone. I only had a glance, but I think it was TuneLab. Tuning was fine; piano was a Hamburg B.

I know several technicians who regularly tune for concerts in the greater Washington, DC area who use ETDs. One uses a Sanderson Acu-Tuner, the other Reyburn CyberTuner.

As to HOW they use it, from what they tell me, it is a combination of aural tuning and stop the lights moving visual tuning.


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Originally Posted by ThePenist
I downloaded Entropy Piano Tuner on the app store. I tried tuning my piano with it and it made it sound worse.

I'm working on some upgrades to EPT right now. There are a few things to note when you use it, if you believe the entropy theory it's based on:

Mute all but one string when recording, unless there's a noticeable tonal difference between the strings. Otherwise, make sure each unison is perfectly in tune.

Using the "EntropyMinimizer" algorithm, make sure to set it on "Infinite" accuracy, let it run for a while, then change some notes around randomly in the UI and see if it returns them to the original tuning it found. I've gotten the total entropy down quite a bit compared to the "High accuracy" (150 steps) setting which I am pretty sure stops the optimization prematurely in most cases. Doing this on the PC is much easier. On my laptop, this took a few minutes of calculation.

I'm working on a few ideas to help it find a better tuning without intervention, and later if I have time I have some ideas to speed the computation up.

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I forgot to mute the strings in the initial recording. Too late now. It sounds bad, can't go back. I've tried learning to tune by ear, but I think there is too much insider secrets. Everything online isn't really good material or they want to charge you a bunch of money to take a class. I wish I hadn't done anything now.

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I mean you already went through the trouble of tuning it once, what's a second tuning? :P I bought a better tuning lever and it makes the job easier so that I dread it much less. Still, 232 strings to tune is a lot, so I'm trying to finish my algorithm refinements before I go do another tuning. I struggled for an entire week trying to get the thing to compile and only just got it to work.

I tried touching up the tuning a little a few weeks ago but a bunch of unisons have already gone out, so clearly my technique with the lever is deficient and this will probably be an ongoing thing, but I figure it'll be faster in the future with a tuning file I like saved.

For me, this software is an absolute necessity, because I'm too tone deaf to tune by ear, and it seems like too much voodoo magic when I see how they determine the temperament. The EPT theory is pretty elegant and is a sensible extension of how aural tuning is done, so I am pretty happy to go with it.

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Originally Posted by ThePenist
Too late now. It sounds bad, can't go back.

Why? You can do the measuring again. But think of this:

1. Entropy-PT ist very ugly.
2. A (good) Software ist not enough. The first tunings sound bad - always. You need patience an many tries. If you only want to tune your piano 1 or 2 times per year - let it been done from a technician.


excuse my bad english, I'm not native. Corrections are always welcome!
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New try in correct English:

If you only want your piano to be tuned 1 or 2 times per year - it's better done by a technician.


excuse my bad english, I'm not native. Corrections are always welcome!
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By the way ThePenist, you can reset your tuning to the recorded one if you saved the tuning file, the pitches are saved and can be viewed with the "Graph" button.

I'm collecting some data right now, been running the "stock" EPT algorithm over and over with my tuning file. My crappy rough tuning got the entropy to 6.489, EPT usually converges on around 6.399 at the infinite setting, and if I mess around with it I can get lucky and it'll go to 6.396 ish. So that's the number to beat.

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Okay after doing a bunch of testing with different modifications to the algorithm, I am pretty convinced that the EPT objective function is not good. I wrote a blog post about it for the slightly technically inclined: https://www.quora.com/q/gjwwwxgohpqdfldt/Entropy-Piano-Tuner-Upgrades

For a rough tuning, its inharmonicity estimate for the starting tuning curve is not bad (basically makes octaves in tune), and I like the software aids for doing the actual physical tuning, but without hearing the piano I'm already not happy with the tuning it's producing. With my non-zero temperature single-note-change-only method it's getting a lower entropy but tons of bass strings being sharp is just ludicrous. I want to fix this without resorting to further restricting the allowed ranges of adjustment, I'll have an update tomorrow if I can make it work with an alternative frequency weighting.

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As usual I’m late to the conversation. I was an active tuner/technician from 1984 to about 2001. Varying from full time (10-15 per week) to part time (2-3/week). And I have kept slightly in shape by occasional tuning friends’ and relatives’ instruments since leaving the profession. I would not consider myself an expert tuner.

I was trained to tune by ear but in the early days I had trouble setting a great temperament. But I was fine with octaves, stretch and unisons. So after a couple of years I bought a Sanderson accu-tuner. It always seemed too cumbersome and time wasting to me so I began using it just to help with my temperaments. Eventually I got pretty good at aural temperaments and pretty much abandoned the SAT. (Still have it somewhere).

But there are two cases where a machine can be critical.

First is the home where you arrive and the residents decide it’s time to eat and you’re battling against the clanking dishes. Or homeowner decides it’s time to run the vacuum cleaner or, worst of all, the dishwasher. These are conditions where I found it impossible to hear anything. So out came the SAT and I could rely on the strobes to know where the note was.

The other was for pianos with lots of false beats or top octaves that just were beyond my capability to hear. The machine could. These were usually spinets with cruddy or rusting strings and I really didn’t want to break one.

In these cases I might have been able to provide a superior aural tuning completely by ear but my philosophy is to provide the best service possible given the constraints of time, budget, owner’s expectations, and condition of the instruments.

I still do not like using machines but there are certainly times where the machine is the best choice.

-Bill


-Bill L. - former tuner-technician
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