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#1838532 02/04/12 03:07 PM
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I'm working on a series of tuning articles for other piano techs.. Can you tell me what/how YOU recognize a good/great tuning? In other words, what matters to you as a performer?

Ron Koval

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It sounds like it's in tune. smile

I'm not sure what else you want us to say. I mean, I personally also go somewhat on whether it seems from what the tuner says that he/she knows what he/she is doing and has a good knowledge of pianos, but of course we can't necessarily tell about that and anyway it doesn't necessarily have that much to do with how good he or she is.

And also, the piano holds the tune for a good while -- although I realize that's not just a reflection on the tuner.

Plus, often it has to do with how well the person is able to do other stuff besides tuning -- but you said tuning....

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Personally it depends on the quality of the piano....better pianos, and pianos that are well taken care of will keep their tune better....if there's one thing I hate to hear is 'false beats'...if that's the correct terminology.

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I guess I'm looking for what you listen for to determine if a piano is "in tune". What do you notice comparing a "slightly out of tune" piano with one "in tune"?

Ron

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Originally Posted by RonTuner
I guess I'm looking for what you listen for to determine if a piano is "in tune". What do you notice comparing a "slightly out of tune" piano with one "in tune"?

I still don't know what to make of the question. In tune is in tune. Slightly out of tune is slightly out of tune.

Maybe someone else can help us out here. I wonder if the question might be based on simply not realizing the extent to which many of us can just hear the degree to which a piano is in tune or not....

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A good tuning is one where the piano is in tune. Period. No beats in the octaves and unisons, thirds fourths and fifths all correct also. But the story doesn't end just there.

The harder-to-quantify-and-articulate aspect of tuning is the stretching of the tuning towards the top and bottom notes. This can make a piano sound brighter or duller and affect the perception of "being in tune" and "a good/bad tuning". How well a tuner does the stretching gets right into the "art" of tuning and experienced tuners should be better at it than those with less experience. The stretching can differ from piano to piano depending on the string tensions, diameters and age. Electronic frequency meters can have a stretching built in to their settings but is that one preset stretching correct for every piano? A good tuner should, I think, be able to perform the stretching as appropriate for each piano and as appropriate for that piano's environment: a domestic lounge room with carpet everywhere versus a concert hall with precise acoustics and a long reverberation.

Perhaps part of the OP's question relates to the stretching: a tuning where the stretching is perfectly appropriate for that piano, as done by an experienced tuner, should sound better than a tuning where an inappropriate preset stretching has been applied by means of a frequency meter.

Just my tuppence worth.


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Originally Posted by Toastburn
A good tuning is one where the piano is in tune. Period. No beats in the octaves and unisons, thirds fourths and fifths all correct also. But the story doesn't end just there.

The harder-to-quantify-and-articulate aspect of tuning is the stretching of the tuning towards the top and bottom notes. This can make a piano sound brighter or duller and affect the perception of "being in tune" and "a good/bad tuning". How well a tuner does the stretching gets right into the "art" of tuning and experienced tuners should be better at it than those with less experience...Just my tuppence worth.
You said it better than I could and it's worth more than tuppence. I will quickly look for a new technician if he tunes only using an electronic frequency meter. Every piano is different and every pianist prefers a different amount of stretching. I like a little bit more stretch and I appreciate a tuner who uses his ears as much as his instruments. When my piano is well tuned, it sounds like cool water with no tension in the sound.

I am also looking for even, light, responsive, controllable regulation. I like the voicing to be even, and slightly on the bright side, but not too bright. It should fit the room.

I also want silent pedals that move easily so I can flutter and half pedal. My una corda should be smooth and silent and should also allow half pedal with no sound distortion. I don't use my sustenuto pedal much but it should also be silent and easily catch the notes I want to sustain.

I appreciate a technician who is willing to explain what he is doing to my "baby". I find it infuriating when a technician belittles or ignores my complaints when I hear a something that does not sound or feel right. Yes, I'm particular but I love my beast and spend hours and hours with him, so I don't want to put up with harmonics or regulation that irritate my me. My last technician couldn't hear the buzzing but I could and so could my son. I changed techs. I hate it when I ask my tech to book enough time to do a certain job, like voicing, and he arrives and says there isn't enough time; it's too big a job. I am willing to pay for his time. I also like one who chats a bit but not too much.

I don't want my technician to falsely praise the quality of my piano. I want honesty. This may sound silly, but I waited a long, long time to get my Steinway and I feel a sense of reverence around him. He's not just a black wooden box. I hope my technician will respect that and treat him gently.


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Originally Posted by Toastburn
A good tuning is one where the piano is in tune. Period. No beats in the octaves and unisons, thirds fourths and fifths all correct also. But the story doesn't end just there.

The harder-to-quantify-and-articulate aspect of tuning is the stretching of the tuning towards the top and bottom notes. This can make a piano sound brighter or duller and affect the perception of "being in tune" and "a good/bad tuning". How well a tuner does the stretching gets right into the "art" of tuning and experienced tuners should be better at it than those with less experience....

I think I agree, although really I'm not sure I grasp all those specifics -- like, I'm not sure exactly what "towards the top" or bottom would mean. Anyway I guess I was including it in what I meant by "in tune" -- but really it's beyond that, and so it's important to mention.

I think different ears might disagree on whether this is a good thing, or exactly how it should be done, and I understand that tuners/techs have all kinds of different ideas on how a piano should be tuned. But in essence I think I'm with what you said.

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I know a piano is in tune when I can't stop playing it?


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Originally Posted by Minaku
I know a piano is in tune when I can't stop playing it?

Maybe the best answer! grin

How true. And I also find sometimes that pieces that I thought I stopped loving, I love again. smile


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A good tuning makes a piano sing better. Everything sounds better. It is specific to that piano and its acoustic. It makes the piano sound richer and has more clarity as well. The bass is deeper and the treble sparkles better.
A good tuning is also stable. The prettiest tuning in the world that gets knocked out is not as good as a competant tuning that sticks.


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I want it to sound better AFTER the tech leaves than how it sounded before.
Seriously.


I don't care too much for money. For money can't buy me love.
-the Beatles



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Originally Posted by piano joy
I want it to sound better AFTER the tech leaves than how it sounded before.
Seriously.

Sounds like a good trick! smile
I've never had a piano sound better than right after a great tuning.

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I hear a certain sonority after my piano has been tuned. When it starts to lose that certain sonority, I get it tuned again--usually after about eight or nine months.

How to describe the sonority?: It's smooth, making it easy to bring out specific notes, even notes buried deeply in dense chords. What I hear in a well tuned piano is smooth, clear voicing (voicing on my part, rather than voicing as the tuner uses that term).

I'm often aware of beats when dissonant intervals are sounded together, and far fewer beats in consonant intervals. But there are always some, it seems, no matter how recently the piano has been tuned. My understanding is that beats are what results in dissonance and consonance, so I can hardly object to them. Sometimes I hear beats when I play a single note, resulting in a tinny, honky-tonk sound. When my piano begins to just barely hint of a honky tonk sound, then I know it's time for a tune. It is the lack of that honky tonk sound that results in the smooth sonority I wrote of above.

That's it. It took me a few paragraphs to get here, but I got it--when my piano has been tuned, and tuned well, it loses any and all suggestion of a honky tonk sound, and thereby gains in clarity, smoothness and ease of voicing.

Tomasino


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One thing I've noticed and on several occasion, the top half octave of the piano was tuned almost 1/2 step sharp.

I don't know if the tuner couldn't hear that high or he got carried away stretching the octave, but I have encountered that situation more than once.


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Originally Posted by RonTuner
[...] Can you tell me what/how YOU recognize a good/great tuning? [...]


A good/great tuning:

*When I start to play, and I feel like I'm falling right into the piano because it sounds so good. Auditory vertigo.

*Like I want to crawl up into the soundboard and just live there forever.

*When I lose track of everything else around me because of the sound that's coming out when I move my fingers over the keys. It's like my ears are swimming in the sound and it feels so good, I don't want to stop.

*It's like being enveloped in liquid light.

Originally Posted by RonTuner
[...] In other words, what matters to you as a performer?


I can tell when practiced hands have opened up the sound of the piano. There is something about the resonance where the piano sounds like it's happy to be in tune. At the very least, I want clean unisons and no clunker intervals. I want the piano to sound good so the audience can really enjoy the music. Most of the people I've played for can't really spot an out of tune piano, but when the piano is IN tune, they go "Wow." Plus, I play a lot better when the piano is in tune (see above). grin

--Andy

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My problem is just the lack of choices for people to tune. The guy I have had seems good, knows about different pianos.

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Originally Posted by RonTuner
I guess I'm looking for what you listen for to determine if a piano is "in tune". What do you notice comparing a "slightly out of tune" piano with one "in tune"?

Ron


aside from the fact that it just sounds bad - kind of sour I guess - there are little things like that warbling sound when you hit an octave and the upper and lower having fallen out of tune at different rates.


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Awesome! - Excellent. Thank you all!

We tuners talk and listen about some specific things that (hopefully) makes a difference to the performer. Of course, voicing, tone and the action all work together with the tuning to make it difficult to be specific without a "before" and "after" comparison.

1. Unisons - How does each individual note sound? Balancing the attack pitch and sustain pitch and how the two or three strings interact during the decay.

2. Octaves - single, double, triple and wider relationships. I believe this is one of the things we control where the "magic" occurs. That feeling of no matter where you play, low or high, it will just blend together in the delightful resonance....

3. The temperament, or how to break up the octave into the chromatic steps. Our goal (in an equal temperament) is to use the vibrato (beats) of the thirds, sixths, tenths and such to slowly increase the speed of the vibrato in a chromatic manner. Tonal (historic and modern) temperaments control the speed of those vibrato intervals relative to the construct of the circle of fifths. One of you did speak of not having any intervals "out of place", so this is noticed - at least when there are gross errors in temperament made.

And yes, stability.... Many times out of our control as environmental factors adjust the tuning for us after we are done!

Once again - thanks!

Ron Koval


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As a piano player, I recognise a good tuning by, well, it sounds good smile . If it is slightly out of tune, chords get messy sounding and lose clarity, and generally I can't get enough "cleanness" of tone, or enough power. The sound isn't as full, and is a bit weedy, if that's a way of describing sound. The above feeling I described is a piano more or less in tune, but hasn't been tuned recently.

If it's freshly tuned, all problems are nil, the action feels better (psychologically, although the action, mechanically, is exactly the same), i get more power in the upper treble, and it sounds wonderful! laugh

If the tuning is completely out and nasty, I feel sick and sometimes want to throw up, even if it's only a couple of notes. sick

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