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#2532693 04/21/16 01:10 PM
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The following was cut and pasted from the July 1957 copy of "The Piano Technician" trade journal. Paul Brown, RPT from Vancouver, Canada has been uploading vintage journals to the PTG website. They are interesting!

There was a discussion about 2:1 octaves a while back. This author is basically describing the same thing back in 1957.

"THE LAST OCTAVE, if everything else went correctly, will actually help you to tune it clear. This, according to another theory of mine, is due to what I call bridge-conducted harmonics. Let's call them bridge-harmonics for short. In other words, tune the octave in, smooth the 5th, and then put the pitch where the bell-tone comes out loudest and clearest due to bridge-conducted harmonics in the lower octaves.

You can almost tune them in without the aid of the octave note below, if you train your ear to hear the crucial point of pitch. Most tuners over 50 years of age have a tendency to overshoot the pitch, ending up with having to pull the pitch too high in order to keep it from sounding flat, so that they end up screaming into a full semitone high on the last few notes.

You explain it, will you? In my layout plan it is not necessary, in fact is completely out of place. BUT, THE ENTIRE SCALE MUST BE STRETCHED, EVENLY AND SMOOTHLY UP TO AND INCLUDING THE LAST OCTAVE in order to hear the sweet, bell-tones that this pattern gives."



Ryan Sowers,
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By the way, here is a link to the entire Journal:
July 1957 "The Piano Techncian"


Ryan Sowers,
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Thanks for posting this, Ryan. It was a good read. Things don't change much, if at all but I remembered my first job where many of the clients that I tuned for had a pair of large grands (6'-7')nested in 69 position which made it impossible to match them note for note. Never were these pianos a matched pair but were always different good European makes.

Invariably one tuned appreciably sharper than the other in the treble. A situation that was sometimes mentioned but resignedly accepted by the owners. . (discrepancies in the bass were never mentioned).
Today I would resort to electronics immediately but in the 1960's, such tools were not readily available.

It was through attempting to rectify or at least ameliorate this situation that I realised the flexibility of tuning inherent in such instruments. One piano I could sharpen and leave the other with minimal stretch.

It became clear to me the possible reasons for over stretching tunings. Some pianos simply sound flatter but by no means all and certainly not the design of pianos currently used.
I have never accepted sharpening the last octave for the benefit of those in the cheap seats at the back. I find no foundation for this. Poor tone quality in the last octave cannot be improved by sharpening any more than they finish up already sharp, quite the opposite, in fact, as you describe.

(I am reminded of a masterclass given by Zoltan Kiss who said to always project the sound to the back row then added, sotto voce, 'even if there's no-one sitting there'). He also said "the high notes are not as high as you think and the low notes not as low. This was to trombone players but all instrumentalists of his stature say the same thing one way or another in their masterclasses. (I attend lots of masterclasses on all instruments and it's information like this that comes to light naturally in practical, hands on situations like masterclasses).

As an afterthought, much misunderstanding is caused by music pundits trying to explain inharmonicity. They usually finish up saying something like ".....and so the tuner must sharpen the treble and flatten the bass..." as though it was a skill of the tuner. .
..no we don't. If we tune octaves as clean as the piano dictates and don't try to be too clever, everything will be as it should be.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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Ryan, Im glad you brought this up. In the days before the electronic tuning aids, I was forever lowering top octaves that were practically whole tone scales, instead of chromatic, in the top few notes. I prefer to tune aurally, as the effect you mention, using the term "bell tones" is observable also much lower in the scale. As there is a range of pitch for any given octave that is apparently beatless, I choose the place where the resonance you talk about is most apparent. The note must meet other criteria as well, such as beatless double octave, pure twelfth, and tenths and octave-tenths are not grating. In tuning the top octave, using an open double octave test is very helpful to me. I occasionally use a 5 or 6 year old version of RCT, OTS4, in noisy situations, and find the tunings correct but lifeless, in that the piano's resonances don't play any part in the process. Also the top octave is too sharp. OTS3 gives miserable narrow twelfths, while OTS5 gives grating wide tenths, and the top octave is much worse than OTS4. It seems to me that getting the intervals to lock in, resonance-wise involves aligning the intervals such that as many coincident partials as possible are aligned as closely as possible, without unduly favoring any particular one of them. This is an art, involving aesthetic choices, that we are rapidly losing. I often wonder if a digital tuner has been or will be developed that can give the life of resonance to its tunings. My old-fashioned nature makes me doubt it.

Bill Schneider


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Although I respect your opinion on this, Ryan, what I immediately see is the same thing I always see in ET versus non-ET discussions: it's either ET or it won't work (and those small difference ones you can't tell, so they don't matter, why not just tune ET?). If a little makes it better, then why not more? Why not a half step sharp? Heck, why not even a whole step sharp? None of that works so just tune all octaves "pure". That doesn't work either.

I have also encountered such pianos. I have even encountered a piano in a recording studio where the piano was miked closely and the last several notes were MORE than a whole step sharp! It was difficult to actually bring them down to where they belong. It took 3 or 4 passes to stabilize them.

I agree that some pianos sound better with a nice 2:1 octave but others sound better with just a little more stretch than that, depending on the piano and depending on the circumstances. Those circumstances may also include what the client or artist says. The key to getting the top octave right is in the proper stretching of everything below it. If that is done properly, the top octave sits nicely upon all the rest, just as you describe. If it is not done properly, the entire upper 5th, 6th and 7th octaves will be out of tune with each other.


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Bill Bremmer, I don't quite get what you're saying in your first paragraph, could you clarify? I agree there's no point in splitting hairs about the top octave, if hairs haven't been split in the tuning below. And as far as 4:2 vs. 6:3 octaves, etc., as an aural tuner, I will massage various intervals until I get the best compromise between as many as possible. I don't know about other ETs, but with my version of RCT, I have to pick a particular partial to dominate the tuning. Perhaps this has been dealt with in later versions or other ETs. I am not anti-ET. I think those devices have raised the average quality of tunings far above what the typical aural tuner used to put out. But I also believe that those devices have put a ceiling on tuning quality. If aural tuning is an art, as I believe it is,then among its practitioners there will be virtuosos and lesser types. Rare as the virtuoso aural tuner might be, I still think he or she has something important to offer. Beauty is the goal, not just correctness.

Bill Schneider


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Apart from his brief introductory paragraph, Ryan's initial post was entirely a quotation from the 1957 article, nothing more. At least the way I read it.


Amanda Reckonwith
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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I didn't read it that way at all. I read it as agenda promotion.


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What is the agenda being promoted? If people come by their agendas honestly, what's wrong with promoting them? It's what we do as enthusiasts that causes us to learn from each other.


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Verituner, Entropy tuner and perhaps other newer electronic approaches are able to compare and work with more than one partial match at a time...

Ron Koval


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Ron, which of those should I investigate first?


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Originally Posted by Bill Schneider
Ron, which of those should I investigate first?


Entropy is free ...

There's a big long and interesting thread about it here.

Paul

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It's important to remember that, when finding excessively sharp trebles in a piano that, like any other part of the piano, the last octave can drift very sharp with climatic conditions just as much as it can drift lower.


Amanda Reckonwith
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"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.


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Dirk's! - that was the name of the other one I was trying to remember... (I seem to recall that it was alleged to be a rip-off of Verituner when it first came out and had to move to overseas distribution??..)

Verituner is the way to go right now. Entropy is a cool concept, but not quite ready for daily use. Neither Entropy or Dirk's has any real technician control, where Verituner has a very wide range of control that allows for a tech to customize the approach. The more the tech knows about tuning theory, the more detailed the control possibilities.

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The piano tells me how to tune it, including the top octave. I do not just tune octaves; I tune other intervals as well: fifths, fourths, thirds and their cognates: twelfths, elevenths, tenths, fifteenths, nineteenths, eighteenths, seventeenths. When those intervals sound right, the piano sounds right.


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All the older tuners I have known have had a lifetime spent using all the checks and balances and are therefor incapable of tuning too sharp.
On the other hand, tuners who guess and use melodic estimation can very easily get sharper and sharper even when still comparatively young. Those that can still hear the highest notes, that is.
Some of those that can't might just be able to if they didn't tune them too sharp in the first place.


Amanda Reckonwith
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"Free the entropy".

Didn't Darth Vader invoke that force?


In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible.
According to NASA, 93% of the earth like planets possible in the known universe have yet to be formed.
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