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I read that your average piano string will lose about 5-15 cents
per year.

So if we take the average, and say strings will go flat by about 10 cents
per year, then wouldn't it be reasonable to say that most pianos will
need a pitch raise after not being tuned for over 2 years?

Last edited by Musicdude; 12/13/20 04:38 AM.

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The true answer depends on the degree of humidity control that the instrument is subjected to. The wider the swing of humidity the more it will vary. A good tuning requires that the piano be within about 2 cents of where it should be. Some variation here and there can be dealt with (certain sections might need more) but if the entire instrument is 4 cents flat or more, it needs a pre-tuning (pitch correction) if there is a requirement that it be at a specific pitch level such as A-440hz.

Some of us favor "floating" the pitch to avoid unnecessary pitch changes. An uncontrolled piano tuned twice a year can vary quite a bit in both directions. There is a "net" pitch drop as the winter dryness drops the pitch more than the summer humidity raises it (usually). So one answer to your question would be "yes".

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I’m not as experienced as Peter, but I’m rarely happy with the finished result of a tuning if I’m trying to move each note more than 10 cents in one pass. It seems to take a similar amount of time and a better result if I just do the pitch correction first.

Unless you’re talking about a big difference in humidity a year later, or an underserviced brand new piano into consideration, losing 15 cents in a year is not something I’ve observed.


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No, that is not true that a piano string will loose 10-15 cents per year.

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I had a piano in storage for 7 years - it was maybe 20c down only and all the unisons were still good (to my surprise).

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So much depends on factors that cannot alk be taken into consideration. 1-2 cents per year I would consider a general average.

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Originally Posted by Musicdude
I read that your average piano string will lose about 5-15 cents
per year.

So if we take the average, and say strings will go flat by about 10 cents
per year, then wouldn't it be reasonable to say that most pianos will
need a pitch raise after not being tuned for over 2 years?

Greetings,
In the non-theoretical world, i.e. pianos, "average' really doesn't exist. I have had pianos that were tuned daily, monthly, yearly, every decade, etc. Some of them are within 2 cents of where I left them two years later. Some of them, within six months sharp or flat by 10-15 cents at the break, usually less through the middle, and again divergent as the top is measured. Some, like several C3's, go extremely sharp or flat from the bottom of the tenor bridge up until a near and abrupt,(over an octave or so) return to normalcy around C5. "Pitch raise" is less descriptive of a lot of these situations than "Pitch correction". If I see them twice a year, I will usually have some correction needed around the breaks, if once a year, that section will have gone through its cycle, be near pitch, with the unisons complaining.

Pianos can easily lose 10 cents a year in pitch, overall, in their first year or two. The rate of flattening will gradually diminish until stability is reached between the various segments of the string, gaining the more complete resolution of bend stress around pins, agraffes, etc, and after the coil stops allowing tension creep to pull more slack out of it. After 5 years, if the piano is tuned "on average" 2 times a year, it will not usually need a pitch raise if a year is skipped later on in life. That 'average' comes from tuning 4 times the first year, 3 times the second, and 2 times a year for two years, then once year until the kid goes off to school, then every other Christmas when the kid's family comes home, and then finally, once for the funeral and "Oh, could you leave an appraisal, for the executors, you know?".

alas, I digress...
Regards,

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That's a pretty good description of it Ed. ☺

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On the concert stage I treat every tuning like a pitch correction.
Two passes, hold down sustain and do a vigorous Steve Brady style forearm smash then touch up anything that moved.

When I first started I would sometimes float pitch till I got nailed for less than one cent flat.

Solo piano is not so sensitive to pitch but add some brass and strings and you find very sensitive ears.


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Gene,

Yes, that's the thing. The REASON for a pitch standard is because other orchestral instruments that CANNOT adjust their pitch level very far need to be able to play within the piano. Strings...no big deal, woodwinds and brass have difficulty if things are too far afield. The highest pitch "standard" that I have read about was London Steinway at A=454.7! I cannot even conceive of tuning things that high. It must have been the upper limit of what a piano could even handle without breakage back in the late 19th century. Why they did it (if, in fact, they did it), I don't know.

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The pitch needs to be floated in concert situations as well, except that a lot more information and thought needs to go into the decision.

The piano has to be able to give the house standard when it is asked. Where the concerto is listed on the program will matter. If it is first vs. last will be a different temperature in the hall. And, that temperature will effect the pitch level. Most of the time, the stage will be much warmer near the end of the concert. If you are on stage with just a few lights during your tuning, you have to tune slightly sharp so that it will hit the house target when it is time for it to be used. There a lot a variables to balance out.

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True as true can be.

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I had a 442.5 request once, that was the highest. Most Europeans want 442. All contract agreements specify pitch and I always give them exactly what they want. Haven’t floated pitch for a very long time.
It’s best not to assume a solo pianist won’t notice something they don’t want.


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It's best not to assume that the temperature that you tune to will be the same temperature that the pianist and the orchestra experience when they check/use the A. It doesn't matter what pitch level the technician tunes to when they do it, it matters where the piano is when they actually use it. If there is a 5 degree difference between the tuning and the performance, and you don't compensate for that, the tuning will not hit the contractual target when it matters most.

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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Gene,

Yes, that's the thing. The REASON for a pitch standard is because other orchestral instruments that CANNOT adjust their pitch level very far need to be able to play within the piano. Strings...no big deal, woodwinds and brass have difficulty if things are too far afield. The highest pitch "standard" that I have read about was London Steinway at A=454.7! I cannot even conceive of tuning things that high. It must have been the upper limit of what a piano could even handle without breakage back in the late 19th century. Why they did it (if, in fact, they did it), I don't know.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

I think that the higher pitch gives the scale more tension and results in a bit more presence of sound possibly a bit more power. Some store owners like to tune to 442 for similar reasons.
Curious: do you know of any scaling programs that use 442 or higher for scale design??

Last edited by Gene Nelson; 12/13/20 08:30 PM.

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Not specifically.

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