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On a current Steinway D piano, should each rear duplex string be tuned to the same pitch as the speaking length of the same string?

On the piano in question, the rear duplex strings are not. Instead, they are mostly tuned higher.

For example, for the notes in the range D5 to E5, the rear duplex strings are tuned a major 7th higher. Within that group of notes, the tuning is fairly consistent.

However, in the next group of adjacent notes, from F5 to B5, the rear duplex strings are tuned an augmented 4th higher.

Is there any valid reason why the intervals should vary like this? Shouldn't the duplex strings be tuned consistently across the entire keyboard, to avoid variations in tone?

Anyway, why isn't each duplex string tuned to the same pitch as the speaking length of the same string? Wouldn't that be the most reliable way to ensure sympathetic resonance?

One more thing: If the rear duplex strings should be tuned, then what method is recommended for tuning them? I'm concerned that working on them could harm the bridge or bridge pins.

For reference, here is a list of notes in the upper half of the piano, followed by the relative pitch of each rear duplex string:

Note range -- Pitch of corresponding rear duplex strings:
D4 to A#4 -- major 7th higher
B4 to C#5 -- minor 7th higher
D5 to E5 -- major 7th higher
F5 to B5 -- augmented 4th higher
C6 to G6 -- minor 7th higher
G#6 to F7 -- perfect 4th higher
F#7 -- major 3rd higher
G7 to C8 -- major 2nd lower

Is this how the duplex strings should be tuned on a Steinway D piano?

Also, are the recommended pitches for the rear duplex strings specified in the official Steinway World-Wide Technical Reference Guide?

(I previously posted this in the FAQ section by accident. Please disregard that duplicate, and reply to this post instead. Thanks.)

Last edited by CheckTheFacts; 01/30/22 09:34 PM.
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If you read the Duplex Scale Patent of 1972 you can learn the design intent.

If you implement the design intent you will have some problems.

If you read the patent for the Fully Tempered Duplex Scale you may learn more than you want. US Pat no; 9,117,421.


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Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
If you read the Duplex Scale Patent of 1972 you can learn the design intent.

If you implement the design intent you will have some problems.

Thanks Ed. I searched online and found a lengthy patent document. It shows that you invented the "Fully tempered duplex scale". Wow! I'm impressed.

However, I'm not an engineer, so that document is far beyond my understanding. Can you please explain this in simple terms? Briefly, my questions are:

1. On a Steinway D piano, should each duplex string be tuned to the same pitch as the speaking length of the same string?

2. What is the recommended method is for tuning duplex strings on a Steinway D?

Thanks!

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You cannot tune the duplex sections to the speaking length, as that would require that they both be the same length.

Since Steinway aliquots are plates, the length of each note cannot be set individually. Sometimes you can change the tension on each section, but then the speaking length could go out of tune faster.

I believe that duplex stringing is of dubious value.


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Originally Posted by BDB
You cannot tune the duplex sections to the speaking length, as that would require that they both be the same length.

That's a good point. So instead, since the duplex strings are shorter, perhaps they should be tuned an octave higher than the speaking length. That's almost true in the present scheme, as most of the duplex strings are already tuned a 7th higher. That's almost an octave.

Wikipedia says "In mathematics, aliquot means 'an exact part or divisor', reflecting the fact that the length of an aliquot string forms an exact division of the length of longer strings with which it vibrates sympathetically."

Since an octave higher would be an exact division, it seems each duplex string should be tuned an octave higher than the speaking length, rather than a 7th higher.

On the other hand, in one section of the duplex strings, they are only a perfect 4th higher than the speaking length, yet there is no commensurate difference in string length. So the length of each duplex string is not what is determining its pitch, at present. Instead, the duplex strings seem to have been tuned arbitrarily. I think this needs to be corrected. But how?

How does one go about tuning the duplex strings, when the tuning pins are on the other side of the bridge? Are there special tools? What is the procedure -- on a Steinway D in particular?

On this topic, the same Wikipedia page says "Theodore Steinway of Steinway & Sons patented tunable aliquots in 1872."

Does this mean that the duplex strings on a Steinway D are tunable? If so, by what procedure?

Reference: Aliquot Stringing

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Originally Posted by BDB
Sometimes you can change the tension on each section

Can you please explain how you could do that?

Taking another look at the piano I described, I see that the rear duplex termination strips are largely what determine the length of the rear duplex strings. The length of the rear duplex strings is independent of the speaking length because the termination strips are configured that way -- in a "zigzag" or "staggered" pattern, though those are not quite the right words. This explains the ranges of notes I listed in my original post. (I should have noticed that, but I was blinded by my eagerness to find something fixable.)

Originally Posted by BDB
I believe that duplex stringing is of dubious value.

What do you normally do about that? For example, do you mute the rear duplex strings with felt?

In this piano, the rear duplex strings are obviously resonating, but not necessarily with the corresponding speaking lengths. For some notes, that resonance sounds good. For others, however, the rear duplex resonance seems to conflict with the fundamental pitch, creating a wave interference beating sound. Or the resonance continues too long after the speaking length has been silenced by its damper, creating an illusion that the damper is not working.

In this piano, the rear duplex resonance is fairly consistent from one note to the next, but in some cases, there is an obvious difference. I.e., Some obvious unevenness can be heard while playing up the chromatic scale. Assuming the rear duplex sound is desirable overall, is there any way to make it more consistent from one note to the next?

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You can sometimes adjust the tension at each portion by manipulating the way you tune, if there is enough tension on the pressure points. Tuning above or below pitch can change how they are tuned. I do not recommend doing that, except to equalize the tension, otherwise it will tend to equalize over time and possibly cause the speaking length to go out of tune. In fact, that is really the only value to duplex scaling: if the duplex sections are tuned differently, you know that the tension is not equalized and the piano will not stay in tune.

Other than that, they are a selling point. There is no need to do anything about them. I try not to worry about things that will not be heard by someone just listening to the music.


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One thing to keep in mind is that your ponderings are based on what seems to ‘make sense’. I would suggest that what sounds good doesn’t always make sense, because we’re not always capable of knowing all the information that needs to be known (nor do we always know when we don’t know something). We as people can, and have repeatedly and regularly throughout time, come up with all sorts of fancy ideas and explanations based on scientific studies or formulas or etc. only to make fools of ourselves because there was vital information we didn’t understand. We could say that Steinway’s duplex is bad for such and such reason, but maybe that’s just an intelligent expression with missing information.

I’m not saying Steinway gets everything right with their duplex (or other things), but Steinways have a particular sound that many pianists find appealing. I used to own one and to some degree I very much miss aspects of that Steinway sound. I’m certain the duplex is part of that. Many pianists love the Steinway sound and it’s not simply that they’re all unthinking idiots.

Maybe changing the duplex would bring about positives. Maybe some negatives. Maybe Ed’s idea is the best thing ever, or maybe it’s just different with different things to offer.

I’m not at all trying to discourage you, just meaning to give some perspective. Maybe the duplex doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’. But maybe something different has something else to offer.

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And just to add my 2 cents and a little extra confusion...
Hitting the notes hard can change the non speaking portion...I know we all know this but it wasn't mentioned I think.

Further ... I have often, over 40 years had to mute the string between the capo and the t pins to cure horrible zings etc.
Steinway here in uk do it with tiny strips of red felt, if you see them. I was once at a party and the owner had spent a large sum having the Steinway rebuilt. She said to me could I hear the very high frequency she could hear all the time. Her SS technician had been unable to cure it. I had on me a small reel of micropore medical tape and used a small piece to mute the offending non speaking part of the string. Instant cure. I bet it's still there...
Anyway since then it's my habit to carry a roll and the first thing I try when a client hears noise is to unreel 12 inches of it and place on the lot. Being micropore it can be removed with no trace. Very often it's an instant cure.
So, how valuable is all this matched "speaking" non speaking wire I hear you ask....
smile


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I think it is worth mentioning that any unmuted string length in the piano will respond to anything within reasonable earshot that feeds it energy at an appropriate frequency. You can think of the whole collection of unmuted string lengths in a piano -- certainly including treble strings and duplex lengths -- as a choir that sings along with whatever sound is presented to it. There is nothing about a duplex string portion that filters out energy that does not come from its own dedicated tuned speaking length.

If you look at a Steinway photo of the D, taken from directly over the string frame, you will see that the lowest two strings that have aliquots are muted off. If I recall correctly, I believe I had to mute off one more, when I restrung our university's D, to get rid of a prominent, undesirable resonance.

Last edited by Floyd G; 01/31/22 02:25 PM.

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The problem with the idea of so much resonance from the duplex portions of the string is that they are very short, and the wire is relatively thick and rigid. Whatever is there is minuscule, and likely to die out quickly. The energy from other strings, even when coupled through the soundboard, is small, and likely to die out quickly. There may be a little that comes from the speaking length, especially in front, when the string rocks against the pressure bar. Some of that energy may cross over to the duplex due to the rigidity of the string. But really, how important is that? Pluck a duplex, and see how well you can hear it!

I have come across pianos where the duplex has been muted with a little felt. If I pull the felt out, whatever caused someone to put it in was not apparent. Sometimes you can clear up problems by detuning and tuning a string. Other times, well, it is like someone said here once: most tuning problems are caused by voicing, and most voicing problems are caused by tuning.


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Originally Posted by N W
And just to add my 2 cents and a little extra confusion...
Hitting the notes hard can change the non speaking portion...I know we all know this but it wasn't mentioned I think.

Further ... I have often, over 40 years had to mute the string between the capo and the t pins to cure horrible zings etc.
Steinway here in uk do it with tiny strips of red felt, if you see them. I was once at a party and the owner had spent a large sum having the Steinway rebuilt. She said to me could I hear the very high frequency she could hear all the time. Her SS technician had been unable to cure it. I had on me a small reel of micropore medical tape and used a small piece to mute the offending non speaking part of the string. Instant cure. I bet it's still there...
Anyway since then it's my habit to carry a roll and the first thing I try when a client hears noise is to unreel 12 inches of it and place on the lot. Being micropore it can be removed with no trace. Very often it's an instant cure.
So, how valuable is all this matched "speaking" non speaking wire I hear you ask....
smile


Tape is also my go to solution to diagnose duplex issues.

The factory has pre-figured placement points for the top and bottom of each section of duplex bars. I have the data in my SS notebook. They just get it close and worry not. There will be some consonance as well as some dissonance no matter where they are (within reason).

Peter Grey Piano Doctor

Last edited by P W Grey; 01/31/22 05:49 PM.

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Some years ago, a poster mentioned removing the rear aliquots from a Steinway, removing the hitch pins and replacing them with custom modified stainless steel screws/bolts. This allowed the down bearing to be accurately and easily adjusted, and also allowed the maximum possible back scale. It would be interesting to know how it all sounded.

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Originally Posted by Floyd G
.. any unmuted string length in the piano will respond to anything within reasonable earshot that feeds it energy at an appropriate frequency. ... as a choir that sings along with whatever sound is presented to it. There is nothing about a duplex string portion that filters out energy that does not come from its own dedicated tuned speaking length.

That's a very helpful observation.

Originally Posted by Floyd G
... I had to mute off one more, when I restrung our university's D, to get rid of a prominent, undesirable resonance.

That seems the only practical solution: If the rear duplex strings cannot be tuned, then mute any that don't sound good. However, I wonder if that might sacrifice some important component of the overall sound.

In my case, I have resorted to muting the rear duplex strings for five notes:
D4, E4, G4, A#4 -- and even G#2 at the far end of the piano.

Muting these strings is the only way I've found to eliminate some unwanted resonances. But is this the ideal solution? I would prefer to hear the entire rear duplex, because overall, it sounds good. So I wish I could fix any problematic strings, rather than muting them.

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Originally Posted by BDB
The problem with the idea of so much resonance from the duplex portions of the string is that they are very short, and the wire is relatively thick and rigid. Whatever is there is minuscule, and likely to die out quickly.

I believe your observation must be true of many pianos.

However, on the Steinway D that I described, the rear duplex resonates very audibly. The resonance can continue for a second or two, even after the dampers have fully silenced the speaking lengths of the strings. It's like having a built-in reverb.

For most notes, it's an appealing effect. But for some notes, the effect is so audible and enduring that it creates the illusion that the dampers are malfunctioning.

For other notes, the rear duplex creates a beating sound, as if the note is out of tune. It seems this happens when the offending duplex string is not quite in tune with whatever note has been struck on the piano.

Yet another problem is that the rear duplex seems to resonate with some speaking length strings more than others. So when you play a chromatic scale, one note might seem very resonant, while its neighbor does not.

To eliminate those annoyances, I have muted some of the rear duplex strings. But I wish I could find a more elegant solution.

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Remember too that the model D is designed for the concert stage and intended to be judged from about 20-100 ft away. They rarely sound optimal to the user.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Remember too that the model D is designed for the concert stage and intended to be judged from about 20-100 ft away. They rarely sound optimal to the user.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor
That's a very good point.
Leads me to....are you ( the op) playing sitting or standing?
I used to look after a d in a performance space and it used to sound rough if I was standing..much sweeter if I sat low ( the G Gould stance smile )
It was a remarkable difference. The roughness (which was high freq interference) was inaudible within a few feet.


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Change the rear duplex lengths and you also change the string bearing on the bridge.I’m certain the factory has the duplexes and string bearing finely tuned by design.
For the concert D’s I maintained, if a duplex was making unwanted noise I mute it.
There were a few artists that would rather deal with unwanted duplex noise , insisted I remove the felt strip because they believed it took away power or some characteristic that was there by design.
Not possible to tune SS duplexes or worth the effort imho.

Last edited by Gene Nelson; 02/01/22 03:51 PM.

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Originally Posted by N W
are you ( the op) playing sitting or standing?

I agree that the location of the listener can influence what details are audible. However, for a piano in this price range, my expectations are high, and it think it should sound good from any angle at any distance.

Whether or not that's actually possible, I am nonetheless hoping to get the best possible sound out of this piano. I think it sounds very good at present, but I'm hoping it can sound even better.

To answer your question, the unwanted resonances can be heard from various angles. They can be heard whether the performer is seated high or low. As well, the piano has been recorded with a pair of AKG C414 mics positioned near the curve (with 5 rear duplex notes muted: D4, E4, G4, A#4, and G#2). Close miking is needed, to avoid recording the room acoustics. The room is not bad, but it's nothing special, and it does not add anything useful to the piano sound.

If you're curious about what the piano sounds like, listen to the video I've linked below. Of course, many of the problematic notes aren't even played in this recording, so you won't hear them. And with 5 duplex notes muted, the most obvious problems are already mitigated, albeit not as elegantly as I would like. As well, electronic reverb has been applied. This reverb is exaggerated by Youtube's automatic audio compression, which obscures the details even more.

Even if the sound is acceptable, the inconsistencies in the rear duplex resonance had to be compensated for by the pianist, by modifying her touch on the keyboard. This required considerable extra practice and effort. So I'm still looking for ways to improve the rear duplex resonance on this Steinway.

Here's the link:
Chopin Prelude played on Steinway D piano

.

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CheckTheFacts,

I prefer the sound the player hears greatly over the sound the audience hears. When I record classical music, the mics are almost touching the rim of the grand and peaking over it, one in the curve looking at the treble and one at the tail looking along the overstrung bass strings. With condenser mics in cardioid this gives a very wide soundstage the same as I hear when playing and there is essentially no room noise. I like the faint sound of the dampers moving, the hammers hitting the strings. Its all part of what makes playing so rewarding.

The issue of rear duplex resonance is problematic. My M&H BB has individually tuned aliquots done in traditional 'organ mixture style' format with octaves, fifths and unisons starting at D#5. I am here to tell you that they are not perfectly in tune. The unisons are out slightly, which means they beat with the dead-on trichords. They add a lot of resonance and I mute them all for Mozart and his ilk. They are generally fine for later rep though Brahms was a conservative and too much resonance really ruins his piano music. I have one standout resonance but it is in the speaking length. The first non-damped note (F#6) should have been damped. It rings like crazy when playing in B Major anywhere on the piano.

Last edited by prout; 02/01/22 05:05 PM.
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