Thank you to all those who donated in 2015!



DONATION STATUS
Needed before 2016-12-31
$ 2,500
So far donated
$ 595

Tuning - "tuning fork" versus "electronic device"

Discussion in 'The Piano' started by pianolady, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    I had my piano tuned last week. The piano tuner I’ve been using for about ten years(he came with my piano) has stopped tuning, and so I used another tuner for the first time. He is very experienced and was highly recommended to me. He tuned my piano the old fashioned way – using only a tuning fork and his ears, whereas my previous tuner used his laptop to visually see if the strings were in tune.

    Here’s the thing….I’ve been playing my piano the past few days and it just sounds different to me. When I play certain chords or harmonic intervals, it almost sounds like one note is out of tune. But when I check it with the octave it sounds perfectly in tune. I’m wondering if my ears are simply used the way my piano sounded when it was tuned using the electronic way, and I will just have to get used this ‘new’ sound. Any thoughts on this matter?
     
  2. rainer

    rainer New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2011
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Re: Tuning - "pitch fork" versus "electronic device"

    I call it a tuning fork. "Pitch fork" conjures up images of a farmer with a checked shirt, a straw hat, and a blade of grass in his mouth, wielding said implement, often menacingly. :)

    There must be loads of other tuners who use the newfangled method, so you don't have to get used to the old fashioned method if you don't want to. You could just use someone else. What you need to decide is which intonation you prefer; you might end up changing your mind. Compare your piano's intonation to that of other pianos. I don't know how much chance you get to play other good pianos which are well tuned. Maybe if you want to research this question you need to enter more competitions or give recitals in different places! :twisted:

    You may find that the harmonies you try sound differently in or out of tune when you play the whole chord an octave or two up or down.

    Where the difference is likely to lie is in the way tuners handle the phenomenon of inharmonicity (look it up), which is that each string vibrates not just at its fundamental pitch but has a whole bunch of harmonics thrown in. If you play an A440, muting two of its strings so only one of them is free to vibrate, you don't get a nice simple 440Hz sine wave, but a "chord" consisting of the fundamental A440, plus the first harmonic, the octave A880, plus the second harmonic, the twelfth E1320, and so on. The harmonics are weak, but together they mix into the cocktail of sound which you identify as the characteristic sound of the note you're playing.

    Now here's the thing: Because of the way the wire bends when it vibrates, and because its resistance to bending isn't the same in the middle of the string as it is at the ends, the harmonics are not exactly in tune with the fundamental, the frequencies are not exact whole-number multiples of that of the fundamental. I think the harmonics are flatter the higher the note, and so when you play octaves, their harmonics are not in tune with each other even when the fundamentals are. What I mean is that the first harmonic of A440 (which is nominally 880 but will be a little out, flat I think) and the first harmonic of A880 (which is nominally 1760 but will be also a little flat but more flat than on the A440), and so even if the fundamentals sound true octaves, the harmonics will be out of tune. This is noticeable, and weird: The octaves sound out of tune even when they are really in tune! To compensate for this effect it is modern normal practice to deliberately tune octaves slightly sharp, hardly enough to notice, but enough to reduce the impression of the harmonics being flat. This is known as applying "stretch". An added bonus is that this stretch also makes other intervals, like fifths, sound more in tune than without.

    The difference is that with newfangled tuning machines this stretch is applied in an objective way, while with the old-fashioned way it's done by ear, is more subjective, the tuner deciding almost subconsciously how to assess when octaves sound in tune.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Re: Tuning - "pitch fork" versus "electronic device"

    :lol: :lol: I crack myself up.... :lol: :lol: I really meant to say "tuning fork", not "pitch fork".
    (I changed it on my post)

    Thanks for the information, Rainer. I'll have to re-read and process it before I respond.
     
  4. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Rethinking the tuning fork/pitch fork thing.... it could also be called a pitch fork because when struck, it sounds the correct pitch such as A440. So ok yes, we know pitch has different meanings. A pitch fork is used to pitch or toss hay. But if you bonk it on your head or knee, who knows what tone (pitch) you'd hear coming from it. Then again, you'd probably hear birds if you bonk it on your head....and a lot of swearing if it hits you in the knee.... :lol:

    Anyway, about my piano....I do know all about there being harmonic tones coming out of the strings. I can hear them clearly on the organ. I'm sure the man who tuned my piano knows what he's doing. But still, I was just playing it a moment ago and the sound does bother me somewhat. Also, about trying other fine pianos - at the competition last week, I played on a Steinway concert grand and when I had my warm-up time before the competition, I was playing along and noticed some keys seemed a little off to me and I actually stopped playing because it startled me. I thought it very odd that they forgot to get the piano tuned. Then I heard other competitors warming up on the same piano moments later and it sounded fine (I was standing farther away). So now I'm thinking that my new piano tuner tuned my piano properly, since it's just like the big Steinway I played. I just have to give it more time and get used to it. And next time I am ready to have it tuned, I will call the same tuner and talk with him about it. Thanks again, Rainer! :)
     
  5. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2008
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Carbondale, IL
    Last Name:
    Tucker
    First Name:
    Riley
    LOCATION:
    Carbondale, IL
    That's interesting. You wouldn't think that there would be a difference between tuners. I'll buy Rainer's explanation :lol: At SIU we had a pianoteq on faculty and he used the "old-fashioned" method. I am pretty sure he had perfect pitch, because otherwise I don't know how he could do it without some type of pitch reference device, like having a laptop like your old tuner. Interesting topic!
     
  6. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    869
    Likes Received:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Edinburgh, UK
    Home Page:
    Last Name:
    Wright
    First Name:
    Andrew
    WEBSITE:
    http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/andrewwright
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, UK
    TWITTER:
    arpeggio_andrew
    YOUTUBE:
    alkanliszt
    Actually, for what it's worth, I thought the piano was slightly out of tune around the E'/F' (E5/F5) area.
     
  7. rainer

    rainer New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2011
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Of course it could be, and you said it so naturally that I even thought it was just another of those differences between British and American English, that "pitch fork" was the normal name for it on your side of the Atlantic. I only mentioned the farmer as a joke.
    Speaking about transatlantic differences, be careful: Bonking has a very specific meaning over here. :wink:
    If, as you implied earlier, all the octaves sound fine, and the problem only arises with particular chords, it might be a good idea to keep a written log of what the problem chords are, and which notes in them bother you most. Do this before you get used to the new sound. Also, since you have the equipment, record them. Does the intonation sound equally off on the recording, or does it only seem so on the live piano, similar to how the competition piano sounded better when you were a bit farther away?
    If it does also sound off on the recordings, then keep them until you think you've gotten used to the new sound. Then listen to the recordings again, and if they then sound less off than you remember, you'll know that your perception has changed. Of course the piano's tuning itself may have shifted too...

    An experiment worth doing is to take the chords that bother you and transpose them into different keys. Up or down a semitone or two (or 3,4,5,6, i.e. try them in all keys). If they don't sound equally bothersome in all keys, this would tend to suggest the temperament isn't even and your new guy may have messed up. It would then be worth talking to him about it sooner rather than later.

    Do you mean "perfect" as in absolute or relative? I think it would be extremely unlikely for someone to have absolute pitch accurate enough to be able to reproduce A440 out of the blue to the level of precision now generally expected. He would have had at least to use a tuning fork, provided his intention was to tune a piano to standard pitch. But if he was going around simply adjusting a few notes here and there which were a bit out with the piano's general level of intonation, to make sure the piano was simply in tune with itself, then no pitch reference would have been needed. A good sense of relative pitch would help to get all the semitones in the middle octave roughly right in relation to the fork, by using natural intervals like fifths, fourths, and thirds, but the fine tuning, which involves distorting the natural intervals to fit equal temperament, tends to rely more on special techniques like counting beats than on good relative pitch.
     
  8. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Actually, it's the area around middle C and about an octave below. Same area on my piano and also the competition piano.

    No, we call it a tuning fork too. I just didn't yesterday :lol:

    hmmmm...ok, I'll take your word; my imagination is causing me to blush... 8)

    Those are good ideas about writing down which notes bother me. Also making some test recordings. Thanks you! :)
     
  9. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    That is pretty amazing, considering an organ does not have strings. :p
     
  10. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica

    ahahaha....you know what I mean. :)
     
  11. pianoman342

    pianoman342 New Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2008
    Messages:
    721
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Carbondale, IL
    Last Name:
    Tucker
    First Name:
    Riley
    LOCATION:
    Carbondale, IL
    I'm sure this is what Monica was thinking of:

    [​IMG]

    :lol:

    @ Rainer

    Yes, the counting of beats (auditing that there are none) seems to be a popular method of tuning, especially in ensembles. In symphonic band at SIU two instruments would play the same pitch and Maestro Brozak could tell immediately with the number of beats that the two pitches were off by. With piano I would think once you have the first note you can use relative pitch. I imagine there are some with absolute pitch, but I imagine most people would be off by something on the order of a micro tone :? They have pitch whistles too. My Dad sings in a barbershop quartet and it gives them the tonic. Maybe tuners use that?
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Oh yes, that's called a Porgano. :p
     
  13. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Church Musician, Choral Accompanist, Musical Theat
    Location:
    Illinois
    LOCATION:
    Illinois
    As in "Porgano and Bess"?

    BTW, "Bonking" may have a particular meaning across the pond (we add an "i" after the "o" for what I am sure is a similar meaning), "Knock me up in the morning" has a very different meaning over here ;-)
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Porgano and Bess...funny!

    How did we get started on "knock me up?" Anyway, I know what it means here, but I wonder what it means there? (whisper it to me if it's too risqué...)
     
  15. rainer

    rainer New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2011
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    LOCATION:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    We got to "knock me up" because, over there, it can happen when you boink. Over here, it's not risqué at all, quite innocent in fact. One could say it involves bonking (in your sense), and simply means "wake me up by knocking on the door".

    Enough of this childish nonsense, we should ponder much sexier cultural differences, such as that between a demisemiquaver and a 64th note. How long do you need to think about it before giving the answer?
     
  16. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2006
    Messages:
    8,702
    Likes Received:
    0
    Last Name:
    Hart
    First Name:
    Monica
    Hmmm...let's see....I need a demisemiquaver amount of time to answer. It's the difference in how long it takes to get knocked up, which is by half? :lol: Or that a demisemiquaver has three bars and a 64th has four bars, so if you go to four bars (taverns) you'd be pretty drunk and therefore a man would unlikely be fit enough to get any woman knocked up.

    Now the question: How do we fit this into the subject of piano tuning? :lol:
     
  17. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    9,930
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Netherlands
    Last Name:
    Breemer
    First Name:
    Chris
    LOCATION:
    Netherlands
    We don't. We just go madly and irrevocably OT as usual ...
     
  18. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    0
    Occupation:
    Church Musician, Choral Accompanist, Musical Theat
    Location:
    Illinois
    LOCATION:
    Illinois
    It means basically "come by and see me (knock on the door) tomorrow."

    Scott
     

Share This Page