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#1501719 - 08/23/10 05:29 PM Bass overtones
gnuboi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 2350
Loc: USA
Does anyone notice an extra major-third overtone in the low bass area? Is it an ear thing or do most pianos seem to make that sound?

The test is to play a soft minor or major chord in the middle with damper pedal, then lightly touch the single matching low bass and listen for the matching major-third without and without disengaging the damper pedal

I don't know if I'm imagining it but I have a friend who says is there on just about every piano.

Edited by gnuboi (08/23/10 05:29 PM)

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#1502022 - 08/24/10 12:23 AM Re: Bass overtones [Re: gnuboi]
Cy Shuster, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/18/05
Posts: 3458
Loc: Albuquerque, NM
Most low bass notes have a dozen or more audible overtones. This is what gives the characteristic piano sound. It also is part of the difficulty of tuning, as we have to keep them from making objectionable interference patterns ("beats") when played in chords.

You can stimulate those overtones by a technique called "ghosting", which uses sympathetic vibration. Let's start with a low C. Move the key down so slowly that no sound is heard, and hold it down, just to keep that one damper up. Now play a loud, staccato C an octave above. Here it ring out, even after you let go? (The piano has to be somewhat in tune for this to work). The series goes like this: octave, octave + fifth, double octave, double octave + major third, double octave + fifth, double octave + flatted seventh, triple octave, etc.

You can go the other way, too. Hold down a C major chord, starting an octave above your low C. Hold the dampers up until the sound dies away. Now play your low C loud and staccato. Hear the chord?

Cy Shuster, RPT
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Director, PTG Norfolk 2016 Technical Institute

#1502057 - 08/24/10 02:00 AM Re: Bass overtones [Re: Cy Shuster, RPT]
gnuboi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 2350
Loc: USA
Wow, thank you.


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