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#1510481 - 09/06/10 10:56 PM Alternative tunings
ericmthompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/06/10
Posts: 6
Loc: Harrisburg, PA
I have a question that I am having a difficult time finding an answer to.

A note on a piano is made by the hammer striking sometimes more than one string. Is there any alternative tuning where these strings are not tuned in unison, but, say, an octave (or more) above/below? I realize this would take a different gauge of string, but it seems like it should be possible. Even more experimental, could these strings be tuned harmoniously, say, one a fifth above the other. You may get a drawbar organ-like sound, hearing the partial above the note.

Am I way out of line thinking this or is this an actual technique? If so, I'd like to hear some examples!

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#1510550 - 09/07/10 01:14 AM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
Chicago Tuning Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/10
Posts: 48
you probably are making your assumption by example of 12 string guitar ... but guitar is a much limited instrument in comparesing to a piano. In pianos you can find all twelve notes of musical spectrum repeated in 6 different octaves. you can play your octaves and all kinds of harmonies, using even one hand. by playing chords with both hands you can achieve the most complicated mix of sounds. use of sustain pedal improves it even more. biggest composers and pianists found a piano complete enough for writing and expressing their music. in a way, piano is the perfect musical instrument. it has been developing for centuries, but in its main principal staid the same for last 150 years...
adding some new strings would be overdoing it. plus, there are some other technical problems with applying your theory to reality. for example, thickness of those strings for one note must be different, and hammer will not strike them with the same power. and many other engineering difficulties will accure. i hope, i answered your question for you.
_________________________
piano tuner-technician in chicago and chicagoland
http://www.chicago-piano-tuning.com

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#1510623 - 09/07/10 06:58 AM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
Robert Scott Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/19/03
Posts: 292
Loc: Minnesota
You could not get the octave above by changing string gauge. A thinner string will produce about the same pitch as a thicker string if tuned to the same percentage of its breaking point (unless we are talking about wound strings). To get such a substantial change in pitch, you would have to alter the length of the string.
_________________________
Robert Scott
Hopkins, Minnesota
http://www.tunelab-world.com

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#1510721 - 09/07/10 10:24 AM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
UnrightTooner Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 5246
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Eric:

I have thought about giving tuning a string on each note down an octave (where possible) on a project piano just to see. One technique I use to rejuvenate bass strings involves tuning a string down an octave and playing it loudly a number of times before bringing it back up to pitch. It is quite a sound!

Doing this on an entire piano would make it a “prepared” piano and would not sound like a normal one. Fifths would not work very well except for music written especially for such a tuning.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#1510921 - 09/07/10 04:57 PM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
ericmthompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/06/10
Posts: 6
Loc: Harrisburg, PA
Thanks guys! You bring up a lot of points that I didn't think about; in order to get one of the strings down an octave, it would have to be a different string all together (whether that be string length or string tension) and that would cause problems with the overal construction of the piano or the hammer itself, respectively. I guess I am viewing it from the standpoint of a 12-string guitar, but moreover, I'm looking at it as a novelty sound, much like a tack piano or a piano with a mandolin pedal (that produces an echoing effect by bouncing hammers off the strings). I realize you can just play the octave and be done with it, but I thought this concept would be an embellishing effect more than a practical design hahaha I've messed around using some sampled pianos to get the octave sound (just layering two instruments, one down an octave from the other) and it sounds bold and raspy, pretty cool. I'm more about acoustic instrumentation, but I guess to design an instrument like this wouldn't be worth the effort; you could more easily just double track a recording haha Thanks for the insight though! If you ever come across something in real life like this, please do tell, I'd be highly interested to hear the results!

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#1510988 - 09/07/10 06:10 PM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4263
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada


This is probably not what you are looking for but maybe you should have a chat with this guy. He seems to find unique uses for music instruments.

Maybe you two could come up with something…….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhp6P9Ygsoc&feature=player_embedded
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#1510996 - 09/07/10 06:25 PM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
DoelKees Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/10
Posts: 1946
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
One way might be to clamp an object to the string at one of the nodes to get the effect of harmonics (as on a guitar). If you put it in the middle the string should play an octave higher.

Kees

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#1511725 - 09/08/10 08:04 PM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
ericmthompson Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/06/10
Posts: 6
Loc: Harrisburg, PA
@Silverwood: Oh that video is too cool! I love unique instrument-creation like that!

@Kees: Yes! That sounds like a viable, non-destructive way to test out the sound. Now I just need to snag a free upright from somewhere hahah

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#1512026 - 09/09/10 07:08 AM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
UnrightTooner Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 5246
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Originally Posted By: ericmthompson
@Silverwood: Oh that video is too cool! I love unique instrument-creation like that!

@Kees: Yes! That sounds like a viable, non-destructive way to test out the sound. Now I just need to snag a free upright from somewhere hahah


They aren't hard to find: Free Kimball Piano. I mention this because you are close enough that you may come up this way, and far enough that I won't be called to tune it. laugh laugh laugh
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#1512576 - 09/09/10 11:41 PM Re: Alternative tunings [Re: ericmthompson]
DoelKees Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/10
Posts: 1946
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
It will not damage the piano, so you don't need a throw-away piano for it. Search for "prepared piano" for more info.

Kees

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