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#1896820 - 05/14/12 05:03 PM Pitch standard on an antique piano
pianoIndy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/13/12
Posts: 19
Recently I was considering dropping my personal piano from A440 to A 435 when I found that A 435 was the standard that was being used in the Chickering factory in Boston when the piano was made (1904). Any thoughts?

The piano is used for solo or with vocals so no problems with intonation because its not used with chamber works.

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#1896832 - 05/14/12 05:21 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21394
Loc: Oakland
435 sounds off to me, because I have become used to 440. Although I have tuned to 435 every once in a while, the results do not sound satisfactory to me. I cannot say whether it would affect you the way it affects me.

There is no problem with leaving the piano at 440. Pianos are overbuilt, for the most part.
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#1896846 - 05/14/12 05:39 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: BDB]
pianoIndy Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/13/12
Posts: 19
Is there any thing basis for thinking that it might sounds better at this standard since the original builders chose A435 for it?

Not to open a can of worms... but I'm fairly sure from my research into temperaments that a true equal temperament wasn't used then, correct? So I guess I would need to take that into consideration if I'm trying to be historically correct.

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#1896858 - 05/14/12 05:56 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21394
Loc: Oakland
There really are no standards for what sounds better and what sounds worse. It is a matter of taste. The consensus today is to use 440 in the US. By that standard, it will sound better at 440.

Equal temperament was the ideal by 1904, and some people probably attained it.
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#1896861 - 05/14/12 06:04 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
pyropaul Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/10
Posts: 173
Loc: Montreal
Originally Posted By: pianoIndy
Is there any thing basis for thinking that it might sounds better at this standard since the original builders chose A435 for it?

Not to open a can of worms... but I'm fairly sure from my research into temperaments that a true equal temperament wasn't used then, correct? So I guess I would need to take that into consideration if I'm trying to be historically correct.


Tension affects inharmonicity and, of course, scale design is related to this. So it could well be that the piano sounds better at the string tension it was designed for, which, presumably, was A=435.

I'd imagine the differences are small, but there was comment in another thread that even 1lb difference in tension in a string changes its inharmonicity constant - this will definitely affect how the piano sounds. Of course, it could be that it can be made to sound good at A=440 as well.

Paul.

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#1896876 - 05/14/12 06:44 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7423
Loc: France
lower the tension will probably raise the iH the tone will be more unfocused, (that would be the case with recent wire, I have no idea once the wire is hard and old if that does the same)

the wire is may be not the original wire (I hope for you) , then the pitch is the one for the new wire, chances are that it will sound better with more tension, anyway that is the situation here.

Regarding the difference in stress to the soundboard/plate etc, it is not to be considered, IMO unless the piano is really tired.



Edited by Kamin (05/14/12 06:47 PM)
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#1897023 - 05/14/12 10:34 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
We don't know what part of the world you are in, tho' we might venture a guess from the name you use.

In some parts of the world, because of the atmospheric changes between seasons, a piano might already be spending part of the year at 435 anyway.
If this is the case, then float the pitch to include 435 so that you van ecxperience that pitch.
If the piano is stable all year at or around 440, then I can think of no good reason to disturb this stability that past tuners have diligently strove to attain.
It might bo possible to let it gradually sink to 435 over the next few years.

435 has never been a generally accepted pitch other than by an odd few piano manufacturers who stamped it into the frame for warranty reasons. (there was another standard of 454 around the turn of the 20th century and these manufacturers didn't want to warranty their pianos at this substantially higher pitch) Almost no wind instruments were ever built to 435. (Some old high pitch(454) 'A' clarinets are thought to be 'Bb' clarinets at 430-435 but this is a misconception).

439 was an early international standard and, depending on the coefficient of temperature issued with tuning standards in those days, is near enough to 440 that it caused no problem to wind instrumantalists.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#1897028 - 05/14/12 10:41 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
The musician in me likes 435. I just like the sound.
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#1897052 - 05/14/12 11:47 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: rxd]
Maximillyan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/11
Posts: 1500
Loc: KZ
Originally Posted By: rxd
439 was an early international standard and, depending on the coefficient of temperature issued with tuning standards in those days, is near enough to 440 that it caused no problem to wind instrumantalists.

rxd, those piano I had to tuning a piano (Czechoslovakia, GDR, Poland) were A = 439. It seems to me a quart and a fifth were initially sounded right. I had to build a choirs only. If you would tell more about this international standard. You says it a wind instrumantalists perform , as usual. I have also don't heard complaints from them. They felt no discomfort while playing on such A = 439
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#1897056 - 05/15/12 12:01 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Maximillyan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/11
Posts: 1500
Loc: KZ
Originally Posted By: pianoIndy

The piano is used for solo or with vocals so no problems with intonation because its not used with chamber works.

I could be wrong but perform songs by such a low operation is inconvenient and unusual. But if you sing alto or bass, then no problem. To sharp raise the pitch it is possible to break the string. this system 440 in your piano quickly get down
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A=440
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#1897061 - 05/15/12 12:08 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21394
Loc: Oakland
A singer singing at the bottom of his or her range might have trouble with the low pitch, just as one singing at the top would have trouble with high pitch.
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#1897070 - 05/15/12 12:30 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Maximillyan Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/12/11
Posts: 1500
Loc: KZ
I agree with you,BDB entirely
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A=440
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#1897162 - 05/15/12 05:57 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
Let me be clearer. My reference to 439 With temperature coefficients was purely historical.

These days, all the pianos I tune are for performance and I wouldn't dream of leaving a piano below 440 (as measured electronically with no temperature coefficient).

There are 5 world class symphony orchestras in my town and if a piano (usually through lack of recent tuning at certain times of the year) is below 440 I will hear about it several times on my way from the stage door to the platform if there are any musicians still around. Policy and practice here is to float between 440 and 441. Visiting foreign orchestras will have pianos brought in that are kept at 442-3 for this purpose.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#1897166 - 05/15/12 06:04 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: rxd]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7423
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: rxd
Let me be clearer. My reference to 439 With temperature coefficients was purely historical.

Policy and practice here is to float between 440 and 441.


AH you too have the "piano police " ? wink

not funny I agree !
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#1897184 - 05/15/12 07:10 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
Yes. Kamin. We have piano police.

Having been a professional wind player at that level I completely understand them but wind players, being the phlegmatic bunch they are, notice it but never complain. It's usually the string players that mention it.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#1897267 - 05/15/12 09:51 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1014
Loc: Manywheres
@pianoIndy:
Absolutely there is basis for dropping your reference pitch to A435: if you are trying to get an academic understanding of what the piano probably sounded like around the time of the construction. Setting the pitch to around this point would help you best evaluate the overall sound/scale of the piano. But, as Kamin pointed out, you would need to have the original kinds of wire on the piano to make those evaluations. Since you probably don't, then what you would be hearing is essentially already a different scale than what was originally intended.

re: EQT in 1904
Most "thought" they were tuning EQT, very few, if any, actually were tuning EQT. From the recordings I've analyzed, I haven't really found any "passable" EQTs on recordings until the 1950s.

@rXd
There were more than a few odd manufacturers in the US that have used 435 in the past; actually many of the main manufactures were doing this as well. Regardless of the whys, these pianos were [most likely] being built for that standard (i.e., the technicians of the day were probably hearing this while prepping the rest of the sound). Furthermore, if I owned an expensive grand piano in 1904, and the manufacturer stamped A435 into the piano, as a piano owner, I'd probably be VERY inclined to use that as a guide for the piano's intended pitch level.
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#1897322 - 05/15/12 11:51 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
A443. I can certainly embrace your point of view. My personal opinion is of little consequence since I am involved in only the intensely practical side of the profession and I must conform to international standards. It is those of which I speak and I carry those into my private work.

When I have been in parts of the world that have piano manufacturers dictates, such as Bosendorfers' 443 I have to ignore that in favour of the prevailing pitch standard. I have no choice.

I wonder what a concert tuner would do when faced with such a pitch restriction in 1904 and an ensemble to tune for? This leads me to ask if Steinways' more flexible approach toward externally imposed pitch standards was yet another contributing factor (among many) to their rapid domination of the concert market.

By the way, you may have noticed that there has grown up an unwritten rule not to 'shout' in capital letters on this forum.
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#1897324 - 05/15/12 12:05 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: BDB]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2380
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted By: BDB
A singer singing at the bottom of his or her range might have trouble with the low pitch, just as one singing at the top would have trouble with high pitch.


Did somebody call me?

wink
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#1897333 - 05/15/12 12:18 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
Unlike my guitar which sounds better tuned down 1 fret, then I use a Capo for standard pitch.. there's no capo for the piano..too bad.. frown

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#1897335 - 05/15/12 12:21 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1014
Loc: Manywheres
@rXd
We do whatever the house standard is--no matter what part of the world we're in, or what kind of piano we are working on. It's probably always been that way...I don't know, but probably in 1904, I assume the technician would have done the same thing.

Just for clarity: piano manufacturers have very little influence on what pitch level a piano is tuned to after the sale. They can, however, state what pitch level they were thinking about when they designed/put the piano together; that, is a valid reference point for a customer and/or a technician to consider.
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#1897816 - 05/16/12 08:09 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1014
Loc: Manywheres
Originally Posted By: rxd
443, Let's go back to the original question. Would you, knowingly and willingly destroy the stability of a piano standing solidly at the internationally accepted standard pitch expected of a piano cared for by a professional because it says 435 on the frame? What are your criteria for selecting which of your clients you would perform this special treat for? Would you try to convince a client to have this done against their better judgement? Would you charge them extra? The list is endless. Just how strong are these convictions of yours?

This is a public forum. The public should be aware that there are those who would screw around with their piano in this way for no good reason.

In my 30 years in the 'States I have come across these pianos and they all hold 440 or slightly above with absolutely no problems. I treat all my clients as serious musicians or potential serious musicians and there Is an accepted standard of pitch and its accepted local variations (of which 435 isn't one and never has been) that serious musicians expect of me. This is the same whether I work in a major city with 5 world class orchestras or the tinyest mountain hamlet with an upright in the village hall. Come to remember it, I think that upright also had 435 stamped on it!!!


@rXd
If you would like to have a serious conversation, then I will be more than happy to start a discussion with you. However, you will need to carefully read what is written, and do your best not take things out of context. When someone is responding in one context, you do not get to transfer contexts on your own, and then make the implications that you do.

The original poster is a piano technician, who wanted to know if there were any merits for thinking that A435 might sound better on his piano. We are not talking about concert halls, nor are we talking about a customer's pianos. My response, was essentially: if you had the original wires on the piano, sure, give it a try and see if the lower tension makes the tuning/temperament work out any better. While the exercise is rather academic, given the circumstances, the change in wire tension and perhaps the compression on the board will, nonetheless, change the sound. By how much? Will it be better or worse? Those are not questions that I answered. Are there any basis for thinking that using the original A435 might sound better? Yes, there is a basis for thinking that using the original A435 could be better for THAT piano...it doesn't mean that it absolutely will, it simply means that there is a basis for the experiment.
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#1897823 - 05/16/12 08:17 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7423
Loc: France
We have older pianos tuned low generally by fear of breaking strings, they would accept to be raised 5 Hz if not so old.

Even if the original strings are there and the original pitch was 435 , never an old string will provide the original tone of the piano, it just can be imagined. Where we are lucky here is that some superior quality Firminy wire ( good for the French pianos)was available till the 60's. So some rare 1900 1930 French pianos have been repaired with that wire quality, (more numbers for the thickest ones, less iH, excellent breaking strain)

The 435 pitch may there provide a more "greasy" tone as the low Ih wire usually is sounding very clean and a tad straight due to the partial coupling more strongly.

What I think is that more tension helps the wire to gain elasticity to some point (resiliency, that is more probably), then there is slightly less iH. Once tense to a higher pitch, what will happen to the tone if less tension is used ?
I stated that the iH may raise a tad because the wire need the tension to have a good mechanical behavior but in the end I dont know and the tests I've done where not very conclusive, numbers wise.

Historical instruments are tuned very low pitched most often, but I mean pianos from the 1830 - 1850 era some even have iron wire. all those historical instruments are most often tuned to 430 Hz I was told. (baroque instruments are said to be 415 a semi tone lower from 440)
I never had to lower a 440 tuned old but modern piano ( >1880 for instance ) with original wire, I don't know what it may provide.

Listening to a collection of Steinway and Bechstein from 1900 to 1970 it is amazing how the tone get cleaner and purer with time. So low pitch option could well be an option if older tone is expected.

At some point it even can sound as an old out of condition piano.






Edited by Kamin (05/16/12 09:03 AM)
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It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#1897904 - 05/16/12 10:46 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
A443 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/12
Posts: 1014
Loc: Manywheres
Hi Isaac: I've had some experience with the same model Checkering as in the post, but just a few years older: I think it was 1908. When the piano was first being prepared for the organization, I think I saw it in the A430-435 range. I played around with it for awhile--out of curiosity, since I knew I was going to have to raise the pitch anyway (i.e., the organization [in the USA] requested that it be stabilized to A442).

It is interesting that you say "greasy." I don't think I would ever have thought to use that word, but I immediately know what you are talking about. LOL...it was kind of "greasy" sounding. When it was brought up to the house standard, it sounded and projected like a different piano. I personally preferred its sound when it was slightly above A442. But, with different strings (i.e., if we could put on the original strings that were newly made), I might have had a different opinion. Also, these were not original strings, but still old strings nonetheless; so, who knows what the piano originally sounded like...
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#2018697 - 01/21/13 11:36 PM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: A443]
Greg the Piano Tuner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/08
Posts: 39
Loc: Boston
The music industry recommended A at 440 beginning in 1926, and ten years later the ASO did the same thing. When I'm asked to tune a piano from that era, I tune it to 435 if it's already there or if it's lower. If it has been cranked up to 440, I will keep it there. The difference between 435 and 440 is about 5000 pounds of overall stress, so, it's a significant overall difference not to be taken lightly. I won't destabilize a piano by cranking it down from 440, however.

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#2018706 - 01/22/13 12:10 AM Re: Pitch standard on an antique piano [Re: pianoIndy]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
This post is almost a year old already.
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