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#2019152 - 01/22/13 04:21 PM out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices
surfingthetide Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/22/13
Posts: 3
Hi! Frequent lurker here.

Do you all think it matters to a toddler whether he hears in-tune music vs. flat music? Does it impact the toddlers singing voice?

I love the size of the keys, the substantial feel of, and the deep sound of my 1910 upright. It is in terrible condition though, and it sounds flat, even for the few minutes it stays in tune after the tuning.

To voice it or fix any of it up would cost more than its "worth." I have a digital piano too, but its not as much fun to play. I wonder about an out of tune piano's effect on my child's future singing voice (or more likely- her lack of). Any thoughts?

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#2019160 - 01/22/13 04:44 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3292
Out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical enjoyment and development, particularly with respect to ear training (which is important). Children (and adults) are also more likely to quit if the piano sounds bad. Sorry to be blunt, but if your upright is not capable of being tuned, and/or needs other expensive repairs, it should be disposed of.
_________________________
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#2019168 - 01/22/13 05:05 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Chris Leslie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 452
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
Beethoven is absolutely correct. Do not compromise your child's musical development and appreciation by going cheap.
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2019186 - 01/22/13 05:35 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1109
Loc: Québec, Canada
Let's not condemn the piano without seeing it. I've saved many old pianos with CA glue, an inexpensive repair.
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Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

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#2019193 - 01/22/13 05:49 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: accordeur]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3292
Originally Posted By: accordeur
Let's not condemn the piano without seeing it. I've saved many old pianos with CA glue, an inexpensive repair.


I'd be cool with that if we were talking about a 40 or 50 year old piano in otherwise decent working order. A 1910 upright in "terrible" shape? Not a chance.
_________________________
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M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
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#2019202 - 01/22/13 06:14 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
surfingthetide Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/22/13
Posts: 3
Well boo. I really loooooove playing this piano in particular. My piano tuner showed me the whip-its are all slack and the felt is all soft. It only stays in tune about 4 months.

I don't like playing other pianos or keyboards as much as this one. Only uprights have the big keys my fingers love, and uprights are either old or too expensive frown .

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#2019250 - 01/22/13 07:11 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8067
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: accordeur
I've saved many old pianos with CA glue, an inexpensive repair.

I just treated the pin block of my 100 year old Conover Cable upright with the CA glue; the pins that were a little loose are definitely tighter and she is holding a tuning nicely. I'm glad I was able to add a little more life to the old girl. smile

Rick
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Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2019254 - 01/22/13 07:15 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: Rickster]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1109
Loc: Québec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Rickster
Originally Posted By: accordeur
I've saved many old pianos with CA glue, an inexpensive repair.

I just treated the pin block of my 100 year old Conover Cable upright with the CA glue; the pins that were a little loose are definitely tighter and she is holding a tuning nicely. I'm glad I was able to add a little more life to the old girl. smile

Rick


smile
_________________________
Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

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#2019259 - 01/22/13 07:26 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6032
Loc: Rochester MN
To answer the original question - Yes, it could be detrimental. Imagine a toddler singing "Twinkle, Twinkle" based on the pitches from a piano which is wildly out of tune. There are the instances when he is hearing more than one pitch from any given key. (poor unisons) He won't know it's wrong, but it is the only reference he has so he learns that it is "right."

Our sense of pitch and interval (western) is learned at a very early age. We learn a scale based on 1/2 steps. Other cultures use drastically different scales and intervals.

It is the development of the ear, with proper references, which allows singing "on pitch."
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It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2019261 - 01/22/13 07:28 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 6032
Loc: Rochester MN
Oops! - Sorry. I now see that your child is a "she" and not a "he."
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Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2019265 - 01/22/13 07:34 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: Minnesota Marty]
surfingthetide Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/22/13
Posts: 3
Thank you for your wonderful responses!

Despite the fact I wish out of tune pianos did NOT affect singing voices, I am glad to find some answers.

I've been looking everywhere to find out the answer to this question. I didn't know what resources to look in!

Thank you! smile

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#2019300 - 01/22/13 08:50 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 784
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: surfingthetide
Thank you for your wonderful responses!

Despite the fact I wish out of tune pianos did NOT affect singing voices, I am glad to find some answers.

I've been looking everywhere to find out the answer to this question. I didn't know what resources to look in!

Thank you! smile


I agree with everyone else who has posted that out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical development.

However I do want to point out an important distinction: it's her ear training and ability to hear and match pitches, etc. that can be damaged.

When a singer talks about damaging their voice they usually mean the actual physical instrument - the vocal chords etc. (I'm not a professional singer). I don't see any reason why an out of tune piano would damage the voice in this way.
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#2019311 - 01/22/13 09:09 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
It is a horrible thing to see as a technician a piano that is 2 keys flat of pitch with a parent that says "it's good enough for my child to practice on." Trying to convince a person like that is almost like talking to a brick wall in many cases. Their ears are closed and their mind is made up before it even came out of their mouth.

It's nice to read that someone cares. smile
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Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2019898 - 01/23/13 08:05 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Nash. Piano Rescue Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 380
Loc: East Nashville,TN Scottsville...
Something to consider though is all instruments of that era will be flat. If you get a Clarinet from 1910 it will also sound flat. You had that international pitch ( improved scale) to deal with. The big antique pianos sound great if they can hold A440 and dont have clicky, squeaky actions. One of the secrets to making them sound great is new bass strings, if everything else isn't shot.

It depends on what kind of music you are playing too. If you like die hard classical you might not like an old upright. If you are Alan Jackson playing in the back of a pickup truck then it might be perfect smile
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#2019924 - 01/23/13 09:03 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
ChatNoir Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/19/05
Posts: 1469
Loc: Encino, California
I grew up with an old Brödrene Hals piano, out of tune and heavy birdcage action. But, it was all we had. And I learned to play without a teacher, I sing on pitch and now cringe by the sound of an out-of-tune note. I guess our inborn talents are stronger than any old piano. In or out of tune.
_________________________
Some men are music lovers. Others make love without it.

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#2020089 - 01/24/13 03:37 AM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3243
>Do you all think it matters to a toddler whether he hears in-tune music vs. flat music? Does it impact the toddlers singing voice?

First, I'm not a teacher and no expert on this. But I don't see much evidence for above remarks that "Out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical enjoyment and development".

I agree that the piano intervals need to be in tune.

But the absolute pitch is much less relevant IMHO. I think it's much more important that you like the sound and that the intervals are tuned properly than that the absolute pitch is correct.

I heard that toddlers have a chance to learn absolute pitch. And out-of-tune pianos might prevent that from developing. But I'm not so convinced that absolute pitch is such a bless. In practice, many pianos are a bit off; orchestras pick a higher pitch (A443); old instruments and baroque orchestras pick A420 to A425. In the past concert pitch was A430.6. Some even reported A370. Händels tuning fork was A421.5.
_________________________

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#2020093 - 01/24/13 03:51 AM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: wouter79]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3292

Originally Posted By: wouter79
First, I'm not a teacher and no expert on this. But I don't see much evidence for above remarks that "Out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical enjoyment and development".


Well, as you said, you're not an expert. It is important for budding musicians to develop a good sense of tone, which can't be done if the piano is out of tune, particularly if the unisons are out. Also, kids don't enjoy playing if the piano sounds bad or doesn't play right. I see it all the time.


Originally Posted By: wouter79
But the absolute pitch is much less relevant IMHO. I think it's much more important that you like the sound and that the intervals are tuned properly than that the absolute pitch is correct.


If you're a pianist, it is perhaps less relevant, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant. If you're a clarinetist, floutist, or a singer, yeah, absolute pitch is pretty darn important if you're playing with a piano, and these musicians will complain if the piano significantly deviates from concert pitch.
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M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
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#2020237 - 01/24/13 10:10 AM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: wouter79]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Originally Posted By: wouter79
>Do you all think it matters to a toddler whether he hears in-tune music vs. flat music? Does it impact the toddlers singing voice?

First, I'm not a teacher and no expert on this. But I don't see much evidence for above remarks that "Out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical enjoyment and development".

I agree that the piano intervals need to be in tune.

But the absolute pitch is much less relevant IMHO. I think it's much more important that you like the sound and that the intervals are tuned properly than that the absolute pitch is correct.

I heard that toddlers have a chance to learn absolute pitch. And out-of-tune pianos might prevent that from developing. But I'm not so convinced that absolute pitch is such a bless. In practice, many pianos are a bit off; orchestras pick a higher pitch (A443); old instruments and baroque orchestras pick A420 to A425. In the past concert pitch was A430.6. Some even reported A370. Händels tuning fork was A421.5.




Yes, it matters a great deal. Toddlers tell us all the time in schools "my piano doesn't sound like my piano teachers piano. It sounds terrible but my parents don't care because they can't hear it." You don't know how many times I hear that in the course of one year. Dozens and dozens and dozens of times.

Yamaha did an extensive study back in the 70's I believe it was and they found that badly out of tune and badly out of pitch pianos, were the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of kids no longer wanting to take lessons. Very, VERY close behind it, almost a number one as well, were pianos that played horribley. Sticking keys. Regulation was way off meaning the touch was all screwy. One note played, the next one didn't. One note played easily, the next note played hard. There is no way that anyone can learn how to properly play on a piano that is A. Out of tune. B. Off from pitch. C plays terribly. D. has notes that do not work.

Yes, there have been MANY studies done to prove this to be true and we as technicians see it on a regular basis and it is true.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2020274 - 01/24/13 11:25 AM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Quote:
Do you all think it matters to a toddler whether he hears in-tune music vs. flat music? Does it impact the toddlers singing voice?
There are many good reasons for keeping a piano in good playing and sounding condition. However, I do not believe that an out of tune piano impacts children's singing.

Oh, if we could only blame all the out of tune singing in the world on poorly tuned childhood pianos!
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Piano Forte Supply
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#2020482 - 01/24/13 03:31 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
JohnSprung Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1029
Loc: Reseda, California
Originally Posted By: surfingthetide
It only stays in tune about 4 months.


Tuning a piano 3 or 4 times a year is about right. It might not be all that bad, and CA glue might help.

The resulting market value will never justify the money you'd put into repairs, but if you love it and want to keep it for a long time, get a second opinion from someone who rebuilds pianos. The decision to junk it should only be based on the opinion of someone who knows how to fix it and has seen it in person.
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Knabe Grand # 10927
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#2020501 - 01/24/13 03:52 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: beethoven986]
wouter79 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/10
Posts: 3243
Quote:
It is important for budding musicians to develop a good sense of tone, which can't be done if the piano is out of tune, particularly if the unisons are out. Also, kids don't enjoy playing if the piano sounds bad or doesn't play right. I see it all the time.


I believe that the whole piano being evenly flat is very different from "unisons out". If the whole piano is evenly flat, it can still play perfectly right and not sound bad.

Quote:
If you're a clarinetist, floutist, or a singer, yeah, absolute pitch is pretty darn important if you're playing with a piano, and these musicians will complain if the piano significantly deviates from concert pitch.

Why? These instruments can all be tuned to compensate some flatness, no, they NEED to be tuned all the time!

"It sounds terrible but my parents don't care because they can't hear it." . Those pianos are probably not tuned for years and not evenly flat and have a rotten action. Again, there are different types of being "out of tune" and OP did not talk about bad actions.

Anyone having a ref to that Yamaha extensive research, or other solid research on this?
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#2020509 - 01/24/13 03:58 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: Jerry Groot RPT]
M.O.P. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 981
Loc: Ocala, Florida
Originally Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT
Originally Posted By: wouter79
>Do you all think it matters to a toddler whether he hears in-tune music vs. flat music? Does it impact the toddlers singing voice?

First, I'm not a teacher and no expert on this. But I don't see much evidence for above remarks that "Out of tune pianos are detrimental to musical enjoyment and development".

I agree that the piano intervals need to be in tune.

But the absolute pitch is much less relevant IMHO. I think it's much more important that you like the sound and that the intervals are tuned properly than that the absolute pitch is correct.

I heard that toddlers have a chance to learn absolute pitch. And out-of-tune pianos might prevent that from developing. But I'm not so convinced that absolute pitch is such a bless. In practice, many pianos are a bit off; orchestras pick a higher pitch (A443); old instruments and baroque orchestras pick A420 to A425. In the past concert pitch was A430.6. Some even reported A370. Händels tuning fork was A421.5.




Yes, it matters a great deal. Toddlers tell us all the time in schools "my piano doesn't sound like my piano teachers piano. It sounds terrible but my parents don't care because they can't hear it." You don't know how many times I hear that in the course of one year. Dozens and dozens and dozens of times.

Yamaha did an extensive study back in the 70's I believe it was and they found that badly out of tune and badly out of pitch pianos, were the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of kids no longer wanting to take lessons. Very, VERY close behind it, almost a number one as well, were pianos that played horribley. Sticking keys. Regulation was way off meaning the touch was all screwy. One note played, the next one didn't. One note played easily, the next note played hard. There is no way that anyone can learn how to properly play on a piano that is A. Out of tune. B. Off from pitch. C plays terribly. D. has notes that do not work.

Yes, there have been MANY studies done to prove this to be true and we as technicians see it on a regular basis and it is true.



+1
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#2020524 - 01/24/13 04:17 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
BeccaBb Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/11
Posts: 905
Loc: Thunder Bay, On Canada
Do you guys realize that a toddler is a child between the ages of 2 to 3?

LOL wondering what kind of kids you guys are hanging around that can complain about the piano's being out of tune or that they sound different from their teachers!

I'm sure your actually talking about young children here? wink
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Began: 01-12-11


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#2020607 - 01/24/13 05:40 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: wouter79]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
Originally Posted By: wouter79
Quote:
It is important for budding musicians to develop a good sense of tone, which can't be done if the piano is out of tune, particularly if the unisons are out. Also, kids don't enjoy playing if the piano sounds bad or doesn't play right. I see it all the time.


I believe that the whole piano being evenly flat is very different from "unisons out". If the whole piano is evenly flat, it can still play perfectly right and not sound bad.

Quote:
If you're a clarinetist, floutist, or a singer, yeah, absolute pitch is pretty darn important if you're playing with a piano, and these musicians will complain if the piano significantly deviates from concert pitch.

Why? These instruments can all be tuned to compensate some flatness, no, they NEED to be tuned all the time!

"It sounds terrible but my parents don't care because they can't hear it." . Those pianos are probably not tuned for years and not evenly flat and have a rotten action. Again, there are different types of being "out of tune" and OP did not talk about bad actions.

Anyone having a ref to that Yamaha extensive research, or other solid research on this?


I wasn't talking about bad actions either or I would have said so. I was talking about tuning. Tuning has nothing to do with the "mechanics of the piano." That's a whole different ball game.

For years, I carried around a copy of Yamaha's study handing them out on a regular basis but I carry enough junk in my trunk as it is. I dumped them 30 years ago. Yamaha may still have the study somewhere. I couldn't tell you. There is proof out there in other studies too. If you read online about musical studies, lots of studies have been done. It does help kids to do better in math for example.

So, your car needs an oil change every 3,000 miles "give or take." You don't believe it's that necessary so you're going to give the car an oil change once ever 15,000 miles instead or longer. How long do you think the car will last under those conditions? In other words, it doesn't matter what you believe. What matters is what's recommended for the product. You can do whatever you like with that information.
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www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#2020670 - 01/24/13 07:19 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19094
Loc: New York City
If the unisons are good and the piano is in tune with itself I don't see why it being flat would be detrimental in the slightest. In fact, unless one had perfect pitch I don't think one would even know the piano wasn't at A440. OTOH I'd guess that in this case the piano does have insuromountable problems with the unisons and relative pitch which just makes it unpleasant to listen to.


Edited by pianoloverus (01/24/13 07:20 PM)

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#2020684 - 01/24/13 08:01 PM Re: out of tune pianos and childrens singing voices [Re: surfingthetide]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
IMHO there are multiple valid points here, but they are answers to different questions that its important to differentiate.

- If the child is learning the piano, then certainly having a good piano with good action/touch, and thats well tuned is important to the students enjoyment and likelihood of continuing. That does not appear to be the question the OP is asking.

- If the intervals and unisons are badly out of tune, that could certainly impact a youngsters musical development, as they learn to "do" music by mimicking what they hear, just as they learn to talk by mimicking the voice sounds of the people around them. The OP has not stated this is the case, although it could be, he just stated the piano is flat.

IMHO at this age (2-3) the value of regular exposure to participatory music, and the child's perception of the enjoyment the parents get out of making music are _far_ more important than whether the piano is flat or not. If you can get the unisons and intervals to hold a decent relative pitch (with the help of some minor work if needed), and you enjoy playing the old upright more than the keyboard, I say play on smile

Just my 2c. Or maybe in the case of this piano, its more like 50c wink

Rob
_________________________
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