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#2032621 - 02/13/13 06:26 PM A bit of Advice needed . .
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3447
Loc: Northern England.
Now then. You have this piano, and you`re tuning the upper registers. The three strings comprising the note - should they be finely tuned (so they sound as one) or slightly out which gives that classic piano tone? I`m not speaking with much knowledge here, which is why I aask the question.

Because if you tune too finely, the timbre sounds lifeless. And if this is sampled for a digital, you can find several notes displaying this rather undesireable chacteristic. . . .
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#2032638 - 02/13/13 07:01 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 390
Loc: Lincoln, NE
I tend to tune them until they sound "pleasant" to me. That may mean on some pianos I try to get them dead on and some not so much. This is a subject that is greatly debated amongst piano tuners. Very shortly you will have other opinions from some great people!
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#2032641 - 02/13/13 07:07 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
beethoven986 Online   content
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Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3320
I know there are some people who advocate tuning slightly mistuned unisons, but I think it's dumb. One cannot tune too finely, and even if one could, a few hours of virtuoso playing, or a few days in the average room will be enough to knock a "perfectly" tuned unison slightly. With that being the case, why would anyone want to start with a slightly out of tune unison, which would almost certainly become more out of tune, perhaps unacceptably so, within a few days?
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#2032652 - 02/13/13 07:21 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1098
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
I tune them as close to absolutely perfect as I can, since unisons only get looser. It takes longer to go into the ditch if you start from the middle of the road.
Regards,

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#2032665 - 02/13/13 07:35 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Ed Foote]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4187
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
It takes longer to go into the ditch if you start from the middle of the road.
Regards,


Not according to my wife apparently.....
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#2032766 - 02/13/13 10:53 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
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Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
hahahahaha Dan!
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#2032783 - 02/13/13 11:32 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Silverwood Pianos]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3320
Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
It takes longer to go into the ditch if you start from the middle of the road.
Regards,


Not according to my wife apparently.....


I dunno, Dan. The one time I drove through the Prairies on the Trans Canada HWY during a semi-blizzard, I found this technique quite useful.
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M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
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#2032827 - 02/14/13 01:36 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Mark R. Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 1937
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
peterws,

It may be worth re-assessing what you regard to be "that classic piano tone". That a cleanly tuned unison sounds "lifeless" to you, may simply be because you've become accustomed to out-of-tune unisons, accepting them as a "classic" norm.
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Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
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#2032831 - 02/14/13 01:47 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
I've been wondering about that.

I'm still in the very early stages of learning, but have been tuning unisons until the highest partials I can hear are still. While that clearly seems to sounds the most "in tune" I was surprised by how flat (in tone not pitch) the notes seem when they are all perfectly lined up. Its particularly noticeable while tuning, but maybe less so in playing after the fact. My observation seemed to be; beatless unisons sounded a bit flat/dull, detuning just a bit produced all sorts of unpleasant beating in the upper partials, detuning just a little more produced a richer/fuller sound mostly without unpleasant beating. The tricky thing about detuning them seemed to be consistency and gauging how far to detune, so I've just been leaving them beatless. Another thought is that if the unisons start perfectly beatless, its perhaps very obvious when they start to deviate. If they are already detuned enough to mask the higher partial beats, I wonder if it wouldn't be longer until the deviation is noticed/

Anyone know of some good treatments of this topic?

Thanks,
Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2032838 - 02/14/13 02:29 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21285
Loc: Oakland
I have tuned for concerts at Grace Cathedral, where the sound reverberates for 7 seconds. Tuning has to be as clean as possible there.

If clean unisons sound dull, it is probably because there is something wrong with the rest of the tuning.
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#2032862 - 02/14/13 04:40 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7212
Loc: France
itnever have been in question to tune "out of tune" , but to put the unison in a stable situation, tone wise.

At the same time it sparkle more and sound thicker.

What the OP must be referring to is when the phase is not "tuned", only pitch. Then the 3 strings use more energy before stabilization. (hence less dynamic)

Then the OP may be think of the piano tone used in samples of Honky Tonk, or Salsa piano, where the unison are often detuned.

It would be difficult if possible, toi play Jazz or classical pieces with such tone.

But lifeless can also describe an unison that is short and produce more tone at the attack than usually, with a less manageable dwell


Edited by Olek (02/14/13 09:26 AM)
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#2032866 - 02/14/13 04:58 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7212
Loc: France
I am still surprised that many piano tuners are not curious about the "shape" they put in their unison.

Most think they tune the 3 strings perfectly the same, while they dont, this is barely noticeable as this address's what happens in the spectra, particularly at the partials level.

But as long as the tone suddenly thickens and the attack is getting crispness and energy, there is a light unbalance between 2 of the 3 strings with the last.

My guess is that well done this add stability, because it provide a frame to the unison.

Coupling is a stable form, and it even can reinforce with playing.

That left us with one string that like to phase/couple but cannot (for physical reasons) we manage that string so the sound is "pleasant", as said above.

I say we "build" the tone, it is a common concept, including pitch at a very precise level (depending of the iH and the hammers, the precision of pitch will be ... variable, lets say)

And energy, that last can be the result of the first, even if I use also energy to know I am coupling.
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#2032890 - 02/14/13 08:13 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: miscrms]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
Originally Posted By: miscrms
I've been wondering about that.

I'm still in the very early stages of learning, but have been tuning unisons until the highest partials I can hear are still. While that clearly seems to sounds the most "in tune" I was surprised by how flat (in tone not pitch) the notes seem when they are all perfectly lined up. Its particularly noticeable while tuning, but maybe less so in playing after the fact. My observation seemed to be; beatless unisons sounded a bit flat/dull, detuning just a bit produced all sorts of unpleasant beating in the upper partials, detuning just a little more produced a richer/fuller sound mostly without unpleasant beating. The tricky thing about detuning them seemed to be consistency and gauging how far to detune, so I've just been leaving them beatless. Another thought is that if the unisons start perfectly beatless, its perhaps very obvious when they start to deviate. If they are already detuned enough to mask the higher partial beats, I wonder if it wouldn't be longer until the deviation is noticed/

Anyone know of some good treatments of this topic?

Thanks,
Rob


There are some articles dealing with this topic, some of them quoted in these pages. Like most purely academic studies, they miss out some important parameters.

You will find some of the most useful writings on the subject in these very pages. The subject comes up often and some threads morph in and out of it, Maximiians famous thread being one of the most recent.

Your mention that a unison can be perceived as below pitch when it is pure. This can happen with a tired ear. That's where the Maj.3rd-10th-17th test comes in handy. Sometimes a note can become physically flat between tuning the first string and the last string of a unison, particularly when a tuner has become more dependent on heavy pounding than pin and wire setting.
_________________________
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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#2032908 - 02/14/13 09:14 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: rxd]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3834
Originally Posted By: rxd
Sometimes a note can become physically flat between tuning the first string and the last string of a unison, particularly when a tuner has become more dependent on heavy pounding than pin and wire setting.


It can get measurably flat with pounding, but if one corrects the pitch of the first string till pounding no longer changes it, then uses a somewhat lighter pound on subsequent strings of the unison, the result is solid.

However, when all three strings of a unison are tuned, the note often sounds flat as a whole. To combat this, I tune the first string slightly sharp - maybe 1/4 beat. Then I find the unison sounds at the right pitch. I also go for a "fat" unison, not one that beats, but certainly not a perfect unison. The piano sounds warmer and comes alive.

ETD tunings tend to be "too perfect" and the piano sounds generic. I prefer an "imperfect" aural sound.
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#2032911 - 02/14/13 09:25 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7212
Loc: France
THank you Bob, nice description and definitions .

I usually hear an unison a little dull if it is not tinkling enough the notes that have it in the spectra. (I mean when the unison itself is good)

that effect is most perceptible in the 5th and 6 th octave but of course in the high treble too.

That look strange but even without ghosting there is some enlightenment coming from the other notes, and it add some sparkle to the unison , did you notice that RXD ?

I have read that the coupling thru the bridge can lower a hair the final pitch, with a reason given as that the small distance between the strings at the bridge acts as if it was a lenght supplement.

As it happens that some unison may sound higher than a note alone I am not sure of that explanation.

In the end I use one string for justness, but take care that the 2 others push the envelope high. I tuned for sometime unisoning as I go which sound more logical, but it is more tiring and certainly less precise.

I believe I see what RXD say with tired ear and dull sounding unison, may be that is at that time on can refresh the ears with a few high treble plucked string (I do that rarely, but the effect is cool)





Edited by Olek (02/14/13 09:32 AM)
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#2032927 - 02/14/13 10:02 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Bob]
Ed Foote Offline
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Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1098
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: Bob

ETD tunings tend to be "too perfect" and the piano sounds generic. I prefer an "imperfect" aural sound.


Greetings,
My professional customers have a completely different opinion.
Regards,

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#2032942 - 02/14/13 10:38 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
That Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/11
Posts: 390
Loc: Lincoln, NE
At first when I started reading other posts I started to rethink my original statement about the unisons sounding "pleasant", but I'm going to stick with that because what I'm saying is it's a relative thing. I think it's possible to think too hard about it as you're tuning. I use an ETD but always tune the unisons by ear because sometimes when you compare individual strings they're not exactly the same but sound right together.
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"That Tuning Guy"
Lincoln, NE
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#2032955 - 02/14/13 10:53 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
The studies refer to "those with musical training" as their test subjects. This, of course is meaningless. I, and others, take their cue from the truly greats throughout musical history. We read in these pages of tuners who hang around backstage in the hope of some praise from somebody whose name they can put on their website or in these pages. Some artists will say anything to get the tuner off their backs. I drink with them at my club. There will always be an oddball pianist, maybe even a "name" that asks for something or worse yet, is bullied into accepting something "Artsy" by a piano tuner.

I am often paid to "tune and attend" for an artist where their management can afford it. I have only once been asked to tune differently. That was almost 40 years ago. I didn't change anything because I had another equally famous pianist the next day and was not about to disturb the piano the slightest amount. Apart from that, I have up to 100 musicians to consider if it's a concerto. One doesn't play irresponsible games with those guys.

I have the privilege of tuning some of the finest pianos in the world prepared for concert use by one of the finest technicians in the world. I follow over 100 years of precedent in the best possible of taste set by the finest of musicians. Why should I listen to the oddball ramblings of anybody else whether from an academic document or somebody who confuses the piano with the theatre organ and wants every note to bray, artistically of course, like an ass. Not my words, but those of Sir Thomas Beecham who always had "le mot juste".

That means still unisons.

Changing the subject entirely, Isaac, you referred to me repeatedly in one of your posts "are you listening, RxD?" for example. Are you seeking some sort of approval? Should I be flattered?

I no longer respond to many PM's because some of what I say in confidence gets repeated in a garbled form on these pages and sometimes wrongly attributed to me. That is a betrayal of confidence and also in poor taste. I also refuse to discuss anything that cannot be discussed in open forum. Those that I can trust, I give my email to.
_________________________
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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#2033011 - 02/14/13 12:10 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Most experienced tuners can hear "better" than they can tune, i.e. there is always room for an iota of improvement towards perfection.

I would like to see a piano tuned by someone with less than 100+ tunings under their belt who can purposely and consistently tune unions so pure that they sound boring, lifeless, flat, unmusical etc. I submit that they simply can't hear the nuances.
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#2033171 - 02/14/13 05:02 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
If good unisons sound dull, it could just be the difference between a run of the mill piano and a truly fine piano in truly fine condition. The capo section and section behind the bridge give enough sparkle to the tone if they haven't been cancelled out by unskilful needling of the hammers.

Bob, yes, adding 1/4 -1/2 Hz to the octave is not in evidence when the unison is added and also results in cleaner 5th and 12ths. It is not to counter beating the note into tune as I'm sure you know. if a piano is being heavily played and only tiny adjustments need to be made, no beating is necessary. It all must be done at the pin. Hamburg pinblocks are so user friendly.
I had an interesting conversation with some session string players the other day about how the attack of a bow colors the tone of the sustained note.

How does a string quartet tune? And why?

As a piano tuner among highest calibre musicians, none of us can live in a vacuum. We all do what works. The canteens at Abbey Rd. and Maida Vale are wonderful hang outs. And yet, I see no reason to tune any different from what my predecessors have taught me from their generations of experience. And that is exactly what is being said here by the majority.

I had 21/2 hours between tunings today just time to slip into the British film institute and catch "Brief Encounter". Interesting piano sound. The piano had to have been made before 1939. Unmistakably Steinway. The sound reminded me of a 1938 Steinway I own that is in all original condition. It is still being used as a much loved rehearsal piano in a room protected from hacks. (only ensembles allowed)

Needless to say, the unisons on the piano in the movie (1945) are absolutely still producing tone like a string of iridescent pearls. Nothing clever needs to be done to the tuning of a really fine piano to produce that sound. Skilful, yes. Clever, no.
(Rach 2 runs throughout the movie).

Single note piano is a cliché in many Hollywood movies for the love theme and titles. Listen closely next time.
_________________________
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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#2033180 - 02/14/13 05:16 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Supply]
plns Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/12
Posts: 59
I'm at 51 pianos and find that as I tune more and more I get pickier and pickier. I find myself tuning a unison just right, trying to get that last little wabble straightened out. I'm not sure if the normal customer could perceive it but I can.

During the temperament I can usually figure out what it's going to take to get the unisons right. Some pianos go sharp and then right into pitch easily and others, I find, require a little pounding which I prefer to do as little as possible outside of a medium strength strike after the string sets.

About 10% of the keys go beautifully into unison. Others require some tinkering on my part and it might be I am still mastering the hammer ear coordination and it may be the piano as well.

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#2033193 - 02/14/13 05:32 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thanks all, an informative discussion as always smile

I've been reading through Max's thread and have learned a lot. Its fun to have had just enough time on the hammer that I can start to identify some of the things I was feeling and start to identify whats going on. The whole top of the pin vs. bottom of the pin thing was mind blowing wink

At this point the discussion of unisons is strictly of academic interest to me. For a beginning tuner I definitely see the value of being able to set the unisons perfectly still to develop the ability to hear that, and to learn how to work the hammer so that they stay there. It would seem that tuning unisons any other way at this stage would just muddle the ability to learn those lessons whether they might seem to sound better or not. The finer points Isaac mentions are still way beyond my abilities to hear or control.

Very much agreed Supply, at this stage I would be quite pleased to be able to consistently produce boring, lifeless stable tunings smile I like to think I am getting there, at least on aural unisons while still being dependent on tunelab to set the temperament and stretch. I still have a hard time hearing the beats in the fundamentals and intervals, but at least on unisons the higher partials blare at me like sirens. It might take me about 4 hours, but usually I can shut them all up wink

Someday when I'm a little farther along and a little braver I'll start a thread and post a recording for the wolves to eviscerate wink

Rob
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#2033213 - 02/14/13 06:12 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
peterws Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3447
Loc: Northern England.
Well, here you are, gentlemen. A selection of not too brilliantly tuned notes. Your thoughts? (ignore the motorbikes if you`re not into that. Those machines are all highly tuned . . .)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kkq71N1sGGA


Edited by peterws (02/14/13 06:14 PM)
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#2033216 - 02/14/13 06:19 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1168
Loc: Québec, Canada
Sounds like a Roland digital to me.
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#2033523 - 02/15/13 04:16 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: rxd]
Mark R. Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 1937
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
I'm intrigued by the notion that a still unison should somehow sound flat. Can anyone explain this phenomenon?

Also, rxd wrote:

Originally Posted By: rxd
Your mention that a unison can be perceived as below pitch when it is pure. This can happen with a tired ear. That's where the Maj.3rd-10th-17th test comes in handy. Sometimes a note can become physically flat between tuning the first string and the last string of a unison, particularly when a tuner has become more dependent on heavy pounding than pin and wire setting.


Perhaps my sinusitis is not only blocking my ears, but also my brain. But try as I may, I keep missing how a M3-M10-M17 test would show up a flat unison. rxd, could you enlighten me?
_________________________
Autodidact interested in piano technology.

1922 49" Zimmermann, project piano.
1970 44" Ibach, daily music maker.

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#2033528 - 02/15/13 04:50 AM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Mark R.]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3320
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
I'm intrigued by the notion that a still unison should somehow sound flat. Can anyone explain this phenomenon?


There is something that has become known as the "Virgil Effect", where a three-string unison will sound lower than the initially tuned string. There is disagreement among techs about whether or not this exists, and if it does, how relevant it is to tuning. You can read about it in the November 1998 issue of the PTG Journal. You could probably even do an advanced search on PW, as I'm sure it's been discussed before.
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#2033882 - 02/15/13 06:06 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: peterws]
electone2007 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/13/08
Posts: 254
Loc: Philippines
Is it true that a perfectly tuned unison has a shorter sustain?

I know there's a name for this effect but I forgot what it is. Perhaps beethoven knows.

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#2033912 - 02/15/13 07:27 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: Mark R.]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
Originally Posted By: Mark R.
I'm intrigued by the notion that a still unison should somehow sound flat. Can anyone explain this phenomenon?

Also, rxd wrote:

Originally Posted By: rxd
Your mention that a unison can be perceived as below pitch when it is pure. This can happen with a tired eIar. That's where the Maj.3rd-10th-17th test comes in handy. Sometimes a note can become physically flat between tuning the first string and the last string of a unison, particularly when a tuner has become more dependent on heavy pounding than pin and wire setting.


Perhaps my sinusitis is not only blocking my ears, but also my brain. But try as I may, I keep missing how a M3-M10-M17 test would show up a flat unison. rxd, could you enlighten me?


Let me help you discover for yourself.
When you have tuned a piano, play a major third somewhere in the temperament octave. Then play a tenth based on the same lower note. What similarity do you notice about their beat rates?. Now ask yourself your question again. You will find the 17th behaves the same way.
_________________________
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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#2033940 - 02/15/13 08:18 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: rxd]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 555
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
I interpret rxd's comment to be that a unison may shift flat, for various reasons, after the first string is tuned and when the other strings in the unison are brought up to pitch. The maj 3rd, 10th, 17th test can be used to test if that happened. This is not the same as a claimed sensation of flatness, which I don't experience, when a unison is tuned pure.


Edited by Chris Leslie (02/15/13 08:40 PM)
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Chris Leslie
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#2033942 - 02/15/13 08:27 PM Re: A bit of Advice needed . . [Re: electone2007]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1703
Loc: London, England
Originally Posted By: electone2007
Is it true that a perfectly tuned unison has a shorter sustain?

I know there's a name for this effect but I forgot what it is. Perhaps beethoven knows.


I have not found the sustain to be shorter except on a piano that has some faulty notes These faults can be usually cured quickly with some minor tone regulation.

Perhaps this need to artificially prolong the length of a note by tuning it differently comes from tuners with no knowledge of tone regulation thus compounding the fault on an already faulty piano. A skilled voicer will know immediately if the fault is in the stringing or hammer. sometimes thick dust on the bridge, particularly on an upright, can hamper sustain but on a newer piano it is usually the resilience of the hammer or the stringing.

Some notes need some adjustment to increase the sustain before or after they are fine tuned.

A single prick with a needle in the right place always helps. I always keep one with me.
_________________________
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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