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#2045658 - 03/09/13 07:38 PM False beats
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 166
Loc: South Jersey
I got to do the dream job yet again this week - 80-year-old Gulbransen spinet that hadn't been touched in years, 50 cents flat, cobwebs, all the good stuff.

Muted the outside strings on A4, hit the key, and heard two distinctly different pitches. One of the worst false beats I've heard, especially in that range. It diminished after I moved the tuning pin, but it brought a question back to mind.

How do you typically deal with persistent false beats? I was taught at one point to tap in the bridge pins a tiny bit, which I have done at times and found to help. I know there are various methods of re-seating the string and sometimes simply dropping the string a m3 or so and raising it back has helped me as well. But I don't hear people complain about false beats that much, so wondering if there's a simpler fix I'm not aware of.
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey

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#2045732 - 03/10/13 12:13 AM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1974
Loc: Philadelphia area
Convenience stores usually give away packs of matches. Warning: Be sure to position the piano at a safe distance from the house before applying activated matches.

Any stretching of the string helps. Start with the section between the tuning pin and the pressure bar.

Edited by Dave B (03/10/13 12:21 AM)

#2045741 - 03/10/13 12:42 AM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3371
It depends what's causing the false beat. If it's a loose bridge pin, your solution is going to be different than if the wood terminates the string ahead of the bridge pin, or if it's agraffe/capo noise, etc. Poor string mating can also be an issue when tuning more than one string (these pianos often have poorly mated strings).

Anyway, I used to think a 50 cent pitch raise was a big deal.... and, of course, it is. But, I had my first 200 cent pitch raise, recently... and the piano had a super-tight Baldwin pin block. That SUCKED!
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

#2046369 - 03/11/13 07:21 AM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4980
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Tune strings with false beats the same as you tune any other sring: Put it where it sounds best. There really isn't any such thing as "perfect", only "within tolerance". What sounds "perfect" is really just within a tolerance that is less than you can notice. I've given up on trying to eliminate the false beats. Just work through them.
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

#2046484 - 03/11/13 02:04 PM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
Emmery Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/08
Posts: 2481
Loc: Niagara Region, On. Canada
After checking that the bridge pins are properly seated and that the string is also, if the false beats persist, more often than not I just change out the offending string(s). Dirty/rusty strings will cause false beats also. If the string got stretched past its elastic limit somewhere in its life, this can be a cause too. A bad twist put on the string when stringing or even the curvature of a previously coiled/looped string running at a certain axis on stringing can also cause some false beating.
Piano Technician
George Brown College /85
Niagara Region

#2046546 - 03/11/13 03:57 PM Re: False beats [Re: beethoven986]
BenP Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/12
Posts: 166
Loc: South Jersey
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner
Tune strings with false beats the same as you tune any other sring: Put it where it sounds best. There really isn't any such thing as "perfect", only "within tolerance".

Well put! I guess this is pretty much what I've always done, just wondering if others have unique ways of dealing with them.

Originally Posted By: beethoven986
Anyway, I used to think a 50 cent pitch raise was a big deal.... and, of course, it is. But, I had my first 200 cent pitch raise, recently... and the piano had a super-tight Baldwin pin block. That SUCKED!

Wow. Did it hold after the pitch raise? I think the worst pitch raise I have had was about 150 cents, and a lot of the pins were fairly loose. But I do run across these kinds of neglected spinets on a pretty regular basis. Dave B's solution is sounding better and better to me.

Thanks everyone for the input.
Ben Patterson
Part-time Piano Tech
Rural South Jersey

#2046593 - 03/11/13 05:46 PM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
David, Las Vegas Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/07/08
Posts: 211
Loc: Las Vegas, Nevada
The best luck I've had tuning with false beats is to play the note softly (along with your comparison note) and make your adjustments as the tone decays. You might even be able to make slight adjustments as the tone has just about disappeared. This will usually get the unison or interval as close to audible as possible by taking vibrational power away from the false beating sectionals. And, always do a firm blow between adjustments. Spinets are only worth the time it takes to get it as best you can. Hope this helps.
David Chadwick RPT
Las Vegas, Nevada
1923 Steinway "M"
1931 Mason Hamlin AA

#2047688 - 03/13/13 02:01 PM Re: False beats [Re: David, Las Vegas]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014

Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1847
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Another possibility: I do not know if the false beat suppressing tool for upright pianos is still available, but it is a simple and quick way to virtually eliminate the problem if it is in the wire itself. If this doesn't help, then, as has been pointed out in this thread, we have to look elsewhere for the problem and solution. These can be many and varied.
Bob W.
Retired piano technician

#2047913 - 03/13/13 10:38 PM Re: False beats [Re: BenP]
Monaco Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/11
Posts: 387
Loc: GA
Tuned an 1877 Bluthner today. False beats. The owner came and said something about checking the tuning and I said something about false beats. I asked him if he was familiar with them and he said in a very short, straight tone, "No and I don't care."
What a jerk.
He continued, "I'm not going to put any money into it or replace it so what difference does it make. It's like if I had a heart condition, I'm not going to replace my heart so what difference does it make."
Well, it might be useful information.
And even if not, don't be an ass about it. JERK!!!!

Ah, group therapy. I feel better now. Thanks.
Ben Ereddia
Piano Teacher
Beginning Tech


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