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#2081569 - 05/12/13 08:16 PM Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches?
Jake Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 654
Loc: Atlanta, GA
I mistakenly tuned one of the unison strings to what I think was a fourth below pitch (the fifth dropped an octave) yesterday, and immediately knew that my next thought was a bad idea, so I did not do it--tuning one unison string on each note in the very uppermost octave to the fifth of the pitch but dropped an octave. The thought was that because of sympathetic resonance, these upper notes might add a different kind of resonance to other notes.

I do see the obvious problem--many chords and notes would sound off, and I didn't want to try it, regardless, because I didn't want to detune and then restretch the strings. But it made me wonder--have there been experiments with tuning unison strings to something other than unisons?


Edited by Jake Jackson (05/12/13 11:13 PM)

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#2081573 - 05/12/13 08:23 PM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2547
Loc: PA
I've always wanted to experiment with tuning one string from each unison an octave down, sort of a 12-string guitar tuning. I bet it would sound really cool once the piano stabilized and stayed put. Granted, there'd be the obvious side effects of strings being way below their tension (buzzes, probably, etc), but I still think it would be a neat thing to try.
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#2081622 - 05/12/13 11:10 PM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Dave B Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 2569
Loc: Philadelphia area
I already tried doing that. It is too confusing harmonically and, probably from the reduced tension, the piano sounds dull. It quickly became apparent that if you want an octave or a fifth above or below, just play it in the register where and when it will work musically.

I did this to the entire upper treble and a half of the lower treble at the request of a composition student hoping for a unique sound. So I don't know how the sympathetic ring of the upper treble would respond with only the top octave prepared.
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#2081625 - 05/12/13 11:26 PM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Jake Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 654
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Well, my thought was just to tune the uppermost octave this way, so that the sympathetic resonance would produce the changed sound, and ideally there would not be a loss of force.

Another idea that comes to mind is creating a drone string--tuning one string on all of the uppermost octave's strings to the same pitch. It would of course limit what could be played. On the other hand, you could make the left-most string the drone string, and then use the soft pedal to remove the drone sound.

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#2081801 - 05/13/13 09:55 AM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 3834
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
If you have ever strung a piano-you will have heard what you are proposing sounds like. A string pitched many notes below it's intended frequency sounds very false and dead.
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#2081803 - 05/13/13 10:00 AM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Mark R. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/09
Posts: 2265
Loc: Pretoria, South Africa
Just out of curiosity:

Would such a string, with reduced tension on the one side, not slip around the hitch-pin in due course? How much differential can the hitch-pin loop handle without slippage?
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#2081809 - 05/13/13 10:09 AM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4263
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Originally Posted By: Loren D
I've always wanted to experiment with tuning one string from each unison an octave down, sort of a 12-string guitar tuning. I bet it would sound really cool once the piano stabilized and stayed put.


Originally Posted By: Jake Jackson
Well, my thought was just to tune the uppermost octave this way, so that the sympathetic resonance would produce the changed sound, and ideally there would not be a loss of force.


The Bl├╝thner Aliquot grand does this to a certain extent. From G47 to C# 65 the fourth string is tuned one octave higher than the corresponding unison. From there to the top of the register the fourth is tuned to the same frequency.

Bluthner Aliquot


This creates another tone body when the instrument is played, kind of similar in a way to what is being referred to here.

I would think by attempting this on regular unisons will release too much tension from the bridgework and sounding board resulting in poor tonal qualities.



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#2081939 - 05/13/13 02:30 PM Re: Experiments with tuning unison strings to other pitches? [Re: Jake Jackson]
Jake Jackson Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 654
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Remember that my original post was about tuning only one string per note in the upper octave to another pitch, so the effect would be on the sympathetic resonance. The tension is high enough at the top, even if one of the unison strings is lowered in pitch, to prevent a loss of force.

But the second idea, the separate drone string thought, yes, would create a problem with tension. The drone string would have to be pitched fairly high in the bass, I suppose. And there's the little problem of only being able to play in one or two modes unless the soft pedal was used often...


Edited by Jake Jackson (05/13/13 02:30 PM)

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