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#2085120 - 05/19/13 09:21 AM So in tune that it sounds terrible
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Ever have that experience? For me, who was a pianist long before I became a tech, I run into it now and then.

There's a tipping point beyond which a tuning sounds clinical instead of musical, I'm convinced. Sometimes the quest for absolutely perfect dead on unisons, intervals, octaves, and temperaments produces a tuning that would get 100% on a test, is textbook-perfect, yet sounds....dead.

I remember an interview with Paul McCartney where he said that in the early days of the Beatles, recording engineers walked around in white lab coats and the whole thing was very scientific rather than musical. I think that might be a suitable analogy to what I'm saying.

Anyway....a bit of Sunday morning rambling. I'm guessing this will become a lively thread, which should be fun. smile
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#2085139 - 05/19/13 10:35 AM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
jim ialeggio Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/03/05
Posts: 671
Loc: shirley, MA
Yeah...I have experienced the same thing, particularly on my own piano.

I'm trying to figure what is actually happening but here's what I find. Fresh ET tuning, in terms of the the entire 7 octaves coupling is really nice. So nice that the sustain pedal can be used more generously than usual, especially in modal textures, because the whole instrument is agreeing with itself.

At the same time that nice 7 octave coupling is happening, the unisons, for the first few days are simply too pure. They give up too much of their energy at the attack and there are often more annoying treble string noises than when the tuning mellows. So I don't experience it as clinical as you mentioned, but as unpleasantly strident.

In a couple of days, the dead unisons will shift to, as Isaac often mentions, a more stable imperfect unison. This shift is not enough to blow away the nice 7 octave coupling, but it rounds out the sound and gives it life. The unisons after a couple of days may show some very slight movement, but rather than detract from the sound it is a considerable improvement in the sound...and the unisons stay in that slightly shifted position reasonably well.

I am no longer aiming for DOA's, but tuning unisons by quality of sound.

Then as the tuning ages, over 1-1.5 months, it's still in fine tune, but the 7 octave coupling and temperament shifts slightly as well.

My own piano is the only one I see on a daily basis over the couple of months between tunings, since I don't do institutional work. As I observe how it feels to play this slightly aging tuning, the entire instrument slowly becomes more mellow over the 2 month period between tunings. Accompanying this mellowing, the 7 octave coupling diminishes and the multi-octave textures I like to play can no longer tolerate generous use of the sustain. So there is a trade-off...sweetness develops as large multi-octave textures become less enjoyable. I also at this point make a point of avoiding major 10ths originating with the bass in the 2nd octave, because I find the RBI's musically prominent, annoying, and extremely unpleasant.

I would really like to figure out what the piano is actually "tuned" to either temperament or stretch-wise, in this "aged" state, but am not sure how to proceed in figuring that out.

Jim Ialeggio



Edited by jim ialeggio (05/19/13 10:37 AM)
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#2085229 - 05/19/13 01:59 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Loren D Offline
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Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Quote:
I am no longer aiming for DOA's, but tuning unisons by quality of sound.


That's a great way of putting it. And after all, it is the quality of the overall sound that is most important.

Years ago there was a music department chair at a college I tune for who hated when the pianos were freshly tuned. In his words, he liked them much better after a week or two when those "microtones" kicked in.

-Loren
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#2085260 - 05/19/13 03:15 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Loren, I would suggest that the description of what happen is more "not enough in tune" or "not enough tuned" .

Too much in tune does not really explains the point (nicely described by Jim BTW)

I is better not to count for a future drift or evolving and directly tune the sound as you wish it to be.

It is also way more stable that way.

The listening is changed a little, but there is nothing extraordinary nor magical, just sound construction.
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#2085268 - 05/19/13 03:25 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Olek]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: Olek
Loren, I would suggest that the description of what happen is more "not enough in tune" or "not enough tuned" .

Too much in tune does not really explains the point (nicely described by Jim BTW)

I is better not to count for a future drift or evolving and directly tune the sound as you wish it to be.

It is also way more stable that way.

The listening is changed a little, but there is nothing extraordinary nor magical, just sound construction.


I disagree. It's sort of like listening to a digital wav file of a song and then listening to the same song on a vinyl record. The wav file sounds almost unnatural in comparison.

Pianos can be so cleanly tuned that they sound lifeless to my ears.
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#2085276 - 05/19/13 03:31 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Loren D
Originally Posted By: Olek
Loren, I would suggest that the description of what happen is more "not enough in tune" or "not enough tuned" .

Too much in tune does not really explains the point (nicely described by Jim BTW)

I is better not to count for a future drift or evolving and directly tune the sound as you wish it to be.

It is also way more stable that way.

The listening is changed a little, but there is nothing extraordinary nor magical, just sound construction.


I disagree. It's sort of like listening to a digital wav file of a song and then listening to the same song on a vinyl record. The wav file sounds almost unnatural in comparison.

Pianos can be so cleanly tuned that they sound lifeless to my ears.


We agree there, I said it make the tuner have attention to different things than fundamental or beats. I heard enough samples to know the listening differs, hence my belief that the not is not "enough" tuned then, it is simplified - did not want to argue more than that, good that that point have some recognizing at last.
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#2085289 - 05/19/13 03:41 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Loren D Offline
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Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Not exactly. I like a unison better after it's mellowed a bit than freshly tuned. I think it sounds better. The tuning has drifted a bit. So it's not that it was not tuned enough initially, but rather, as my title suggests, so in tune that it sounds terrible. smile
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#2085293 - 05/19/13 03:48 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Jbyron Offline
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Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 514
Loc: USA
I know what you mean. Unisons that are slightly loose tend to give the piano more sustain and warmth. I think a lot of it has to do with the piano and especially the voicing. A well voiced piano will sound much better with a tight tuning than one with hammers needing attention.

I like the term the music chair used, 'microtones'
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#2085297 - 05/19/13 03:57 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3348
I have never encountered this problem. Dirty unisons bug me.
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#2085321 - 05/19/13 04:37 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: beethoven986]
Jbyron Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/10
Posts: 514
Loc: USA
No piano stays in perfect tune for months on end, the goal should be to have all strings shift as uniformly as possible over time. We're not talking about dirty unisons.
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#2085337 - 05/19/13 05:12 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
alfredo capurso Offline
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Registered: 07/10/07
Posts: 1072
Loc: Sicily - Italy

..."...unisons, intervals, octaves, and temperaments..","...a lively thread, which should be fun. smile "

Thanks Loren, nice joke... and pretty catchy too...

I have experienced the same thing... That happens to me every time I eat something that is so inspiring that... it tastes disgusting, or when I enter a place that is so neat that it looks filthy...

The last time was when I tried a new pair of trousers, they would fit me so well that I had to ask for a pair of scissors, hmmm.. now I admit, I am not that good with scissors... blush

To All.. Regards,

Alfredo
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#2085344 - 05/19/13 05:22 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Loren D
Not exactly. I like a unison better after it's mellowed a bit than freshly tuned. I think it sounds better. The tuning has drifted a bit. So it's not that it was not tuned enough initially, but rather, as my title suggests, so in tune that it sounds terrible. smile


Gosh !

WHy are not you tuning them so they sound the best immediately ?

This goes largely above my brain.

If you push it in the good direction when it will move it will not vary much.

Thats a question of control on tone, why tuning something that does not please you ?


WHy would the pianist wait (the next concert, may be ?)

Not the logical followed by me or other tuners, the piano is at its best just when freshly tuned, the drift is generally lowering a little the power, and at some point not enough is left.

If you use most of the attack power to create a nice spectra this is stable in time.

What the pianist wants is maximum CONTROL on tone, not a tone that is too "clean"

I have to record those unison tuned before winter, why not the same I used to show how I "couple in the spectra" (I like "combing, as describing the situation, , besides when looking at the time-frequencies series it looks like the teeth of a comb are growing and stay quiet, while beforethen they have up and sown activity.

I'll record tomorrow.



Edited by Olek (05/19/13 05:25 PM)
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#2085348 - 05/19/13 05:27 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: alfredo capurso]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: alfredo capurso

..."...unisons, intervals, octaves, and temperaments..","...a lively thread, which should be fun. smile "

Thanks Loren, nice joke... and pretty catchy too...

I have experienced the same thing... That happens to me every time I eat something that is so inspiring that... it tastes disgusting, or when I enter a place that is so neat that it looks filthy...

The last time was when I tried a new pair of trousers, they would fit me so well that I had to ask for a pair of scissors, hmmm.. now I admit, I am not that good with scissors... blush

To All.. Regards,

Alfredo


Hi ALfredo,

on new cloth there is always some sort of impregnation to make the fabrics look better than it is in the end .

New pianos may sound a little incomforteable indeed, like a wild horse !



Edited by Olek (05/19/13 05:29 PM)
_________________________
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#2085349 - 05/19/13 05:50 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Glue Collar Worker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/13
Posts: 26
I admire your posts Loren. I agree that some tunings sound digital. Where's the warmth? Would you enjoy to hear a singer using autotune or not? Would you like to go to a show and hear a band playing with a click track or is it more exciting when the tempo is ever so slightly fluid. Tunings can be perfect.. perfectly without feeling.

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#2085364 - 05/19/13 06:42 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Glue Collar Worker]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: Glue Collar Worker
I admire your posts Loren. I agree that some tunings sound digital. Where's the warmth? Would you enjoy to hear a singer using autotune or not? Would you like to go to a show and hear a band playing with a click track or is it more exciting when the tempo is ever so slightly fluid. Tunings can be perfect.. perfectly without feeling.


Can't STAND autotune! That's a perfect example. And speaking of click tracks, let's take it a step further and listen to music that has been quantized to make the timing perfect. It no longer sounds natural and human.
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#2085366 - 05/19/13 06:45 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1088
Loc: PA
Not to drag the thread O.T. too far.... (we can come right back to unisons)


But just out of curiosity..

Have you ever noticed this clinical dryness on a piano tuned in a UT, regardless of how clean the unisons are? Is this an "ET only" phenomena?

Personally, i always try for the cleanest unisons I can get, centered as much as possible on the fundamental first, confident that nature will take its course. smile


Edited by daniokeeper (05/19/13 06:48 PM)
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#2085372 - 05/19/13 06:58 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: daniokeeper]
Glue Collar Worker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/13
Posts: 26
I don't see it as a ET phenomenon - I see it as ETD abuse - cheers!


Edited by Glue Collar Worker (05/19/13 06:59 PM)
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#2085374 - 05/19/13 07:00 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: daniokeeper]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Originally Posted By: daniokeeper
Not to drag the thread O.T. too far.... (we can come right back to unisons)


But just out of curiosity..

Have you ever noticed this clinical dryness on a piano tuned in a UT, regardless of how clean the unisons are? Is this an "ET only" phenomena?

Personally, i always try for the cleanest unisons I can get, centered as much as possible on the fundamental first, confident that nature will take its course. smile

From the pianist point of view, I think that this nails it. Perfect unisons within a UT is what sounds best to me.
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#2085378 - 05/19/13 07:28 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Ryan Hassell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/07/09
Posts: 480
Loc: Farmington, MO
That is the exact reason I quit tuning ET a few years ago and switched to EBVT3. ET is just too clinical and sterile of a sound for my ears. I too was a classically trained pianist and organist many years before becoming a tech. Experimenting with different sounds and registrations on organs really helped me understand how sounds fit together; how to add color and tones or take them away. To my ears, pianos tuned in ET just sound dead and almost muted, like an organ using just the flute stops. (Which at times has its place, but is capable of so many more colors.) Start adding in principals and mixtures and you can really hear the tonal color change. I guess that is why I like UTs. More colors in the sound. I don't mean to start the whole ET vs EBVT argument again. This is just my personal taste. :-)
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#2085399 - 05/19/13 08:44 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1183
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
Yes, there is an improvement, (depending on what the piano is used for), that often is sensed when the unisons are less that perfectly aligned. This is due to the Weinrich effect, in which slight phase differences effectively stiffen the bridge, causing a longer sustain. In some cases, however, the tighter the unison, the clearer the ensemble sounds, such as in a multi-tracking recording session, where there are a lot of other instruments using the same frequencies.
As a general rule, I tune pianos as tightly as I can, since that quality is quite perishable. The unisons are going to move. On a stage, the lighting changes will move a unison around, as will HVAC systems. Physically hitting the strings will rarely cause a change, but a little board movement will always do so. If I leave the unisons sounding their best as I get up, they will relax in the course of a day or so to the warmer sound, and then stay within that range. If I leave them slightly looser, they will sound great at the moment, but begin to be heard as out of tune much quicker.
The closer to the middle of the road one begins, the longer it will take to end up in the ditch...
Regards,

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#2085401 - 05/19/13 08:48 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
David Jenson Offline
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Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2138
Loc: Maine
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.
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#2085407 - 05/19/13 09:00 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: David Jenson]
beethoven986 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3348
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.



thumb
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M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
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#2085409 - 05/19/13 09:02 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: David Jenson]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2546
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.


+1. You, my friend, get the cigar! laugh
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#2085411 - 05/19/13 09:09 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
accordeur Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1207
Loc: Québec, Canada
Originally Posted By: Loren D
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.


+1. You, my friend, get the cigar! laugh


+1
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Musician, Tuner and Technician

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#2085412 - 05/19/13 09:09 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: David Jenson]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1767
Loc: Conway, AR USA
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.



thumb
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Retired piano technician
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com/

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#2085462 - 05/19/13 11:09 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
plns Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/15/12
Posts: 60
There is a variation of tuning on guitars and the term "slack tuning", used loosely,lowers the pitch a half step and many famous songs are played this way. Two that come right to mind are Patience by GNR and Round N Round by Ratt. Maybe not the best song examples for this forum but they come right top mind.

The reason I state this is the Beatles purposely altered standard tunings and threw some notes out of tune from the rest for the purpose of the song but also played others in perfect tune.

If one uses Tunlabs or similar device to tune the pitch and the unisons, I could see the problem you mention as the tuning becomes machine perfect and not ear perfect. Not to mention, I don't even see how a Tunelab tuning could be good strictly using the software. One is then adding a via to the ear. That being the graphical interface through the eyes.

I think a concert pianist would like his piano to be tuned ET and unisons sounding perfectly together for the ear.

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#2085464 - 05/19/13 11:20 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Ed Foote]
OperaTenor Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/06
Posts: 2381
Loc: Sandy Eggo, California
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Greetings,
Yes, there is an improvement, (depending on what the piano is used for), that often is sensed when the unisons are less that perfectly aligned. This is due to the Weinrich effect, in which slight phase differences effectively stiffen the bridge, causing a longer sustain. In some cases, however, the tighter the unison, the clearer the ensemble sounds, such as in a multi-tracking recording session, where there are a lot of other instruments using the same frequencies.
As a general rule, I tune pianos as tightly as I can, since that quality is quite perishable. The unisons are going to move. On a stage, the lighting changes will move a unison around, as will HVAC systems. Physically hitting the strings will rarely cause a change, but a little board movement will always do so. If I leave the unisons sounding their best as I get up, they will relax in the course of a day or so to the warmer sound, and then stay within that range. If I leave them slightly looser, they will sound great at the moment, but begin to be heard as out of tune much quicker.
The closer to the middle of the road one begins, the longer it will take to end up in the ditch...
Regards,


This is my experience as well.
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#2085467 - 05/19/13 11:25 PM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Loren D]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2192
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
I like the sound of a piano perfectly tuned in inharmonicity balanced ET. I am also not bothered by a tuning that was once like that but is now a few weeks old. The first case above sounds stunningly in tune. The second case sounds solidly in tune. I don't sense much of a musical difference between them. They both work well.

I hear some piano recordings where the tuning is stunningly perfect and others where it is out of tune noticeably. Still in both these cases the musicianship and dynamics of the instrument trump the musical significance of the tuning.
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#2085520 - 05/20/13 01:32 AM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: David Jenson]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7881
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: David Jenson
The piano is a musical instrument. Tune it so it sounds musical and forget the math, theoretical essoterica, and illusionary perfection.



SOME Pianos are... Some tuners are, others do their best and sometime it is not much.

But as long as you can learn something, you are not finished

Nice nursery sceance BTW I would not expect better ...
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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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#2085554 - 05/20/13 03:34 AM Re: So in tune that it sounds terrible [Re: Ryan Hassell]
SMHaley Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/13
Posts: 757
Loc: Seattle
Originally Posted By: Ryan Hassell
That is the exact reason I quit tuning ET a few years ago and switched to EBVT3. ET is just too clinical and sterile of a sound for my ears. I too was a classically trained pianist and organist many years before becoming a tech. Experimenting with different sounds and registrations on organs really helped me understand how sounds fit together; how to add color and tones or take them away. To my ears, pianos tuned in ET just sound dead and almost muted, like an organ using just the flute stops. (Which at times has its place, but is capable of so many more colors.) Start adding in principals and mixtures and you can really hear the tonal color change. I guess that is why I like UTs. More colors in the sound. I don't mean to start the whole ET vs EBVT argument again. This is just my personal taste. :-)



I think I would have said, "it is like an organ with speakers instead of pipes.
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Is this a real Steinway?
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10/21/14 11:24 PM
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10/21/14 08:28 PM
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Help with forum for Musette in D Major...
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10/21/14 05:27 PM
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