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#627506 - 03/07/02 11:28 PM tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
what do the techs here think about tuning a new piano to a higher pitch? a tech i spoke to (not mine) recommends A=443. are there any hazards in doing this? what might be the benefits?

and: will techs readily tune to the frequency a customers asks, or if i decide i do want A=443 will i have a problem finding a tech to do this for me?
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#627507 - 03/08/02 12:36 AM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
pianoseed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/13/01
Posts: 884
Loc: here
It is not a bad idea on a new piano. The new strings stretch and it goes out of tune quickly. By tuning it higher on the first tuning, he will not have to raise the pitch as much on the next tuning, which should be A440. A new piano should be tuned at least 4 times the first year you own it and at least twice a year afterward. I am surprised the tech did not explain all of this to you, yet some of us like to maintain a certan Mystique about our craft! ;\)
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#627508 - 03/08/02 08:37 AM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
The tech should readily agree to tune to any frequency you want. Exception: if its so high it could break strings. I personally dont like tuning them flat to any amount below A 435, but thats just me......Sam
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#627509 - 03/08/02 01:10 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
EricL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 140
Loc: Upstate NY
I have a slightly different view on this. Depending on the piano, tuning it above A440 may or may not be a good idea. For a world class piano, this 'stretching' is supposedly done in the factory. The piano should have gone through several cycles of tuning/adjustments after chipping and should have reached a state of equilibrium BEFORE it was even shipped to the distributor.

Once the piano is delivered to your home, there is an equal chance for it to go sharp or flat, depending on the ambient condition. There is really no need to tune it a bit sharp and 'wait' for it to go flat in order to achieve a perfect tune. Tune it to A440 and if it does go flat, tune it again!

Eric

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#627510 - 03/08/02 01:27 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
i don't think the idea here is to condition the piano in the way a factory conditions a piano. i think the idea is that the higher pitch, putting greater pressure on the soundboard, will make the tonal qualities more vibrant and alive. i think this is an aesthetics issue.

so, the piano would always be tuned at this higher pitch, it's not an interim thing.

before buying into this idea, i am wondering if other techs think there are disadvantages to doing this and if it will cause harm.

i personally do like the results, btw.
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#627511 - 03/08/02 03:03 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
EricL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 140
Loc: Upstate NY
I don't think there will be any 'harm' done to the piano by tuning it to A443. In fact, some pianos in European concert halls are tuned to A444.

If you are going to play solo and do not intend to use your piano as an accompaniment (because frequencies doubled for each octave, the higher the pitch,the larger the deviation of that pitch from the intended pitch) and like it better when it is tuned this way. I don't see why you can't do it.

Eric

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#627512 - 03/08/02 09:49 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
Bob Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3876
Years ago, when I tuned some of the pianos at Chicago's Orchestra Hall, the standard there was A-442 for the pianos.

Some older uprights with 3/4 plates were designed for a max of A-435, but most newer pianos should be ok up to A-445 at a greater risk of broken strings. Be aware that excess tension can crack the plate, rendering the piano useless.
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#627513 - 03/08/02 10:42 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
so, "excess tension" means in excess of A445?
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#627514 - 03/09/02 12:13 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
No, excess tension does not mean a maximum of A445. There was a recent post on the PTG bulletin board. The essence of it was this: At higher pitches, you will break a string long before you can damage a (healthy) plate. The experiment raised the pitch 500 cents in some cases before the strings broke. In other words, the tension required to break a plate is far beyond what one could create by tuning sharp. I have encountered pianos over the years that were, for whatever reason, as much as 100 cents sharp with no ill effects. Bottom line, though, if you are not content with A440, I would suggest that you at least keep it close to that, as that was how the piano's scale was designed.............Sam
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#627515 - 03/09/02 09:31 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
pianoloverus Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19460
Loc: New York City
I've read this thread with great interest. I've had a problem with a high quality(category 1 in The Piano Book)piano I purchased. Many of the bass notes (only the ones with 2 strings per note) have a severe clang or buzz. The dealer suggested that raising the pitch to A444 might solve the problem. One tech told me that even if that solves the problem there is something wrong with the piano because the piano is not supposed to buzz at A440,i.e it would be at best covering up the problem as opposed to solving it. Another tech said that the dealer's suggestion was reasonable because the buzzing could be caused by some problem at the agraffe(part of the string touching the agraffe?) and tightening the string could solve this problem. Another tech said that the most likely cause is low quality or defective strings and replacing the bass strings with higher quality strings could be the solution. I'm beginning to think solvingsome piano problems is more complicated than making a medical diagnosis!

Any help or comments on any of the above would be greatly appreciated!!

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#627516 - 03/09/02 09:45 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
very interesting, pianolover! i also have buzzing in that section of the piano, the tenor section, though it isn't severe. the tech who worked on my piano said that all pianos are at least somewhat problematic in that transitional area, and resolving the problems can take time. the tuning to 443 did seem to take care of it--for a while, anyway.

what make of piano do you have? and is it a duplex scale?
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#627517 - 03/09/02 10:55 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
Chris W1 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/26/01
Posts: 915
Loc: Boston
Pique,

Sam wrote:
if you are not content with A440, I would suggest that you at least keep it close to that, as that was how the piano's scale was designed.............Sam

This is worth emphasis, IMO. When you set strings to higher fundamentals, you get correspondingly different harmonics and inharmonicities. I couldn't judge how much movement of the fundamental is too much, but trust that it wouldn't be doing any favors to a piano's sound to essentially alter the scale by adjusting string tension to degrees unintended by the manufacturer. Like others have said, it may not hurt anything, but it won't be what Grotrian optimized, either.

I've had problems with noisey strings, too, that were sometimes fixed by taking the offending string, flattening it out more than usual and then retensioning it to pitch.

Just some thoughts,
Chris W
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#627518 - 03/10/02 01:10 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3915
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
 Quote:
Many of the bass notes (only the ones with 2 strings per note) have a severe clang or buzz. The dealer suggested that raising the pitch to A444 might solve the problem. One tech told me that even if that solves the problem there is something wrong with the piano because the piano is not supposed to A440,i.e it would be at best covering up the problem as opposed to solving it.


Pitch has been creeping up for centuries. Handel's tuning fork is preserved somewhere, and I believe it measured A=408. In order to compensate for this, in her solo recordings Landowska had her instrument tuned a semitone flat. Just from a general rigidity in my own character, I'd keep any intrument of mine tuned to A440, but with everyone trying for BRIGHTER! SHARPER! I'm bucking an unstoppable trend.

Still, tuning a piano to 443 or higher, just because it stops the buzzing, reminds me of the following story:

A man walks into a clothing store to try on some suits, and find one that looks pretty good. He tells the salesman, "I like this, but the coat seems a little big." And the salesman says, "Well, puff out your chest. That'll solve it." And the customer replies, "Well that works, but now the arms look a bit floppy." "OK, just hold your arms crooked, like this," says the salesman. And then the customer complains, "And the pants look a bit funny." "No problem, just bend your leg at the hip a bit."

So the customer walks (awkwardly) down the street wearing the suit. He hears two people talking behind him: "Look at that poor crippled man>" "Yes, but he's sure wearing a nice suit."

Instead of messing with the tuning to fix the problem in the piano, get at the root cause. If the instrument is still under warranty, have the manufacturer repair it. As it is now, if you try to play along with any CD's, it will sound terrible (an adjustable LP player might be able to compensate for the pitch difference).
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#627519 - 03/10/02 01:50 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
reblder Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/21/01
Posts: 1237
Loc: Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Pique--

I wouldn't be at all surprised(and might even be willing to bet)that the source of the buzzing in the tenor area of your piano comes from looser than ideal tension of the copper wrap to the inner core wire in those strings. So raising the pitch to 443 cps doesn't really get really get at the source of the affliction--the strings should be twisted which the tech(if he's worth his weight in tuning pins, LOL)should know about.

Mark Mandell www.pianosource.com

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#627520 - 03/10/02 02:22 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5484
thanks for the suggestions.

i'm not sure at all that the reason for the suggested pitch raise has anything to do with eliminating any kind of problem with the piano. again, i think it probably has to do with a tonal preference, as this tech says he does this with all his tunings (he does lots of concert hall tunings).

but the info on the possible source of the tenor buzz is very helpful, thanks, mark! how does one go about correcting the problem? i wasn't clear on that.

i'm wondering why, if pitch raises to as high as A443 or 444 or pretty normal in european concert halls, that some of you think this is not a good idea for the piano?

i was talking to someone who performs a lot of chamber music and mentioned the pitch raise in passing and they seemed to think this was not that uncommon a thing to do.

which is making me even more curious about it!

as far as playing along with CDs, i have found that recorded music is rarely, if almost never, the same pitch as instruments in real life, and that the pitch of the recordings varies a great deal. i have a variable speed turntable for this reason. have never yet tried playing along with CDs, but would be surprised if it was any different, since most of my CDs are remastered LP recordings.
_________________________
piqué

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Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#627521 - 03/10/02 07:42 PM Re: tuning new pianos at a higher pitch?
pianoseed Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/13/01
Posts: 884
Loc: here
I someytimes tune pianos, especially clunkers,in place,as muchas 1/2 step flat. The customer is usually short of funds and just wants the piano to sound better. Strings rarely break and the customers seem to be satisfied. Some spinets tuned 30 to 50 cents flat seem to sound better. Is this because more flexibility is allowed with the effect similating a longer string?
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