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#630654 - 10/11/01 04:32 PM Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
hofner Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/11/01
Posts: 1
Loc: Alpharetta, GA
I have bought a Stieff full-size upright that was made in 1920s or 30s. I am considering having it tuned a little lower than standard pitch, ie A435 instead of A440. I would like to know what people who knows more about pianos think about this. I have never owned a piano before, but played other people's off and on.

I have been playing music about 28 years, mostly guitar, bass, and infrequently, keyboards. One thing I came to realize over the years is that I tend to like the sound of music that is tuned a little lower than standard pitch. I have no problem with playing at standard pitch if there's a reason, but otherwise I like to tune my guitars a little lower.

I have found very little about the history of standard pitch, but one thing I did read was that standard pitch was fixed at A440 in 1939, and at A435 in 1859. (Please tell me if this is incorrect)

I would like to know if there's any compelling reason not to tune a piano lower than A440, and if anyone has done this before. I won't be using this piano with other musicians very much, it's in my home.

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#630655 - 10/12/01 10:51 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
You are right about the dates, A-440 wasn't standard till about 1940. Many of the old uprights were designed to be tuned to A-435. I tune them flat all the time, especially when they are flat to begin with, and the strings are rusty, and the pins are loose. Tuning your piano to A-435 won't hurt anything.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#630656 - 10/17/01 07:38 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
There may be some difference in tone if the piano was designed to be at 440, but frankly, it will be negligible, especially on an old upright like this. Most requests that I get are to raise the pitch 5-10 cents (100 cents= 1 semitone) so it sounds brighter. It certainly wont hurt your piano, so if that's what you want, do it.
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#630657 - 01/09/02 02:20 AM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
Littlebit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 62
Loc: CA
Help,
I just got my piano 2 weeks ago and had it tuned today.
It was in 438 so it was tuned there since it is an old upright built 1910-1930.

Am I understanding that most likely this piano was designed to be tuned 435?

Is there any harm in tuning to 438?
May I ad that there ia a small crack along the lower right half pins of the bass bridge.
Could this have been caused by exceeding the
perhaps 435 that this piano may have been designed for?

What should I do, is 438 ok or should it be taken done to 435 to avoid any more bridge damage?

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#630658 - 01/09/02 09:43 AM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
It may or may not have been designed to 435, but you need not worry about 438. I've encountered pianos over the years that have been as high as 75 cents sharp (100 cents = 1 semitone) due to high humidity, and they were fine. (note: I don't recommend tuning it that high!) Many of my clients over the years ask for higher pitch, often as high as 20 cents (A=445). Your 438 pitch translates to about 8 cents flat of 440, about 12 cents sharp of 435. Thats not enough to hurt a healthy piano.............Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#630659 - 01/09/02 12:24 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
Littlebit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 62
Loc: CA
Thanks,
I was concerned because of my bridge having
a crack along half of the lower bridge pins.

Well, I'll wait til the next tuning and take the time to evaluate the piano before deciding whether to seal the bass bridge
crack. I ahve also been told that glueing the crack may make things worse, so I hesitiate.

I guess it couldn't be as easy as getting a syringe with glue and inserting it into the crack around the pins with a needle.
That may hold the pins better but will it really seal a crack or stop further cracking?

This is a very sensitive area and I don't want to do the wrong thing there.

Thanks, I do appreciate all your help.
Littlebit \:\)

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#630660 - 01/09/02 07:58 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
You're right: it's not that easy, but it's almost that easy. You would have to tilt the piano onto its back. Strings on the affected bridge should be loosened, and then a syringe with epoxy will do it.Warming the bridge with a hair dryer helps to wick the glue in. Be very neat with the glue, you don't want hardened glue causing rattles. Obviously, tipping a piano is dangerous, be very careful if you try it....Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#630661 - 01/09/02 08:46 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
Littlebit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 62
Loc: CA
Not I, I am 95 lbs and my piano is abot 950 lbs, no it is not even thinkable for me to tip the piano on it's side. I can't even lift a corner. My only hope would be to get the super glue in a needle applicator and inject. If it dried fast enough it wouldn't run out. That was my only idea to fix it myself. I don't feel capable of taking off and putting back strings and I an certainly
can not get my half tonner on it's back.

Might injecting superglue cause more problems
or would it help seal the crack?

Thanks for the advice.

It appears to be my main problem with the piano lets see how she does and maybe if that's the most important repair I'll get the bridge fixed.

Thanks,
Littlebit

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#630662 - 01/09/02 09:06 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
SamLewisPiano.com Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/01
Posts: 635
Loc: WHITE BLUFF (Nashville area) T...
Littlebit- please dont try the superglue with the piano standing, I promise you that you will have a mess! Get a quote from your tech; it really isnt that expensive of a job....Sam
_________________________
Since 1975; Full-time piano tuner/tech in Nashville;
Lacquer and polyester specialist.

www.SamLewisPiano.com

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#630663 - 01/09/02 09:52 PM Re: Tuning a piano lower than standard pitch
Littlebit Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/23/01
Posts: 62
Loc: CA
ok, I won't touch it but it took four men struggling to move this piano.
Would they try to get it on it's back in my living room? Well, good luck but when they have her on her back can they fix one of the rollers. The steel wheel came out of the attachment under the piano when they moved it
I guess I'm lucky that was the worst damage still it is upsetting. Luckily it was in the back and I have a piece of wood leveling her.

Oh, sometimes all of this too fast gets to me but I suppose every used piano has it's wrinkles to iron.

I think I need some air!

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