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Tuning in the Sound Envelope

  • 1.  Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Member
    Posted 24 days ago
    Jeannie, I'm starting a new thread for this topic; taking it out of <Sciortino>. Here's a good explanation of the sound envelope.

    I find some (Asian) pianos need the notes to be tuned in the Attack. Meaning that the initial pitch developed (Attack) will be higher than the decay.
    Other pianos can have the notes set at a time after the Attack but usually at the same duration of the cycle.

    If you use an ETD, you'll see that the envelope can sometimes have a fairly wide berth. Hammer technique is the same, it's which point along the sound envelope do you settle on.
    I find my Verituner invaluable in this regard.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Original post:
    I'd like to revisit something that was mentioned recently.
    On Sept 7th George "Bill" Davis wrote:
    "Ron Nossaman always said "tune during the attack". Always worked for me. "
    I remember Ron talking about this and listening to unisons that way (which I do) but I've never really known how to tune that way. Can you, or anyone else describe this technique? Is a different hammer technique needed?
    Also, in the past, Jon Page mentioned something like tuning on the attack for Asian pianos and during the sustain for Steinways. (Sorry, can't find the exact quote)
    So, please talk more about "attack" tuning. 


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    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@comcast.net
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Posted 24 days ago
    This is a particularly interesting issue.

    Intuitively I'd think that all strings should be tuned in their sustain. The attack will always be unstable.

    If tuning with an ETD it also depends upon the quality of the software or algorithms. I tuned an 1854 Emerich Betsy (copied by Streicher and the basis of Bosendorfer) with a mobile phone app on which I could programme the temperament unable to be tuned by ear and, the stringing scale being more appropriate to a fortepiano found the attack variation impossible to cope with to tune with the app. The result with the app was not pretty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-hU5D7tSD4.  Meanwhile the long revered CTS5 tuner works perfectly and follows the note into the decay for wholly accurate results on the instrument.

    Best wishes

    David P 



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    David Pinnegar, B.Sc., A.R.C.S.
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    +44 1342 850594





  • 3.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 23 days ago

    David,

    Your comments suggest the definitions used in this discussion could be refined. It may be advantageous to define "tuning". Tuning is a catch-all word for a process. I would separate the process by separating the two actions i.e., setting the pin (turning, impacting, or flag poling) from listening. I set the pin on attack and listen during decay.



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    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
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  • 4.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 23 days ago
    David et al,

    I've never understood tuning during the attack because of the instability you mentioned, and because when I tune a unison I listen to the upper partials & there is no way I can hear them in a millisecond. HOWEVER, I did an experiment with my ETD: I tuned a piano with the sustain "in tune" according to my ETD, and again with only the attack "in tune". They were definitely not the same. Aural checks came out significantly better when I tuned on the attack, and that was listening to the checks on the sustain. For now, I'll continue to tune the sustain if tuning aurally and the attack if using my ETD. They seem to match for whatever reason and I'm satisfied with both.

    Maggie

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    Maggie Jusiel, RPT
    Athens, WV
    (304)952-8615
    mags@timandmaggie.net
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  • 5.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 23 days ago
    I agree with Roger that how we define the words is important, there's also what we think we're doing vs what we are actually doing. I know that I hear the quality of the unisons on the attack. Maggie, you say you can't hear the upper partials in a millisecond but I think you do, it just takes a moment for you to process the input.
    Coupling figures in there somewhere but I don't know what to say about it. As does the way we physically play the note.
    I use a verituner like Jon and you can see there is plenty of motion in the fundamental and partials throughout the envelope on individual strings, sometimes in opposing directions. Most of my career I tuned strictly aurally and I parsed these tactilely in my body, as color, even as taste.
    These are always moving targets. The physics are one thing but ultimately we are going for effect, that which seems the most harmonious in a less than perfect environment.

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    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI
    808-521-7129
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  • 6.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 23 days ago
    I think it depends on what interval you're tuning.  I think you are able to hear very quickly if there is any movement at the point of attack when tuning unisons very easily.  If there's even a hint of things starting opening you can detect that very quickly if you are listening while playing soft--if you play too hard you can distort the attack envelope and confuse the issue.  If you are listening to beat rates of 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, etc. then I think it's trickier, you have to listen a bit longer into the envelope.

    So if you are an aural tuner then you go back and forth between listening longer on non unison tuning (though I think octave tuning falls somewhat in the same category), if you are listening to other intervals then you will have to listen a bit longer.

    It's worth noting that with ETDs they have a tendency to take a bit to settle after the attack (depending on which ETD you are using).  But with a RCT you have to let the attack envelope settle.  Not very long but long enough.

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    David Love RPT
    www.davidlovepianos.com
    davidlovepianos@comcast.net
    415 407 8320
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  • 7.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    I have a tendency to tune on the attack (talking unisons here). However, in listening to what happens during the sustain phase I may adjust the attack for a better (or at least what I consider better) overall sound.  The coupling effect of different types of bridge design has a significant effect on this. Wherever possible I like to try to improve duration and sustain by minute adjustments within the unison. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.

    When tuning intervals, on rare occasions what I hear at the start (attack) of the interval is not the same as what I am hearing near the end of the sustain. Then of course I simply need to decide which is more important and go with it.

    What I cannot stand is waiting around for an ETD to hear, process, and show me what it thinks. My ear and brain is much faster.

    Pwg

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    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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  • 8.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    David Love,
    This is confirming what I’ve been noticing. I find no need to listen to unisons (and maybe octaves) for longer than the attack. However, if one tries to "tune" during the attack I am curious how others actually manipulate the tuning lever a/o set the pin to end up with a stable tuning. When I’ve tried it, I've found that I need to move the pin more than I would like. It may be hard to describe rather than demonstrate, but I’d love to understand the mechanics of it, not so much the listening part.

    Regards,
    ~ jeannie

    Jeannie Grassi
    PTG Registered Piano Technician
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    206-842-3721
    grassipianos@gmail.com




  • 9.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Some great points made here. One point some may not recognize is the effect on the sound of the little shaking of the piano that occurs when notes are hit hard. It can create a slight vibrato that those of us very sensitive to beats can pick up.

    You can get some of the same effect if you don't hold your head still while fine tuning a note

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    Edward McMorrow
    Edmonds WA
    425-299-3431
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  • 10.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago

    Peter,

    Interesting you mention that ETD's take too long to process. I've been aware of that from the beginning of time. I have used a strobe tuner because of that irritating millisecond "delay" associated with digital equipment. Strobes (analog instruments) are instant. They read at the same rate as the ear.

    Interesting comment by Ed McMorrow. I'm sure we all have noticed the "doppler type" of effect when someone is walking by you during tuning, as well as ceiling fans rotating.



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    Roger Gable
    Gable Piano
    Everett WA
    425-252-5000
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  • 11.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Jeannie,

    I've found that a longer lever greatly helps with the mechanics of it.

    I'm currently using a 17" Fujan lever. I began using a longer lever to help with shoulder problems. While the length helped considerably with the shoulder issues, in the process I discovered that with a longer lever, it's actually easier to manipulate/feel the pin move in the smallest possible way. (I typically use the smooth pull method.)

    With a shorter lever, by the time you get feedback of movement in your fingers/hand, the pin has moved too far. With the longer lever, it's possible to actually move the pin less with greater control.

    In addition to the longer lever helping with micro-movements, using RCT provided visual confirmation of the micro-movement and the stability. Aural alone would have been more difficult. I would not say it's impossible to do aurally, but it would be time consuming and frustrating to verify. For instance, tuning with a shorter lever I would often overshoot, even though I would be doing the smallest pin movement possible (or possibly the smallest movement that I could feel--hard to say for sure). This overshooting would require frequent back and forth to get the pin set correctly. The longer lever allows for better feel of actual movement and minimizes the overshooting and back and forth. Now, I'm more confident of exactly where the pin is. I don't worry so much with stability and repeated hard test blows because I can better feel where the pin is.

    That's the best explanation I can give by text. Much easier to experience than write about.

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    John Formsma, RPT
    New Albany MS

    With the vaccines, C19 is worse now than at this same time last year. Something ain't right!
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  • 12.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Jeannie

    I don't quite understand tuning at the point of attack.  It doesn't take long to hear a unison opening up but for me it is just after the attack.  I don't need to wait to hear partials develop, it's just a slight "opening" that is being perceived immediately after the attack.  You can hear, say, thirds pretty quickly too.  You certainly don't need to wait for a full second and count all 7 beats (or whatever) but you have to hear long enough that you can detect a rate of some type, fifths are more difficult that way because of the slow roll and also you have to make sure you're on the correct side (narrow).

    My tuning hammer technique is to move the pin as little as possible and without flexing it so that the pitch movement is as directly to the target as possible.  Some of that is achieved through feel in my fingers of the pin moving.  So for me it's a back and forth of hearing the opening up (or closing up) and feeling the pin move.  In a good block I often feel that I can control the amount of pitch movement just by feel alone.  Being able to do that not only speeds things up but also creates more stability.  Basically, while tuning,  the pitch never moves farther off than my starting point (at least that's the goal).


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    David Love RPT
    www.davidlovepianos.com
    davidlovepianos@comcast.net
    415 407 8320
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  • 13.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 22 days ago
    Hi Jeannie:

    thanks for your clarifying comments.  I have been tuning in the attack for a number of years on most pianos, both aurally and electronically.  I remember the discussions that Ron Nossaman initiated, and Ron telling me that what I do cannot possibly work.

    I began by searching for a way to pitch raise more accurately and efficiently.  I stumbled on this myself, but have found others who do the same since then.  Whether the piano is flat or sharp, I always begin by dropping the pitch by as little as 10 cents or as much as 50 cents - DEPENDING ON HOW TIGHT THE PINBLOCK IS.  The tighter the block, the more I drop the pitch.  My movement is to drop the pitch down in one swift movement and then immediately start coming up in a quick motion.  As my ear or the machine tells me I am approaching the target point, I slow down my movement but never come to a stop until I drop it on a dime at the target point.  This method can be very accurate and stable.  I don't need to listen very far into the attack, and my strikes are Da-da-da-da-daaaah.  That last daaaah is where the pin is now moving slowly but never stops until I am there.  And I think I am out of the attack phase at that point and in the sustain phase, so the pitch waver from the strike has settled.

    What benefit is there to what i am doing?  Well, we all deal with the pin twisting on its own axis and our need to get the twist out of the piano so our spot point will be stable.  When I start moving the pin south, I am introducing twist into the pin.  As I continue that directional movement without stopping, the twist on the pin will relax until it is gone.  Then when I immediately start heading north again, I am reintroducing twist into the pin.  So the path must be long enough for the twist to relax before getting to the target point.  If I do that and I land on the spot point, the pin will be stable.  If I stop at any point or get too slow along the way, the friction will build and I reintroduce twist when I start the movement.  I then have to go all the way south again.

    I can feel the pin losing its twist in both directions.  I have done this so much that I can predict if I am going to be successful in the movement a little before I come to rest at the spot point.  Often I just redo it without checking because my sensitivity is enough of a reliable indicator.  If I am feeling my oats on a good day, I can drop it in on the first try 80% of the time or better.

    What I like about this is how it pares our movements down to essentials and nothing more.  Also, we can get into a rhythm that is both speedy and accurate.  It really cut down my time for pitch raises.

    It is accurate enough that one can do a concert tuning using these methods, and can work well when you are under the gun to git-er-done when you are not given enough time.

    It can work well with pianos where stiction is a problem.  The movement is large enough and quick enough that you are not slowing to the point where stiction reintroduces itself.  That said, this method is not all things to all pianos.  It is another tool in the box and a good one.  I still use the slow drag and micromovements where needed.

    The conventional wisdom is that this method will not be stable because the pitch movements are too large.  That will be true using other methods of manipulating the pin, not so here.  The key is that the pin is arriving the rest point without twist on its axis.

    Jeannie, if you want to try this, start doing your pitch raises using this method.






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    William Truitt
    Bridgewater NH
    603-744-2277
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  • 14.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Member
    Posted 21 days ago
    Seems to me that Jeanine's question maybe should have used the term "listening" in the attack, rather than tuning in the attack. The manipulation of the lever takes time greater , certainly, than just the first brief milliseconds of the attack, and more than even a second. After a full second, which is really a very long time in envelope-land, you are into or approaching the sustain portion of the sound. Lever action will happen there, not in the first millisecond of the attack, just from a physically possible standpoint.

    As responses seem to be drifting towards lever manipulation, it might be useful to differentiate between when in the attack one gathers information of what to do with the lever,  as opposed to actually manipulating the lever and pin in the attack, which is physically impossible...I would think.

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    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
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  • 15.  RE: Tuning in the Sound Envelope

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 21 days ago
    Jim, I hear what I need to hear very early in the attack, probably in the first tenth of a second or less.  Since I continue to strike in a fairly quick rhythm as I am moving the pin to the stop point, the only one that matters for accuracy is that last Daaahhh where i have slowed my movements and am sustaining that note on my way to landing.

    i get your point about the hammer manipulation and the attack, but I see the two as an ongoing process, as the pin is continuing to move towards the target as I repeat my strikes.  In that sense, they are not separate, and I am indeed manipulating and levering the pin in the attack.

    For other methods, mileage may vary.

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    William Truitt
    Bridgewater NH
    603-744-2277
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