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  • 1.  Pitch level and use policies for your institution

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-03-2021 12:25
    Greetings from the U of O!!

    I write today to gain some insight on use policies at your respective schools.  I am interested particularly in who gets to use the piano, policies for use by one individual regarding time, possibly per quarter/semester, pitch levels and possible changes therein.  A link to your policies might be handy for discussion, thanks.

    We have a policy for prepared piano and have found it to be quite effective especially since we maintain a specific piano for such.  Ours is modeled after BYU.

    Recently we had a request for A=441 for a recording and have a group coming soon that has placed in their contract A=441.  They could have requested some other pitch than our standard A=440.  It still creates the same dilemma especially when we are using the pianos in an ensemble situation on a regular basis.  Time to raise the pitch and get the piano stable and more time to lower to our normal standard.  Time I could have used to tune multiple instruments in other areas of building.

    We also recently had a student applying for a DMA program who wished to use the performance hall for a total of 20 hours for one recording!!!  Her request was pared down mightily.  We have one performance hall and use is heavy throughout the year as you can well imagine.

    Here is an example from McGill:

    They do appear to be unbending about pitch level.  But might there be occasions for exceptions??

    Thanks for participating in my little survey and I look forward to your responses.

    Mike Reiter, RPT
    Chair, CAUT
    Piano Technician SOMD, U of O  (Go Ducks!!!!)

    Michael Reiter
    Eugene OR

  • 2.  RE: Pitch level and use policies for your institution

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-03-2021 12:44

    Hi Mike!


    Interesting message.  We too, have a policy for prepared pianos. If it is to be extreme, we have one older Baldwin SD designated to be brought into the recital hall at their expense (With tuning in the hall and back in it's designated room).  Both of our concert Steinways are fairly new and can only be manipulated in minor ways.

    We have had no requests!  Yay! (I hate prepared pianos!) I'll allow the simple strumming with a pick or gloved fingers, but that's about it on our nice Steinway D's.


    As for other than A-440, I have not been asked here, but in Lincoln, at UNL,I was requested A442 a couple of times, one being Chic Corea and Burton on vibes.  Of course we did that!  The other one was an orchestra from eastern Europe and they agreed to pay for the tunings to get the piano back to A-440.


    For practice rooms, I tend to "float" the pitch a bit given our extreme humidity and temperature swings here in SC.  I'll let them get up to A441 or 2 in the summers, and A438 or 9 in the drier winters.  I've never had a complaint. I like to keep professor studios as close to A440 as I can within 4-5 cents. (like who can tell? Really) Everybody seems happy with all of that.


    Anything else needs to be discussed with me and the Dean.



  • 3.  RE: Pitch level and use policies for your institution

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-04-2021 17:22

    After reading that I feel like I'm getting away with murder! And I like it!!

    In the several institutions I have worked at, I "float" the pitch- meaning if it's a little sharp, I leave it sharp- knowing it's probably going to move downward.
    Being that I live in the PNW, the pianos hover around 440.5 +/- to around 441.5 (in the summer months).
    I tune the piano at it's happy place and the pitch is a secret only me and the piano know. It's never been an issue.

    If there are two pianos in the room, I will take the average pitch measurement of the two, and tune them to the same pitch.

    There are instances where it is requested to be a certain pitch- and when requested, it has ALWAYS been a non-440 request.
    (usually 441 for the visiting festival comprised of professional orchestra members and one being the principal oboist of the BSO- and believe me- they WILL know if it's not at 441.)

    So basically I tune the piano at it's happy place and no one is the wiser.

    Michelle Stranges
    Western Washington University
    Bellingham, WA

  • 4.  RE: Pitch level and use policies for your institution

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-05-2021 10:45
    Regarding pitch level at Northern Illinois University, where there are about 120 pianos, I keep the performance pianos and two large rehearsal rooms at 440. The exception would be for a percussion recital with marimba,which will be at 442 if they are using the Yamaha marimba. It isn’t that had to take one piano up for a few days. Most of the time I just let it fall back, while the other piano gets used for any other concerts/ recitals. We don’t use two pianos for one concert/ recital that often.Studios can float from 439-442, depending on the instrument being taught. Classroom pianos generally 439-441. Practice rooms probably swing the most, from 437 when the heat cranks up to 443+ in summer when they are lightly used.
    As for prepared piano/ extended techniques, I talk to the performer prior to event, make sure they know how to do whatever the score requires and how to remove anything in/ on strings without damage to wire or dampers. I do tell them which piano they get to use, which helps everyone else because the other piano is ready for their use.
    We don’t get as many requests for this as we used to. If we did, I would be interested in having a Sauter 220 which is specifically set up for extended techniques. The sharp damper heads have a white line on them ( no need for tape, sticky dots, or other ways to mark them) and there are curved lines on the soundboard to show where harmonics are on the strings above. All on a really nice piano. Alas, we seem to be a bit short in the piano budget for such an instrument. Would need a donor.
    David Graham
    Graham Piano Service, Inc.
    512 S. Main St.
    Sycamore IL 60178