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A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

  • 1.  A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 21 days ago
    Following the article in the PTG Journal last month it seemed possibly interesting to put in an introduction to a new video I've put together this weekend on YouTube about the influence of the collection of old instruments upon tuning of the new.

    Michael Jackson's piano and High Definition unequal temperament tuning
    YouTube remove preview
    Michael Jackson's piano and High Definition unequal temperament tuning
    An unloved flashy looking piano in a showroom turned out to have been bought for Michael Jackson. It seemed the ideal instrument on which to test High Defini...
    View this on YouTube >

    Michael Jackson's piano and High Definition unequal temperament tuning
    is a test on an instrument in one of those transparent plexiglass cases. It was sitting in the corner of a piano showroom being ignored and despised by everyone . . . so I thought I'd get my hands on it and suggest seeing if the different approach to tuning made a difference.

    Apologies for my terrible playing. Being a bad workman I'm blaming my tools . . . and saying that the instrument wasn't helping me . . . until it was tuned . . . um . . . properly ;-)

    Can others here the difference? Or am I merely biased and self deluded?

    Rude comments are welcomed . . . if no-one can hear the difference - that's great! It means it's not objectionable. :-)

    Best wishes

    David Pinnegar



    ------------------------------
    David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
    Hammerwood Park, East Grinstead, Sussex, UK
    +44 1342 850594
    "High Definition" Tuning
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 21 days ago
    David, I find it hard to make any judgement about the "standard" tuning due to many problematic unisons. It's hard to say how precisely the piano was tuned or if it was freshly tuned.
    I did not find your preferred tuning to be objectionable, the unisons were somewhat better.
    The voicing problems obscure both of the tunings.
    For your comparison purposes, perhaps it would be of benefit to have a tuner who is enthusiastic about ET do the standard tuning.
    For what it's worth, I don't think branding unequal tunings as "high definition" benefits anyone. It sounds like a gimmick. The term derives from video processing and reproduction.

    ------------------------------
    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI
    808-521-7129
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 21 days ago
    Steven - I agree with you on many counts.

    However, members might recall a somewhat inflammatory series of exchanges between Fred S and myself on the subject of historical authenticity as apparently Montal had the last word in the debate on unequal temperaments and the piano. A problem additionally is that the words "unequal temperament" sends many fleeing to their bunkers lest they hear something either heretical or hideous or merely something they don't know about or otherwise only associate with Purcell and earlier. So finding another less frightening description seemed to be a good idea.

    Yes - when I came to the instrument it hadn't been top priority of the showroom's attention, but was certainly in the ordinary condition in which we find many instruments and I apologise for the lack of perfection of my own tuning. However, whether the instrument was perfectly or imperfectly equally temperament tuned in the first place doesn't actually in my experience alter the result of the demonstration. Whilst my playing is terrible for which I apologise, the singing that I'm aiming for in that piece really depends upon the pedalling and being able to hold down the sustain for long periods. This was the pedalling of both Chopin and Beethoven, and Chopin practicing on the Pantalon or Clavecin Royale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NJJnOQbEn4 would have been familiar with the sounds of undamped infinite sustain. With Equal Temperament, the resonance is a mess. When we use, and therefore justifiably named, "High Definition tuning" we pull the energy out of the mush near tuned resonations and put that energy into the harmonic resonating sounds. The effect is in Fourier Transform terms as a "comb filter" as used to be used for instance in analogue colour television signal decoding.

    When unisons are not entirely exactly tuned the energy of one string bounces into another neighbouring string so that the reverb time is increased as the strings are keeping the energy among themselves rather than giving it in unison vibrations to the soundboard. The equal temperament and its harmonics are constantly bouncing the energy between the strings and the notes, so they too lose energy slower and increase the reverb time of the instrument, often a measure used by many to assess the quality of the instrument.

    But with the - OK I'll call it unequal temperament here . . . the harmonics are brought more into tune with the scale notes. This means that greater resonances happen on harmonic accordances, reducing the reverb time but increasing the energy given to the soundboard and therefore the instrument. And other notes less well related harmonically don't resonate. So it means that the sounds that do resonate do so more. Perhaps some time ago, members might remember a thread that I started giving the results of XLS spreadsheets analysing the concordance or otherwise of harmonics with scale notes in different tuning schemes, and the idea, the mathematics, and what we hear are all in agreement. The effect is to be able to contrast the sounds that are locked together amplified in resonance with the less harmonically locked sounds becoming less relevant. So this is why with the "high definition" tuning we're able more frequently to hold down the sustain for many notes in sequence, and even discordant ones. The result can lead to lingering sounds which are clear, the discordant ones dying away fast, so that we can paint tone colours and enter dreamstates, or misty scenes. And as demonstrated in the equal temperament as demonstrated, one can't as one isn't released in the mush. This leads to the way in which, for instance Angela Hewitt plays, entirely dry and missing the musical meaning entirely. Here's another competition winning pianist playing Haydn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF64GPfYw0Y arguably entirely missing the singing that playing "wet" either with no dampers or inefficient ones can achieve. The equal temperament and the resulting mush in the use of the sustaining pedal has led to the demise of appreciation of Haydn, and the playing of so much music as mere technical challenge.

    It also leads to the use of the sustain pedal merely as a kickdrum pedal used on every chord merely as an amplificator. Yes - really a LOUD pedal rather than the intended use as a sustain.

    The 1819 instrument at Hammerwood, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjPDefnPQNU here played by a pianist who really understands use of the sustain pedal, has a split sustain, so three pedals - keyboard shift, bass sustain, treble sustain, and this is proof of the intended use to obtain harmonic and atmospheric effects. But to do so it has to be tuned harmonically and, indeed, when the instrument first arrived with us I found the sound underwhelming. It really requires that resonance that the tuning can bring to achieve its power.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcmaebKSI6E is a demonstration of Haydn's F minor variations - F minor being the key of "Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave" and apologies for the extent to which you can really hear that in Meantone on the 1802 instrument. Here https://youtu.be/pIneuz5ueDY are the Variations on a Steinway C in "High Definition" together with an extract of Debussy's Sunken Cathedral. The tuning giving the option of much freer use of the sustaining pedal broadens the tools of expressive communication at the disposal of the performer.

    Apologies for rather a long reply on what appeared to be a simple, and accurate, observation, but thought that the expanded explanation might be of interest.

    Since the abrogation of tuning responsibility by musicians to professional tuners as increasingly high tension stringing developed there appears to have been a chasm between the musicians and the instrument makers. Whilst many who maintain instruments are musicians, many are not. Whilst to my knowledge and experience Broadwoods in England who remained backwards and old fashioned throughout the 19th century could be tuned in equal and near equal temperaments "Broadwood's best" being documented for instance, because of the 3rd harmonic prevalence in preference to the 5th, they could take really strong unequal temperaments, demonstrated by the 1859 concert instrument in Kirnberger III https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QaW4rrjkd0 without it being particularly jarring. In contrast the German instruments which came in from the 1880s onwards, and in America probably with the Steinways and Chickerings coming along earlier, brought out the 5th harmonic in the sound, which was pitted to beat against the ET scale note and produce the glistening effect that we've always admired when we sit down to play a "Grande Marque" instrument. From here the piano became the end in itself producing an impressive sound, the music being rather less than relevant. Pianists had to adjust the music and their style to the instrument rather than have the instrument work with them towards the music. It's this that has led to the barren meaningless technicality that we hear from many far eastern musicians and a Fazioli loving Candadian lady who plays Mendelssohn as it might as well be Prokofiev, commercially hyped and in my opinion leading to the increasing disinterest in music in its failure of communication.

    I appreciate that in making such comments I might be treading on a lot of toes but they're not intended to be rude, merely dispassionate passionate observations.

    Whilst writing this I'm continuing to listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QaW4rrjkd0 and in this recording it's possible to hear the understanding and use of the sustain pedal by this particular pianist. So it's not about intune or out of tune, it's about resonance and separating the harmonic from the not.

    Best wishes

    David P 



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





  • 4.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 6 days ago
    David,

    Is it even possible to tune a piano perfectly in accordance with the theoretical mathematical model of any Equal Temperament?

    If it is not possible to do this then isn't every piano tuned to some sort of Unequal Temperament?

    ------------------------------
    Roshan Kakiya
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 6 days ago
    The equal spacing, or as far as inequality of equalness is concerned the intention of equal spacing, puts every note in the middle of spaces between harmonics, nearly and not quite, so that they resonate enough to be mushy but don't resonate enough to contribute musically. Or one can look at that from the reverse perspective that it provides an even scatter of harmonics around the scale notes to the same effect.

    But when significant numbers of perfect fifths are used between the scale notes they fall squarely upon the harmonics with the result of resonance and no mush, so a cleaner sound, and major thirds also. One has sets of notes and harmonics that accord and others that are further away simply are out of the resonating zones. So the sound becomes cleaner with the reduction of modes of vibration.

    It's my belief that one can here this on the demonstration on the plexiglass piano, and the harpist demonstrating the chromatic vs the diatonic harp says as much in describing the different nature of the resonance of both instruments and the cleaner sound of the 7 note to the octave instrument rather than the full 12 strings to the octave, the 5 extra strings adding the muddiness. In the unequal temperament we're taking the tuning of the extra 5 notes further away from the resonating range so that they drop out of the sonic equation, the diatonic and chromatic harp thereby being an appropriate analogue.

    Best wishes

    David P

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





  • 6.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 6 days ago
    David,

    You wrote:

    "But when significant numbers of perfect fifths are used between the scale notes they fall squarely upon the harmonics with the result of resonance and no mush, so a cleaner sound, and major thirds also."

    This is contradictory.

    A temperament that has many Pure Fifths will have many very wide, out of tune Major Thirds. Can the purity of the Pure Fifths cancel out the impurity of the very wide, out of tune Major Thirds?


    Look at the following graphs:

    Kellner: http://rollingball.com/images/Kellner.gif

    Vallotti: http://rollingball.com/images/Vallotti.gif

    Both of these temperaments have 6 consecutive Pure Fifths around the Circle of Fifths which cause both of them to have 3 consecutive Pythagorean Major Thirds around the Circle of Fifths. Pythagorean Major Thirds are very wide, out of tune Major Thirds.

    Pure Fifths and Pure Major Thirds are incompatible with each other. If you want to make the Major Thirds less wide, you must make the Fifths more narrow. If you want to make the Fifths less narrow, you must make the Major Thirds more wide.


    Therefore, there are only two options that are available:

    1. Sacrifice the purity of the Major Thirds to improve the purity of the Fifths.
    2. Sacrifice the purity of the Fifths to improve the purity of the Major Thirds.

    Which of these two options do you want to choose, David?

    ------------------------------
    Roshan Kakiya
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 6 days ago
    The point is that depending on the temperament at least three major thirds are near enough to the 5th harmonic to resonate and resonate well whilst the wider thirds are wide enough to be out of the resonance zone. So then they don't count. They become as the missing black notes from the diatonic harp. 

    The purity of the diatonic harp as against the mush of the chromatic harp is audible in the YouTube links given:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OfcUt-jqm0 on a diatonic harp with 7 strings to the octave and
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=4liMaSP0nGc on a chromatic harp enlarged from the 7 to the full 12 strings to the octave

    That doesn't mean that the chromatic harp doesn't produce a nice sound, but were Pleyel to have used my methodology of chromatic tuning his harp would have overcome two objections, I believe, which led to its demise:
    1. impure resonance - the diatonic pedal harp was cleaner in sound
    2. limitation of volume - three harps had to be used in the orchestra to achieve the volume achieved by the Erard pedal harp, diatonic. This was assumed to be limited by the vibration amplitude of the closer strings having to be less, but the indications from piano experiments are that the resonance of an unequal temperament tuning would have allowed it to resonate louder and more cleanly. 

    So in the demise of the Chromatic Harp tuned in equal temperament we see the same faults that have persisted in the practice of tuning pianos, and potentially improvements to piano sound and access to broader musical playing techniques that are opened up.

    (Whilst writing YouTube has very kindly led onto https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwO3Gw_ikmA which demonstrates what can be done on a chromatic instrument.)

    Best wishes

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





  • 8.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 20 days ago
    On https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgmlgEkSWRI comments are coming in which are both interesting and helpful.

    Two observations are particularly pertinent and I hope my responses helpful - 
    "I am sorry, it sounds to me as if the "ordinary" equal temperament has been given the unfair disadvantage not not-very-clean unisons.  " 

    Yes - an unfair disadvantage is a criticism apparently appropriately levelled here. The instrument had been neglected in the corner and was down to 438, and I took it up to 440 which is why perhaps my tuning wasn't as exact as it might have been also. But the thrust of what I'm saying and demonstrating here isn't invalidated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQZTd-mWDek is a well maintained Bosendorfer 280VC where we first noticed the 6dB increase in volume. Here at 10:49 you can see the recording levels peaking at around -9dB whereas -3dB at 11:20 so this instrument was demonstrating the same effect in increasing the dynamic range that we'd noticed in recording the Bosendorfer.  

    " The "High Definition" tuning sounds particularly sour to me in the Just for Fun section, at about 20:10 in the Schubert Impromptu No 2 in Ab Major; compare https://youtu.be/en47cW11-UY"

    The pianist who was with me at the time isn't a professional but plays better than me . . . so the Schubert wasn't as polished as perhaps it could be. With a pianist knowing the piece, and the instrument and the tuning, it's possible to achieve a more polished effect. But actually, Ab should sound sour! It was documented at the time to be the key of putrefaction and death . . . (https://wmich.edu/mus-theo/courses/keys.html) and in that spirit requires really careful and sensitive handling beyond a just for fun trial. Potentially it opens up artistic exploration able to convey deeper and more profound meaning.  

    If one's looking for something audibly sour but expressive exactly as described by a key https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzrIWR3s84Q But this is an aural soundscape beyond anything I'd dream of transferring into the piano domain.

    Whilst perhaps the recording and demonstration wasn't wholly under the most ideal of circumstances I hope that it's possible to see that there is something to demonstrate, and audibly so beyond the smoke and mirrors of ghostly realms and self delusion.

    This particular piano was four hours drive away from me, and a pianist who I'd normally ask to come with me on such a demonstration jaunt was at the other end of the country and not available on this visit. Getting into the saddle of playing with exploitation of the tuning isn't something that an artist can do in the instant on the fly so with the pianist friend who was available on the day it was a matter of luck that there was anything to demonstrate at all beyond merely my own bad playing.

    So if anyone within travelling distance is game for doing a better demonstration than this perhaps with a concert stage piano and a sensitive performer or two, I'm willing to work with anyone.

    Together we can make music better. Unless of course I'm wholly deluded. :-) But we're treading in the footsteps of Ed Foote and Enid Katahn before me, together later with Eben Goresko and my predecessors in this field have reached similar conclusions independently. Perhaps that might be significant.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADVOIAhqMAI is the pianist who should have come with me on the Michael Jackson instrument escapade but not available on this occasion. There we hear his lockdown recording on his Steinway C that I'd tuned 9 months before.

    Best wishes

    David P

    On Mon, Sep 7, 2020 at 12:48 AM David Pinnegar <antespam@gmail.com> wrote:
    Steven - I agree with you on many counts.

    However, members might recall a somewhat inflammatory series of exchanges between Fred S and myself on the subject of historical authenticity as apparently Montal had the last word in the debate on unequal temperaments and the piano. A problem additionally is that the words "unequal temperament" sends many fleeing to their bunkers lest they hear something either heretical or hideous or merely something they don't know about or otherwise only associate with Purcell and earlier. So finding another less frightening description seemed to be a good idea.

    Yes - when I came to the instrument it hadn't been top priority of the showroom's attention, but was certainly in the ordinary condition in which we find many instruments and I apologise for the lack of perfection of my own tuning. However, whether the instrument was perfectly or imperfectly equally temperament tuned in the first place doesn't actually in my experience alter the result of the demonstration. Whilst my playing is terrible for which I apologise, the singing that I'm aiming for in that piece really depends upon the pedalling and being able to hold down the sustain for long periods. This was the pedalling of both Chopin and Beethoven, and Chopin practicing on the Pantalon or Clavecin Royale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NJJnOQbEn4 would have been familiar with the sounds of undamped infinite sustain. With Equal Temperament, the resonance is a mess. When we use, and therefore justifiably named, "High Definition tuning" we pull the energy out of the mush near tuned resonations and put that energy into the harmonic resonating sounds. The effect is in Fourier Transform terms as a "comb filter" as used to be used for instance in analogue colour television signal decoding.

    When unisons are not entirely exactly tuned the energy of one string bounces into another neighbouring string so that the reverb time is increased as the strings are keeping the energy among themselves rather than giving it in unison vibrations to the soundboard. The equal temperament and its harmonics are constantly bouncing the energy between the strings and the notes, so they too lose energy slower and increase the reverb time of the instrument, often a measure used by many to assess the quality of the instrument.

    But with the - OK I'll call it unequal temperament here . . . the harmonics are brought more into tune with the scale notes. This means that greater resonances happen on harmonic accordances, reducing the reverb time but increasing the energy given to the soundboard and therefore the instrument. And other notes less well related harmonically don't resonate. So it means that the sounds that do resonate do so more. Perhaps some time ago, members might remember a thread that I started giving the results of XLS spreadsheets analysing the concordance or otherwise of harmonics with scale notes in different tuning schemes, and the idea, the mathematics, and what we hear are all in agreement. The effect is to be able to contrast the sounds that are locked together amplified in resonance with the less harmonically locked sounds becoming less relevant. So this is why with the "high definition" tuning we're able more frequently to hold down the sustain for many notes in sequence, and even discordant ones. The result can lead to lingering sounds which are clear, the discordant ones dying away fast, so that we can paint tone colours and enter dreamstates, or misty scenes. And as demonstrated in the equal temperament as demonstrated, one can't as one isn't released in the mush. This leads to the way in which, for instance Angela Hewitt plays, entirely dry and missing the musical meaning entirely. Here's another competition winning pianist playing Haydn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF64GPfYw0Y arguably entirely missing the singing that playing "wet" either with no dampers or inefficient ones can achieve. The equal temperament and the resulting mush in the use of the sustaining pedal has led to the demise of appreciation of Haydn, and the playing of so much music as mere technical challenge.

    It also leads to the use of the sustain pedal merely as a kickdrum pedal used on every chord merely as an amplificator. Yes - really a LOUD pedal rather than the intended use as a sustain.

    The 1819 instrument at Hammerwood, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjPDefnPQNU here played by a pianist who really understands use of the sustain pedal, has a split sustain, so three pedals - keyboard shift, bass sustain, treble sustain, and this is proof of the intended use to obtain harmonic and atmospheric effects. But to do so it has to be tuned harmonically and, indeed, when the instrument first arrived with us I found the sound underwhelming. It really requires that resonance that the tuning can bring to achieve its power.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcmaebKSI6E is a demonstration of Haydn's F minor variations - F minor being the key of "Deep depression, funereal lament, groans of misery and longing for the grave" and apologies for the extent to which you can really hear that in Meantone on the 1802 instrument. Here https://youtu.be/pIneuz5ueDY are the Variations on a Steinway C in "High Definition" together with an extract of Debussy's Sunken Cathedral. The tuning giving the option of much freer use of the sustaining pedal broadens the tools of expressive communication at the disposal of the performer.

    Apologies for rather a long reply on what appeared to be a simple, and accurate, observation, but thought that the expanded explanation might be of interest.

    Since the abrogation of tuning responsibility by musicians to professional tuners as increasingly high tension stringing developed there appears to have been a chasm between the musicians and the instrument makers. Whilst many who maintain instruments are musicians, many are not. Whilst to my knowledge and experience Broadwoods in England who remained backwards and old fashioned throughout the 19th century could be tuned in equal and near equal temperaments "Broadwood's best" being documented for instance, because of the 3rd harmonic prevalence in preference to the 5th, they could take really strong unequal temperaments, demonstrated by the 1859 concert instrument in Kirnberger III https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QaW4rrjkd0 without it being particularly jarring. In contrast the German instruments which came in from the 1880s onwards, and in America probably with the Steinways and Chickerings coming along earlier, brought out the 5th harmonic in the sound, which was pitted to beat against the ET scale note and produce the glistening effect that we've always admired when we sit down to play a "Grande Marque" instrument. From here the piano became the end in itself producing an impressive sound, the music being rather less than relevant. Pianists had to adjust the music and their style to the instrument rather than have the instrument work with them towards the music. It's this that has led to the barren meaningless technicality that we hear from many far eastern musicians and a Fazioli loving Candadian lady who plays Mendelssohn as it might as well be Prokofiev, commercially hyped and in my opinion leading to the increasing disinterest in music in its failure of communication.

    I appreciate that in making such comments I might be treading on a lot of toes but they're not intended to be rude, merely dispassionate passionate observations.

    Whilst writing this I'm continuing to listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QaW4rrjkd0 and in this recording it's possible to hear the understanding and use of the sustain pedal by this particular pianist. So it's not about intune or out of tune, it's about resonance and separating the harmonic from the not.

    Best wishes

    David P 



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


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





  • 9.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 20 days ago
    For some reason an old joke came to me when I woke up a few mornings ago. I've been itching to tell it so I will tell it here. 

    One night a cop comes upon an inebriated gentleman under a street lamp crawling around on his hands and knees. The cop asks the guy what he's doing and he replies, "I was unlocking my car and dropped my keys and can't find them." The cop looks around and asks where his car is, the man points some ways down the street, so the cop asks, "why are you looking for your keys over here?" The man looks up and says, "because the light is better."
    David, in your promotion of your ideas for almost 2 years now, you often tend to mix apples and oranges. Whether it's the theoretical with the practical, the quantitative with the qualitative, or surmises with facts. 
    The Pantalon or Clavecin Royale  are monochordal instruments, there are no bi or trichords, no unisons to complicate the tuning or timbre; also they are (were) lower tension, less inharmonic instruments. All of which distinguish them greatly from the piano.
     
    You conjecture that piano builders diverged from the interests of musicians in designing modern pianos; I think it's more likely that musician's and composer's interests were in more powerful instruments with greater dynamic range and more tonal complexity. The compromise for these  aims being increased inharmonicity necessitating compromises in intonation. Even at that, many tuners successfully apply non equal tunings to pianos, this is an accepted practice.
     
    David, if composers wished to explore and exploit non equal tunings and more pure intervals they have had the whole panoply of musical instruments from organs, harpsichords, strings to woodwinds to brass and of course the human voice. And now in the 21st cen. digital technology offers limitless opportunities including altering tunings in preexisting recordings.
     
    Today you suggest that unequal tunings can actually increase the dynamic range. This is a technical forum and there has been much discussion by people with high expertise regarding the effects of unisons and the energy transmitted to the soundboard. These people put a lot of time and energy into empirically demonstrating their ideas. Your youtube videos do not provide objective evidence of your claims, you should endeavor to objectively demonstrate your claims. Anecdotal evidence is not too helpful, at best it is a first step.
     
    The fact is that bi and tri chord unisons are always going to muddy the waters with regard to tunings and how they're perceived. Unsions respond differently at different dynamic levels. This is true for any tuning on any piano, it is an intrinsic characteristic that we all live with.
     
     A month or so ago, on a different thread, I suggested that you seek out one of the monochord pianos being made today. This would make it much easier for you to make your case for these different tuning schemes in a more unequivocal way. There will always be problems and vagaries using  modern high inharmonicity pianos to apply your ideas regarding coloring keys. I think you're looking in the wrong place. Pun intended.


    ------------------------------
    Steven Rosenthal
    Honolulu HI
    808-521-7129
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 20 days ago
    Dear Steven

    Thanks so much for your observations and I love your joke. The light is certainly better where I'm looking even if those keys are 100 yards away.

    There will always be a spectrum of ideas and tastes and such give rise to the opportunities of differences of artistic expression. Were such to be unified as any being labelled as "correct" then perhaps we might be drawn to the sterility of some performers in their exactitude of transposing notes on a page to sounds emerging in time and leaving only one interpretation to be possible or allowable. This would make the recording industry irrelevant. Nor does such allow an emotional response and the opportunity of emotional communication originating from a mind of a composer to the mind of a listener. Please forgive me - I started looking for the keys on one YouTube example and ended up where the light was brighter listening to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJT5Q6HooyA in which personally I'm revelling in reverie whilst writing.

    I started off in response to the criticism that the Michael Jackson piano wasn't a well equal temperament tuned instrument in the first place, looking for a better recording 
    and responding to the criticism on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQZTd-mWDek that one recording was made with the fall board in place and without on the other recording. So https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QaW4rrjkd0 is the only other recording together with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOQ6O7PD_yc being a direct comparison of the same instrument under the same conditions being reasonably tuned to ET and UT afterwards, but with the difficulty that that's a 160 year old instrument. 

    With luck in a couple of weeks we might have the opportunity to demonstrate a wonderful Steinway B well tuned before and in unequal temperament after so with luck the keys will fall where the light is.

    However, at the same showroom I espied a Hammer Spinet, the modern equivalent of the Clavecin Royale - http://www.klaverbygger.dk/hammerspinet.html which obeys the criteria you set out, although I tuned it and found it so tonally deficient it doesn't really produce the resonance of the piano in a realistic way, but it might well satisfy some criteria on which one can do experiment with some "objective" points fixed.

    Another line of enquiry that I'm following is the availability of a Pleyel Chromatic or Double harp. This has two sets of strings, crossing, with the full 11 notes to the octave rather than the 7 of a normal harp, allowing us to measure resonance in the same instrument of white notes tuned alone, confusion of resonance in white and black notes tuned, and any alteration observed in change of temperament.

    But to some extent these experiments are already redundant because on the recording equipment in doing recordings we've seen peaks 6dB higher on the unequal temperament tuned instrument in contrast to the Equal Temperament instrument. Screenshots of a pair of those are on the Michael Jackson instrument video.

    The indications are that this is an area of fertile ground for research and which I hope others will like to share.

    Best wishes

    David P

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





  • 11.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 19 days ago
    I am so weary of all the words.
    Hear this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rou7Bi2j-BE


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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
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  • 12.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 19 days ago

    How delightful, Wanda playing a piano. I wonder what piano she was playing.

    It's a no doubt a pre-device tuning, when larger variation was possible, because differences in tunings within a range of acceptability were generated by the musical intelligence of our colleagues, now removed from us in time. I love the treble in this recording. There is a warmth and sweetness to the whole thing, including the voicing and the timbre of the piano, and Wanda's musicality. Even the less advanced (and therefore less harsh) recording techniques work for good in this recording.

    I think a small CD purchase is in order.






  • 13.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 19 days ago
    Susan-

    I once had the LP of this, and recall that it was recorded very late in her life, in her home on her own piano, a Steinway, but not a D. Given her extraordinary musicological knowledge and her famous imperious will, we can assume that the piano was prepared exactly as she wanted it. I can't recall ever hearing a piano that sounds exactly like this, but we are hearing the piano as played by Landowska. In particular, what I hear is an amazing control of timbre and articulation, and an endless creativity in phrasing, unique and in no way self-indulgent. She gets this variety without having to force the piano to its limits. It is so moving and at once very comfortable, even comforting.

    Apparently Landowska chose to use "un piccolo divertimento" in the title. This was added to a presentation copy in Haydn's own hand. By 1793 the term divertimento was beginning to have the connotation of lightness which it now carries. Nothing in the scores indicate "as traumatic as possible." Perhaps Haydn was saying "Do not force it." My feeling is that Landowska got it exactly right and that the climax and open-ended resolution as she performs this piece are  beyond compare in my experience of recorded piano performance, one of the most profound musical experiences of my life.

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    Ed Sutton
    ed440@me.com
    (980) 254-7413
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  • 14.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 19 days ago

    Ed, I am eager to hear the rest of that recording. Thanks for the details.

    The price of the CD was higher than usual (I think it was $56) but well worth it. They said they had only three copies of it, so I'm glad that one of the three will be mine soon. There are a few used copies out there, too.

    The enjoyment of listening to her playing reminds me of how I feel when I listen to Myra Hess.






  • 15.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 19 days ago
    Thank you for such a wonderful recording. A performance of the greatest sensitivity and achieving of the sublime.

    But we know that in F minor, her performance could have been more-so in the temperaments that were in use at the time of Haydn with a narrow, sadder minor third between F and A flat, and the discomfort of the wider third between A flat and C. For instance at 9:09 https://youtu.be/Rou7Bi2j-BE?t=543 the contrast between the minor and major would have been really brilliant. Being fed-up of words, there's an answer I can give to you with 

    This is one of my earliest recordings on the 1854 Emerich Betsy (I think in around 2008) which has since been restrung with Michael Gamble's help, and before restringing we organised the concert to record it with the original strings. They were rusty, and brought into any sort of unisons more by luck than judgement and couldn't take a tuning higher than a tone flat. But the contrast from major to minor at 5:50 after a whole 5 1/2 minutes in the major is, for me at least, quite moving and more moving than were Landa Wandowska to have been playing the piece however sublimely in Equal Temperament. Were she to have had the facility of that instrument tuned in the unequal temperament her performance would have been even more sublime.

    I hope whilst reading this that you're already revelling in Jill Crossland's performance.

    Other recordings from the same concert are on https://jungleboffin.com/mp4/jill-crossland-unequal-tempered-fortepiano/ and whilst still hampered by the old strings at low pitch https://jungleboffin.com/mp4/jill-crossland-unequal-tempered-fortepiano/mozart-fantasia.mp3 still achieves an effect enhanced by the temperament. At 3:40 in the minor leading to daisy fresh major at 4:10 to my ears is a charm.

    The Emerich Betsy, with leather hammers and Viennese action in true fortepiano style, is for me a wonderful transition instrument so near to the more modern genre of instruments but not screaming "I'm an authentic instrument" as sadly so many ancient instruments do.

    And the examples from this concert, whilst hampered by the impossibility of achieving accurate unisons with rusty strings at just a fraction of movement away from fracturing, still allow the temperament to come through.

    With the "flutter" of the Wandowska recording inherent in the equipment we're hearing vibratos not a million miles away from uneven unisons. Perhaps it goes to show that musicality doesn't start and stop with the technician's magic.

    Particularly seminal in that concert, in all keys in unequal temperament was https://jungleboffin.com/mp4/jill-crossland-unequal-tempered-fortepiano/well-tempered-bach.mp3 

    In presenting the opportunities available from unequal temperament, with friends and patient performers, I've come through a long journey which might appear random for those new to what's been achieved not merely over the past two years but throughout the past decade and more but which has resulted from a long process of structured testing providing along the way some recordings quoted in the academic literature 

    Best wishes

    David P

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





  • 16.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 19 days ago

    <<The fact is that bi and tri chord??unisons??are always going to muddy the waters with regard to tunings and how they're perceived.>>

    And therein likes a tremendous opportunity for those who can master listening to unisons and tuning them for maximum musical enhancement in a durable way.






  • 17.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 11 days ago
    The cross-strung chromatic harp has now found its way from France to England and I'm greeting the learning curve of stringing it and stringing scales.

    Meanwhile I found an interesting video on YouTube with a lady describing her experience of both a diatonic and a chromatic harp. What she has to say is particularly interesting with regard to resonance
    https://youtu.be/OzGhWCj9K4Y?t=931
    and it's possible to actually hear this contrast
    https://youtu.be/OzGhWCj9K4Y?t=874
    where the diatonic harp without the extra discordant resonances are absent leads to a cleaner sound.

    The piano is of course the analogue of the chromatic harp but the temperament can rearrange the resonances between the notes, so in terms of what this harpist is saying, cleaning up the sound. The keys with near pure intervals will resonate cleanly and the keys with notes removed well from the associated harmonics will be cleaner too as the notes separated from the harmonics for which they are not tuned won't resonate.

    So forgetting any issues of "historical authenticity" we can look at this tuning in terms of improving the piano sound, in giving higher definition to the music and producing a cleaner sonic environment in which the sustaining pedal can be used really for its intended purpose, to sustain, and to allow the instrument to sing.

    So whilst I haven't personally done the experiment, in the video quoted above there's someone in a different field who has, and has found the result that I've been talking about with respect to the piano and its tuning now for some time.

    Best wishes

    David P

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    David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
    Hammerwood Park, East Grinstead, Sussex, UK
    +44 1342 850594
    "High Definition" Tuning
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  • 18.  RE: A tuning experiment on a really horrible piano

    Posted 7 days ago
    Further exploration on the analogue of the Chromatic Harp as an analogue of the piano has turned up two recordings
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OfcUt-jqm0 on a diatonic harp with 7 strings to the octave and
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4liMaSP0nGc on a chromatic harp enlarged from 7 to 11 strings to the octave.

    That difference is the analogue of what's happening with the piano when we don't maximise accordances between harmonics and harmonically related scale notes.

    Can anyone hear a difference in the underlying confusion in the resonances on those recordings?

    Best wishes

    David P

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