Pianotech

  • 1.  Piano accompanying orchestra in unequal temperament

    Posted 30 days ago
    In my tuning of instruments to unequal temperaments I often come across excuses as to why pianos accompanying others shouldn't be tuned to unequal temperaments. The excuses I've come across are founded on misconceptions.

    Furthermore, because I tune to unequal temperaments and refuse absolutely to tune 12th root 2 other than for one professional pianist with two instruments, I would fail PTG exams and also because i use a machine and do so for a particular technical reason that I haven't yet discovered how to overcome by ear.

    Last week I was tuning for an international piano competition. The recording of the final concert is here - Nice International Piano Competition 2022 - Unequal Temperament
    YouTube remove preview
    Nice International Piano Competition 2022 - Unequal Temperament
    Unequal Temperament opens up dimensions beyond the norm in performance and rewards pianists for listening to the sound. 00:00:00 Introduction 00:01:58 Jury 00:03:35 Rebecca Cojan 00:05:03 - MOZART Piano Concerto No.
    View this on YouTube >


    The pianists were very delighted with the tuning and the one who had the opportunity to practice on an instrument tuned by me won. Unequal temperament tuning opens up dimensions of pianism that Chopin and Beethoven expected to be available. The instrument can be played in a bog standard way, even without a pianist noticing, but the pianist who explores resonance, of sustain and getting the instrument to sing is able to access dimensions that other pianists haven't dreamt about.

    In the 1920s professional magazines were talking about the superiority of equal temperament. Of course by then no-one used unequal temperament - so why were the magazines even considering it?

    In 1963 the Tuners Supply Company published a tract by John W Link, JR, "Theory and Tuning" which is rather an excellent book. He champions a Marpurg temperament "I" but when I look at the cent deviations I ask myself what it would do for the music and question "why". However, that's a side-thought. He makes two comments.
    - "Whenever a substitute tuning for equal temperament is suggested, there is naturally concern about how the piano, if it is given the suggested tuning, will fit in an instrumental ensemble"

    WOW! In 60 years comments now are still the same. I hope that the video referred to above is the answer to that and - please - criticise me to hell if there's anything to criticise about my tuning. The Steinway D concerned however, had a very agressive duplex scale providing much ringing in the top register and which between performances I checked and retuned.

    The second comment is likewise interesting - remember this is 1963:
    - "Finally, besides scientific modifications of the Pythagorean intonation, there is the empiracla 'method,' that, believe it or not, is still widely used. This is where the tuner flats fifths and sharps fourths until the final fifth is acceptable and the temperament as a whole "sounds good." Empirical tuning has a minimum of method, with the tuner's only aim beinge 'good sounding' results."

    In other words in 1963 modern 12th root 2 tuning was by no means entirely universal. Keys had flavour, character, which was lost in modern tuning and especially based on the premise of electronically devised 100 cent semitones which sterilises the music as we hear it today.

    For my part I cannot hear that the recording above is in unequal temperament, as also UKRAINE Charity fundraising concert - Mozart crying in Meantone - (pianos in unequal temperament)
    YouTube remove preview
    UKRAINE Charity fundraising concert - Mozart crying in Meantone - (pianos in unequal temperament)
    Pianos in unequal temperaments. 00:00 Introduction 00:46 Mozart sonata for 2 pianos K 448 11:53 Chopin Barcarolle Op.60 21:20 Debussy Feux D'Artifice 26:03 Debussy "Petite Suite" for four hands 42:45 Adagio - Mozart Sonata K358 for four hands 46:47 Adagio - Mozart Sonata 4 - Piano tuned to meantone 49:52 Chopin Mazurka Op68 No.2 - Piano tuned to meantone Fundraising concert for Disasters Emergency Committee https://www.dec.org.uk/ and Medair appeals https://www.medair.org/ for the Uraine appeals.
    View this on YouTube >
    although I know that were I to hear these programmes in equal temperament I'd be as annoyed as seeing a bulldozer carve through hills and vales and knocking down all landmark buildings along the way. Much of modern performance thus has become a wasteland in which the pianist emits machine-gun fire, each note interrupting the previous note, either loudly or less loudly and in which dimensions of expression are so removed from the sublime that players of Liszt are taught that they should aim to break strings. At a concert for which I tuned recently with a piano transcription of the Liszt B.A.C.H there were two notes which sounded as though the hammer shafts were wanting to crack.

    The tuning that I do is with the intention of enabling the instrument to exude cream. In the slow movement of the Beethoven G major https://youtu.be/Chg8TnpjdGA?t=3292 I enabled the winning pianist to achieve exactly that, even with a harshly voiced instrument. In G major the sound, audible there, is still - an emotion that other instruments can only dream of and G major, being the key of God, gives that glimpse of heaven.

    I hope perhaps that people might find the recording interesting.

    Best wishes

    David P








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


  • 2.  RE: Piano accompanying orchestra in unequal temperament

    Posted 29 days ago
    Thanks for this!

    The 'correct' temperament is the one that WORKS for that piano and that
    ensemble.

    This works.

    Hank Mooney
    San Francisco







  • 3.  RE: Piano accompanying orchestra in unequal temperament

    Posted 29 days ago

    Thanks - I'm finding that the temperament does work in all sorts of situations with all sorts of pianos and have managed to standardise the result between instruments so that the effect a pianist can expect is the same whether a vintage Bechstein Model C, a Steinway A or D, Bosendorfer or concert Fazioli.

    Here's the Mozart which was played in Nice last week played with a Viennese orchestra for a festival in Greece for which I tuned, in a very different acoustic, an underpowered Yamaha C3 and recorded on a mobile phone rather than decent microphones -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHxsZg6nhtk
    and in a Chamber Trio context with Mozart, Saint Saens and Frank Bridge -
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKbq54Zf-OU
    on a Yamaha G3

    Whilst Bach Busoni put a note on an unfamiliarly problematic Steinway
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh0iLiUZfbw
    was another recording from Nice with Rachmaninoff, Busoni and Liszt, so a system of tuning which demonstrates versatility. This 1969 Steinway had hideously tight pins which had wobbled the top of the holes so as to give undue play and upon a quick tuning didn't offer an easy setting point. Technically therefore the tuning was for me a failure but demonstrative of behaviour of the temperament on a nice instrument. The pianist is making good use of sustain in this performance and in a resonant acoustic.

    Best wishes

    David P



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



  • 4.  RE: Piano accompanying orchestra in unequal temperament

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 29 days ago
    David,

    I think it sounds great and I'm interested in learning how to reproduce it in analog/aural format. I think you and I have discussed this before but feel free to contact me privately if you prefer.

    Peter Grey Piano Doctor

    ------------------------------
    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    (603) 686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
    ------------------------------