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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Neil Lowe Piano Tuning vs Guitar Tuning (39) Accoustics: piano tuning vs guitar tuning 23 Mar 00


Funny how curiosity about one thing can lead to related (sometimes unrelated) realms where one didn't expect to find oneself.

Our story thus far: I came across a reference to a (UK?) publication called Piano Tuners Quarterly. Cognizant of the plethora of publications out there on virtually any topic one cares to select, I was nevertheless amused that there was a magazine devoted to this skill. Lest the piano tuners among us get the wrong impression, I harbored no condescension towards the profession. But given that there seems to be relatively few apparent or radical changes in the instrument itself over the years, I wondered what the contributors to the magazine found to write about every three months. I figured piano tuning was akin to the knowledge acquired in auto mechanics: I know little about the physics of the internal combustion engine, and I'm not a good enough driver to ever win an Indianapolis 500, but anyone endowed with basic motor coordination can learn to do a tune-up. And so it was, I imagined, with piano tuning; if one could carry a tune in a bucket, one could learn how to tune a piano. At least this site seemed to support my theory.

As is usually the case, coworkers failed to appreciate my odd sense of humor, and less so the witticisms I volunteered regarding the fascinating reading that must inevitably accompany every savory issue. They assumed the responsibility of sensitizing me to the subtle considerations that are taken into account regarding the fine art of piano tuning: the accoustics of the room in which the piano is to reside; whether the piano will be used as accompaniment to voice or as a solo instrument, etc. Now that I know there's more to it than meets the ear, I have a healthier respect for the skills necessary to tune a piano properly. All this circumlocution brings me - to the reader's relief, no doubt - to the subject of this thread. The link above offers a bit of accoustical science. It says that adjacent strings struck together produce a wow-wow-wow sound, known as beats. I have noticed a similar phenomenon on the guitar. I would assume it is the same for other stringed instruments. When I am retuning after replacing strings, for example, I strive to eliminate these "beats," trying to extract as "flat" a sound between two adjacent strings as possible. That's one of the criteria I use to ascertain that the guitar is in tune.

Am I correct in assuming this? Are there any accoustical scientists out there who would care to give me the benefit of their knowledge on this? As always, anyone's comments on this or anything are welcomed and appreciated. Thread-drift and cross-threading specifically authorized, condoned, and encouraged.

Regards, Neil


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