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Hi all. I'm a pianist, not a tuner/technician, so my question comes from a layman. I guess you're all aware of Perri Knize's odyssey and the discussions in her book with her NY technician, Marc. At one point, Marc advises Perri to ask her tuner to do a tuning with "less stretch." I seem to recall that someone in the book I got the idea that this particular refers to the stretch of the fifth. I could be wrong there; but anyway, some questions arise for me.

First, don't the octaves have to be exact? I'm aware that the ear hears higher notes as slightly flat, so I gather that those higher notes have to be stretched a little. On my new Seiler ED132 the higher notes sound very in tune, so I guess they have been well and truly stretched. I wonder if this is why the treble sounds slightly bright.

Second (and this is my main question), if you have less stretch (of the fifth?) around the middle of the piano and upwards, won't the octave sound flat, or does the tuner have to compensate by doing more stretch on some of the other intervals. In other words, have can you have less stretch without making your octaves slightly flat?

Can't wait to know the answer!

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All intervals get stretched, when any stretch is applied.

When a note (going up) is stretched (sharp), every interval it is a part of is also stretched (sharp).

When a note (going down) is stretched (flat), every interval it is a part of is also stretched (flat).

It is not possible to add stretch (extra stretch that is, beyond just accounting for inharmonicity), to one type of interval, such as a fifth, without stretch being added to all the intervals that stretched note also happens to be a member of.

Say one is stretching the F5-C6 fifth sharp. The G5-C6 fourth is also automatically stretched, as is Aflat5-C6 major third, etc.

I think of stretch as having three basic levels.

1. The minimum stretch beyond the "book" mathematical frequencies needed to account for inharmonicity.

2. The stretch needed *beyond the above #1 anti-inharmonicity stretch* to achieve a subjectively beautiful tuning.

3. The stretch *beyond the above #2 stretch* needed to achieve a a subjectively beautiful tuning *for those people for whom the #2 amount of stretch above, still leaves the tuning sounding, to *that set of people*, subjectively flat.

Less than a #2 level stretch sounds flat to everyone with an ear.

More than a #3 level stretch sounds painfully sharp to nearly all people (and #3 sounds somewhat sharp to all those who naturally prefer a #2).

All of the above (#2 and above that is) is on a smooth spectrum, where there is no clear and definite divisions between #2 and #3 and sharper than #3, with highly subjective factors pertaining to each individuals musical taste (soft wiring) and unique auditory physiological responses (hard wiring) determining where those (soft vague) boundaries lie.

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OP probably doesn't know what is inharmonicity, which is the main reason some stretch is needed...

Piano sound can be decomposed into partials, pure sine waves, whose frequencies supposed to be an integer multiples of a fundamental frequency (A440 fundamental is 440hz, and partials 880, 1320, 1760, 2200...), but in reality piano strings are not perfect and partials are a little stretched (for example 440, 880.1, 1320.2, 1760.3 etc...) and this is called inharmonicity.

In pure octave, lower note even partials suppose to match exactly with all partials of higher note:
A440 partials: 440, 880, 1320, 1760, 2200, 2640
A880 partials: 880, 1760, 2640
Such an octave will sound clear and "steady", if these frequencies do not match exactly, it will sound out of tune and "wobbly". Because of inharmonicity it is impossible to keep perfect 1:2 ratio and also match all the partials simultaneously, so a compromise has to be made and tuner has to decide which partials to match (or something inbetween)

Last edited by ambrozy; 04/16/22 11:24 AM.
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In addition to the above excellent explanations, a little info on the ear/brain interaction may also help you a little.

First of all, the acoustic piano has a totally unique sound (different from all other instruments). The primary reason for this is the Inharmonicity that exists in the FREELY vibrating strings attached to a "firm" (though not exactly firm) soundboard. Repeat: freely vibrating (and technically this vibration is effected by impact which makes it a percussion instrument...sort of). If you take a hair from a violin or cello bow and use it to activate the piano wires without any impact, guess what...mist (if not all) of that Inharmonicity disappears. There is a difference between free vibration and bowed vibration.

Okay, now to what happens with your ears when a note is struck. We don't hear with our ears...we only collect information with them. This information is then transmitted to the brain which now interprets the information, translating that into what we call "hearing". When a note is struck (e.g in the middle of the piano) the ear/brain takes in the full spectrum of ALL the PARTIALS being generated, which in a piano are all SHARP to the fundamental to one degree or another. The brain is so fast at deciphering what is going in total that it instantly calculates what higher frequencies SHOULD sound like in order to sound "in tune" with the lower ones (and vice versa in the bass).

So, now your brain is expecting other notes to sound "harmonious" with everything else, but since the piano's partial structure is not harmonious (rather inherently inharmonious on the sharp side) adjustments are needed to compromise this situation so as to give the illusion of harmony. The tuner carefully compromises all the intervals (including octaves) in order to create this illusion that fools the brain into believing what dies not actually exist. It's a very carefully crafted thing (a good tuning that makes it all work). Not everyone can do it satisfactorily. There are good tuners that understand these deep things, and there are tooners that watch lights and do what the machine tells them to do. There can be a big difference because a machine is not a human, and definitely is not a brain, nor has ears. It does math really good, but there's more involved than math.

Anyway, hopefully this helps you "see" things better as to why they are the way they are.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
In addition to the above excellent explanations, a little info on the ear/brain interaction may also help you a little.

First of all, the acoustic piano has a totally unique sound (different from all other instruments). The primary reason for this is the Inharmonicity that exists in the FREELY vibrating strings attached to a "firm" (though not exactly firm) soundboard. Repeat: freely vibrating (and technically this vibration is effected by impact which makes it a percussion instrument...sort of). If you take a hair from a violin or cello bow and use it to activate the piano wires without any impact, guess what...mist (if not all) of that Inharmonicity disappears. There is a difference between free vibration and bowed vibration.

Okay, now to what happens with your ears when a note is struck. We don't hear with our ears...we only collect information with them. This information is then transmitted to the brain which now interprets the information, translating that into what we call "hearing". When a note is struck (e.g in the middle of the piano) the ear/brain takes in the full spectrum of ALL the PARTIALS being generated, which in a piano are all SHARP to the fundamental to one degree or another. The brain is so fast at deciphering what is going in total that it instantly calculates what higher frequencies SHOULD sound like in order to sound "in tune" with the lower ones (and vice versa in the bass).

So, now your brain is expecting other notes to sound "harmonious" with everything else, but since the piano's partial structure is not harmonious (rather inherently inharmonious on the sharp side) adjustments are needed to compromise this situation so as to give the illusion of harmony. The tuner carefully compromises all the intervals (including octaves) in order to create this illusion that fools the brain into believing what dies not actually exist. It's a very carefully crafted thing (a good tuning that makes it all work). Not everyone can do it satisfactorily. There are good tuners that understand these deep things, and there are tooners that watch lights and do what the machine tells them to do. There can be a big difference because a machine is not a human, and definitely is not a brain, nor has ears. It does math really good, but there's more involved than math.

Anyway, hopefully this helps you "see" things better as to why they are the way they are.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Someday I'll work up the nerve to write up the system of "hyper-concert" tuning I developed and used at the peak of my skills, and even then, only for the most discerning artists - not everyday, just a few times a year.

It is, shall we say, just a wee bit idiosyncratic?

And uh, quite hard to do - AT ALL.

IT CAN TAKE A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG TIME.

I'd expect a fair hearing from a quite advanced tuning mind such as yours at least.

(But more "you, sir, are nuts" or "you're joking, right?" or "that's impossible" or "bro, do you even tune?" reactions, I'll wager.)

(The most rational response would be "OK, maybe that works, MAYBE, but jeez, is the effort worth it?")

(Oh, and there's sorta an alternate universe music theory underpinning, to conceptualize what's being done, and why, and which explains why the "how" works how it does, and why that "how" is the only "how" that gets you to "there", lol.)

wink

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All helpful, thank you. I was actually aware of the idea of inharmonicity, ambrozy, but your explanation of it gave it to me in a better perspective.

If I have correctly understood what is written in your replies, my suspicion is correct: if my tuner were to apply less stretch to my piano, those upper notes, which now sound pretty on pitch (if I play, say G1 and G7, the G1 doesn't seem sharp nor the G7 flat relative to each other), then the upper notes might sound a tiny bit flat. Have I understood it correctly? Given that those notes are not played all that often, that would be preferable to my ear if the middle registers sound, as a result, slightly less bright.

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Originally Posted by An Old Square
Originally Posted by P W Grey
In addition to the above excellent explanations, a little info on the ear/brain interaction may also help you a little.

First of all, the acoustic piano has a totally unique sound (different from all other instruments). The primary reason for this is the Inharmonicity that exists in the FREELY vibrating strings attached to a "firm" (though not exactly firm) soundboard. Repeat: freely vibrating (and technically this vibration is effected by impact which makes it a percussion instrument...sort of). If you take a hair from a violin or cello bow and use it to activate the piano wires without any impact, guess what...mist (if not all) of that Inharmonicity disappears. There is a difference between free vibration and bowed vibration.

Okay, now to what happens with your ears when a note is struck. We don't hear with our ears...we only collect information with them. This information is then transmitted to the brain which now interprets the information, translating that into what we call "hearing". When a note is struck (e.g in the middle of the piano) the ear/brain takes in the full spectrum of ALL the PARTIALS being generated, which in a piano are all SHARP to the fundamental to one degree or another. The brain is so fast at deciphering what is going in total that it instantly calculates what higher frequencies SHOULD sound like in order to sound "in tune" with the lower ones (and vice versa in the bass).

So, now your brain is expecting other notes to sound "harmonious" with everything else, but since the piano's partial structure is not harmonious (rather inherently inharmonious on the sharp side) adjustments are needed to compromise this situation so as to give the illusion of harmony. The tuner carefully compromises all the intervals (including octaves) in order to create this illusion that fools the brain into believing what dies not actually exist. It's a very carefully crafted thing (a good tuning that makes it all work). Not everyone can do it satisfactorily. There are good tuners that understand these deep things, and there are tooners that watch lights and do what the machine tells them to do. There can be a big difference because a machine is not a human, and definitely is not a brain, nor has ears. It does math really good, but there's more involved than math.

Anyway, hopefully this helps you "see" things better as to why they are the way they are.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Someday I'll work up the nerve to write up the system of "hyper-concert" tuning I developed and used at the peak of my skills, and even then, only for the most discerning artists - not everyday, just a few times a year.

It is, shall we say, just a wee bit idiosyncratic?

And uh, quite hard to do - AT ALL.

IT CAN TAKE A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG TIME.

I'd expect a fair hearing from a quite advanced tuning mind such as yours at least.

(But more "you, sir, are nuts" or "you're joking, right?" or "that's impossible" or "bro, do you even tune?" reactions, I'll wager.)

(The most rational response would be "OK, maybe that works, MAYBE, but jeez, is the effort worth it?")

(Oh, and there's sorta an alternate universe music theory underpinning, to conceptualize what's being done, and why, and which explains why the "how" works how it does, and why that "how" is the only "how" that gets you to "there", lol.)

wink
You'd better hurry up and post it after a teaser like that!


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Then there's the matter of the program.
To get a really nice c7 and c8 played together needs a different setting from an arpeggio from c7 to c8 (as in what the brain is predicting) so the tuner needs to know which music is going to be performed. Set for arpeggio an octave played as a unison will scream.


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Yes!

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by kiwiinkorea
All helpful, thank you. I was actually aware of the idea of inharmonicity, ambrozy, but your explanation of it gave it to me in a better perspective.

If I have correctly understood what is written in your replies, my suspicion is correct: if my tuner were to apply less stretch to my piano, those upper notes, which now sound pretty on pitch (if I play, say G1 and G7, the G1 doesn't seem sharp nor the G7 flat relative to each other), then the upper notes might sound a tiny bit flat. Have I understood it correctly? Given that those notes are not played all that often, that would be preferable to my ear if the middle registers sound, as a result, slightly less bright.

Again I think the answer is "it depends". However, in general methinks you've got the picture.


Peter Grey Piano Doctor


Peter W. Grey, RPT
New Hampshire Seacoast
www.seacoastpianodoctor.com
pianodoctor57@gmail.com
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Another way of looking at it:
An octave can be wide, narrow, and clean, all at the same time. It depends on which pair of partials you’re tuning.

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Kiwi-

Perri Knize was not a very good pianist, and her book is full of misleading thoughts, generally proving that she is the most sensitive person in the world.

Marc had expressed a willingness to demonstrate his tuning to a Piano Technicians Guild event. When I told Perri about this she said "On, no. It's only THE TUNING if I hear it and approve. Marc doesn't always get it right."

I suggest if possible, find a tuner who can use an ETD to produce a Pure 12ths tuning. This is an accoustically objective tuning based on the scale of your piano. (The "stretch" is controlled and even throughout the piano.) From there you can ask for any modifications you need.

But I would ask: "Do you want to be a musician or a vibration mystic?"

To my knowledge, none of the great musicians are so picky about piano tunings as Ms Knize.
They worry about things like phrasing, tempo, rubato, tenuto, accelerando, articulation, pedal subtleties, voicing, style and so on, all the wonderful things about interpretation.


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A vibration mystic? Far from it. I'm first and foremost a pianist. All I want is for my piano to sound as pleasing to my ear as possible. Whether it is brighter or more mellow, the least one can hope for is consistency throughout the registers.

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Consistency in whatever "stretch" protocol the tuner applies is generally the most important factor. Of course good unisons is paramount.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Originally Posted by An Old Square
All intervals get stretched, when any stretch is applied.

When a note (going up) is stretched (sharp), every interval it is a part of is also stretched (sharp).

When a note (going down) is stretched (flat), every interval it is a part of is also stretched (flat).

It is not possible to add stretch (extra stretch that is, beyond just accounting for inharmonicity), to one type of interval, such as a fifth, without stretch being added to all the intervals that stretched note also happens to be a member of.

Say one is stretching the F5-C6 fifth sharp. The G5-C6 fourth is also automatically stretched, as is Aflat5-C6 major third, etc.

I think of stretch as having three basic levels.

1. The minimum stretch beyond the "book" mathematical frequencies needed to account for inharmonicity.

2. The stretch needed *beyond the above #1 anti-inharmonicity stretch* to achieve a subjectively beautiful tuning.

3. The stretch *beyond the above #2 stretch* needed to achieve a a subjectively beautiful tuning *for those people for whom the #2 amount of stretch above, still leaves the tuning sounding, to *that set of people*, subjectively flat.

Less than a #2 level stretch sounds flat to everyone with an ear.

More than a #3 level stretch sounds painfully sharp to nearly all people (and #3 sounds somewhat sharp to all those who naturally prefer a #2).

All of the above (#2 and above that is) is on a smooth spectrum, where there is no clear and definite divisions between #2 and #3 and sharper than #3, with highly subjective factors pertaining to each individuals musical taste (soft wiring) and unique auditory physiological responses (hard wiring) determining where those (soft vague) boundaries lie.

Wait, wait, wait! See my post in the hammers thread... Then, please reply!


I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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