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#3228013 06/25/22 10:45 AM
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Hello Professional Tuners

I am trying to understand the science of piano tuning with respect to frequencies, inharmonics, etc. I have a Steinway D that I would like tuned. I am wondering why one couldn't get the best sounding virtual digital instrument or recorded Steinway D, use frequency analysis to isolate each note, then tune each of my physical string to its electronic counterpart. I know this sounds simplistic, but does it make any sense? Has anyone tried this?

My prediction is that each piano string is unique and will create unique harmonics and inharmonics that don't match the intended tuned frequency of the perfectly tuned digital piano. It might be worth a try. Otherwise, there might be a "table" of frequencies designed for a Steinway D that all D's should try to emulate...

Thanks in advance.

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I'd suggest you just purchase a professional tuning app like PianoMeter. The Plus version would be adequate for you and the app is very easy to use. I think in the long run this would serve you much better than the plan you propose.


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Scott Kerns
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Thanks, Scott. I purchased the Pro Version of Piano Meter and am using that. However, I am interested in the science also. If I find a virtual digital instrument that I truely like, could I use this method to emulate that digital version?

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You could certainly give it a try and see what the results are but I don't think that would work very well. If I'm understanding what you want to do, it would not take into account inharmonicty, which is unique to pianos. The digital recording would be too "perfect" and probably not translate to a real piano. There are others on this forum that can help you much better than me with the science of what we do. Possibly they will chime in.


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I agree with Scott. However, if you want to understand the science, I can offer an explanation as to why your plan is flawed.

Each acoustic piano, that is every make, model and serial number has a unique set of characteristics that affect the degree of inharmonicity and the amplitudes of the individual partials. This can change, for example, when the bass strings, in particular, are replaced, but any strings replaced will affect the degree of inharmonicity for the replaced string and the cascade effect on the rest of the tuning. Scale, strike points, soundboard tension and ribs all have an effect on partial amplitudes. Hammer shape and voicing make huge changes in partial amplitudes. All these factors affect how the interval widths are chosen to create the most sonorous (least inharmonious) tuning.

The above being said, any virtual digital instrument, either purely sampled, purely synthesised, or a mix of the two, will not match your piano's unique characteristics.

A good ET, or a good aural tuner will get satisfactory results. A well regulated, well voiced piano is the essential starting point.

Last edited by prout; 06/25/22 12:01 PM.
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Originally Posted by That Guy
You could certainly give it a try and see what the results are but I don't think that would work very well. If I'm understanding what you want to do, it would not take into account inharmonicty, which is unique to pianos. The digital recording would be too "perfect" and probably not translate to a real piano. There are others on this forum that can help you much better than me with the science of what we do. Possibly they will chime in.

That's a common misconception. All of the samples in a digital piano (especially modern ones which have multiple samples for each note) contain exactly the same inharmonicity as the instruments the sample came from originally.


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