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Cents, Cycles, Tuning
By John A. Tuttle

Hi all,

I always enjoy talking about the art of piano tuning. And I feel relatively confident that every tuner has his own set of rules regarding changing the relative pitch of a piano. Personally, I term any pitch change of more than 20 cents as an "aggravated pitch change" because it aggravates the balance of tension on the plate. But more to point, what always concerns me, as a tuner, is how well the piano will hold it's tune after I leave.

To that end, I try to stay abreast of the latest information regarding tuning. So, about eight months ago I bought "The Educated Piano" by Ed McMorrow.

On page 73, he states, "When a piano is badly out of tune (more than three Hz off from A-440), it is wise to start by doing a rough tuning that will leave the piano approximately at pitch, so the piano can be fine tuned. Since the plate, soundboard, pinblock and rim structure have a certain amount of elasticity, they will respond to large changes in overall string tension created by the tuner's adjustments by changing the pitch of the strings. If the piano is off by 10 Hz or more, you should retune the piano within one to three weeks of rough-tuning it. The basic rule is: The piano must be close to being in tune in order to be tuneable."

I'm just looking for some common ground here since there seems to be a rather large gray area with regards to changing the relative pitch. Precision is great but I'm always reminded of a phrase I heard some years ago which goes, "The closer you get to perfection, the easier it is to spot imperfection."

Q. Can we even agree on what constitutes a large pitch change? Is it 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents?

Musically, John A. Tuttle
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(Message sent Tue 5 Nov 1996, 17:12:43 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

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