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MMD > Archives > September 2011 > 2011.09.15 > 08Prev  Next

How to Tune a Player Piano Out of Tune
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  I'll keep this as short as possible.  Myron Duffield's story
about the piano from Pittsburgh reminded me of a player piano I tuned
in Newark, New Jersey, some years ago.  It belonged to an elderly
black woman who hired me to fix the player mechanism and piano action.
After finishing the repairs, I convinced her to let me tune the piano
(you can probably sense where this is going).  After I got all done,
I played a tune for her, thinking how pleased she'd be to hear an
in-tune piano again.

Boy, was I wrong.  She started crying, but they weren't tears of joy.
Her exact words were, "You took out all the soul."  It was the only
time I've ever felt bad about tuning a piano...  As I recall, I later
wrote to the MMDigest about how to create the "honky-tonk" sound.
That was back in April and May of 2001.

What's interesting to note about the series of postings which followed
my initial posting is that I ended up remembering the experience I had
as a 12-1/2-year-old when I tuned my own piano for the first time.  As
I wrote back then, "I had this strange desire to hear 'that honky-tonk
sound' like I had heard when I visited Knott's Berry Farm.  At a loss
as to how to make the sound, I took thumb tacks and pushed one into
each of the hammer heads."

I went on to write, "However, the story doesn't end there.  Having
'basically ruined' what was left of the old hammer heads by poking them
with the tacks, I finally removed all the felt from the hammers.  That
gave me just the sound I was looking for."

So, now I'm wondering what very hard hammer heads might have in common
with a particular tuning method in creating the elusive sound that
people have been talking about...

In closing, if anyone ever runs into one of these 'magic' pianos with
that special sound, please take the time to document all of the various
aspects of the tuning.  The musical world will thank you!  :-)

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Fri 16 Sep 2011, 00:23:58 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  How, Out, Piano, Player, Tune

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