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MMD > Archives > July 2012 > 2012.07.15 > 04Prev  Next

Tune Your Piano Before Presenting It On YouTube
By Gordon Stelter

Dear Everyone,  I have just returned from another excursion into
YouTube-land, where I heard several more apparently nicely restored
instruments that were painfully out of tune -- so much so that I found
them unlistenable!  Please remember that pianos are hard to record,
so an even slightly out-of-tune piano will sound much worse on YouTube
than it does in person.  (A badly out of tune one will be unbearable.)

Please also remember that many modern hammers are "hot pressed",
meaning that the felt is denser, producing a "brighter" sound than what
the piano originally had (and a heavier "touch" for hand playing).
This "brightness", too, will be augmented by all but the finest
recording equipment, coming across as harshness.

(Such hard hammers can be softened somewhat by various means, my
preferred one being carefully steaming the striking points.  But it's
better to get nice, cold-pressed hammers to begin with.  Ronsen sells
traditional, cold-pressed hammers, and some other makers, notably Abel,
are starting to also.)

I've also noticed harsh-sounding bass strings, and noticed that their
winding ends don't line up.  Windings not the same length will produce
notes with "beats", also producing this harshness.  I suggest using
Arledge bass strings from Nashville.  Mr. Arledge was unhappy with the
bass notes in the pianos he tuned for the Nashville recording studios,
so set up a custom string winding shop to make better ones.  He is at
Arledge Music Wire, 

There are other fine custom winders I've not used, though.  All these
makers' strings are a bit more costly than "the cheap stuff", but worth
every penny, often resulting in better-sounding strings than the piano
originally had!

Finally, if you have a coin piano with a xylophone, please measure the
pitch of the xylophone and tune the piano to that.  I've heard several
recordings where the xylophone seems to be at A-435, but the piano is
at A-440.

I hope I don't sound too grumpy, and I recognize the urge to put ones'
newly-restored instrument out where all can enjoy it, but it's tragic
to have to shut off YouTube videos of some favorite songs just because
the posters, in their enthusiasm and haste, failed to have the
instrument carefully tuned first.

Respectfully and with thanks,
Gordon Lee Stelter

(Message sent Sun 15 Jul 2012, 08:37:15 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Before, It, Piano, Presenting, Tune, Your, YouTube

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