Author Topic: Tuning of church pianos  (Read 1324 times)

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David Pinnegar

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Tuning of church pianos
« on: October 28, 2012, 10:08:30 AM »
Hi!

Last weekend I went on tour tuning for a series of piano recitals.

For the piano, for the past decade I have not used equal temperament as usually adopted universally for pianos, but instead used a system with numerous perfect fifths, a variation of Werkmeister III but in which all keys can be played equally validly unlike meantone in which all keys are impossible and even WIII in which the key of Ab is painful.

For church use, the purity of the home keys suits very well most liturgical needs. Pedagogalogically, part of the attraction of learning an instrument is that of making a beautiful sound, which the purity of chords in home keys gives (leaving remote keys to be travelled to for special effect).

The proof is in the pudding. A lady from one of the venues last week end has written:
Quote
Tonight I took my music and played in the chapel on the Chickering and enjoyed it! I don't have the real theoretical musical understanding of the harmonies, (my piano lessons stopped 30 years ago!) neither am I far from having perfect pitch, but some tones and cords on that piano are just balsam. I mainly played Bach.
Maybe after all I will take piano lessons again. It would be so nice to be able to play a little bit better and gracefully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1z3o0x4dKJI is a recording of a brand new Steinway Boston tuned in such a way and choosing repertoire deliberately in the remote keys.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnYITP11UgQ is a recording live in concert of a Grotrian Steinweg which left the audience astounded in which notes singing like a soprano or violin shone through from the stilled rather than shimmering harmonic structure.

Technically, there is another advantage too. It's uncommon for all three strings of a note of a piano to all go out of tune. In equal temperament there are no landmarks of pitch - all is a fudge, and as such every string has to be refudged on each occasion the instrument is tuned. This means that instruments are kept in a state of suspended instability. In contrast, with the use of so many perfect 5ths, even without a computer or tuning aid, one can identify the one of three strings of each note that have the correct 5th relationship with the other notes of the scale and obviously these don't need to be retuned. Leaving them alone leaves them stable! As a result instruments tuned like this can become increasingly stable and capable therefore of being tuned less often.

Best wishes,

David P
« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 12:41:03 PM by David Pinnegar »
David Pinnegar, BSc ARCS

 


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