The Art of Piano Tuning – Part Two

Last month I discussed the need to stabilize the piano strings when tuning a piano. This procedure ensures that the piano will remain in tune for an extended period of time. However, even an extremely stable piano will need to be re-tuned periodically, depending on how hard and how often it is played. Likewise, a piano that is never played will eventually go out of tune due to tension on the strings that cause them to stretch out over time. As we look further into the art of piano tuning we examine the role of inharmonicity. No, this is not a topic on the Dr. Phil show. It actually describes the effect that even slight imperfections which exist in all piano strings have on the sound that they make. What follows may be a little technical but please bear with me. When a piano string is struck by the piano hammer it starts to vibrate, producing sound waves. These sound waves are measured in hertz (hz), or cycles per second. The number of cycles per second is directly related to the length of the piano string. Longer strings vibrate more slowly and therefore produce fewer cycles and a lower tone. Shorter strings vibrate faster producing more cycles and a higher tone. The number of cycles per second for the A above middle C on the […]

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