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Piano Tuning with a head cold?
 

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/25/13 11:23 AM

Piano Tuning with a head cold?

On a music forum I frequent, the mention of a head cold or Pseudoephedrine use is claimed to cause a semi tone off in perception.

True?

This could make playing/performing, unless solo, a real challenge. I of course realize now why I am so terrible musically, perpetual semi tone off. Question is flat or sharp? ;)


Was, or rather is, it Dan here that tunes pie-annes?

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dfcas
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 2574
Location: hillbilly heaven

4/25/13 1:43 PM

We don't use pitch much in piano tuning aurally. You need to match a pitch reference( either electronic or a fork) then you need to know what intervals sound like. 3rd,4ths, 5ths,6ths, and octaves. Once you get close, you use "beats" , the clashing of overtones, to set a beat rate. No interval is perfect, and no interval should sound like a wolf. But we really don't need standalone pitch. I've tuned with a cold many times and its only harder in that its just harder to hear.

When you "chime" tune a guitar its the beats you are extinguishing.

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Andy M-S
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 3201
Location: Hamden (greater New Haven) CT

4/25/13 1:50 PM

That reminds me...

I do the beat extinguish method of tuning too, at least for a first slice.

This discussion reminds me of when I was a ham operator in the '70s, and some hams would wire a pair of LEDs (very crude, low-output compared to today) across a speaker, and use the illuminations to visually check for a "zero beat" setting. Back in those pre-digital days, we tuned the rigs with large variable capacitors (or, if you had the money and bought Collins rigs, variable inductors) and we used crystal-based calibrators to throw out a known signal every 100 KHz or so so we could adjust the dials.

Man, it has been a long time.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/25/13 3:43 PM

WTF did Andy just say ??


;)

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Andy M-S
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 3201
Location: Hamden (greater New Haven) CT

4/25/13 3:53 PM

Not much...

I was rambling...

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/25/13 4:09 PM

Speaking of music et al. I just got introduced to Véronic DiCaire. Well, a data stream. ;)

She is a singer impersonator. I was floored.

example here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKCVDzApbZw

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Matthew Currie
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 773
Location: Vermont

4/26/13 7:43 AM

I have tuned a few pianos, but I confess I use an electronic device to get the basic pitch.

What Andy is saying (at least I presume...)is that, because most notes on a piano have multiple strings, once a single string is tuned, the others can be tuned to match it by listening for beat frequencies. When two differing frequencies are played together, they create a third, which is the difference between them. As you approach equality, the beat frequency slows down and disappears. That, at least, is the basic idea. Real piano tuners, of which I am not one, have other compound-frequency tricks to get temperament and the like just right, but that's more than I need to keep the piano from driving people out of the house, or scaring the mice.

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Andy M-S
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 3201
Location: Hamden (greater New Haven) CT

4/26/13 8:29 AM

Matthew Gots It...

Grab a guitar and pluck the bottom E string while resting your finger (but not pushing down) on the string exactly over the 5th fret. While that string continues to sound, do the same thing at the 7th fret of the next (A) string. You should hear precisely the same note. You have just generated two copies of the same note, the same frequency, one on each string.

If the instrument is precisely in tune to itself, the two harmonic notes should be exactly the same (at least in theory). If they are not, you will hear a rising-and-falling sound, which amounts to the *difference* between the notes. This is called (by ham radio operators, at least) a "beat frequency." You need to adjust the tuning until this "difference" goes away--or as hams would say, until you reach "zero beat."


Technological Discursion (plus possible inaccuracies due to age):

Since the crude tuning systems of the time (air-gap capacitors tuned with mechanical dials) were not perfectly linear (a dial might be divided into 1 kilohertz (KHz) indicator divisions, but as you turned the dial to get a higher or lower frequency, the divisions became increasingly inaccurate indicators), hams used tools like "crystal calibrators," which used a carefully tuned vibrating crystal as the basis of a low-power standard signal that appeared every 100 KHz. Because the signal was wired straight into the receiver, it was powerful enough to be clearly recognizable.

Thus, if you were looking for a signal at 7,321 KHz (as you might be, if you had a scheduled contact with another ham), you might first set your dial to 7,300 KHz. If the signal of the crystal calibrator was not at a dial reading of 7,300 KHz, but slightly offset, you would get an audio tone as you tuned into the calibrator's signal. You then knew you had to adjust your dial so that it aligned precisely with the known standard signal at 7,300 KHz, and you did this by adjusting the system until when your dial said 7,300, you had "zero beat" with the calibrator. You could then fairly reliably move your dial "up" to 7,321 KHz with some confidence that you really WERE at 7,321 KHz, and not at some unknown offset from it.

Trick was, ham stations could be physically noisy, so it wasn't always possible to "hear" zero beat. the LEDs wired across the speaker, however, would flash with the audio signals until you reached zero beat, and so could be used as a tool to assist in tuning.

As I said, a discursion, and pretty far afield!

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/26/13 10:08 AM

I find the problem with the 5th/7th harmonic method is that when the intonation on the guitar is not spot on you wind up out of tune up high. Fine if you stay below the 4th fret chording and playing chorded songs for the most part. [If the nut ain't cut too high that is]

I do a combination of that with a 12 fret harmonic with the octave above 3rd on the next sting listening for the oscillation/beat to subside. And you can still do the octave above 3rd method on the g to b sting. Frequently, and depending on the string gauge, I find certain strings will be slightly flat at the 12th when 5/7th harmonic tuned. Especially heavier low E/A on acoustic when .58 gauge range low E is used. Not so much with a 42/46 ga. low E on light ga. electric sets. Flat wounds less so, seems those are easier to not make with imperfections. And cost reflected too. ;)

So it seems it can be a compromise, a few cents off depending on a few things. If an electric VS acoustic, type winding, gauge, age, and quality/consistency of the strings. I have hand cut compensated nuts [mostly] and even bar saddles on acoustics. You can spend a lot if time getting it near perfect for playing all up and down the fretboard.

But you can spend a lot of time doing it for naught to have a ham fisted player playing lower notes sharp. Especially where the space between the frets is ample [down low] and ease of pressing the strings so hard as to sharpen notes. Even more so perhaps than how off all but the worst guitars can be to my ears. And most ears listening do not hear 3-4 cents off or close IMO.

A really experienced guitar player with good ears will modulate with finger pressures to make notes in chords while fretting/playing the least out of tune involuntarily.

Not to mention switching from your electric with slinky light ga. string to 13-50 string steel string acoustic will make you more honest. [or more out of tune]

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Andy M-S
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 3201
Location: Hamden (greater New Haven) CT

4/26/13 10:27 AM

Lots of factors

BTW, I bought my first guitar (an Ibanez 335 copy) with flatwounds recently. I like it a lot!

Steel-string accoustics seem (to me) to generate a "fuzzier" sound (rich with overtones) so tuning problems are a little less obvious; electrics (in my sole opinion, likely) transmit something closer to the root note of the string sans overtones. Hence the "thin" sound you get with an undistorted electric, and the popularity of fuzz and overdrive, etc., as effects.

Good point on the skills of good players keeping things in tune while playing.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/26/13 11:53 AM

BTW, I bought my first guitar (an Ibanez 335 copy) with flatwounds recently. I like it a lot!

Especially good for solo work. Wound string zipp noises are way more obvious when there are no other instrument in the mix.

I have a set on a 80s Epiphone 335, and I had some on a Godin Kingpin II. I actually traded the KP-II recently as other than the heavier weight, the 335 suites the need I wanted to try the Godin for.

Andy, that trade may interest you. I traded the Godin for a Bandmaster Reverb converted Vibroverb Clone Fender Amp.

Chassis is a 1973 BMR put in a 115 combo ala VibroVerb, with a Weber California 15, black faced circuit, all NewOldStock tubes, new caps, and Output Transformer changed out for 8 OHMs to bigger iron for the task. In other words done right and no expense spared. It will never be worth what a stock Fender Amp can be, but I got it to play through. I am glad i am not the one that took on the expense to do the conversion.

The 335 is a cool rare guitar I got in Nashville. If you are a 335 clone fan, you'd appreciate it. It has a nice Open Book style headstock instead of the long goofy Epiphone headstocks. It is chunky in the weight dept as compared to the ThinLine Tele I made for myself, and the KP-II, but best close 335 so far I have had, and I have had a few.


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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/26/13 12:17 PM

Back to the subject of intonation / tuning. Google
Earvana Nut. I have made some along those lines. Well, got the concept from having bought one way back when. Anyone who is interested and understands why intonation on fretted instrument is important will appreciate the concept/function.


Pic of one here: http://i299.photobucket.com/albums/mm307/rscornutt/Earvana%20nut/Earvana002.jpg

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Andy M-S
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 3201
Location: Hamden (greater New Haven) CT

4/26/13 1:10 PM

That's quite the nut!

Here is a twin of my Ibanez.



I also looked at an Epiphone Dot, but the neck felt kind of chunky to me. The Ibanez was used and on sale cheap, and I liked the look and feel, sooooooo there I was.

Amps are fun, but I got into enough trouble with high voltages in my ham years. I'm reasonably happy with solid state (and these days, low power :-( solid state). Still, sending it through the tubes does things to the sound. I picked up a little Fender Mustang (IIRC) with all the neat electronic trimmings. I haven't hooked it up to my computer yet, but I'll have to in order to download some of my favorite random configurations, before I start approaching it systematically (I have one tweaked setting that sounds like the intro and bridge in "Teenage Wasteland").

I like the headstock on your Epi more than most; I also like the big Ibanez HS; it reminds me of the one my MC200 had, back in the day.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/26/13 6:51 PM

All the ArtCores I have diddled where at least Epiphone level. Not counting the Historic series Epiphones. I had a Japan made Historic that was as good as the 60s ES-345 I had 100 years ago. The limited production John Lennon Natural Revolution. One of the best guitars I have put my fingers on.

I played a 100 year old parlor guitar the guy I swapped the KP-II for the Amp had. Brazilian Rosewood like I had never scene. He said he had a lot of work done to make it as playable as it was. I could not get over the projection and tone for such a small bodied acoustic. We plugged in with DI and player for near an hour... He played guitar well for a bass player. ;) Come to think of it I started on bass. ;)

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ErikS
Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 8310
Location: Slowing boiling over in the steamy south, Global Warming is real

4/27/13 4:15 AM

20+ years of fighter jets and small arms. Even with hearing protection I could not tell you if an instrument was in tune or not.

I did some snorkeling once and went to deep without clearing, that left a mark too.

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Sparky
Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 17129
Location: Portland, OR

4/27/13 11:06 AM

Erik, I was firing my cousins 44 mag with some DIY load years back. We are outside in KY, nearest house mile away etc. I don't need ear protection...

Wrong! About a week of wondering if I did permanent damage, which it sure seemed like, the ringing quit in my left ear.

I can't imagine being in proximity to turbines on a daily basis even with protection would not take a toll.

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ErikS
Joined: 19 May 2005
Posts: 8310
Location: Slowing boiling over in the steamy south, Global Warming is real

4/27/13 2:16 PM

Let me guess you are right handed. A flight doc gave me a hard time years ago, my audiograms are classic for a person who is right handed and shot without protection. Which as a teen I did a lot of.

As a right handed long gun shooter your left ear is positioned to get the bulk of the blast while your right ear is protected by your face and skull. My left ear is junk in the high frequencies.

Shove your head in a shopvac for 12 hours and you will get some idea what a jet engine feels like.

I ALWAYS use double EPs now. Plugs and muffs for shooting and if I am on the ramp.

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dfcas
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 2574
Location: hillbilly heaven

4/27/13 3:23 PM

I've been wanting to write more on the piano tuning, to help others understand why I say we don't use musical pitch much.

Guitar strings and piano strings emit a broad array of overtones, called partials. These partials are somewhat peculiar to all instruments and give them their characteristic voice. A flute is mostly fundamental and an oboe has a much different set of partials.

The only beats we can use in tuning are unison beats. Two strings sounded together don't make a third pitch. Its the pulsing that causes them to be heard.

If we play A3 (A below middle C) on a piano, the dominant overtones that A3 creates are A4,E5, A6,C#6, E6, .

If we play F3 we get F4,c5,F5,A6etc. Note that Both F3 and A3 coincide at A6. Almost.
Due to the stiffness of piano wire, the overtones tend to run sharp, and they dont line up perfect. When we play F3-A3 together, we get a beat pattern (A6) and we use this to set the interval distance. In this case we set it wide of perfect at 6.92(7) beats per second, which is a rapid beating interval.

Also, on a piano the unison strings on each note are -slightly- different lengths. This means that they will only match perfectly at one place. Tuning by ear, we make the best overall choice. Since electronic tuning devices only listen to 1 partial(never the fundamental) they have trouble with unisons. A $1500 piano tuner (and all cheaper piano tuning programs) therefore suggest that unisons be tuned by ear.

On a guitar, if you play the first and second string together, they coincide at the "B" at the 19th fret on the first string. If you listen carefully you will hear this beat pattern as you tune this fourth interval around both sides of perfect.

Are you bored yet?

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daddy-o
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 3257
Location: Springfield

4/27/13 4:36 PM

I'm still getting over the fact that a 4th above a note is 5 half steps. The notation is so flaky to me. Lots to memorize if that's your thing. With all the complexity possible it's amazing it comes together.

Keep writing, I take it to the piano to hear what you mean.

You wouldn't happen to be a technician (PTG) would you?

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dfcas
Joined: 11 Jan 2004
Posts: 2574
Location: hillbilly heaven

4/27/13 5:37 PM

Its the 4th note in a scale, which is whoie step whole step half step, whole step whole step whole step half step, or in the case of the c scale, C1 D2 E3 F4 G5 A6 B7 C8. C-F is a fourth.

After tuning the F3-A3, I tune A3-D4, at 1 Beat Per Second wide of perfect. That gives the first test, F-A is 7 BPS, F-D is 8 BPS. I then tune F4 to F3, slightly wide of perfect, 1/2 BPS.

I used to be a member of the PTG, but no longer. I am a full time technician.

Note that the lowest A on the piano is A-0, Bb is O, low B is O, and C is the first 1. Yes irs weird, but that started when they added those low notes.

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daddy-o
Joined: 12 Apr 2004
Posts: 3257
Location: Springfield

4/27/13 7:15 PM

I'm pretty new at this stuff. My notation must be wrong. I'm talking IV not 4, chord changes. I think you're describing the major scale. It's like the rules for chords and notes are different.

But that kind of confusion illustrates what I'm getting at.

What I think is interesting is that without your artistry it doesn't sound right.

If you're planning a DC visit bring your tools. And I will not accept a CyclingForum discount! I'll make sure Katherine is around so you two can talk shop.

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