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Practicing on an old grand...? (Read 1283 times)

Offline rogerbann

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Practicing on an old grand...?
« on: April 06, 2016, 01:16:38 PM »
Dear musicians,
I was not sure where to put this question. My youngest son is an active player and is developing fast (fathers opinion :) ).
We have an old 6'3" Malmsjo-grand from 1901 and a decent console. The grand has a nice touch and great tone, but the pitch is slightly lower (427Hz) than the standard 441Hz.
We are not sure how the pin block of this 115-y old lady would take an attempt to raise the pitch...

So, by your opinion, will this situation affect the development of a young pianist (muscle, eye, audio) and in which areas?


With best regards,

A less musical father

Offline indianajo

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #1 on: April 06, 2016, 02:28:58 PM »
A=427 was normal before the mid-1920's.  The Germans were the ones that raised it I believe. 
The overtones of the upper two octaves of strings may be unpleasant if it was tuned up to A440.  Scales changed.  That is the distance between the pins and hook were changed to accommodate the new pitch. 
I would say leave it at 427. 
It shouldn't affect training of the piano student.  Singers with perfect pitch that use your piano may be annoyed, but they have to learn to deal with it.  Some major orchestras are going to A=442. 
Orchestras that play historic instruments may be at 427 already, or something lower. 


Offline iansinclair

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #2 on: April 06, 2016, 02:30:44 PM »
The difference in pitch is not something to worry about -- and if it hasn't been raised, but is in tune with itself, I for one would keep it that way.  The instrument will be much happier.

It is possible that if your son has a very very good ear for pitch that he may find that he is able to recognize that other instruments are tuned to the modern standard.  This is particularly true if he is also a singer, since there is a real muscular/nervous connection to pitch for singers.  Even that, though, is not likely to present a problem.

As to which instrument to use -- use the grand.  You say it has a nice touch and great tone, and I'm not a bit surprised.  Keep it in tune with itself -- don't raise it!! -- and be happy.
Ian

Offline michael_c

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #3 on: April 06, 2016, 02:35:21 PM »
If the instrument is in tune within itself at A = 427 Hz it will not be a problem. Before international efforts were made in the 19th century to standardise concert pitch, musicians had to cope with important pitch differences between organs in different churches or orchestras in different towns. Pianos or harpsichords at home would be tuned to whatever pitch was convenient. This didn't stop composers producing great music.

Mozart had to accept different concert pitches depending on where he travelled, but he preferred that his instruments be tuned to A=422, so your piano is not far from Mozart's ideal!


Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #4 on: April 06, 2016, 03:34:10 PM »
Thank you for your valuable opinions. Actually my son was the first to react - he immediately told us that the keys were in tune but "everything felt low". The old grand has a very strong bass, so I thought his reaction came that way, but he insisted to check it.
Somebody did say that the later ability to sight-read notes could be affected; seeing a note, connecting it to certain sound and performing the movement...I was wondering if that is theoretical or empirical knowledge...
He plays very well from memory and catches the melodies very quickly, so I was a bit worried that this could "scratch his harddisk"...
Likewise I feel we shouldn't scare the old grand, but leave her to her best...

Offline michael_c

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #5 on: April 06, 2016, 04:29:06 PM »
Thank you for your valuable opinions. Actually my son was the first to react - he immediately told us that the keys were in tune but "everything felt low". The old grand has a very strong bass, so I thought his reaction came that way, but he insisted to check it.
Somebody did say that the later ability to sight-read notes could be affected; seeing a note, connecting it to certain sound and performing the movement...I was wondering if that is theoretical or empirical knowledge...
He plays very well from memory and catches the melodies very quickly, so I was a bit worried that this could "scratch his harddisk"...
Likewise I feel we shouldn't scare the old grand, but leave her to her best...

I don't think there is any truth in the idea that his sight-reading ability could be affected: as I already said composers such as Mozart coped with variations of pitch much more important than the difference between 427 and 440 Herz. On the contrary, he will gain in flexibility and this may make it easier for him to learn transposing (an important art if he ever starts accompanying singers).

Treat the grand piano with loving care! Get a good piano technician to attend to it and make sure that the relative humidity in the room stays as constant as possible – it shouldn't be less than about 40% or more than 60%, but the most important thing is that it changes as little as possible.

Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #6 on: April 06, 2016, 04:56:47 PM »
Thank you for a good point of view :)!
Yes, we have the grand in a very large room, in a wooden house, on a wooden floor with a humifier at 50%.
 I am a poor amateur myself at the piano, but I just love that touch and sound...

Offline briansaddleback

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #7 on: April 06, 2016, 06:22:09 PM »
Dear musicians,
I was not sure where to put this question. My youngest son is an active player and is developing fast (fathers opinion :) ).
We have an old 6'3" Malmsjo-grand from 1901 and a decent console. The grand has a nice touch and great tone, but the pitch is slightly lower (427Hz) than the standard 441Hz.
We are not sure how the pin block of this 115-y old lady would take an attempt to raise the pitch...

So, by your opinion, will this situation affect the development of a young pianist (muscle, eye, audio) and in which areas?


With best regards,

A less musical father
It is fine to practice on
Work in progress:

Rondo Alla Turca

Offline jimroof

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #8 on: April 10, 2016, 04:48:04 AM »
I learned to play on a piano that was a full half step flat. 

The only real issue would be if the student has perfect pitch.  Being that flat might tend to be confusing at times.
Chopin Ballades
Chopin Scherzos 2 and 3
Mephisto Waltz 1
Beethoven Piano Concerto 3
Schumann Concerto Am
Ginastera Piano Sonata
L'isle Joyeuse
Feux d'Artifice
Prokofiev Sonata Dm

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #9 on: April 10, 2016, 04:57:24 AM »
So long as the rest of the piano is consistent, and the action, pedals, etc. aren't horrifically warped, you'll be fine, albeit anyone (pianist) who listens to him play will probably be annoyed. Recordings would be interesting to hear.
Many period instruments of Bach-Chopin, right up until about 1900, were at varying pitches and for that reason, give varying tone qualities. I actually just recently performed the first movement of the Beethoven Tempest sonata on a fortepiano of my teacher's; quite a difference, but not at all due to the tuning (~428 hz).
I'd be interested to hear some of his playing on this piano.
Cheers! 
Jazz Ambassador 8)

Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #10 on: April 10, 2016, 05:11:47 PM »
I will try to make a decent recording of him playing Sibelius Valse Triste ...us Finns have a soft spot for melancholy ;)...and the piece has a lot of variation.

Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #11 on: April 12, 2016, 05:01:32 PM »
Hi!

Here´s a recording off his practice today. Sibelius Valse Triste. I am sorry for the dubious quality. The computer mic could not quite take it....

Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #12 on: April 13, 2016, 05:27:56 PM »
A slightly better recording of my son playing Sibelius on the old Malmsjö-grand. The age difference between the piano and player is 100 years :)

Offline rogerbann

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Re: Practicing on an old grand...?
«Reply #13 on: June 20, 2016, 08:08:26 AM »
An update.
We've had 10 weeks with the 115y old Malmsjö-grand and it's been a dream. She does not look like much,  but the sound and touch are great and she is out for a spin 1-2 hrs a day...
Due to humidity in summer, the pitch has risen a bit and is now just 3-4 Hz off the 441...
Great bass and clear upper range  ;D !