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The importance of tuning on performance. (Read 337 times)

Offline latrobe

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The importance of tuning on performance.
« on: May 12, 2021, 01:58:22 PM »
As a player the first interaction with the piano is the interface of the keyboard. For many playing stops there. Provided our fingers are right then the sound that results will be right. Wrong.

What is music? What's it all about? What's it made of?

Vibrations.

If the vibrations aren't right, then the air doesn't move upon us in the right way and the interface with our brains and our emotions just doesn't get it. A load of use it is understanding English if the words that are spoken are Zulu or Farsi.

This is the situation in which music has lost its meaning over the past century, leaving the sustain pedal merely as a loud pedal to provide accents. When I see a performance, of course I can hear the difference, but I see the pianist using the sustain pedal as if it was mechanically a kick-drum pedal, I know that the pianist isn't receiving the communication from the playing instructions that the composer intended and won't be communicating that to an audience.

What is a key?

The music has become dissociated from the language and the language has lost force of meaning.

Why is the changing of the tonic called a change of key?

In Italian they use the word sonority. But even Italian musicians have forgotten. Is the change from C to C# a change in sonority?

What does a key do? The real meaning of key?

What do you use it for? For unlocking and going through a door.

Where does the door go? To a different place.

When you change key on your piano do you go to a different place?

If not, it's not your fault. It's the vibrations. They haven't been tuned properly.

For the past dozen years I've been leading a change and that change is tuning.

When did you have your instrument last tuned? Many will say months ago or some will say years ago, and think it's still in tune. Why is that? Not because of any matter of musicianship but because the modern tuning was introduced in the 1870s when mass produced pianos were made in universalism and when freshly tuned, the sound glistened and impressed. And because the tuning is out of tune, one really could tolerate it going more out of tune for quite a while.

When a piano is well tuned, it should be able to achieve stillness. That stillness is not permitted in modern tuning where every major third beats equivalently and faster as you go up the scale.

That stillness is crucial both to the aural identification of keys and the colour of the rooms opened up by the doors, as well as resonance. When the instrument is capable of stillness, then the ways in which the whole instrument is able to vibrate are focused to be still in some keys, and so distinguishable from scale notes in other keys that they're not excited in vibration.

This is crucial to the use of the sustain pedal of course. And if tuned well, that sustain pedal can do what it says on the tin - to sustain. And when this happens you can restore the long pedalling instructions of both Chopin and Beethoven. And Haydn can sing instead of being played staccato. And the dour keys of F minor and C minor really do express that grief that is absent from modern performance.

The other day I went to tune for a friend http://www.nigelallcoat.org/ who likes French Baroque

and here you can hear his use of the sustain as if he was playing this in the cathedral.

And in Nice where I tune for the International Competition here's a young lad playing Bach
=7280
Listen to the reaction of the Jury after his second performance after I let on to him the secret.

Yes - all one pedal.

A little while ago I had fun tuning a horrible piano to see if the tuning would make a difference . . . and it did. My playing is really awful so please forgive me but perhaps it's possible to hear that I really couldn't get the instrument to do what I wanted without it being tuned properly


http://hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/tuning-performance-examples.htm gives an outline of recordings of the whole while over a long while and
is another friend https://ralphallwood.com/ for whom I tune.

Revising the tuning of instruments can open the door to interpretation and other worlds, allowing the piano to enter dreamstate. Would you ever think the Raindrop prelude was anything other than the way Lang Lang plays it? With resonating tuning one can hold the pedal down . . . for bars on end, playing sensitively and faster . . . and it's drizzle dropping out of the mist in a place where you can't distinguish sea from sky, with the sun breaking through and sometimes dark clouds. Anyone who's been to Valdemossa might be able to imagine.

It's really vital in performance to go to the place, to go to the time, to go to the instrument, to go to the vibrations, the tuning all of which were the inspiration of the composer at the time. Without this, the black notes on the white page are meaningless.

Here's a performance
with another friend https://www.adolfobarabino.com/ for whom I tune which might initially sound ordinary. But for me, the piece comes to the stillness of Lake Tun, mirror smooth with birds flying aloft and flurries of leaves at the bank where water laps and the music reaches new dimensions.

And yes the music can live in the romantic as well as the baroque here
=1125 a snippet with violin in a recording about to be released.

I tune in a special way, particularly in the bass and setting the scale differently, and if you would like your tuner to do something like this for you then please get them to contact me and I'll happily give instructions.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline timothy42b

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #1 on: May 12, 2021, 05:41:07 PM »
I would bet 70% of student pianos are never tuned.  Ever.  and a surprising number of piano teacher's do the same - I'm sure it's less than 70%, but probably a significant number, based on teachers I've had. 

And 30% of student pianos are digital, maybe more.  High end digitals always have historical temperaments built in and available at the press of a button. 

Tim

Offline jimf12

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #2 on: May 12, 2021, 05:45:31 PM »
Unless someone can answer "today", then I win the contest for the "When was your piano last tuned?" question.   My answer is yesterday.   

Yes it made a difference.   It was the first home tuning of a new piano, I was happy with the technician, and will be seeing him on a regular basis every six months or so.   


Offline latrobe

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #3 on: May 12, 2021, 08:51:37 PM »
It's great to hear of some understanding about the importance of tuning. But there's tuning and tuning.

It's great that the electronic keyboards have unequal temperaments - try them - but remember that as they are not acoustic instruments, however good the synthesis, they don't resonate. So to get an idea of the effect one has to go for a stronger unequal temperament on an electronic than a real instrument. Try Kirnberger III if your electronic instrument has it.

To the person who has had their instrument tuned today - great - it will drift, and the purpose of the thread detailed above is to raise awareness. If you've got an instrument tuned with a number of perfect fifths the instrument will be so well tuned, so still in sound in some keys

that you'll really notice when it slips.

Some of the links above, by the way, aren't working. Apologies. On the Nice Competition video, go to 2:01:21 to hear the young lad playing Bach.

Try
for another example of crystalline sound.

Ordinary tuning leads to ordinary playing, and music can be really much more than that.

is an 1859 concert grand Broadwood piano very likely to have been played by Clara Schumann tuned both to equal and a strong unequal temperament.

and
are particularly interesting. Heard out of context I expect potentially rude comments but if one researches the background of the Mozart Fantasias for Mechanical Clock and the purpose for their composition, one finds that performance of these pieces relies on the tuning of the instrument purely for the expression of emotion. Being for miniature organ there was no other variable other than the effect of key upon tuning.

Likewise the Mozart piano sonatas require strong unequal temperament to be understood and properly performed. The effect of tuning opens up a whole new dimension for interpretation, performance and recording.

From memory it's the 2nd Mozart sonata that's Masonic, the first movement being life, the second being all the emotions of F minor, being buried in the grave, anger, sorrow and remorse, and the 3rd movement being resurrected from the grave, full of joy and new life. This is obvious with the right tuning, a strong unqual temperament, but wholly lost on modern tuned pianos.

This, by the way,

is the sort of modern performance to which I object. No sustain, no pedal, no singing, and the reason why Haydn is neglected, and the performer entirely missed the opportunities that the key changes offer to change mood. Pianos of this date had inefficient dampers, so a performance that Haydn would have heard and expected to hear would sound nothing like the travesty of modern fashionable performance. Likewise performers who perform his F minor variations in Equal Temperament have no idea of what the composer is conveying.


(apologies for mobile phone recording here)

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline timothy42b

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #4 on: May 13, 2021, 01:35:35 PM »
There seem to be people  quite happy with the EBVT temperment, especially in the midWest US.
Tim

Offline latrobe

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #5 on: May 13, 2021, 03:14:23 PM »
Yes - I've tried EBVT but find that it doesn't do things musically and nor does it achieve what a harmonic tuning is able to do acoustically.

Best wishes

David P
David Pinnegar BSc ARCS
Promoting keyboard heritage http://www.organmatters.co.uk and performers in Unequal Temperament http://www.hammerwood.mistral.co.uk/concerts.htm

Offline johnlewisgrant

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Re: The importance of tuning on performance.
«Reply #6 on: May 20, 2021, 01:23:19 PM »
Tuning is EVERYTHING!  And, really, it can’t be separated from voicing and regulation! Even the poorest instrument can be vastly improved when properly tuned. And everything will feel different under the fingers and sound different, of course. Interpretative possibilities are expanded and transformed.

I’ve taught myself the basics of tuning, regulation and voicing exactly for all these reasons. Some—but not all—tuning software programs are useful. And you really have to know your way around a tuning hammer.