Duplex Scaling

Duplex Scaling

  Aliquot Scaling Duplex Scaling What is duplex scaling? Does it make much difference, and is it more difficult or time consuming to tune? And what are tone collectors? Do they make much difference? Duplex scaling, built into some grand pianos, can be found on that portion of the string in the treble section between the back bridge pin and the hitch pin which is normally the non-speaking part of the string and dampened with a strip of cloth. Where there is duplex scaling this section is deliberately left open to resonate in sympathy with the speaking part of the string and add brightness to the upper partials. When designed properly the duplex scaling should be tuned to a fixed interval of the speaking length of the string such as a fifth, twelfth, octave or double octave. Most pianos with this feature have a factory set tuned length; some are tuneable but are rarely tuned as regularly as conventional tuning. The overall effect of a piano with resonating lengths of string producing dissonant overtones can be described either as powerful or having a tinny, cymbal-like ringing sound; larger pianos certainly benefit more from the positive qualities of duplex scaling than small ‘baby’ grands. Inevitably, the top treble section will also have a ringing section of the string between the top bridge or agraffe and the wrest pin (tuning pin). Where the piano is used in a domestic setting, this section is often damped by the tuner to achieve a clearer, less ringing sound in the treble. Pianos with duplex scaling tend to require more skill to achieve a firm...
Effect of environment

Effect of environment

I recently inherited my Grandmother’s piano and, having moved it into my house, found it is not the same piano at all – the tuning is awful and notes are sticking – can moving a piano really have such a drastic effect on its condition? This is actually quite a common problem and is partly due to the moving process but more to do with the change in environment to which the piano has been subjected. Moving a piano, even from one room to another, can upset the tuning just because the temperature might be different, or because it catches the evening sun, or it’s now sitting in a draught. It is quite possible that, if the piano has been kept in an unheated or barely heated front parlour for many years and is then moved suddenly into a warm centrally heated house, this type of problem will occur or indeed, be almost inevitable. Dampness and even mildew can lie dormant deep inside the piano without appearing to have any effect until it is moved into a warmer, drier environment where the piano will mysteriously develop classic symptoms of damp such as sticking notes or a sluggish action. The only solution is to wait until the piano has completely acclimatised to its new position before having it properly tuned and repaired which may possibly entail quite a major...
Sustaining treble

Sustaining treble

The top treble notes on my piano ring on unlike all the other notes which stop when I release the key. Can something be done about this? You have noticed something which is common to all pianos and the short answer to this question is no! There are two qualities about a piano string, volume and sustain, which need to be addressed when designing a piano. The bass strings tend to produce the loudest sound and you will notice that for the first octave or so, there is just a single copper wound string for each note. Moving up, this becomes two strings as they approach the treble around the C below Middle C where the strings are made of steel and become trichords or three strings per note. The strings are also becoming thinner or lighter in gauge as the notes rise in frequency up the treble. The reason for all these changes is to maintain the volume, as much as possible, throughout the whole compass of the piano as the natural tendency is for both volume and sustain to drop as you rise through the treble. Most notes have pieces of felt called dampers which fall back on the strings when the key is released to finish the note and stop it sustaining. There comes a point, usually around two octaves above Middle C, where the sustain of the note is so weak that the dampers are no longer required and would actually make the note sound oddly cut short if they were damped. You can find this point on your piano if you listen carefully for...
PTA Superior?

PTA Superior?

Are piano tuners who are members of the PTA really any better than those who are not? This is an interesting question and one which doesn’t have a straightforward answer. If you are looking for a tuner and don’t have a recommendation to go on, then getting in contact with a Member of the Pianoforte Tuners’ Association (MPTA) either through the PTA website or in Yellow Pages or similar, is an essential first step. To become a Member, applicants must have had at least five years experience in tuning pianos and pass an advanced examination in tuning, repairing and general piano knowledge. This requirement is the Association’s greatest strength but also a major stumbling block in attracting new Members amongst existing established tuners. Some very good tuners are reluctant to put themselves through the ordeal of being judged by their peers and manage well enough on their own. There are, however, plenty of ‘tuners’ out there with no formal training and no real skill either who can fool some of the people often enough to supplement an income derived elsewhere, possibly teaching piano. Members of the PTA have to conform to certain standards or face possible disciplinary measures via a complaints procedure, which is, happily, rarely used! As was mentioned in the last issue of Pianist, training opportunities for student piano tuners may be reaching crisis point which could encourage more and more amateurs to call themselves tuners. Why take that risk when employing a qualified tuner who is a Member of the Association is just as...
Bass tone

Bass tone

The bass section beyond F below middle C on my upright piano has a dull thudding sort of tone, what could be causing this? Bass strings are quite different to treble strings in that they have a copper winding around a steel core. If the piano is getting on in years then the strings will also be old; one feature of bass strings is the development of a ‘tubby’ tone, losing the sparkle of higher frequencies they once had. If you think how often a violinist or guitarist changes his strings, you’ll appreciate that piano strings last a very long time indeed. It is sometimes possible for your tuner to brighten the tone by putting an extra twist to each bass string, putting more tension on the windings, but it may be that your strings simply need replacing. This can be done in isolation to the treble strings but it is often necessary to replace all the strings in the piano. A set of bass strings will have to be made specifically for your piano from a pattern which your technician will make and send to the stringmaker. There is also a gloomier diagnosis for the cause of poor tone in the bass section; it could be a fault with the bridge, which is that part of the piano which carries the vibrations of the string to the soundboard. If this has become damaged (woodworm?) or detached from the soundboard or if the pins which hold the strings in position are loose then you are likely to describe the tone as ‘dead’ or...
Piano terms

Piano terms

I have been looking at second-hand pianos from various outlets and I’m confused by the different terms that dealers use to describe the work done to their pianos, such as ‘refurbished’ and ‘reconditioned’. What do they mean? It is no surprise that you are confused! However, until all piano dealers agree to use a standard set of definitions to indicate the amount of work undertaken on a piano, these terms will be vague and interchangeable. The PTA has initiated just such a scheme to formally standardise terms used to describe the condition of second-hand pianos which carries the full support of the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology, the Association of Blind Piano Tuners and the Music Industries Association. These definitions refer to the condition of the piano and the work undertaken, are quite precise in the minimum requirements for each category, and range from ‘rebuilt’ through ‘reconditioned’ to ‘renovated’ and ‘tidied up’. For example, ‘rebuilt’ should mean that major structural work has been undertaken, including replacement of at least one of the following: soundboard, wrest plank, substantial casework parts, or action and keys. Repinning, restringing, etc. must have been done. Armed with a full set of definitions (available from the PTA Secretary), you could return to your dealers and politely ask which pianos conform to these...