Twangy strings

Twangy strings

Why do some of the strings sound ‘twangy’ on my upright piano? I don’t have a very good ear for pitch but my piano is a lovely Steinway model K.

When did you last have the piano tuned? A piano needs tuning regularly, particularly one such as yours which will most probably have a very clear tone and therefore show the slightest movement out of tune. There are three aspects to tuning a piano; temperament, octaves and unisons, all of which must be addressed very carefully by the tuner if the result is to sound satisfactory. The temperament scale is the first octave set by the tuner where the pitch of each note is set against every other note in the scale so that the resultant tuning will be in equal temperament, enabling the pianist to play in any key. Octaves are then set to this temperament, slightly rising in the treble and falling in the bass. The final aspect of tuning is setting the unisons (the two or three strings which comprise one note) so that they sound as one. It is the unisons that are the first to be noticed going out of tune by most people and that is when they sound ‘twangy’. Because the piano is a ‘live’ instrument, sometimes unisons go out and then back into tune according to the weather. If the piano is persistently twangy, it’s time to call the tuner.