How to Tune a Piano Blog

Step-by-step procedure & proper tools

This piano tuning blog is a companion to our How to Tune a Piano Yourself tutorial. In this blog we expand on the tutorial with new information and perspectives on do-it-yourself piano tuning. If it is your first time here, visit the tutorial first.

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The Fluid Piano

Screen cap from Fluid Piano youtube video

The "Fluid Piano" is an interesting new approach to piano design. A limitation of the piano is selecting a temperament, or model from which to tune each note. There is no 'perfect" way to tune a piano. The way different frequencies interact and inharmonicity mean that we can only seek a tuning that is a best fit, that is, averages out to be pretty good overall. In Western tuning, the most common best-fit is "equal temerpament." However, that was not always the case; different temperaments have been fashionable through the centuries since the pianoforte was invented. On top of this we add the musical scales in the music traditions of other cultures, such as India's moveable 7-note scale we hear in sitar music or the quarter tones in Arabic music. A piano gets one tuning at a time. Moving between temperaments or alternative scales requires a complete re-tuning. Or, in the case quarter tones and others, the Western piano is simply incapable of a proper rendition.

Enter the Fluid Piano. This piano has sliders on each set of strings. The sliders can change the pitch in either direction. They can be changed ahead of time, or even in the middle of a played note. An out-of-tune note can be tweaked in real time, but that's not the intention. The fluid piano allows non-western melodies to be played. Furthermore, it represents new possibilities for music combining world traditions or entirely new sounds and experiences, including microtonal compositions.

The Fluid Piano shown here was custom built. It's been out for a few years now. The sound is more hammer dulcimer than piano to my ear. But check it out for yourself. We have a video introducing the instrument, but after that is a video of a performance.

05/21/12

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