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Mon Jul 22, 2019, 12:25 PM

How does an orchestra tune for a piano concerto?

A piano sounds best when the octaves are stretched, so that high notes are perhaps 20 cents sharp, and low notes 20 cents flat, compared to tuning such that an octave is a doubling of frequency. So I'm wondering whether either the orchestra or the piano tuner makes some sort of compromise in its tuning during a performance of a piano concerto. If not, then the bassoon and piccolo, for example, would be noticeably out of tune with the piano.

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Reply How does an orchestra tune for a piano concerto? (Original post)
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2019 OP
stopbush Jul 2019 #1
no_hypocrisy Jul 2019 #3
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2019 #4
sdfernando Jul 2019 #6
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2019 #7
sdfernando Jul 2019 #8
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2019 #9
Lionel Mandrake Jul 2019 #5
empedocles Jul 2019 #2

Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 12:29 PM

1. The concertmaster steps forward, plays a DMinor chord on the piano

and the orchestra tunes to the A in that chord.

Thatís it. Any minor pitch adjustments are made on the fly. Most orchestras contract with a piano tuner who tunes the instrument to their specifications.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #1)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 01:15 PM

3. I went out with a piano tuner and learned

that his MO was to tune to pitch one key on the instrument. The rest was painstaking to tune the other keys in relation to that key and to each other. It takes hours and a fine ear to hear even a key a fraction of a pitch "off".

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Response to no_hypocrisy (Reply #3)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 01:26 PM

4. In greater detail:

The A above middle C is tuned to exactly 440 Hertz. Each octave is tuned to avoid beats between the first overtone of the lower note and the fundamental of the higher note. Because piano wire is stiff, the first overtone is more than twice the frequency of the fundamental. Thus the octaves are "stretched".

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #4)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 01:37 PM

6. Standard A440

But many Orchestras have upped to A=442. Many instruments are now built to A=442 rather than A=440.

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Response to sdfernando (Reply #6)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 02:55 PM

7. That's unfortunate but interesting!

I hadn't heard about A=442. I'd hate to see a return to the bad old days (early 20th century), when the pitches of orchestras varied all over the place, and manufacturers had to make high- and low-pitch versions of instruments.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #7)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 03:06 PM

8. You can look at the webpages for insturment manufacturers to see this in action

I play the flute and have a hand-made solid silver from the 80s. Pitched at A=440. No you can look at Haynes, Powell, Muramatsu, Pearl, just to name a few as see they are starting to make A=442. For strings, it isn't that big a deal, but for woodwinds, building at A=442 necessitates a change in the geometry of the tone-holes (I imaging for brass that would the length of the tubing) to keep the instrument "in tune". So if you play a A=440 instrument tuned to A=442 you need to make a lot more adjustment as you play a piece, same if you play A=442 pitched instrument at A=440.

Story I heard is that A=442 is "brighter" then A=440....yeah?...so A=445 is "brighter" than A=442....How "bright" does it need to get?

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Response to sdfernando (Reply #6)

Tue Jul 23, 2019, 06:54 AM

9. I did the math and found

that 442 Hz. is only 7.85 cents above 440 Hz. That's a pretty subtle change of frequency, but it's enough to make things difficult for a woodwind player.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #1)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 01:30 PM

5. Thank you.

I wonder what those specifications are.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Mon Jul 22, 2019, 12:38 PM

2. Thank you

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