Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

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Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 09 Dec 2011, 21:44

Is it a bad idea to ask a tuner to tune a piano with a Bach temperament? Do tuners ever pretend to do it and give you a standard equal tuning anyway? "He`ll never notice".

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 10 Dec 2011, 00:43

Jonathan the 2nd wrote:Is it a bad idea to ask a tuner to tune a piano with a Bach temperament? Do tuners ever pretend to do it and give you a standard equal tuning anyway? "He`ll never notice".
I have been ask once in 35+ years its quite common in the US to tune none ET scales but most tuners over there uses ETD which have them built in so its a flick of a switch


At the end of the day its your piano if you want it tuned backwards I am sure you will find a tuner that will fora ££ more

See Ed Foote page on Historical Tunings between 1750-1825 I have his CD in my collection interesting sound

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Withindale » 10 Dec 2011, 12:41

Google for Adolfo Barabino on Pianoworld (links to interesting recorded interview about UT) and YouTube.

As far as my piano goes, I'd ask our tuner to do the best he can for the piano. I suspect the quality of the tuning outweighs the temperament in most cases.

If your tuner can do ET and UT to a high standard why not try a UT?

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 10 Dec 2011, 17:34

...but not before Christmas, eh? :lol: I have customers who haven't called me for EIGHT YEARS and suddenly it's imperative it's done before Christmas... :roll: I had to tune a perfect scale for a composer customer...did my head in! Sounded most odd.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by dancarney » 10 Dec 2011, 18:25

Gill, why would a 'perfect scale' sound most odd?
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 10 Dec 2011, 22:08

Thankyou for the replies. Can I just check that ET is Equal tuning and UT is unequal tuning? That shows how green I am. Adolfo Barabino had not prepared his ideas too well but I know what he`s getting at. I`m on his side anyway. He has a nice accent too. There was a Radio 3 demonstration a few years ago that impressed me. They used different pianos to show how much the music changed with different historical tunings . Recently I watched the Bach -Lehman demonstration and I really liked that tuning. The Equal tuning resonances , hanging in the air , had a nasty bitter sounding quality. Despite the argument over who thought of it first. Is he wrong ? Did Bach mean that? Why is it upside down? I just really like the sound it makes. So would a tuner have a fit if I asked for the Bach -Lehman? Would he /she try to dissuade me? Do you think it would cost more for that?
Should I specify that I have a non electric piano ? Barrie mentioned flicking a switch. That may be one of the really modern Grand pianos with real strings , and bells and whistles fitted. ( Lottery Dreams ).

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by dancarney » 10 Dec 2011, 22:40

ET = equal temperament
UT = unequal temperament

An UT can be tuned easily by tuners who use an electronic tuning device (ETD). However, there are lots of UTs to choose from; they all have different characteristics. I wouldn't envisage it costing more, especially if he/she used an ETD.

The only way to see if you like a certain temperament is to try it.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by vernon » 11 Dec 2011, 00:44

her in Scotland Alex Salmond lives in the past.
Who on earth else wants ut and be be playing in one and half keys excluding the rest of music.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 11 Dec 2011, 15:18

The perfect scale sounded odd, because of the wolf, certain keys (particularly F) howled, and she didn't want the octaves stretched. Odd.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 11 Dec 2011, 19:34

Thanks for the clarification.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by rxd » 14 Dec 2011, 18:33

If I were your tuner and had carefully built stability onto your piano at 440 or slightly above over the years, Neither of us would look kindly at any suggestion of disturbing what has been so thoughtfully created.

I was tuning consultant for the European premier of a John Adams piece that involved 2 x 9' pianos tuned at differing unequal temperaments. There were 2 tunings on each instrument to change them to the new temperaments and 2 tunings each to change them both back to ET afterwards. Plus moving these pianos to various halls for rehearsals, then to the Albert Hall, then to Abbey Road for 2 days of recording. Each piano was tuned before each rehearsal or performance and a tuner attending full time the recording days. We used two tuners to cover the schedule. I don't view jacking the tuning of pianos around as a casual thing.

There are digital keyboards that offer unequal temperaments. You might buy one for the price of a double tuning. You won't get the resonances of strings and soundboard but you will get an idea of what you want and
your curiosity may even be satisfied completely that way and your piano gets a peaceful life.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 15 Dec 2011, 11:14

My piano was used by my daughter for years but there has been a long gap without use. It has dropped in pitch but not much compared with my "A "on a one note electronic metronome. It can be eased into the new tuning I think. It`s an upright Hohner from Finland with action made in Hamamatsu. I`ve just learned to call all those bits the "action." I shall concentrate on slow classical pieces as I`ve never used a piano myself before. I know about reading music from the violin but I just love the sounds of the chords.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by rxd » 16 Dec 2011, 07:06

ItOt sounds as if an unequal temperament would give you much satisfaction from your piano and you have already done some research among the myriad of options open to you. Even the rather cryptic tuning instructions that are left to us by Bach are open to more than one interpretation, as you have found. You mention the Bach-Lehman. It might help for you to download the tuning instructions for the temperament you want to use. You might also research which pitch you want to use but I wouldn't compound your request by also asking for a mammoth pitch change. If you are the only one likely to use the piano and no other instruments are likely to be used seriously with it, I would leave the instrument at it's current pitch. Many notes in unequal temperaments are sharp of their ET equivalents that the average string tension you finish up with will be OK.

Theoretically, any experienced tuner could follow instructions for a different temperament but I have to admit to a strange feeling last time I tuned an unequal temperament after years of tuning in a way I could almost do in my sleep. (I dreamt I was tuning a piano once. When I woke up I was).

Since the piano tuning profession is historically derived from the piano manufacturing industry, not the music industry, there is usually not much in depth understanding of music among tuners. There are many, however whose interest in tuning stems from theis study of music or are open minded enough to do the research to tune your piano the way you want it.

in which part of which country is the piano located? One of us may be able to help you find someone local to you who would be open to this. Otherwise, contact the keyboard department of your local music school, they should be able to point you in an appropriate direction.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 16 Dec 2011, 11:00

Thankyou RXD . Very helpful background information . I sent an e mail enquiry to a local tuner but he only quoted prices and did not answer the crucial bit about about the temperament. I`m "near Chester" , as they say . I shall see how he feels about the missing answer first.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 28 Dec 2011, 12:49

I tried e mailing separate tuners but they only did ET so I had more success by contacting the -Find a Tuner (Tuner`s Association ).They will be able to find a tuner to do the job. He said "dozens". I like that. First I had to work out what tuning I wanted as there are a great many to choose from. More than I ever expected.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 28 Dec 2011, 20:12

Jonathan the 2nd wrote:I tried e mailing separate tuners but they only did ET so I had more success by contacting the -Find a Tuner (Tuner`s Association ).They will be able to find a tuner to do the job. He said "dozens". I like that. First I had to work out what tuning I wanted as there are a great many to choose from. More than I ever expected.
This time of Year most tuners who can don't want to, too much normal work on if you asked me I would have said no thanks all the tuners that are listed on this site who trained in the 60 to 90s can do it but most are not interested.

As to which Temperament depends what you want to do for voice Meantone is good but then what key. Martin Lock 0161 442 6288 is not that far from you give him a ring he will try to help you.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 29 Dec 2011, 17:06

Thankyou Barrie . I have organised a gentleman for January. Kirnberger is on the menu .

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 30 Dec 2011, 19:40

Lucky gentleman.. :mrgreen:
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 30 Dec 2011, 20:07

Gill the Piano wrote:Lucky gentleman.. :mrgreen:
Hmm i did a survey on the ABPTs private list and most are happy to do it but at a price £££ :roll:

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 05 Jan 2012, 10:22

What would be a problem with a different tuning ? They say a note out of tune in a well temperament would be noticed more. That would mean more callouts for tuners. I can feel a clash of priorities between tuners and players. One phrase --"Equal temperament is more convenient" made me ask who is it convenient for? Also there seems a fear that people should not step out of line. That may explain tetchiness ( between players ) if another player does not agree with using different tunings. It may be the overwhelming need to be right and everyone else wrong that is so common in forums of any sort.It`s like that in Chess forums too. The long essays on the net about Well Temperaments are fascinating to read but it`s better to chat about it more on forums like this. It might attract more attention. Reading advertising about electic pianos I`m starting to think some players regard things like vibrato and echo effects as "Temperaments". Many think changing pitch ( by changing keys ) in Equal Temperament is really changing Key Colours when it`s not. You see that more on other piano forums. It`s hard to believe such a blanket smothering of such a valuable musical element has been so effective for so many years.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 05 Jan 2012, 18:49

Jonathan the 2nd wrote:What would be a problem with a different tuning ? They say a note out of tune in a well temperament would be noticed more.
If you are using an ETD no difference but if you are tuning by ear then no, you have to think about it more if you have spent 30 year putting a round peg in to a round hole then have do it different you have to think once you have set it up then it get a easier each visit, In the USA as more tuners use ETDs then they are more happy to tune to none ET scales. In Europe ET is the norm and unless musicians ask for it more and there are more live performances then tuners will shy away or give you a big bill

At the end of the day piano tuners are there to make a profit and they will do what makes the most money with the least time and effort

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 06 Jan 2012, 13:27

Hello Barrie . I`m getting worried about this big bill I`m going to pay. No not treally. I want to see what it feels like to hear a real live temperament. I can see why tuners like to stay with a familiar tuning. What surprises me is how all the Teachers have allowed such a situation to arise.Do you think they ever get a pang of conscience about it? Also as this forum includes blind tuners , would it be any harder for them to tune differently? Counting beats is mostly used for ET as hardly any perfect note combinations are used .Only octaves seems to be the one I could get right myself if I was brave enough to even attempt alterations. Or was there , historically , a feeling that changing what blind tuners did would be an embarrasing move to make?
I forgot to ask . Below all these questions is my feeling that Teachers and Tuners could get together to work out another Default Tuning which could run parrallel to ET and could be offered . Then try to "persuade "teachers ,players and tuners to realise there was another meal on the menu. Which would be the Tuning you would choose if you had a choice in terms of profitability ? The least worst for difficulty and profit . Is there also a fight against using anything electronic?
I came back to recall my first experience of piano tuners. I must have been no more than 5 years old . The first teacher I ever had was a young Nun all in black clothing with a large white wimple. I remember her leading the blind tuner into class towards the piano , with his white stick . Strangely enough he proceeded to tune away while we were in the same room. That never seemed at all unusual as a kid.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 06 Jan 2012, 18:53

People would just get confused. As it is, I say 'would you like the piano tuned to concert pitch?' to which the reply is often a roar of laughter followed by 'Oo no, we don't play THAT well.' People don't often know - or care - about pitch, let alone temperaments. As long as it's in tune with the recorder/stylophone/Venezuelan nose flute, that's all they care about. Think of it like a car engine - the mechanic will tune your average car so it works well. If Jackie Stewart comes in, then s/he might bother to ask if there's anything in particular which needs attention. Other than that s/he'll do a good, ordinary job. You are making your life just that bit more complicated by asking for something which perhaps only 0.0001% of the population wants, and for that you should expect to pay a premium. As long as you play a lot of Baroque music, it'll be worth your while.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 06 Jan 2012, 20:39

Hi Jonathan the 2nd,

If you lay a scale in ET or Meantone you still have to count beats... Take C up to E in ET that's 10.3 BPS tuned wide in Meantone that is 0 BPS Then take E down to A in ET that about 0.74 BPS on the low frequency and about 6BPS on the high frequency or walking pace. but in Meantone that interval is 12.6 BPS and the 6th down is 24BPS

As to why we don't have it much, You can Blame Broadwoods, they marketed their pianos "Our pianos can by played in any Key . That's why Beethoven has one" Then it was Standardization by the music fraternity like they did with A440

I think it was only in the late 1930 that organs change over to ET again Standardization.

As to price To tune a piano that is at A440 from ET to a none ET scale expect to be charge as if it was a pitch move because that is what it will take a few passes to make the piano stable So if your local tuner charges £65.00 then expect £120.00 for the first tuning after that .... !

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 07 Jan 2012, 00:52

Thanks Barrie . It`s always seemed a big built in contradiction in a musical sense. It`s a good forum to ask all the questions about it.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 07 Jan 2012, 15:02

You should look to the history of scales its very interesting... and why we came to ET if you look at the first temperament Just Intonation this was for keyboards with just the naturals no sharps. So when sharps were introduced if you tune an organ using Just Intonation you would have to work out what 3rds you needed

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 07 Jan 2012, 20:35

How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony - And Why You Should Care is a book which explains it very well. By Ross Duffin.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 08 Jan 2012, 21:39

Gill . That`s one of the articles I was reading. Mostly the old program on Radio 3 woke me up to the situation. The contrasts between ET and older tunings was very easy to appreciate just on one hearing. Today ( 08/01/2012 ) on Radio 3 there was a performance of a Handel piano solo with variations .Alfred Brendel. A great musician. A great piano , probably a Steinway. Crisp clear tone .Top of the range no doubt. But there were some very odd effects which I can only blame on the temperament. In a cinema there are visual effects to represent some kinds of mental instability. Shifting , blurring images. That kind of thing. They were there in the sound of the piano. That`s what "everyone has got used to hearing" but I don`t think it should be that way. There is a video on u-tube comparing three famous pianists from the past. The last one is Rubinstein . His tuning sounds all over the place to my ears. Some violinists , like Ruggiero Ricci stretch the intonation a bit , but they do that to enhance the musical impact. It`s on a set of short clips called "The Glory of Cremona ". He plays a short snatch of a Bruch Concerto on each violin . Part of my attempt to understand all this is the way piano players in academies are trained. The Holy Grail has always been the Book of 48. That`s where my confusion lies.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 09 Jan 2012, 17:08

The 48 Preludes and Fugues were written to prove that - in JS Bach's opinion, anyway - ET worked just as well in any key, and the player was no longer confined by what my tuner friend refers to as 'stone-age temperaments' ( :shock: :D )to certain keys only.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 09 Jan 2012, 20:41

Piano tuners on the hole moved ET under protest as all the other temperaments are easy to tune compared to ET it was composers who wanted it in the first place not tuners who wanted it then the manufactures saw a sales pitch.

Now if you want to listed to something different there are pieces out there written in 1/4 tone You need 2 pianos tuned 1/4 tone apart and tuned to Meantone plus 2 players the sound is mesmerising


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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 10 Jan 2012, 18:32

Who composed that, Barrie? Sounds interesting.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 10 Jan 2012, 22:53

Gill the Piano wrote:Who composed that, Barrie? Sounds interesting.
Ed Wilkinson did some in the 70s at RNCB its very old music See wik
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 11 Jan 2012, 15:31

I wonder if most teachers agree with that. You can`t tell what they are thinking.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 13 Jan 2012, 00:41

The piano was tuned today. My guess was right. It had been ,overall , about a semitone flat. Now tuned to the Kirnberger temperament it sounds stunning to my ears. I have never known it this good . Even single notes have a richness and glow to them.It needed the extra work to raise the level first so came to just £105 . Worth every penny. Being too low to start with made it more . Now I can explore something really wonderful.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 15 Jan 2012, 17:17

The overall conclusion from what Barrie says and also what I have read so far is very strange. The essays and books about Temperaments all say that Equal Tuning is harder to achieve because only octaves "line up" naturally with our hearing. It would be interesting to find out how many keys are used by the large proportion of Pianists. Would it be true to say that C major would win a popularity poll ? Is there a specific difference between Modulation and Transposition ? I think many confuse the two .
The most famous composers modulated to different keys to achieve more than a brief effect that lasted for a few bars.Their reasons were slung out of the top window with the bathwater when ET descended on us. I can`t help thinking of plumbers when a tuner says "I just tune the things ,I don`t play them ". Just the bottom line , then off to the pub .

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 15 Jan 2012, 18:29

I play them AND tune them. I don't worry about stoneage temperaments, I just enjoy the music...! :)
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by vernon » 15 Jan 2012, 22:25

God bless you St. Gill sense at last
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 15 Jan 2012, 23:06

Jonathan the 2nd wrote: I can`t help thinking of plumbers when a tuner says "I just tune the things ,I don`t play them ". Just the bottom line , then off to the pub .
More than half of tuners don't play the piano its just a job... including me who's off to the pub for some real Ale.

Now there a tragedy Not lost temperaments but lost Brewers and there fine ales

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 16 Jan 2012, 17:16

Want me to post you some Rebellion, Barrie? :D
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 17 Jan 2012, 01:42

This must be one of the longest threads going guys! .... well done.
Bit like the January sales !!

I could even bore you all to tears with all the physics behind ET and non ET tuning....

but then again.... maybe NOT!
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by dancarney » 17 Jan 2012, 09:33

Yes please Colin :)
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 17 Jan 2012, 16:22

I used to think setting tappets the on my car was clever. I mean --four cylinders. That was tricky stuff for me.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Feg » 17 Jan 2012, 16:30

Colin Nicholson wrote: I could even bore you all to tears with all the physics behind ET and non ET tuning....

but then again.... maybe NOT!
The Mathematics of it all is loads of fun too........ :D

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 17 Jan 2012, 18:21

Mathematics is NEVER fun and if you start all that I shall have to Lie Down In A Darkened Room. With a pint of Rebellion, of course... :lol:
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Barrie Heaton » 17 Jan 2012, 21:32

Gill the Piano wrote:Mathematics is NEVER fun and if you start all that I shall have to Lie Down In A Darkened Room. With a pint of Rebellion, of course... :lol:
move over and pore one out for me :roll: Did you you to fall asleep in Tuning theory classes as well :wink:

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Gill the Piano » 18 Jan 2012, 18:13

No, I sat smiling and nodding intelligently whilst my brain was running round in small circles wringing its hands and asking for a pint of Guinness. I was the only girl at my grammar school who wasn't ALLOWED to do Maths O level, as they said it would be a waste of time and money. Numbers and I don't mix...
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 20 Jan 2012, 18:01

So the original question was just right.I had an uneasy feeling it would trip off fire alarms. Not quite that bad. Not rebellion or resistance but a reluctance to go in that direction. That`s the 3 Rs covered.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Colin Nicholson » 21 Jan 2012, 18:07

Might be of interest to some......

PTA's convention in May 2012, covers a lecture on "Early Temperament Tunings"

http://www.pianotuner.org.uk/pta6.htm

dont know if you have to be PTA though? .... but worth a try.
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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Jonathan the 2nd » 21 Jan 2012, 20:00

Maybe a bit advanced for me. But they have a felt and leather clinic . They think of everything.

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Re: Should I ask for an unequal temperament?

Post by Feg » 21 Jan 2012, 21:00

Colin Nicholson wrote:Might be of interest to some......

PTA's convention in May 2012, covers a lecture on "Early Temperament Tunings"

http://www.pianotuner.org.uk/pta6.htm

dont know if you have to be PTA though? .... but worth a try.
You don't have to be PTA but you do have to be in the trade.

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