The changes occurred outside of auditory brain areas
Tuning a piano also tunes the brain, say researchers who have seen structural changes within the brains of professional piano tuners.
Researchers at University College London and Newcastle University found listening to two notes played simultaneously makes the brain adapt.
Brain scans revealed highly specific changes in the hippocampus, which governs memory and navigation.
These correlated with the number of years tuners had been doing this job.
The Wellcome Trust researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 19 professional piano tuners – who play two notes simultaneously to make them pitch-perfect – and 19 other people.
What they saw was highly specific changes in both the grey matter – the nerve cells where information processing takes place – and the white matter – the nerve connections – within the brains of the piano tuners.
Investigator Sundeep Teki said: “We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialised form of listening.”
Other researchers have noted similar hippocampal changes in taxi drivers as they build up detailed information needed to find their way around London’s labyrinth of streets.
Prof Tim Griffiths, who led the latest study, published in Neuroscience, said: “There has been little work on the role of the hippocampus in auditory analysis.
“Our study is consistent with a form of navigation in pitch space as opposed to the more accepted role in spatial navigation.”
I was fortunate as a young man to be accepted into the North Bennet Street School (NBSS) Boston MA, Piano Technology Program by Bill Garlick the Piano Technology Program Director (department head) then at North Bennet. As all the good gifts we enjoy in this life I spent the following seemingly brief semesters among many talented young piano technology students at the North Bennet Street School which also included a then young David Stanwood, friend, colleague, and classmate that same year at North Bennet, technology program for piano. Stanwood is now also a long time North Bennet Street School Alumni.
Mr Stanwood, over many years, has placed a great deal of time and effort into his craft career and love for pianos.
This is about Stanwood Inovation Inc, Piano Touch Weight Metrology, a wonderful video presentation.
Mr Stanwood starts out by saying
My name is David Stanwood, President of Stanwood Piano Innovations.
Our shop is on Martha’s Vineyard, in the town of West Tisbury. I’ve always had a passion for pianos, always loved pianos.
narration David Stanwood’s passion for pianos lead him to question why even on some of the worlds best instruments the feel of the keyboard was sometimes inconsistent from note to note. While training to be a piano technician at Boston’s North Bennet Street School Mr. Stanwood asked what could be done to improve pianos who’s actions didn’t feel right.
Stanwood And the answer was, well-a – that’s not that easy. So there really wasn’t an answer. That drove me to experiment and discover.
narration The science of weights and measures is called Metrology. Mr Stanwood’s quest lead him to develop a fundamental system and methodology for balancing piano action, something he called “the new touch weight Metrology.”
Stanwood What was missing in pianos, was a metrology which explains the balance of piano actions in a whole way.
narration Unlike a violinist who can carry his or her whole instrument on tour, the concert pianist must travel from hall to hall, playing on a variety of instruments, often with inconsistent playing action.
Stanwood The equality of the mechanism of the piano can either act to support the pianist or it can act as a barrier to their art, and my quest has been to discover now what is the mystery in that mechanic of that keyboard what happens between the musical thought and the finger where it touches the key and the sound that comes out. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in this mechanism and that really shouldn’t be an issue for the pianist, they should have a thought and should be able to think it and express it in sound.
narration The piano keyboard is a system of stepped weights. The hammers at the bass end are larger and heavier than the hammers at the treble end. The pianist expects the keys to feel consistent along the length of the keyboard much as we expect each of the steps in a stair case to be of the same depth and height.
Now a Pianist has the task not only to walk up and down the staircase but they have to dance up and down their stair case and do it artistically and do all these fancy things.
narration The action for each of a pianos 88 keys acts in a series of movements much like a catapult, where the press of a key begins a rapid series of increasingly magnified movements through the key stick, the repetition or whippen, and the shank eventually catapulting the felt tipped hammer into the string. Engineers refer to this set of connected mechanisms as a folded beam.
Stanwood Now here we have the analogy of the piano action which pivots, the main pivot is on the balance of the key, the finger goes down a little bit and the hammer goes up a lot. We have the same analogy the same pivot point, this goes down a little and that goes up a lot.
narration Using one gram blocks to illustrate the balance beam analogy Mr Stanwood first weighs the hammer and shank mechanism a measurement called the strike weight.
Stanwood ..and ten grams out on the end, this would be the measurement of the weight of the hammer, and the way we would measure this in the piano would be taking the part off and actually tipping it and there we have ten point two grams(10.2).
narration The process of weighing each component of each of the 88 key mechanisms continues with the whippen also known as the repetition. It is followed by the key stick which is weighed by balancing it at it’s pivot point. This measurement is called the front weight.
Stanwood We’ve measured the strike weight and that’s the weight out here – o k. We’ve measured the whippen radius weight. We’ve measured how far it is by measuring the ratio, playing the ten gram weight and seeing how it translates. We’ve measured the front weight by tipping the key on the scale, that would be this weight, o k. We’ve measured the balance weight by measuring up weight and down weight and averaging it by mid-point, that would be this weight. We have an equation here that has one two three four five six variables. We’ve measured everything except one and thats how far out and thats the ratio.
narration Mr Stanwood’s equation of balance is written as
balance weight + front weight = whippin weight x the key ratio + the strike weight x the strike ratio.
For the key mechanism measured here the formula would be
38 grams + 27.1 grams = 18 grams x .5 + 10.2 grams x 5.5
The primary use of the equation of balance is to fine tune and perfect the front weight, the variable that makes the key invisible to the player. All of the data collected in the weighing of each of the 88 keys is then entered into the computer. The data is then analyzed to determine whether individual components should be made lighter by trimming or made heavier by having weights strategically placed to achieve balance.
Stanwood Now we’re gonna look at the Jordan Hall Piano, (at the computer) This is a Hamburg Steinway D It’s a Jordan Hall, and this is the weight of the strike weight as from the factory (looking at the computer) and you can see that there’s a big bump, it gets very low here, This is the ratio that we calculated using the equation of balance. The next major component is the lead weight, that’s what you have to throw when you play the key and that can be measured by measuring the front weight where you tipped the key on the scale, erst the measurement of the front weight.
We added what’s called a whippen support spring so we use a combination of the lead weight and the spring and you can see that the effect is that we can use much less lead. So now we have a keyboard where the inertial weights (the stepped weights) are very uniform from step to step, no surprises.
The ultimate goal in the piano action is to really make the mechanism disappear, and have the hammers in your fingers – I mean that would be the ultimate goal, just not even think about the fact that there’s five thousand parts in between you and your performance. You can just feel like you are right to it. Connected to the hammer, that’s what we’re after here.
This is a terrific series about Piano Technology at Florida State University ( F S U ) a comprehensive public University containing it’s own College of Music in Tallahassee Florida U S A.
Anne Garee is the current Program Director, Piano Technology Department Head College of Music Florida State University Tallahassee Florida U S A . http://music.fsu.edu/garee.htm
The following Florida State University Piano Technology thread was started December 2006 to February 2008.
FSU Piano Technology Program Director Anne Garee begins by saying –
This piano was on its side for many years waiting patiently for it’s moment and the moment was fall semester 2006.
Anne felt it was a good candidate and very interesting journey. It had served in the College of Music actually since it was purchased in 1954.
Each project is totally unique and presents its own specific challenges which makes it a very interesting journey.
My mother was a pianist and a professional musician. She was a theory professor at Oberlin Conservatory before she married my physicist father.
My father the physicist, my mother the musician is actually a synthesis of what I do now. It is really the unique combination that we bring to piano technology and was fortunate to have these two forces in my life. they were so supportive in choices we made in career path because obviously you don’t grow up to be a piano technician. Those of us in this field typically come to it by accident and sort of fall into it.
In the field there is a real shortage of training opportunities. Typically people get their information in a very patchwork fashion, um, a bit like here and a bit there and it was always my dream to provide some, a cottified way to accelerate peoples training so that they didn’t have the circuitous route than most of us have taken and because of the comprehensive nature of our music school and the breadth of the program material it was an ideal setting for a program such as this.
(Jennifer Roberts is a graduate student in the Florida State University FSU College of Music, Piano Technology program) said
I heard about the program when I was studying in Canada. I did my primary training at the University of Western Ontario and we were all looking for options after we left, we either worked in our own business or we worked for somebody else and I heard about this program down here as being really structured and intensive training program.
(Amy Porter isa Graduate Student at the Florida State university (FSU) College of Music, Piano Technology) continues saying
It’s very much like a job. We are graduate assistants here in the College of Music and so we have (both Jenifer and myself) um, look after about fifty pianos, each year, each semester, we run through our list of instruments, um, some are in practice rooms, some are in faculty studios, halls, um, we have our own assignments that we look after and as well as tuning a harpsicord on a weekly basis.
One thing that I found particularly challenging on this piano was the fact ,uh, that it had a lot of problems straight from the factory, so when it came to us it had a lot of geometrical flaws, and in that sense it’s been a great piano to learn the restoration process.
(alternating), Amy said
We brought it in the shop and got to play on it. It was terribly out of tune it was very heavy (the touch was very heavy.)
The first thing we noticed was that the action was extremely heavy. It was hard to play. If you think of a teeter-totter you know – the hammers on one end and the keys on the other and, you know, you want a certain relationship between these two in order for it to perform properly, it’s going to be, i f you have to much weight on one side it’s going to be not pleasant to push on the other.
The pin block
The pin block is quite a thick piece of wood at the front of the grand piano and it is what the tuning pins are embedded into. It is the secure anchor.
The strings were rusty and quite decrepit.
The bridge needed some restoration, the soundboard was pretty ugly, the plate needed refinishing.
One thing that we spent a lot of time on was the lettering of the plate. It’s a part that some people just use a marker to paint them we actually decided to use some black lacquer and a paint brush and do it the old fashion way.
Anne finishes up saying-
The ultimate goal is of course that they are confident that they can go anywhere.
The world needs wonderful piano technicians, The piano is a cornerstone instrument. There are not enough people doing it well.
There are a lot of opportunities hat have come other from the contacts I have made through this program. I would like to be able to work in a University to have the access to talented faculty members and to be able to work with students.
The program has really taken me to a different level of technical ability and I’m hoping that will open a few more doors, more opportunities to practice my craft.
As often as I can I like to play and keep my fingers moving and remember why I’m restoring pianos in the first place.
I remember on special Steinway events here in the Northern Virginia area the now soon to be raised Jordan Kitt’s Steinway dealer on Gallows Rd between Merrifield and Tyson’s corner would have Henry Steinway available to sign the soundboard of your Steinway after a selection and purchase.
Often I would attend the Jordan Kitt’s Steinway event just because Henry Steinway would be there. Henry in the room was enough for me and although I had the pleasure to meet him once, I really wanted to just be there and observe other piano lovers interacting with Henry Steinway as he entertained any questions they may have had. So now this is a rather fond memory of Henry Steinway at Jordan Kitt’s Music in Vienna Virginia, my home these many years.
My Favorite link that includes mention of Henry Steinway & Franz Mohr, both just recently visited the new Jordan Kitt’s Music showroom, for the kick off, (and signed my Steinway anniversary tuning lever), plus mention of Bill Garlick my tuning instructor and the former Director of the piano technology program at North Bennett Street School In Boston is http://yost.com/art/Steinway
Also recently a wonderful article about Henry Steinway’s 91st Birthday from MMR Music Merchandise Review that introduces the Henry Z. Steinway Limited Edition piano. The Z piano is being produced in a series of 91 handcrafted instruments, available in two sizes, each signed by Henry Steinway, great-grandson of Steinway founder Henry Engelhard Steinway.
Featuring late 19th century colonial design elements, the piano has a hand-carved music desk adorned with scroll work and its namesake’s initials. Atop each leg is a hand-carved floral medallion, while the legs are carved with straight barrel-fluted pillars that match the lyre pedals and bench.
On the inner rim, each piano bears a brass medallion honoring the four generations of the Steinway family members who led the company: Henry E., William, Theodore, and Henry Z. The medallion also displays the limited-edition series number of the instrument.
The Henry Z. Steinway Limited Edition piano is available as a 5’10” Model O and 6’10” Model B. It is offered in ebony and East Indian rosewood finishes. Prices range from $71,000 to $125,400.
In 1955, Henry Steinway became the last family member to lead the company and did so as president for 22 years.
Henry Z. Steinway, the last Steinway to run the piano-making company his family started in 1853, died Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by a daughter, Susan Steinway.
Mr. Steinway once said that he had taken countless piano lessons but never knew “which is Beethoven’s this or Beethoven’s that.” He remained proficient on a typewriter’s keys, however; long after the world had adopted personal computers, he was still pounding away on his Smith-Corona manual.
Henry Ziegler Steinway — named for an uncle, and not to be confused with a cousin, Henry Steinway Ziegler — was the great-grandson of Heinrich Engelhard Steinway, the illiterate German immigrant before the ampersand in Steinway & Sons. Henry was born on Aug. 23, 1915, in his parents’ apartment on Park Avenue, between East 52nd and 53rd Streets.
The location was important to his tradition-minded father, Theodore E. Steinway. The Steinways’ factory, the largest piano plant in New York City when it opened, had occupied that site from just before the Civil War until about 1910. Theodore rented an apartment in the building that took the factory’s place. (The apartment house was demolished in the 1950s to make way for Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building.)
By the time Henry was a boy, the name Steinway had become almost synonymous with pianos, famous on concert stages as well as in Tin Pan Alley. Irving Berlin paid homage in “I Love a Piano” with the lyric “I know a fine way to treat a Steinway.”
After shuttering its Manhattan factory, Steinway & Sons moved its manufacturing operations to Queens, and as a child Henry wandered through a labyrinth of sawdust-strewn workrooms. He joined the company after graduating from Harvard in 1937 and began his career by building pianos, just as his father and uncles had.
“I learned a respect for work that is actually done,” Mr. Steinway said years later.
He also discovered that making instruments that have thousands of tiny parts under the lid is not easy. He said it took him a day and a half to do what the workers at the factory did in four hours.
In the 1940s, following the death of a cousin who had been the company’s general manager, Mr. Steinway began overseeing operations at the company’s three factories in Queens. Poor eyesight kept him away from the front lines during World War II; the Army stationed him on Governors Island in New York Harbor.
He became the factory manager after the war and president of the company in 1955, when his father made a surprise announcement that he was stepping down, immediately.
By then the piano business was struggling against changing technologies and tastes. Phonographs and radios had displaced pianos as home entertainment choices, and television was on the rise. As Mr. Steinway recalled in 2003: “People would say: ‘You’re in the piano business? That doesn’t exist anymore.’ ”
So he downsized the company — though he preferred the term “right-sized” — closing two of the plants in Queens. He decided that concert artists to whom the company had lent pianos would have to return them, unless they bought them.
He also arranged to sell Steinway Hall, the company’s building on West 57th Street, to Manhattan Life Insurance Company. He moved most of the company’s offices, including his own, to Queens. But the showroom, with its big front window and arched ceilings, remained.
In 1972 he sold the company itself. “It was the hippie time,” he recalled in 2003. “Nobody in the next generation —”
He left the rest of the sentence unsaid. He said he did not believe that any of his younger relatives could take over, so he proposed a $20.1 million stock swap with the CBS Corporation. The deliberations split the family, with his mother, Ruth, calling the sale “a betrayal,” although she ultimately voted for it.
CBS replaced him as president in 1977, naming him chairman. He gave up that title when he retired at 65, but he never really left. Until a few months ago, he went to Steinway Hall most days. He also went to the factory to autograph just-finished pianos, signing the cast-iron plates with felt-tip pens. At times he served as a goodwill ambassador, visiting piano dealers and attending music-industry conventions.
Last year President Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts, the government’s highest award in the arts. Mr. Steinway was also the founding president of the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, Calif.
In addition to his daughter Susan, of Cambridge, Mass., he is survived by his wife, Polly; another daughter, Kate, of West Hartford, Conn.; three sons, William, of Chapel Hill, N.C., Daniel, of Rutland, Vt., and Henry E., of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.
CBS sold Steinway in 1985, and the company changed hands again in 1995. Mr. Steinway recalled worrying about that sale, to what was then Selmer Industries, a band-instrument manufacturer that had been taken over by two investment bankers from Los Angeles.
“I thought, ‘Here we go up the flue for sure,’ ” Mr. Steinway said in 2003. “ ‘Two hotshots who’re not yet 40. This is where we get liquidated for sure.’ ”
But the two investment bankers, Dana D. Messina and Kyle R. Kirkland, changed Selmer Industries’ name to Steinway Musical Instruments. Mr. Steinway liked to recall that when they took the company public in 1998, they used Ludwig van Beethoven’s initials for a stock symbol— LVB — because all possible combinations of S’s and T’s were taken.
I know in my heart this is truely the end of an era.
Jennifer Hudson pays tribute to the Queen of Soul with her performance in the new biopic, "Respect." This is her first time visiting Muscle Shoals and the @fame_recording_studios, playing on the same piano Aretha did. Tune in Read more
Absolutely thrilled to share with you the cover of my new @DGclassics album:
It is ready for pre-order and you can already listen to Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prélude on all streaming platforms🎶 cover photo: Pascal Albandopulos
cover design: me 🤗 Read more