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 first met Dr Sanderson in 1977 at the North Bennet Street School in Boston MA.
Sanderson had been receiving instruction from our instructor the head of the Piano Technology Department (Bill Garlick) and simultaneously working on his Sight-o-Tuner (soon to become the Accu-Tuner in later incarnations.)
Bill Garlick had such great ears that in the 1970s he acted as the barometer for Dr Sanderson’s work and during Sanderson’s visit to our school one morning it became apparent that Bill Garlick was invaluable in aiding Sanderson’s work on the early Accu-Tuner.
The Boston Globe has provided the following information.
Albert E. Sanderson, a Harvard instructor whose piano-tuning device changed the art 30 years ago, died of cancer Sunday at Concord Park in West Concord. He was 80 and had lived in Carlisle most of his life.
He held many patents, including eight for his Accu-Tuner for piano.
Born in Bethlehem, Pa., Mr. Sanderson was the eldest of three brothers. His father was an engineer for Bethlehem Steel before moving to Boston, where he became a professor at Northeastern University.
Dr. Sanderson and his wife, Mary (McGettigan), were married for 59 years.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1949 and his master’s degree in engineering and physics in 1950, all from Harvard, before working as an electronics engineer for Aircraft Radio Corp. in New Jersey and General Radio Co. of Concord.
Dr. Sanderson received a doctorate in applied physics from Harvard University in 1969.
From 1960 to 1973, he was director of the Harvard Electronics Design Center, which made custom instruments for Harvard research departments. He also taught engineering and physics at Harvard for eight years
Mr. Sanderson decided he could figure out how to tune his piano. He took tuning lessons and dreamed up a device that used mathematical formulas to measure how true a piano’s tuning was.
In 1972, he launched Inventronics Inc., now in Tyngsborough, to handle the licensing of patents and manufacturing of inventions, including the Sanderson Accu-Tuner.
Among early fans of the device was Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler. “It is a remarkable instrument which every tuner should have and which every orchestra, music director, and those who tune their own instruments could well use,” Fiedler wrote in a 1974 testimonial letter.
The response from piano tuners was lukewarm. Mr. Sanderson hit the convention circuit and trade shows to promote his invention and to try to convince professional tuners that he wasn’t trying to replace them.
“He developed an instrument that matched the ear in many ways,” his son Paul said. “He’d never say it was better, but he would say it was a great aid to the ear.”
His sons’ most enduring memory of their father is of a hardworking man clutching a pencil and legal pad.
“He always seemed to have something, an equation or some sort of problem, he was solving,” David said.
In addition to his wife, sons, and brother, Mr. Sanderson leaves another brother, Richard of Peterborough, N.H.; two daughters, Linda Dwyer of Hadley and Kathryn Fox of Upton; and 11 grandchildren.
The First time I remember seeing an abandoned piano was in Boston as I was heading to a Red-Sox game with Mark Moriarty on those back streets leading from Marks apartment which was much closer to the ball park than my own digs over on Commonwealth near Boston University. We stood for more than a few minutes looking at the sad remains of what was once a piano that at one point was certainly shiny and new, now weathered brutally with most of the guts of the piano missing.
Since the ‘Sox’ were calling, that was the last I saw of that piano but it is always some how with me as a reminder that almost no one has any idea what to do with an old piano!
Flash forward to tuning for the Washington D.C. public schools when one morning I got a call to go look at some pianos that equipment maintenance had picked up from various school buildings and left all weekend on the open flatbed truck in the rain (unbeleiveable but it happened). Of course the pianos were totaled and sadly were driven off to the dump, another memory that is with me to this day and again no 2nd life for a piano that has seen the end of days.
Then I came upon a short article in a gardening magazine that covered a wonderful story on what to do with an old piano that really never again will live the glory days of past.
The plan is basically to remove the piano plate and mount the plate on a display frame and then mirror the angles of the plate in the layout of the planting rows of the garden, transforming a small space into the essence of the piano.
This piano essence will endure as the piano plate with a good coat of paint should do fine outside and give the piano a final resting place that perhaps is more proper that a land fill.
Here are the few wonderful images by Ned O’Gorman that show the basic layout of the garden and the blue print of the design by Keith Corlett that you see above for the postage stamp size garden with the gardens harmonic curves and the Laffargue upright piano harp that inspired it all. Arborvitae and purple beech “piano pegs”end at a fountain.
Impatiens, Russian Sage, Delphinium, Asiatic Lilies and Ligularia “Skyrocket” in the piano garden. Slender Ailanthus trees dubbed Bronx Palms by Corlett is comfortable even on the hottest days. Additional plantings include Wisteria, Clematis and Trumpet Vines that eventually died and were replaced.
Perhaps a secret garden was never finer than this healing piano garden, to ponder, to dream, and to quote Yeats, ‘In dreams begins responsibility’.
A simple method to pre-test and adjust your Verituner to the piano presented in a short presentation, in Chicago land by Dr Woodwind
If you’re an electronic tuner how do you know that the electronic tuning you have calculated fits the piano in front of you?
Let’s consider for a moment how we tune a unison. Pick any note here in the middle we are going to mute off one string till we are satisfied with it. Pick the next string,we may go over we may go below and we try to find the best place for that unison.
I’m going to apologize for competing with the percussionists today, this is like practice room row!
We’re going to look at tuning octaves the same way we tune a unison, so the idea is you go ahead however your machine asks you to do it calculate the tuner to the best of your ability, taking your samples, we are gonna tune A4 of course. Now we have muted off so we only have one string to clear the string you can set that string as best you can allow that string will let you tune in it on the piano in front of you and then lets go down and see A3 where the machine wants us to set A3 which will be our temperment octave, again tune that as well as you can, and then just play it as you can, and just play it as an octave.
That’s pretty good but let’s see if we can do a little better. I want you to just treat that as a unison we are gonna go a little lower and then a little higher and try to find the pocket.
So we’re not gonna worry about 4/2 octave or 6/3 octave 2/1 octave just how does it sound the best place where it sounds this is about the best I can make it.
So now we are using the Verituner as a bookmark now. You notice that I have my ear has told me, one, two, three cents sharper that what the machine says.
What you need to do is understand your own machine well enough to know how to change the tuning parameters.
Um, these are
these are different things you can do to alter the tuning on your Verituner you match what the tuning is on your ear. Now on the Verituner I’ve gotta go find a different style that will match, more closely. I have them all numbered so seven is a fairly wide style need to go up closer, um, to find something closer that might work for this piano and once you have pianos under your belt you’ll know before hand you know if I see a Baldwin upright I know what style to pick that will work for it.
And again A4 just double check it, that’s good. Drop down to A3, and there we go we are right on the money. Go ahead and go down to A2, tune it the way the machine says, and drop down the octave and then check it, that’s got a roll to it, don’t really like that either (more tuning) that’s a little better. We need to go a little flatr, we need to find a style that will have a little lower section in that part of the piano, there we go and then just work your way, as far as you feel comfortable as far as you (pause, more tuning)
So basically what we are doing is setting up bookmarks, setting up a road map for the machine to fit the tuning in between, because if you give it endpoints it can calculate in between fairly well. And then it’s up to you to find out how to manipulate your own machine. There are forums on line that can help you, you can ask questions on line of people how to set that.
But, the key concept here is to know you can tune a unison and tune two strings together simply by ear with no checks, you can also do two strings an octave apart by ear, double check with the double octave or triple octave as you work your way up to find the pocket so you can build a good ladder an appropriate ladder for this particular instrument
If you really want to get picky you may check Eb which is half way between the A’s, and also check some of those.
Again it is a trade off between how much time you want to spend before you actually start tuning the piano.
Hopefully this will help you, this approach as you work with it, will help you shorten the tune time so that you don’t have the entire piano tuned and then say well- I need to change this, I need to change that, I need to change that.
It should start you off with a tuning that should at least fit your A’s and that everything in between should be a lot closer than if you just picked an average tuning or the default tuning that comes with the box
This is a terrific series presented from Chicago land by Drwoodwind
Part one (one of six) is a video using the Verituner to tune a piano in the confines of a practice room somewhere in ‘Chicagoland’.
Drwoodwind said it’s January outside of Chicago, it’s a Mason & Hamilton upright, indoor humidity is 21% so naturally it’s pretty flat
Today I’m going to try and pitch raise and fine tune as efficiently as possible using the Verituner. I will display all three over pulls, so it’s roughly 10% in this area, 25% in this area and 35% overpull in this area
The goal is to, after the first pass, be as close to a fine tuning as we can be so there is minimum adjustment left to be done for that final pass
The Verituner needs to get some information, it will update it’s information as we go (in real time)
it’s about 20 % err- 20 cents flat, I’m working to fill the [ I ] (Inharmonicity) I’m on the medium ‘zoom’ right now and I’m actually going to start these about half way between the first two arrows. I only have the needle displayed A3 A4 is in the ‘bracket’ for the temperment. I’ll go ahead and give it A5 so it knows about what (Inharmonicity) is there
And now it’s a matter of going through the piano giving it the information it needs to fill those [ I’s ]
Notice how I sound the note first to let the VERITUNER start calculating before I even move the hammer
starting at about twelve o’clock over here taking my time in this temperment section to try and fill the [ I ]
This should work for any style even the built in styles or one of my custom styles (one for all)
I’m measuring the right string, when I come back and tune this piano for good, I’ll be working on the left string over-pull
this isn’t so much a ‘tuning’ pass as a ‘measuring’ pass until we reach the bass strings, just while I’m working I might as well get something done.
If you are ‘close’ you can use the ‘ zoom ‘
I’ll go ahead and pull the unisons for these three strings (in the bass section) here
Notice it was a miss measure over-pull but I know that I was just over pulling the previous note less than a cent.
Not sure about a real piano, the time is right to concider a sampled piano and choices abound! Practically speaking a real piano isn’t always ‘practical’. If you seem to have more computer space than the room for a good sized piano take heart as a guide herein tells all. TruePianos offers up a three piano package for a multi-core or Power PC G5 Mac, simple interface of presets for each module sonic adjustment as well as tuning adjustment. The sound is ‘dry’ with no room acoustics. 40 day demo is available on
Service Galaxy ll an upgrade from Galaxy Steinway,
offers up a Steinway D Bösendorfer Imperial 290
and a Blüthner 150.Multisampled and miked for
surround and stereo is a treat.Strong at jazz classic or pop and smooth up seven octaves
I have previously covered the Blüthner Digital model one earlier
Native Instruments Akoustic Piano provide a Steinway D a Bechstein D 280, a Bösendorfer 290 and a Steigräver 130. 10 velocity levels on each note and tuning available (cool
Pianoteq v2.2 is not sample based but modeled.As modeled hammers resonance sustain stacato and a host of other variables as well as size.Very good considering its nor sampled. 45 day demo
Sampletekk is 24bit multisampled fair in a library format all listed on their website include 7CG Yamaha, Black Grand-Steinway D, PMI Bösendorfer 290, PMI Estonia 9 ft, Pmi Hybrid, Pmi Old Lady 1923 D, Pmi Steinway D Pmi The Emperor Bösendorfer 290, PMI Yamaha C7, SG88 MKll,The Big One Yamaha C7 and White Grand 9 Ft Malmsjö Concert Grand
Steinberg The Grand 2 are a dry mix of two large well known pianos in anechoic chamber (I can still hear Dr Wright on that one) I would like to present this in a future post Synthology Ivory 9ft D Börsendorfer 290 Yamaha C7 all with 10 velocity levels Vienna Symphonic Library Börsendorfer 290 multisampled 7 velocities quite possibly the best in its class
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