Friday, August 28, 2009

August Pitch Report

The middle-of-August heat wave finally convinced us swamp Yankees to turn on our air conditioners.  For our pianos, it was too little too late.  The heat wave was humid, but not as bad as in June and July.*  The difference was that June and July were cool, so no one turned on the AC.  Now the pitch on most pianos, even those with humidity control, is quite high, but not evenly so across the keyboard.  Most pianos right now are almost comically out of tune.  If you can wait, they'll actually sound better later in the season (if it's not too wet an autumn).  If you can't wait, and you certainly cannot if you're gearing up for the return to school, your tuner will have a lot of work ahead of him or her.

Expect the pitch to be 15 cents or more high right in the temperament octave.  I'd recommend dropping the pitch to about 6 cents high (A441.5).  If you have to go to A440, plan on a pitch-lowering before tuning.  The pitch might not be quite so high below the temperament octave.  The top of the bass section will be about 5 cents high, rising to maybe 10 cents high around C2, then dropping back down, possibly to zero, at C1.

On the treble end, the pitch will actually drop as you approach the tenor/treble break.  C5 will be about 5 cents or so high.  But don't be fooled, right after the break, you'll be back at 15 cents high.  Then the pitch will quickly drop to about 10 cents high or less around C6, where it might stay, or might drop slowly to zero by C8.

You'll have to keep alert about octave 4 and the part of octave 5 above the break - the pitch is going to want to drift up as you're working.  Keep your wits about you if you want to be done in a reasonable amount of time.  Every piano I've tuned recently has been a struggle.  Good luck.

*A quick example:  today is a comfortable 70 degrees F with about a 60 degree dewpoint, cloudy with rain approaching.  This translates into a relative humidity of 70 percent, which is quite high in spite of how comfortable it feels.  If the temperature hit 90, even with a higher dewpoint of 70 (which would feel pretty muggy), that would only be a relative humidity of 50 percent.

Click here for an explanation of humidity (from my website).
Click here for weather calculators at the National Weather Service website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cool Console #2 - Kawai

I love this little Kawai console, with its vertical plain-stripe walnut veneer.  The furniture style, called "continental," features no front legs, flat sides, a large, broad bottom board, and a plain front board that angles back to a narrow top.  The lid is hinged in back.  It would be more traditional to have only two pedals, but the American market demands three.  It was built by Kawai in Japan in 1983.  This console model was a very successful model for Kawai, and it is a lovely little instrument.

I had never seen one of these with this kind of veneer before.  Usually vertical stripe veneer is used as an accent on small horizontal elements, not across the entire piano.  It is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it works adorably with the style.  The stripes come from how the wood is cut to make the veneer.  The cut is called a quarter cut (or the wood is said to be quarter-sawn), which means that the cut is 90 degrees to the grain, along or parallel to the tree's radius.  You can see that it takes five pieces to cover the width of the piano.