Subtitled: “Why piano players are the worst.” Dr. Sophia Tegart is back, hooray! She walks us through different tuning systems, why tuning in differing ensembles is so difficult, and why, indeed, piano players are the worst.*
*This is, of course, a joke. Piano players are the best, and those of us who have to worry about intonation adjustments are just ridiculously jealous.
Love the podcast. I listened to episode 45 with several mixed emotions:
First, as always, I love to hear your familiar cheerful voice and laughter. It’s been a great comfort through some of the darker weeks and months of the pandemic.
Secondly, I wholeheartedly identified with the frustration and challenges described when attempting to play “in tune” with pianists and other instruments. Of course, playing the viola with its concomitant jokes – with seeds of reality- about the great difficulties we have playing in tune, more than our other string siblings, one could argue/joke that playing in tune with any other instrument, piano or otherwise, would be an unbelievable achievement.
Thirdly, as a mediocre pianist and one who loves piano music and believes pianists who can play chamber music are a rare breed worth their weight in gold, I want to give them credit not, imho, sufficiently expressed in the confines of your podcast.
Finally, as the son of a piano tuner, I wanted to clarify something you may already know, but may not have been clear to other listeners to the podcast. Although it is pianos usually are tuned with “equal temperament,” it should be pointed out that this does not mean every piano is tuned the same.
As a young boy I learned from my late father that he would tune upper strings a little sharp, and the lower strings a little flat, but what really confounded me was that those adjustments varied between different kinds of pianos. I never really understood it, but this website, I think does a good job explaining why:https://www.lapianotuning.com/wordpress/?p=94
My father tuned with an electronic tuner. He’d configure it with fine adjustments depending on whether it was a grand, upright, or spinet piano, and even had some special settings for particular models and makes of pianos.
He’d use the tuner to tune one string, then use his ears to tune the second or third string
for the same note in unison.
And that’s not even getting into the difference between piano technicians that use electronic tuners or their ears. One ear-tuning technique, I understand, is to tune one note, then to play intervals and count the beats to determine the relative pitch of the second note. I find this fascinating.
Anyway, probably more than you might want to know, but I love your podcast and wanted to respond.
Warmly, Toby Loftus
Hi, Toby! I really appreciate your well thought out response!
I, of course, agree with your feelings about piano players. I often joke about this exact same subject with some of my favorite ones to work with. Intonation, especially for me, has played such a major part in my violin journey, and the emotion behind it can lash out to frustration with any brilliant musician who doesn’t have to prioritize it as much as I do.
You might be interested to know that I have a couple episodes planned in the future to exactly the subjects you describe! Piano tuners is a great subject, as is the whole field of piano accompanists, who are literal superheroes.
Thank you so much for listening and responding! I always appreciate talking with you about it!