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Stretched Tuning

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  • #106459
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Interesting. I actually was introduced to the idea of stretching the upper octaves a little sharp by my harp tech when she was doing a regulation for my

    #106460
    Sarah Mullen
    Participant

    I think a lot of it has to do with the particular instrument.

    #106461
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    I’m wondering how all of this changes when the harp in question is used in an orchestra and may occasionally play unisons with other instruments.

    I’ve always had a question about orchestra tuning and I don’t know if anyone has researched this. We all know that orchestras, left to their own devices, meaning that when they are playing without a fix pitched instrument, go sharp. Often way sharp. And I’m told it is the violins and the strings in general that drive everything sharp. That would tell me that players of instruments where the pitch can be altered on the spot are tuning in mean tone? Just intonation? But when they are accompanying a piano concerto for example, the piano holds them to equal temperament. So the question is: Does an orchestra tune differently when there is no fixed pitch instrument involved, and if so, what is the system they are tuning to?

    #106462
    kreig-kitts
    Member

    The traditional idea is that the (bowed) strings slowly rise in pitch as they warm and make the ensemble go sharp. Since our symphonic band has one string bass and we still go sharp, I think it’s more of a normal tendency for groups to go sharp as they play. In general those who can alter their tone as they play (almost everybody but piano and harp I guess) generally aren’t aiming for a particular frequency, but rather whatever matches those around them, especially in their own section. On flute, for example, I’d rather be on pitch with the rest of my section even if we’re all a bit off, and hopefully we’re working to keep ourselves in tune with the rest of the band at the same time.

    In addition, sometimes the pitch is changed for stylistic reasons. For example, many players intentionally play the seventh a smidge higher when it leads into the tonic.

    Excluding early music etc., I’ve never been in a group that purposefully tuned to a different system than equal temperament, though it’s hard for me to think of a large ensemble as tempered in the sense of a piano, since most instruments only comprise a very small “bandwidth” (no pun intended) of the total ensemble range. Individually they don’t face the kind of temperament issues that a harp, piano, or organ would, and wind instruments are usually built around maintaining an even scale within their range and less on what an instrument three octaves away might be doing. As they play across the group with other range instruments everybody constantly uses their ears and tries to keep in tune with each other.

    #106463
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Kreig- Thanks for a good response. I’m not suggesting that an ensemble(band, orchestra) consciously goes for a different system of tuning. But equal temperament means that every note of the scale is slightly flat. Every other system of tuning(just intonation, mean tone, well tempered, etc.) all use perfect 4ths and 5ths, which would be sharper than equal temperament 4ths and 5ths. Over the centuries equal temperament was tried and rejected many times because to listeners in previous centuries it was too out of tune. So I wonder if, in the absence of a fixed pitch instrument, there is a natural unconscious tendency to want to hear perfect 4ths and 5ths, which then drives everything sharp.

    I was backstage at Symphony Hall in Boston,( where the Boston Symphony plays), many years ago and walked by a small room where a french horn player was sitting in front of a huge strobe that had a separate window for each pitch of the scale. He was playing scales and checking his intonation against the machine. I’m guessing that many of the players regularly checked themselves against this machine.

    #106464

    I tried it once again, and it does not work for me. Stretching up to five cents, that is okay, sometimes inevitable. Aside from all the acoustic properties of the harp, you also have to take into account the regulation and how stretching would affect the intonation.

    #106465
    kathy-chanik
    Participant

    Saul, that is a good point about the regulation. I remember a pedal harp technician telling me years ago that they naturally stretch the high and low notes a bit during a regulation, knowing it will sound good to the person. I guess they assumed we WEREN’T stretch tuning. But if the harpist is already stretching, it would be too much. I wonder if regulators are doing that these days? And what about lever regulators? Maybe we all should be talking this over with the techs when we have our harps regulated.

    #106466
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    I regulate strictly to the strobe, which in my case is a Peterson. I don’t know if there is any stretch calculated into this machine(I suspect not) but I find the tuning that results to be entirely satisfactory. I find that most orchestra harpists want the harp tuned and regulated exactly to the machine.

    #106467
    harp guy
    Participant

    I am unfortunately one of those individuals that was cursed with a fantastic ear. (Not trying to brag because it really is a curse being able to hear what pitch the electricity in the walls is running at. I hear the power surge coming before it actually gets here **the pitch changes**). I always tune with a tuner first starting with the lowest C (lever, I don’t own a pedal harp yet). I proceed with all octave Cs, and then move in a progression of 5ths. I then retune the whole thing by ear starting on middle C. I generally do very little adjusting, but I do adjust some things. I check certain intervals within the key that I will be playing in, and then that’s it.

    I am pretty sure that as I go lower I generally tune things slightly on the flat side, and as I go up on the sharper side. But never change it more than a few cents. Having had a background in flute playing with various ensembles that regularly played with fixed pitch instruments we almost always tuned/adjusted to those instruments and rechecked our pitch between every piece (we had regular piano and harp parts along with pitched percussion). That kind of environment helped my ear go from being quite good to being a pain in the behind.

    So is this stretched tuning? Not sure. It sounds correct to me.

    #106468
    Sylvia
    Participant

    I’ve always used a Peterson strobe tuner.

    #106469
    tony-morosco
    Member

    That doesn’t surprise me. I would think you would want to blend as much as possible tuning wise, and the best way is for everyone to be tuned as precisely to each other as possible. If you take too much liberty with your tuning you may sound good solo, but you are going to sound out of tune when playing with others who aren’t tuned the same way.

    I have an older Peterson tuner. No, it doesn’t have a factory setting for stretch tuning, however you can save your own tuning parameters once you figure out what works best for yourself. I haven’t done it in a long time, I usually just tune to the Peterson and if necessary adjust the upper octaves by ear.

    Of all the tuners I have used the Peterson is the one that has gotten me closest to perfect (to my ear) of any. I also have the Peterson tuning app on my iphone and it also works really, really well, although I prefer the stand alone tuner just for ease of use.

    #106470

    I always start tuning on Fb or Bb, because if you start on Cb, you end up at Bb still needing to do Fb, and you have to go through that nasty tritone. I also find Fs harder to tune than any other note. It seems to be an acoustic property of a harp. The problem with going by ear, for me, is that what sounds right is off, a little or a lot, so the tuner is more reliable, unfortunately. And I will progressively increase the stretch until it is obviously overdone, then have to pull it back.

    #106471
    Sarah Mullen
    Participant

    You all make me so deeply grateful that I work as a soloist 95% of the time.

Viewing 13 posts - 16 through 28 (of 28 total)
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