[LAU] Piano composition - Lost Isle (& LV2 plugins)

S D stephen.doonan at gmail.com
Thu Jun 23 20:31:42 UTC 2016

On Jun 23, 2016 6:41 AM, "fred" <f.rech at yahoo.fr> wrote:
> Thanks for this acoustic & physics piano lesson :)
> I'm pretty sure than am not alone on the list to have a very little
understanding of how & why a real grand piano is built.
> Cool to reconnect to physical instruments in this sampled world!
> Greets,
> --
> Fred,


:-) An acoustic piano is far from an ideal sound generator. In fact, it is
a complex collection of imperfections striving for an unattainable ideal.

If we wanted a pure sound, we would use a source that produced only pure
waveforms like a sine-wave generator, and perhaps added the various pure,
in-tune harmonic frequencies at various (and diminished) volumes to the
fundamental tone.

A piano has 88 keys and string collections (most notes have 3 strings per
note, bass strings only one wire string with a copper-wire coil wrapped
around it, per note). The strings for any particular note (tone frequency)
are often slightly detuned, so that only the middle string is more or less
perfectly in tune, while the two strings to either side are detuned
slightly in order to make the note's sound richer and fuller, with beat
frequencies and other out-of-tune artifacts introduced.

In addition, most pianos are "stretch tuned," which means that the bass
notes are intentionally and progressively tuned flatter and flatter by a
small incremental amount, while the treble (high) notes are tuned
incrementally sharper and sharper. This is because the bass notes have such
a low tone that it is their harmonic frequencies that are heard more
clearly by the human ear, and those harmonic frequencies are often sharp (a
higher frequency than they should be if perfectly in tune). So the bass
notes are tuned so that the harmonic frequencies are heard more in tune
while the fundamental frequency is slightly flat (lower frequency than it
should be if it were perfectly in tune).

Meanwhile, the treble strings, because they are stretched so tightly in
order to produce such a high pitch (frequency, tone), immediately decay
flat (become lower in frequency and out of tune immediately after they are
struck by the piano hammer activated by the key pressed by the performer.
So the treble notes are tuned a little sharp, so that the decay (the sound
as it becomes softer immediately after it is produced) sounds more in tune.

Add to those out-of-tune compromises the fact that the scale we now nearly
universally use, the equal-tempered 12-tone scale that allows for playing
in any key, is a compromise between the pure tunings of any specific key,
so that nearly every note in the scale of any key is at least a little out
of tune. The intervals of perfect fifths and perfect fourths, derived from
strict mathematical relationships, are all altered, so that the fourths are
stretched (tuned sharper than they should be) and the fifths are flattened
(tuned closer to each of the two tones than they should be), which means
that nearly all music that we hear, and nearly all instruments that play
together in an ensembles, are ALL out of tune to one degree or another.

In addition to all of that, people usually intentionally introduce other
imperfections into their sounds or music, such as the distortion frequently
used with electric guitar.

Music is a vast collection of imperfections. Regarding modeled pianos, if
the model is too pure and perfect, people complain that it doesn't sound
realistic or authentic. If it models the actual acoustic instrument's
imperfections too well, they complain that it sounds too "muddy,"
distorted, not clear or pure enough, etc.

All of this means that it is literally impossible to please a
perfectionist, because there is almost nothing perfect about music or the
production of sound, and also because a perfectionist, if he tries very
hard, can always find something, even the smallest thing, that he considers
imperfect or not ideal. :-) Life must be very hard for the perfectionist!

However, all that said, our very precisely out-of-tune 12-tone equal
temperament scale, in use for pianos and most orchestral or band
instruments, actually allows for an incredible amount of extremely complex
and beautiful frequency and harmonic relationships that are impossible when
using a completely mathematically pure single-key scale. Without this
"imperfect" tuning, modern music since the time of Bach, including the
beautiful Classical, Romantic, Impressionist and modern music of Mozart,
Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Ravel and hundreds of
other composers would not be possible.

OK-- I apologize for such a long-winded response! :-)

Best wishes,
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