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Why do the Highest 8 Notes on the Piano sometimes sound “Flat”?

I am happy to say that queries or complaints about my work have been almost non-existent as far as I am aware. However on the few occassions that I have had queries the personalities involved have been people who don’t actually play the piano. A recent experience which I have had would be a typical case in point. The lady in question was present when I tuned her baby grand and was complimentary when I tested my work by playing pieces which embraced the entire keyboard. The following day I received a call from her to say that her 7 year old grand daughter(who is not a pianist either) had tested the piano and had found that the notes at the top of the piano were “flat”. I immediately knew that he word “flat” was not a reference to the tuning but more a description of the lack of clear musical sound and when I revisited this customer, I was able to explain that the notes in the extreme treble would always have a thinner sound for the following reasons:

  • The speaking length of the strings in this region is reduced to a mere 2 inches compared to a length of over 3 ft for strings in the center of the piano
  • The hammer is a fraction of the size of the hammers in the lower registers.
  • The notes in this region of the piano are seldom played in a manner which requires them to sustain for more than a second and in most cases their usage is limited to the end of an arpedgio or a run.
  • The point at which the hammer strikes the string is extremely critical and if the original setting of the hammers is fractionally off the mark we end up with virtually no sound other than the thud of the hammer hitting the string. ( Read more about the remedy for this particular problem in my future blogs.)