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Musically Intelligible Sound

The sound of a single piano note may be likened to how singers enunciate tone and speech sounds, and it depends to a certain extent on the effects of partitioning the piano compass into several ranges. Three ranges are defined: the "Vocal Piano" which covers the range of the human voice; the "Birdsong Treble" which encompasses the top two octaves; and for the lowest octave, the "Gong or Bell" (sometimes also "Wind or Organ"). Since vowel recognition is limited in frequency, the top of the vocal range is limited to sounds like “E”.

For the Vocal Piano range, the most desirable tonal character is for the vowel tone to be dynamically variable. The strongest played notes should exhibit some E-like sound. When the tone decays to the softest level it should change in character much like the way singers warm up by singing “EeeeAaaaAhahahahaOhohohohOOOooooo”.

"Impact Sound" and "Sustained Tone" differ. Impact Sounds can be described with consonant sounds and Sustained Tone can be described with vowel sounds. A great piano does not have too strong, too hard, or too long a duration of the impact sound. But, almost all pianos do have an impact sound of too long duration starting around note 60, the 5th G sharp from the bottom note. If you listen you will hear the piano as having a sort of "lisp" to the start of the note (The best way to hear this is to try singing with a lisp. Singing and lisping don't mix). Another example of the problem with impact sounds is provided in Alexander Galembo's YouTube demonstration (above, right).

Tonal definitions can be improved across the full compass of the piano keyboard by an experienced tuner. Separating pitch from duplex noises is one aspect. In the lower ranges of the piano compass, other factors can particularly dominate. The latter will be discussed on the next page.

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