Advice for a Beginner

Cheryl is learning to tune pianos. She says she is working on hearing the beats. A great start, I say.

Here is my advice:

“Hi Cheryl,

Awesome that you are working on hearing beats.

Hearing beats is the key. Learning the algorithm is easy. You can even just read it off a chart. In any case, no matter what sequence you use, all the chromatic M3/M6 and even the P4/5 all have to increase by 6%. If you can’t hear that difference, you can’t tune equal temperament. It’s that simple. 

I have created a online test you can take to see what your beat speed difference sensitivity is. Go to Beat Speed Difference Test

Most people, regardless of experience, score 3% for beat speeds of 5bps and up, and 6% for beat speeds around 1bps. 

So, why is it so hard?

The challenge is being able to hear the beats clearly. The first step is knowing where they occur and what they sound like. 

Where they occur is easy. You can just use a chart or memorize the coincidental partial of each interval.

Here’s a small list that shows where the beats occur for each interval:

M3 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note
M6 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note
m3 – 2xP8+M3 above top note
m6 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note

P4 – 2P8 above bottom note
P5 – P8 above top note

But what do they sound like, that’s the challenge. 

MRI’s done on experienced aural piano tuners’ brains reveal much more gray and white matter than non-tuners. This means are brains have changed, presumably through years of focused practice. (Read all about it at The Aural Piano Tuner’s Brain

The implication is, there is no way to be able to hear beats clearly without putting in the time. 

Being a teacher, that’s frustrating. (Students these days aren’t the only ones who want results fast 😉

For that reason, I have created an article to help you hear beats easier. Go to How to Hear Beats

I am also designing a Tuneable Aural Band Pass Filter. You just clip on the mic, turn it on, dial in the coincidental partial, play the interval, and the beat jumps out at you, crystal clear. See a demonstration at Tuneable Band Pass Filter

Let me know if you have any questions.”

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