New Methods of Learning Piano Tuning. 

Recently, on a facebook piano technicians group, one poster noted that piano technicians traditionally are “plying a trade whose skills have been developed long before we could have absolute empirical data, and the basis of our standards had always relied on a certain amount of feel”. 

My recent research has been in stark contrast to this “feeling” approach and my motivation has been how technology has burst my own bubble of confidence; before I started recording and analyzing my aural tunings,  I used to have more confidence in my ability to correctly assess,  compare, and “feel” different beat speeds. 

For this reason I have received my fair share of criticism and insults, indifference and misunderstanding concerning my findings.

I heard a story about Sir Francis Bacon, the father of the modern scientific method, that made me think about the current state of piano tuning pedagogy. 

Prior to Sir Francis’ study of the human nervous system, Aristotle was the source of knowledge on the subject. Since no one had ever seen the inside of a body before, Aristotle was writing about what he “felt” was true, based on indirect observation and conjecture. He stated that more nerves traveled from the heart than from the brain. 

One night, Sir Francis invited his colleagues over to view one of his cadavers that had been cut open to show clearly that there were more nerves coming from the brain than the heart.

One colleague stood looking over the cadaver and noted, “I can see here what you are saying. There are clearly more nerves coming from the brain, and if Aristotle had not written the contrary, I might actually believe it.”

The point being, if you are interested in learning to tune a piano, there is currently a lot of material written by the “Aristotles” of the piano teaching world and only a small amount and growing written by the “Sir Francis Bacons” of the industry, using technology to analyze and discover the truth regarding aural piano tuning techniques. 

Both approaches can acheive results but the empirical method is more objective and therefore gives better quantitative feedback. The difficulty for the student is knowing which is which.

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