Posts tagged harmonics
I regularly get asked this question in my shop. What IS the difference between big pianos and small pianos? Well i’m going to preface this by asking you a question, “Do you ever see small pianos in concert halls?” The answer unequivocally is a resounding NO. Logically then, ALL piano makers have come to the same conclusion that bigger pianos are somehow better. And you could argue that big pianos fill big rooms with sound. And there is a measure of truth to that, HOWEVER… my nephew who is in his 20’s has a stereo system in his car that is a 1000 watts of output. Now when you consider an average home stereo might be 200-400 watts and a clock radio might be 1-2 watts, a whopping 1000 watts seems overkill right? Well the bigger the stereo system, generally speaking, the greater the fidelity. In pianos too, the longer the strings (thus making a bigger piano), the richer the fundamental… generally speaking. The what? The fundamental? What is that? Glad you asked. The fundamental is the base frequency of a note. Within every note on any instrument, there is a rainbow spectrum of harmonic tones. The fundamental then is the base… the one we hear the most – the pitch of the note. So if you play an E on the piano, primarily you will hear frequency corresponding to E. Within the body of that note though are other notes – namely the 5th, the 7th, the 10th etc. So within an E note are also present “overtones” or “harmonics” of B, D and G#. They all are embodied in that same note. A trained ear will hear them. In fact, piano tuners tune a piano way more based on the sonority of the overtones than the pitch of the note which brings me back to the original quest for the truth about large pianos: Large pianos generally have more fundamental and more pleasing harmonics than small pianos. And THAT is precisely why you should always find as BIG a piano as your space and budget can afford. You will be MUCH happier with a taller upright and a longer grand because the fundamentals will be more present and there will be less conflict with ringing overtones.