Tuning the piano and testing it with a piece by composer Bach ‘Well Tempered Clavier’

It has been almost 2 years since the last time I saw Jenny. We met for the first time on a hot Saturday afternoon, I promised to meet her in front of a school nearby and she showed up on a 500cc motorbike. I had just received delivery of my YUS-1 Yamaha upright piano and she was here to tune it.

With a rather peculiar wrench in her hand she began to regulate the whole network of connections of levers, springs, and hammers linked to the keyboard. Quite a racket the work was making, I was starting to worry the neighbors might complain.

It is a craft that demands great patience and a highly technical work. The skill required takes years to master. Tuning needed on a piano for a concert is not the same as for one in a living room. A piano accompanying a violin will be tuned differently from one accompanying a cello.

Vituoso pianists who are particular about the sound of their pianos before a performance employ their own favourite technicians fulltime to travel with them, adjusting the piano to the specific need of the pianists.

In 2009, 78 year old piano technician Willam Gray drove 300 miles from his home, then had to take a 4 hour boat ride to a remote island off the coast of Scotland to work on a 109 year old Steinway grand piano.[source:The Scottish Sun, 3 Aug 2009]

Johann Sebastian Bach however, prefered to tune his own piano, or more accurately harpsichord. To him another man’s touch was not good enough. He wanted his instrument to be well tempered.

In a standard keyboard there are twelve notes in an octave. When a piano is well tempered it means that it was regulated in a way that makes it possible for most major or minor keys to be played without sounding out of tune, not obviously anyway. If a piano is not well tempered those keys can not be played in harmony.

He showed this was possible through a beautiful composition called ‘Well Tempered Clavier’. What better way to test my piano by playing this song.

Get the MP3 of ‘Well Tempered Clavier’ for free at emusic.com through their free trial subscription. You do not have to pay anything.Take advantage of the free trial subscription.

As you press on the keys of the piano connecting the notes together to form the music, notice how the beautiful melody resembles the music of a harp being being plucked. I like to fantasize a Greek maiden playing the harp by a waterfall when I play this song, it helps me to play with emotion.

Overall this piece is pretty straightforward, there are no sudden changes in speed or tempo, it keeps a steady and balanced pace.

The only part I think is a bit challenging is at 2:25, when the right hand plays A-E-A, the last A being at a higher octave. I had to stretch my pinkie to reach the A, you will need a strong finger for that so practice a lot.

The ending of the song is a georgous climax, a final line of harmony played continuously and smoothly in a slur. A great workout for the fingers on the right hand, you’ll love it too.

Try it yourself, get the music sheet from musicsheetplus.com.

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