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Pianos on Steamboats

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    #16
    Piano tuning

    Dale, pianos are designed to be maintained at the concert pitch of A-440. This means that the A strings above middle C on your piano vibrate at a frequency of 440 times per second. This is the official pitch of the Unistates Bureau of Standards and officially adopted by the American Federation of Musicians in 1920. It is the worldwide standard accepted pitch, though sometimes orchestras will tune a little higher.

    There are sophisticated tuning devices now that measure frequencies, and some tuners use these machines exclusively in their work. I learned to tune by ear, listening to the beat rates produced when the two tones of an interval (like a third, a fourth, a fifth, sixth, octave, tenth, etc.) are sounded.

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      #17
      Hi, Shipyard:
      I may be wrong but seems to me there was a black baby grand piano on the boat going back many years. I'm sure a number of posters here recall the famed 'Happy Briscoe' who tickled the keys in addition to running the boat's gift stand. This back before 1962.

      Harmon Mize always had a great touch on the electric organ [Hammond?] there also. Who remembers Ken Hurst on the organ? WOW! the talent that has and continues to grace the Queens.

      Cheers and Do-Re-Me-Fa,
      R. Dale Flick

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        #18
        Originally posted by Jazzou Jones View Post
        Dale, pianos are designed to be maintained at the concert pitch of A-440. This means that the A strings above middle C on your piano vibrate at a frequency of 440 times per second. This is the official pitch of the Unistates Bureau of Standards and officially adopted by the American Federation of Musicians in 1920. It is the worldwide standard accepted pitch, though sometimes orchestras will tune a little higher.

        There are sophisticated tuning devices now that measure frequencies, and some tuners use these machines exclusively in their work. I learned to tune by ear, listening to the beat rates produced when the two tones of an interval (like a third, a fourth, a fifth, sixth, octave, tenth, etc.) are sounded.
        Dale,

        There are also guitar tuners which work in a similiar way. They are easier to use in that they are designed to recognize the pitch of a particular string. Then, using LED lights, they guide you to either raise or lower the pitch of the string until it reaches the proper pitch for E B G D A and E again. I find it quite valuable. Having tuned guitars and banjos a few thousand times, I find it difficult to tune by ear since I now hear the entire spectrum of each note played. It takes a millisecond or so for a string to reach the proper pitch and I find it hard to choose where the proper pitch lies on the way up.

        Maybe I need to take a few lessons from Jazzou :O)


        Paul

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          #19
          Fired My First Man Over That Piano

          Right, you are. Harmon Mize played the electric organ and the calliope, too, I believe. See where Jazzou said a "good coat of paint" oft helped an ailing piano. After Cap removed the black paint off the baby grand, wags said the thing would never sound right, again, but Wagner would hear none of it, for her gave 'er several think layers of polyurethane varnish that must have had the same remedial benefits as did the coats of slick black factory finish. Didn't Mary Greene tickle the keys, too? And who can ever forget lovely Mom Tooker on the piano?

          One fellow who should have stayed away from that piano (when it was still black) was a young college student working on the DQ as a deckhand for the summer. His interests were more sophisticated than what he was getting paid to do, and what he wanted to do was mess with the piano; so as a group of us following the Mate entered the O-Room from the Fire Box, this fellow was plinking away on the ivories. That tough ole Mate, a certain CCH, looked at his Second Mate, me, and just said, "Fire him." Though it nearly broke the kid's heart I had to follow orders, and he was last seen toting his suitcase up the hill. The piano, by the way, was constantly getting out of tune from would-be players messing with the thing. The was no Jazzou-talented types aboard, so the instrument had to be tuned when the boat reached a town where an expensive professional piano-tuner would have to be found to get the thing back in tune. No one else who shouldn't have, played around with the piano after that example.

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            #20
            Originally posted by Shipyard Sam View Post
            The piano, by the way, was constantly getting out of tune from would-be players messing with the thing. The was no Jazzou-talented types aboard, so the instrument had to be tuned when the boat reached a town where an expensive professional piano-tuner would have to be found to get the thing back in tune. No one else who shouldn't have, played around with the piano after that example.
            Hi Sam,

            On the MQ, my cabin is DIRECTLY under the piano in the Paddlewheel. Many was the time, after hours, that I had to get out of bed, trundle upstairs and shoo some aspiring Liberace away from the instrument. We finally had to lock the thing when not being used by someone from the ent dept.

            It was difficult sometimes to explain to a passenger why their playing the piano was not allowed. That's why the upright in the MT Gallery on the AQ comes in so handy.


            Paul

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              #21
              A at 440 is the standard today, but back in steamboating days A at 435 was more common. Electronic tuning devices are rather sophisticated today, and are well-respected within the piano tuning community. I use an old "sight-O-Tuner" and my ear. That SOT has saved my neck more than once in less-than-optimum enviroments--like the spinet in a stage trailer parked next to a diesel generator powering the carnival rides; and then the county fair took three weeks to pay for the tuning! The other fun thing to do, is to tune a piano on a stage where they are still setting the balyhoo lights and setting up the tables and dinner ware--and then some guy comes up to me and asks me if I have to keep making "that noise" as it is disturbing his dinner. I told that if he wanted to hear the concert tonite, then Yes, I had to continue to do my job.
              S'
              David D.

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                #22
                At Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the piano tuner was a German POW from North Africa. How this guy went through a war, got interrogated, shipped to Missouri and all and kept his tools will never be known. He tuned to A = 444, European standard at the time. Rubinoff and his Magic Violin showed up at the camp for a concert and made about 1,500 enemies when he complained and had a tantrum. As for us sad-sack army musicians, we just pulled in our slides and got on with it.

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                  #23
                  Who benefitted most, the piano or the piano man?

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                    #24
                    Hi, Shipyard:
                    Yep, Mary Greene-Stewart has been quite a musician and singer all of her life from Cincinnati's Withrow High School, University of Cincinnati and the famed Interlochen music camp in northern Michigan near Traverse City. In fact, and on good authority, Mary had the honor of singing for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mary has a rich, clear voice with the ability to harmonize. Sister Jane Greene also has a fine voice.

                    Cheers,
                    R. Dale Flick

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                      #25
                      That's interesting, as most violinist like 'em sharp!
                      S'
                      David D.

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