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Title: The stringing, scaling and pitch of pianos built in the Viennese and South German traditions, 1780-1820
Author: Latcham, Michael
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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Between 1780 and 1820 the changes in the pianos built in the Viennese and South German traditions were rapid and extensive. These changes manifest themselves in the stringing, the scaling and, to a lesser degree, the pitch of the pianos of the firms of Johann Andreas Stein (1728-1792), his daughter Nannette Streicher (1769-1833), Anto Walter (1752-1826), Ferdinand Hofmann (1756-1829) and their pupils and followers. General trends can be observed. The compass was enlarged and the extent of both the triple stringing and the back-pinning was increased. Strings were made continually thicker, presumably to meet the demand for more volume. Because thicker strings are relatively weak compared to thinner ones the strings were shortened to avoid breakage. The case construction was strengthened to withstand the greater tension. Improvements were made in the tensile strength of music wire from about 1820 onwards allowing makers to lengthen the strings again. The gauge numbers, which indicate the makers' intentions for string thicknesses and which are found stamped or written on the instruments, probably do not refer to different gauge systems but to one single system. The gauge numbers refer to nominal diameters which, with considerable variation from one wire drawer to another, were gradually increased in actual diameter over time. This single gauge system sometimes contained half gauges, sometimes not. Many builders did not use the Pythagorean principle in which the lengths of the strings for two notes an octave apart are related in the ratio 1 : 2. Instead, many makers used the ratio 1 : 1.95, achieved in practice by giving the upper note of a pair of notes two octaves apart the Pythagorean length of the note a semitone lower than the upper note. The use of the tapered scaling may be related to the phenomenon known today as tensile pick-up in which thinner strings are relatively stronger than thicker strings.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available