[2.5.6] Equalizing String Tension

Pounding is also helpful for distributing the string tension more evenly among all the non-speaking sections of the string, such as the duplex scale section, but especially in the section between the capo bar and the agraffe. There is controversy as to whether equalizing the tension will improve the sound. There is little question that the even tension will make the tuning more stable. However, whether it makes a material difference in stability may be debatable, especially if the pins were correctly set during tuning. In many pianos, the duplex sections are almost completely muted out using felts because they might cause undesirable oscillations. In fact, the over-strung section is muted out in almost every piano. Beginners need not worry about the tension in these "non-speaking" sections of the strings. Thus heavy pounding, though a useful skill to learn, is not necessary for a beginner.

My personal opinion is that the sound from the duplex scale strings does not add to the piano sound. In fact, this sound is inaudible and is muted out when they become audible in the bass. Thus the "art of tuning the duplex scale" is a myth although most piano tuners (including Reblitz!) have been taught to believe it by the manufacturers, because it makes for a good sales pitch. The only reason why you want to tune the duplex scale is that the bridge wants to be at a node of both the speaking and non-speaking lengths; otherwise, tuning becomes difficult, sustain may be shortened, and you lose uniformity. Using mechanical engineering terminology, we can say that tuning the duplex scale optimizes the vibrational impedance of the bridge. In other words, the myth does not detract from the tuners' ability to do their job. Nonetheless, a proper understanding is certainly preferable. The duplex scale is needed to allow the bridge to move more freely, not for producing sound. Obviously, the duplex scale will improve the quality of the sound (from the speaking lengths) because it optimizes the impedance of the bridge, but not because it produces any sound. The facts that the duplex scale is muted out in the bass and is totally inaudible in the treble prove that the sound from the duplex scale is not needed. Even in the inaudible treble, the duplex scale is "tuned" in the sense that the aliquot bar is placed at a location such that the length of the duplex part of the string is a harmonic length of the speaking section of the string in order to optimize the impedance ("aliquot" means fractional or harmonic). If the sound from the duplex scale were audible, the duplex scale would have to be tuned as carefully as the speaking length. However, for impedance matching, the tuning need only be approximate, which is what is done in practice. Some manufacturers have stretched this duplex scale myth to ridiculous lengths by claiming a second duplex scale on the pin side. Since the hammer can only transmit tensile strain to this length of string (because of the rigid Capo bar), this part of the string cannot vibrate to produce sound. Consequently, practically no manufacturer specifies that the non-speaking lengths on the pin side be tuned.