Students learn piano tuning technique in “Music Meets Physics” workshop

Anna Feng, left, and Scott Wang tune a piano.

The colorful piano in the Yonah Lobby, recently decorated as part of an art project, was looking fine. However, people trying to play it were greeted by the twangy sound of strings badly out of tune. Last week, music majors Xueyun “Anna” Feng and Junlin “Scott” Wang, along with business major Yuhao “Charlie” Qiu, made the instrument playable in two afternoon workshop sessions.

“We did this once before with the Blackbox piano,” said Dr. Rudi Kiefer, who supplied piano tools and instruction during the project. It involved ear training to let the students hear the physical characteristics of strings in addition to their musical tone, and practice with a professional tuning lever.

After learning the basics of tuning pins, string pressure and reading an electronic strobe display, the three took turns on the 245 strings that needed adjustment.

“It is interesting to train one’s ears to what the strings are doing, instead of concentrating on the music,” Feng said.

Fellow music major Scott Wang agreed, adding “It’s a lot of fun to have an out-of-tune instrument like that and make it so that everyone can play it and enjoy it again.”

Business major Charlie Qiu remarked on the total of five hours spent on the project.

“I see now why it’s expensive to have a piano tuned by a service,” Qiu said. “It was gratifying to learn that we can also do a decent job ourselves.”