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Explaining the Railsback stretch in terms of the inharmonicity of piano tones and sensory dissonance




Giordano, Nicholas J.


The perceptual results of Plomp and Levelt for the sensory dissonance of a pair of pure tones are used to estimate the dissonance of pairs of piano tones. By using the spectra of tones measured for a real piano, the effect of the inharmonicity of the tones is included. This leads to a prediction for how the tuning of this piano should deviate from an ideal equal tempered scale so as to give the smallest sensory dissonance and hence give the most pleasing tuning. The results agree with the well known "Railsback stretch," the average tuning curve produced by skilled piano technicians. This is the first quantitative explanation of the magnitude of the Railsback stretch in terms of the human perception of dissonance.