Why It’s Impossible to Tune a Piano

In this video from MinutePhysics, Henry Reich looks at exactly why even a freshly tuned piano isn’t actually in tune. If you like this video, go check out and subscribe to MinutePhysics here. You can also join us in supporting Henry’s efforts to make more videos like this by donating via MinutePhysics’ Patreon page here.

If you liked this video, you might also enjoy:

Bonus Facts:

  • Catgut strings were never made out of actual cat guts. Catgut is (and was) made from the walls of various animal intestines though. Generally sheep or goat intestines are preferred, but occasionally other intestines are used, such as intestines from pigs and cows. This practice of making strings and cord from animal intestines can be found going all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. Both the Ancient Egyptians and catgut makers all the way up to today tend to prefer making these cords and strings from herbivorous, rather than carnivores, like cats. So if catgut was never made from actual cat intestines, where did the name come from? One theory is that it came from “cattle-gut” and was eventually shortened down to just “catgut”. An equally plausible argument is that it derived from “kit-string” also known as “kit-gut”- a “kit” being a fiddle. Another theory, which is probably dubious, is that makers of these strings in the 17th century chose the word to fool people into thinking the strings were actually made from catgut, thus, protecting their trade secrets.
  • Catgut strings are prepared by cleaning the intestines of undesirable additions. They do this by soaking the guts in water, then using a knife to scrape off the fat and other such things attached to the intestines. From there, the intestines are soaked in an alkaline substance and smoothed out. The surviving microbes on the catgut are then killed via sulfuric fumes. From there, the intestines are ready to be stretched/wound/etc. into appropriately sized strings.
  • Animals that are quite lean tend to produce significantly higher quality strings than animals that possess large amounts of fat. This is one of the reasons pig gut isn’t typically preferred.
  • Catgut isn’t just used for instruments, but is also often used in very high quality tennis rackets; bow-strings; for hanging weights on high-end clocks; and sometimes used for stitching wounds, though that practice has gradually given way to using cotton and synthetic threads, which seem to make wounds less prone to infection.
Share the Knowledge! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinteresttumblrmail
Print Friendly
Enjoy this article? Join over 50,000 Subscribers getting our FREE Daily Knowledge and Weekly Wrap newsletters:

Subscribe Me To:  | 
  • Paul Kemner

    Also, “catline” gut strings were used for lower-pitch strings in the 16th – 18th centuries, until the idea of winding metal wire around gut strings came into use. The gut was wound in the same way as a catline – special rope used to secure an anchor on a sailing ship.

    Also, check out different historical temperaments like the ones described by Werkmeister. Chords in keys with few sharps or flats are harmonious and stable, while ones further from C have more energy.