Jump to content

'Easy' piano tuning guides-No need to be a technician?


Keytarist
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • Members

Have you seen these guides like 'Tune your own piano'?. Some piano technicians had wrote these books, and they claim that you don't need to take a professional course like the one of Randy Potter and Rick Butler. The aim is to teach piano players how to tune their own instrument (like a guitar player can tune his own guitar), in order to get rid of fees for something that supposely you can do by yourself. I'm wondering if this is true, do you have some information?, like "true, but you need a lot of time", or "you can seriously damage your piano", etc.

Thanks in advance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Yep, tuning a piano is just like tuning a guitar, except there are approximately 240 strings instead of 6. :cool:

 

It's ok to experiment on an old piano that's already falling apart, but I would definitely not try this on a decent or good instrument. Proceed at your own risk. :wave:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Thanks for your feedback. :);)

In this forum and other places, I have been inquiring for a lot of keyboards types, because I have been composing on a small midi 5 octave, and is very limited. Now, I can't make my mind between going digital or for the 'real thing'. The problem with synths, is that you cannot upgrade them (or just for the time the company will support you), so they go obsolete. A real piano will stay a real piano for over the time...but out of tune pianos are horrible, rarely I have played a piano in perfect pitch, indeed. Anyone of you have personal experience on tuning, for a short or long time?. I'm waiting for more opinion of players who had tried this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Unless you have experience or a pro tuner guiding you, it's extremely difficult to tune a piano, as there are many complicated problems.

 

On a guitar, you have six strings to tune, then you're done. You don't have to tune each fret afterwards : all the semi-tones are already ready and in place.

 

On a piano, you have to tune all the semi-tones. And this is the main problem. There are no fixed frets or shortcuts - you have to make sure everything is right.

 

Regardless what you use as a reference to start with, you will end up realizing that equal temperament (or any other temperament) involves tuning every note a tiny off the right "classical just" interval. Then you have to make sure all intervals makes sense with each other. Then, you often have two or three strings to tune for each key - some tuners tune them perfectly equal, and others prefer to leave a tiny "chorus like" difference between them. What should you do, and why? ;)

 

And then, after you're done with about 30 keys out of the 88, you realize that piano strings are inharmonic, which means they don't produce exactly the perfect harmonics needed with one another - something that would make the tuning much easier. This inharmonicity problem creates another headache : you have to "stretch" the octaves for the lower and upper registers, because this phenomenon gives the impression that you go out of tune as you go on the lower and upper ends of the keyboard.

 

And of course, we haven't mentioned other facts, like the more you wait to tune a piano, the faster the instrument will "lose" its new tuning. And what do you do if a string breaks when you tune it? :facepalm:

 

So again... Unless you have a crappy old upright that's falling apart to experiment, let a pro take care of this. :wave:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

IMHO, part of the joy of real piano ownership is the twice-annual visit from the tech. He takes real good care of it, well worth the money.

 

Once tuned, even the best pianos start to go out of tune; Just how badly/quickly depends on not jsut the piano, but how it's been tuned in the past, how frequently it's retuned, and environmental conditions. Swings in temperature and humidity will make matters worse.

 

I find that on my own piano, which I keep in a house that's generally stable temperature and humidity wise, still goes noticibly out of tune after a couple of months, and by the time the tech is on it again, it REALLY needs it. But then, I'm picky. :) Also, it seems that it's going longer now before it gets bad. It's still a young piano.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Cydonia, are you talking about the harmonics series?. For example, the third harmonic of the A note is E, an octave and a fifth over the A (fundamental). So, when tuning I guess that you must check the real E an octave and a fifth over, in comparison with the third harmonic of the A note. I didn't notice that, now it seems pretty difficult.

Now I'm concerned about environmental conditions (as said ElectricPuppy), because my house is almost full made of wood, and isn't perfectly isolated...where should do I place my piano?.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

A piano should preferably be placed near an interior wall to minimize temperature fluctuations if it is going to be against a wall at all. Also, put it where it won't be in direct sunlight, or keep shades down when the sun would be shining on it.

 

In addition to everything Cydonia mentioned, there is the issue of setting the tuning pins which basically means tuning each string slightly sharp and then backing it off so that it is perfectly in tune. This is a skill that takes practice to master.

 

I tune my Rhodes electric piano all the time but call a pro for the acoustic since it is orders of magnitude more difficult.

 

You will also need a technician to do occasional action regulation to keep the keys feeling even and voicing to keep the hammers a consistent hardness and the tone even.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Yep, the harmonics produced by whatever piano string won't match the theoretical ones in the book - thus, you can't even tune octaves easily. :cry:

 

Welcome to the wonders of inharmonicity ! :facepalm:

 

So now, imagine 240 strings behaving this way - and you have to find a way to "mask" this problem the best you can. Hence the stretched tuning method. :bor:

 

-------------

 

About humidity level to optimize piano's life and tunings, the generally accepted ok range is roughly between 35% and 65% (ideally 45% to 55%). If the humidity in your home goes outside of this range during the seasons and you want to invest in a good acoustic piano, you will need to buy a "Dampp-Chaser" type of thing.

 

Temperature variations aren't as important - it's more about humidity (of course, both are often closely related). ;) That's why you should never place your acoustic piano under direct sunlight, or too close of a radiator, fireplace (lethal enemy), window or outside door. :cop:

 

If your house isn't well insulated, then it's also best to keep the piano far from exterior walls. It also depends where you live - certain climates are easier than other on pianos.

 

Of course, despite all this, we must not get too paranoid. A Dampp-Chaser (humidifier/dehumidifier installed inside the piano) is very efficient and will take care of most of these problems. :wave:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I've tuned pianos before. They've never sounded as good as a professional tuning, but it was better than nothing. You're not going to damage your piano by tuning it.

 

Like people have been saying, it is tricky to get the temperment right. Fortunately, modern tuning software can figure that out for you. This tuner is great:

http://www.katsurashareware.com/strobe/strobe.html

 

The need to tune the strings slightly sharp so they settle into place is an issue too. The only way to learn that is to practice. Professional piano tuning software (not the one I linked) actually takes that into account.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

You're not going to damage your piano by tuning it.

 

That's not true. I've seen many pianos that require extensive amounts of work and tunings to get them back 'in shape' and 'in tune' after hack tuners and players have 'had a go' at tuning them. You can also damage the way the pins are set and can cause them to 'slip'. Not to mention that if you break a string - then you're in for many more problems.

 

Leave it to the professionals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Cydonia's on the money here, it is much harder than it seems.

 

I have been considering tuning as a second mini-career, so over the last year, I've sat with a top Stienway tech three times and watched him completely tune a piano. Each time I've learned more and more. The basic idea is simple, but its all about checking and rechecking. Tune the middle octave and relate everything to it.

 

Groovatious makes another good point. You need to understand the mechanics and design of the piano or you can make damaging mistakes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Groovatious makes another good point. You need to understand the mechanics and design of the piano or you can make damaging mistakes.

Do you need to learn techniques for using the tuning tool (the hammer-shaped tool)?. :confused:

When I started this thread, I was thinking :idea: on just learning to tune, because this is the most frequent reason that makes you call a technician. Other issues (like key action, voicing, etc.) are less common (I guess?) and you can spend money on them, if you don't know how to fix them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

That's not true. I've seen many pianos that require extensive amounts of work and tunings to get them back 'in shape' and 'in tune' after hack tuners and players have 'had a go' at tuning them. You can also damage the way the pins are set and can cause them to 'slip'. Not to mention that if you break a string - then you're in for many more problems.


Leave it to the professionals.

 

You don't just open it up and start hacking at it. You read a book like The Family Piano Doctor and figure out how to do it right.

 

Keytarist, yes there is a technique for the tuning hammer. Books describe it, but it makes sense to watch someone, too. I don't know how it is in other places, but piano tuners around here seem willing to share their knowledge-- apparently my guy has more work than he can handle and he says there's always room for more tuners.

 

There's a school in Boston... can't remember the name... that teaches piano technology among other things. My tech has an apprentice who tunes my students' uprights :)

 

No doubt, tuning is a serious craft. An art, even. I've tuned some beaters to get them into quick shape, but I don't try to tune my fancy baby grand. It sounds really, really good after my tuner comes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Do you need to learn techniques for using the tuning tool (the hammer-shaped tool)?.
:confused:

 

Definately. That's probably the part I learned the most about. Initially I'd thought it odd that the handle doesn't rigidly connect to the tool's working end, but after seeting the technique of gently bumping the handle to nudge the pitch around it became obvious. It is probably a little more similar to tuning a violin than a guitar, as there is no gearing involved. The handle gives you plenty of mechanical advantage, but you're almost never grabbing it and turning, just a little at a time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I found some tuning gear, as the Verituner Pocket, but it seems that the most difficult part is in the technique. At least, this tuning soft/hardware helps you to solve the inharmonicity problem without figuring out by ear.

Does non-traditional tuning (non-aural tuning) take a little time to learn (with the help of all these tuning artifacts)?...as stated at http://www.petesummers.com/tuneyourpiano3.html.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I've tuned my piano a few times, to the point that I got satisfactory results from it. But it's a free crappy one that was given to me for free.

The first time I did it though, I got a broken string and it cost me 60 dollars to replace it. Then I had a guy come in replace it and tune it. But then I went back to it and did it ever since and didn't have any problems.

The only two damages you can do are: tune it so badly it will need 2-3 visits from the technician to tune it back to stability, and you can break strings.

I use a tuner for all of the middle range of the keyboard, about 35-40 keys, and I tune the rest by ear.

It is easier to hire someone though, if you do have the means. I've just got very limited financial resources...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

It's a little bit confusing...I have had opinions of people feeling very confident about tuning their pianos, and other ones not so much.

Do you feel happy with your acoustic piano, or after some time it gives you too much problem?. I have seen a lot of people getting rid of them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...