Are you learning to tune pianos?

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Post your answers below. 

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7 Responses to “Are you learning to tune pianos?”

  1. Sherry Johnson says:

    It takes me a long time to tune the high treble aurally.

    • Hi Sherry,

      Tuning to the treble can be tricky.

      One trick I use to speed things up is listen to each string separately. Often only one string is slightly out from the others, and with the treble, it seems easier to hear melodically which one it is and in which direction.

      So, I pluck or mute so that I hear Left-Center-Right separately.

      If I interpret the relative pitch as Medium-Medium-High, then I know that the right string is a bit high.

      In this case, when I can hear a difference, the unison usually sounds a bit wobbly, or shimmery.

      I would just play the trichord, and gently massage the right string down. As I am listening to the sound of the trichord, I will hear the shimmering slowly disappear. The trick is not to go too far. Just get it to sound better.

      This doesn’t set the pitch of the trichord as a whole within the rest of the piano, but it does create a better unison.

      To set the pitch as a whole, I use beat speed windows with P4 and P5, setting pure 12ths or 19ths as I go, often referencing all the way back to the temperament octave. The P4 and P5 window method has checks built in which find any drifted notes so you can correct them before moving on.

  2. John Kellner says:

    I have been fighting with stability (lever technique). That is starting to come along, but still a struggle.

    Tuning unisons was something that was beyond me at first (I use an ETD to set the temperament). At first I tried to manually tune unisons, but couldn’t hear them well at first (and my lever arm was spastic). I tuned my piano a few days ago (for the XXth time) and managed to tune the unisons all the way up to the mid-6’s. Seems to be holding fairly well.

    I tune the middle string with the ETD and manually tune the outside strings.

    John
    Saskatoon

    • Hi John,

      Stability was the subject of my first course at the Denver PTG Convention. The room was packed with standing room only. This goes to show the importance of the subject.

      Tuning good unisons is another important subject. We all know what a good unison sounds like, but the challenge is being able to control the lever (back to a stability related skill) so that small minuscule changes in pitch can be effected. Lever control is the key. Think about how the pin bends during and after tuning, as well as where we leave the non-speaking length tension, relative to the speaking length tension. That’s all I’ve done and I’ve been able to define a method that has produced great results for me, and helped me speed up my tunings.

      Stability and unisons are great subjects, important for any tuner, aural or electronic. That’s why they will be subjects of future courses I am planning, thanks to you.

      I will also create free lessons on the subjects. I do have some lessons on unisons. Have you seen them?

      Thanks again,
      Mark

  3. Kim says:

    Having tuned new pianos,grands and really old pianos that not have been tuned in x ages, I find I have most problem with the really old pianos. String with false beats and when tuning I question myself- how “clean” can this old piano sound!?
    Know how “clean” i can get some pianos but others I’m not that satified with.

    And trying to keep my workingtime down, but keep using around 3 hours when I tune a piano that needs overpulling first.
    First focus is keeping a stable and goodsounding piano, but would be nice to tune better/faster too!

    • Hi Kim,

      Thank you for your reply.

      You are smart to try and get your tuning time down. The secret is to have methods that produce high accuracy early on. Standard methods produce notes with error, then these notes are used as reference notes to tune other notes, creating cumulative error. With this kind of system, it is no wonder it takes a long time to tune a piano.

      I will use your reply as a source for creating future courses. Look for them. I will also create free video lessons on the subject.

      If you are interested in exploring advanced methods that can reduce time, look up Double String Unison. There is a learning curve.

      Mark

      • Hi again Kim,

        I should have also mentioned this technique:

        When trying to decide how clean a unison can be, and thereby finding out if my problem is with the piano, or I have just gone mad, I will listen to individual strings.

        If they are clean, then I should be able to tune a clean unison, sounding as clean as a single string.

        I will also sometimes pluck a single string. If it sounds odd, there is a problem with the string/bridge/soundboard, and not the hammer. If it sounds clean, I look for problems with the hammer, (mating, loose had, etc)

        There are tricks to tune strings with false beats and techniques for reducing the falseness of a string.

        Contact e if you need more specifics.

        Mark

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