Archive for the ‘Becoming a Piano Technician’ Category

Piano Tuning and Repair Workshops in Montreal, Quebec. April 11 – 15, 2016

I’m looking for people who are interested in a live course with me, on the topics of aural piano tuning and basic piano repair and regulation.

The course will be given at Westend Pianos in Montreal Ouest.

Each course is 20 hours long, and while you will not be a piano tuner after 40 hours, you will have a great headstart and be able to start practicing using some excellent methods.

Get more information below:
Piano Tuning Workshop
Piano Tuning Tools
Piano Repair Workshop
Piano Repair Tools

If you are interested, please contact me as soon as possible because I need to prepare your tools.


Information Overload

I was just listening to Vermont Public Radio. They were discussing the brain and one thing the guest said was that too much information can be a bad thing; it can slow us down and interfere with decision making. 

While that may seem counter-intuitive, it agrees with what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, Blink. 

In one of his chapters he discusses the challenge of a hospital in the poor area of Chicago. This hospital by the way was the model for the tv show, ER. 

Anyway, the problem was how to correctly identify patients with chest pain who were actually having a heart attack; many symptoms are similar to anxiety for example. 

At the time, the standard procedure was to do a heart test, ask a bunch of questions, and keep the patient for observation, which was expensive, took a lot of time, and was not very accurate. 

It turns out, one doctor named Goldman, had devised a procedure where a heart test is administered and a few simple questions are asked. 

Many doctors thought this was ridiculous. How could doctors ignore such serious conditions as age and stress related situations, for example.

It turns out the Goldman Index, as the test was called, was simpler, faster, and more accurate than previous tests, because of the data it ignored! See Goldman Index

I am interested in this research because it agrees with the approach I use to tune a piano aurally. 

I have devised a temperament sequence I call Bisecting Beat Speed Windows, BBSW. In this sequence, there are objective tests that are used to set each pitch. But for each note, there is only one test. Mathematically, we can have very many different tests for each note, especially as we have more and more notes tuned. But with this method, only one test is needed for each note. 

What’s more is that after the temperament is finished, most tuners will use a multitude of tests and checks to find and correct notes that need correcting. Learning all these tests takes quite a long time, and it takes a long time to administer them. 

With the BBSW method, only one test is used to set a note, and if that note needs correcting after the whole temperament is tuned, I only use that one test to retune that note. 

The method is clear, objective, and concise. There are far less tests to learn and administer, and the result is a faster, simpler temperament sequence that is more accurate than many popular sequences; I often finish a sequence and have no refinements to do. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Bisecting Beat Speed Windiw temperament sequence, please contact me using the contact link above. 

Thanks for reading. 

Advice for a Beginner

Cheryl is learning to tune pianos. She says she is working on hearing the beats. A great start, I say.

Here is my advice:

“Hi Cheryl,

Awesome that you are working on hearing beats.

Hearing beats is the key. Learning the algorithm is easy. You can even just read it off a chart. In any case, no matter what sequence you use, all the chromatic M3/M6 and even the P4/5 all have to increase by 6%. If you can’t hear that difference, you can’t tune equal temperament. It’s that simple. 

I have created a online test you can take to see what your beat speed difference sensitivity is. Go to Beat Speed Difference Test

Most people, regardless of experience, score 3% for beat speeds of 5bps and up, and 6% for beat speeds around 1bps. 

So, why is it so hard?

The challenge is being able to hear the beats clearly. The first step is knowing where they occur and what they sound like. 

Where they occur is easy. You can just use a chart or memorize the coincidental partial of each interval.

Here’s a small list that shows where the beats occur for each interval:

M3 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note
M6 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note
m3 – 2xP8+M3 above top note
m6 – 2xP8+M3 above bottom note

P4 – 2P8 above bottom note
P5 – P8 above top note

But what do they sound like, that’s the challenge. 

MRI’s done on experienced aural piano tuners’ brains reveal much more gray and white matter than non-tuners. This means are brains have changed, presumably through years of focused practice. (Read all about it at The Aural Piano Tuner’s Brain

The implication is, there is no way to be able to hear beats clearly without putting in the time. 

Being a teacher, that’s frustrating. (Students these days aren’t the only ones who want results fast 😉

For that reason, I have created an article to help you hear beats easier. Go to How to Hear Beats

I am also designing a Tuneable Aural Band Pass Filter. You just clip on the mic, turn it on, dial in the coincidental partial, play the interval, and the beat jumps out at you, crystal clear. See a demonstration at Tuneable Band Pass Filter

Let me know if you have any questions.”

Helping someone with stability

Someone bought my book and after thanking them, I wrote them this email, which I believe adds some value to the book which was missing. The topic is stability and how to get it.

Hello Ville,

Thank you so much for buying my book.

It is older but has some good descriptions in it.

One thing missing is a good description of tuning unisons.

There are three things to keep in mind when tuning unisons.

1. We must have a technique that makes small changes in pitch and produces a stable pitch.

2. There is friction in the upper segment or Non-speaking length, NSL, (tuning pin to upper termination point) that results in a buffer between lever force and pitch change. This means when you first apply force to the tuning lever, the pitch doesn’t change right away. Also, this friction means that the tensions in the upper segment or non-speaking length (NSL) and the speaking length do not have to be exactly equal, although students are often told that is the goal. This friction and possible tension difference that produces a stable pitch, I call the tension band. Your job is to get, no leave, the NSL tension not in the middle, but a little high in the tension band. Near the middle, because the tension band narrows on hard blows. I.e. The vibration of the string causes the friction to drop and the tension band to narrow, and if the NSL tension is near the edge of the band, a hard blow will narrow the band and may leave the NSL tension outside the band and that will cause the string to slip.

Also, I say a little high from middle, because hard blows increase tension in the speaking length and that raises the tension band, so having the NSL tension a little higher than middle, means the NSL tension is more centered in the band during hard blows.

3. The tuning pin bends and twists during tuning, and when you remove the lever force on the pin, the pin then unbends and untwists. You have to imagine the effect of unbending and untwisting on the NSL tension, and try to leave it slightly high of middle in the tension band.

I know that’s a lot, but if you can get your mind around these things, you can begin to develop your own superior stability techniques.

Here a simple technique that works most of the time, and why. The description assumes an upright.

With your hammer at 12:00 or close, bring the pitch slightly high of your target, then gently lower it down until it is where you want it. For unisons this means a pure beatless unison that sounds like a single string.

What is happening:

When you raise the pitch, the NSL tension is at the top of the band, pulling it up.

When you are above the target pitch and gently bring the pitch down, the fact that the pitch is changing means the NSL tension is at the bottom of the band and bringing it down.

Now, here’s where the magic happens. After you decide you have the pitch you want, and you STILL have the force on the lever, you relax your grip on the lever. The pin untwists clockwise (because you were lowering pitch) and that brings the NSL tension up off the bottom of the tension band. The pin unbends as well, but because your lever was at 12:00, the bending is perpendicular to the string which has no effect on NSL tension.

If the string is not stable after a few hard blows, you did not leave the NSL tension in the sweet spot on the band.

If the pitch dropped, the NSL tension did not rise enough when you relax the lever force. Try putting the lever at 9:00. This adds the unbending effect to the NSL tension, rising it a bit more.

There are many more appropriate techniques you can develop yourself by keeping in mind the initial NSL tension within the tension band at the point when you have the target pitch AND before you remove the lever force, and the probable effect on NSL tension of removing the lever force.

It may seem complicated, but if you want to own stability, you need to understand everything that is happening within the tuning pin/string system re:forces, friction, and elastic deformation.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.


New Advanced Lesson on Tuning Lower Octaves

Check out this new lesson with recording that shows how I use Double String Unison and Shimming and the 8:4 window to, not only tune a lower D#3D#4 octave, but find and correct drifting notes up to three octaves above D#3.

DSU and the 8:4 Window

New Lesson Added that shows how to do a Pitch Raise in ONE PASS!

I have just added a page to my free lessons that shows how I did a pitch raise in one pass using Double String Unison, P4 windows, 8:4 windows, and Parallel Octaves.

It is my preferred way to do pitch raises by ear because I like the fact that I can be always trying to create the best intervals possible, instead of doing rough approximations like those used in rough passes.

It takes me about the same time to do a pitch raise in one pass using this technique, as it does to make multiple rough passes before a final fine tuning. Anyways, I am always using this technique even in a fine tuning. With the kind of accuracy and precision techniques I am using, it seems every tuning is a pitch raise or pitch drop.

Here is the link to the page: One Pass Pitch Raise

Resultant Tones

Resultant tones are tones that are produced by the interference of different frequencies. Beats are a common type of resultant tone.

Listen as a third, different note is produced from two interval notes, the third and fifth, resulting in a major triad from only two notes.

FREE pdf on How to Become a Piano Tuner

I make this pdf available for free but I ask that if you haven’t subscribed to my website yet, please do so now. This way you will not miss any of the free information on How to Tune Pianos that I am publishing on this site.

Keep in mind that I will occasionally offer you opportunities to purchase products and services that will help you learn to tune pianos.

Stay Tuned!


How to Become a Piano Tuner – FREE pdf

The Different Ways to Learn Piano Tuning, and Which One is Right for You.

I have just created an article that describes the different ways you can learn piano tuning and repair, and I am very excited to announce that I have finally created a survey that you can take that will tell you which method may be the best for you.

Excited because I had to learn HTML5 and Javascript to do it. Not to mention modifying my wordpress CSS file and finding a plugin to allow javascript to run in a wordpress site. But this is not a coding website, so on with the links.

Here is the article: Different Learning Options for Piano Tuning

Here is the survey: Learning Options Survey

Comments welcomed, as usual.

Improving Treble Unisons – Melodic Comparison Technique

Here is another technique I wrote to Max.


Improving Treble Unisons – Melodic Comparison Technique

Another technique that works well with treble unisons.

1. Mute off the right two strings.

2. Play the note. (You are now listening to the left string unison)

3. Mute off the left and the right string.

4. Play the note. (You are now listening to the center string unison)

5. Mute off the left two strings.

6. Play the note. (You are now listening to the right string unison)

7. Do steps 1 to 6 a few more times. Each time, listen and compare the melodic pitch of each string with the others. Depending on your melodic pitch difference sensitivity, you may get the feeling that one or more strings are higher or lower than the others. Identify one string that could be improved and remember whether it sounded higher or lower than the others.

8. Remove the mute(s)

9. Place your hammer on the pin that belongs to the string you identified in step 7.

10. Remembering whether it was higher or lower from step 7, gently coax the string in the direction that would improve it. Often this does not require the pin foot to move.

11. Just improve the sound of the trichord unison. Do NOT try to prefect it or you will pass pure and end up on a wild goose chase, trying to get the perfect sound. Just improve the sound from where it started. As your ability to tell what needs improving gets better, your unisons will improve.

Please email me personally for more feedback. I do not check PW often.

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