Archive for the ‘Tuning Pianos’ Category

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Feedback Please!

Hello everyone,

I am writing this post to ask for feedback on where everyone is in their piano tuning journey.

Are you tuning friends’ pianos yet? Still practicing? Have you reached a plateau and having trouble overcoming some challenge? Maybe you are working as a tuner and making money finally.

Let us know!

Piano Tuning Theory Book Finally Available!

A while ago I posted on one piano technician forum, the question, “Who would be interested in pre-purchasing a book on Piano Tuning Theory?” About a dozen people said yes and 18 months later, this book is now available.

I didn’t realize how much work it would be with all the revisions and corrections and creating all the diagrams, tables, and figure myself, but now that it is done, with the help of many friends who proofread and gave many helpful suggestions, I am extremely proud to offer you Piano Tuning Theory.

To purchase this book, please CLICK HERE!

You can also see a quick video preview of the book HERE!

Back cover excerpt:
Piano tuning is a fascinating subject. It appeals to scientifically minded people as well as those who excel more at holistic activities.

Piano Tuning Theory has been written to appeal to anyone interested in the theory of piano tuning. You do not need to be a professional piano tuner or even have an interest in tuning pianos to enjoy reading this book. However, if you are a professional piano tuner, this book is guaranteed to introduce you to some new concepts in piano tuning.

With over 200 figures, diagrams, and tables, Piano Tuning Theory has been written to appeal to all learning styles.

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90% of this book is standard theory that all technicians learn when they begin their studies, but some of the theory has been developed by data that the author has collected.

(The following example may be of interest to tuners who enjoy using beat speeds to check octave sizes. The author is aware that many technicians do not favour octave checks and prefer to tune octaves directly. This discussion, therefore, may not be of interest to them.)

Example: Tuning pure 4:2 or wide 4:2/narrow 6:3 octaves.

This has been a question that has been debated and there are advocates for both.

The author performed a study that may help one determine when to tune a pure 4:2 and when to tune a wide 4:2/narrow 6:3.

The study used the concept of Octave Spread.

Octave Spread has been defined by the author, as how “out of tune” the 6:3 partials are, when an octave is tuned as a pure 4:2. On some pianos, the 6:3 partials are very close. On other pianos, they are very far apart.

The author has defined the following categories:

Small Octave Spread: 0.0 – 0.5 cents

Medium Octave Spread: 0.5 – 1.0 cents

Large Octave Spread: 1.0+ cents

(The cents value indicates how far apart the 6:3 partials are in an octave when it is tuned as a pure 4:2.)

When using the standard octave checks, there is a window where unequal beat speeds will “sound” equal to the tuner. This is defined by the author as The Human Limitation in Beat Speed Difference Recognition.

From tests with subjects, this limitation has been found to be about 3%. It does not depend on tuning experience.

This 3% window is very close to the 0.0 – 0.5 cent bin for the Small Octave Spread.

So, even if an octave is a wide 4:2/narrow 6:3, but also has a Small Octave Spread, it will “sound” like a pure 4:2/pure 6:3, when using the standard octave tests.

When tuning wide 4:2/narrow 6:3 (when the spread is wide enough to be heard using the standard octave tests) there is a limit when subjects indicate that the octave does not sound “clean”. This limit is equal to a spread of about 1.0 cents.

If an octave has a spread of approximately more than 1.0 cents, it sounds better as a pure 4:2, which has a very narrow and wildly beating 6:3, according to subjects’ responses.

The attached flow chart may be used to aurally assess the spread (which is an indication of the inharmonicity of the piano) and possibly determine the best octave size.

(The author uses “Octave Spread” and “Octave Scale” interchangeably.)

*In some cases, the octave will not tune as a pure 4:2/pure 6:3, will not sound good as a wide 4:2/narrow 6:3, and will not sound good as a pure 4:2. Sometimes, tuning it as a pure 2:1 will work. Sometimes, it may sound good as a narrow 4:2/wide 6:3, if it can be tuned as such. Rarely, the octave may have to be tuned directly, without check notes.


Yamaha MP100 Friction Test

Flex down, remove hammer, whack, measure: -5.5 cents

Flex up, remove hammer, whack, measure: 8.5 cents

Difference: 14 cents. Typical. Much easier to tune. There is a sufficient pitch window. 

More Friction Tests in the Low Friction Steigerman

Bass section looked like it had low bearing as well. Friction test: 3 cents. 

Treble section showed some more angle. Friction test: 13 cents. Easier to tune. 

Low Friction Pianos

Here’s a Steigerman with a low bearing on the agraffes. Tuning it, I had the feeling the pitch was sliding quite easily. Even with long non-speaking length, I was getting pitch changes when I removed the hammer force after a slow pull.

I performed a friction test. I flexed the pin towards the string, removed force, whacked, and measured. Did the same flexing away from the string.

This test measures the friction at the agraffes, and the residual friction in the pinblock. Usually I get 15 – 20 cents. On this piano, it was 5 cents.

This explains why the pitch so easily followed the pin.

To improved tuning sensation, I might add thicker felt under the strings.

Pitch Window Method for Stability

Here’s my Pitch Window Method for stability.

Suppose you come to a string and you have to lower the pitch a tiny bit. The first thing I do is assume that the NSL tension is near the bottom of the tension band that produces stability. Now, what I do is a gentle flex of the pin in the direction of the string. This flex has to be very small because we don’t want to damage the pin block.

Now, if the pitch does not go down, that means the NSL tension was not near the bottom of the tension band.

So, that means that the target pitch is not available to us for the pin foot orientation that the pin currently has. 

So, I need to turn the pin foot by the smallest amount possible, and I have to do this without having a change in the pitch.

If I can get the pin foot to move, without having a change in the pitch, that means that the NSL tension now must be lower in the tension band.

Now, I will try the gentle flex in the direction of the string and hope that the pitch will drop by the smallest amount that I’m looking for.

If the pitch does not change, then I must do a very small nudge of the pin foot again and repeat the flex.

Using this method of flex, move the pin foot, flex, move the pin foot, I am able to make a very small change in the pitch and also know where the NSL tension is and therefore leave it slightly high of middle so that I can have good stability.

I hope that helps. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Note: it is the unbending or unflexing of the pin that puts the tension back into the nonspeaking length. If the nonspeaking length is very long, then the unflexing will not put very much tension back into the nonspeaking length, and the string may be unstable. If the nonspeaking length is very short, then the unflexing actually might put so much tension back into the non-speaking length that the pitch actually rises!

This is called Hooke’s Law.

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