Archive for the ‘Tuning Pianos’ Category

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Piano Tuning Theory – Preorder and Save!

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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.

Sneek Peak at Piano Tuning Theory Book – Chapter 3.6 – Cents

CLICK HERE to read this chapter of my book, Piano Tuning Theory.

In this chapter I develop the common formula for calculating the cents difference between two frequencies.

The book is targeting piano owners and technicians who may not have a strong mathematical background, but are still interested in the theories of piano tuning.


You can pre-order the book HERE

What’s Happening?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all my subscribers and way to go Bluejays!

I’m posting on my site tonight, realizing that I haven’t posted here in a while. The reason why, is that I have been posting on other public forums. The nature of my posts on those other forums has been to share my piano tuning and repair methods with other piano technicians.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and while I receive positive feedback from many, I also raise the ire of many as well, to the point of being called a “piano butcher”, a charlatan, and deluding people, when all I am doing is relaying to other people the way I am doing something. The results, from my perspective as a Registered Piano Technician, and piano playing musician, are acceptable at least, and often impressive. But for some reason, my posts bring out the haters.

I’ve known for a while now why I post on those other forums. You see, about a year ago, I took an online test to see if I was a narcissist. While the average was 19/30, I scored 5/30.

I am insecure. Often, I have been posting on other technician forums because I am looking for validation of my methods.

For this I am ashamed. Ashamed because I have ignored the positive and glowing feedback of my students and my customers. Ashamed because I am looking to strangers who are my competitors, to find confidence.

And ashamed because I have not had the confidence in my own results. How can I expect others to have confidence in my own methods, when I don’t?

So, today I pledge to never go looking for validation from strangers again, many who are insecure in their own abilities.

I came to the realization today, while reading some posts on aural piano tuning methods vs ETD methods, that I will never find widespread acceptance of my methods. The reason being, is that my Beat Speed Window method is too empirical. Too many aural tuners tell of tuning by feel, with no consideration for empirical feedback, like those obtained by using beat speed windows.

When so many tuners are now using, and some revering, the results of machines, machines that use math to tell us what the best tuning is, math that uses approximations and error data as input, you would think that using a scientific and empirical aural method would be welcomed.

This has not been my experience. For the last week I have contemplated posting a few times about my empirical beat speed window method, but after receiving little or no interest from previous posts, and fielding a bombardment of criticisms which, by their own wording, show that some tuners have too easily chosen to leap at an understanding of the method that makes it look weak or even foolish, instead of assuming that they themselves may have a misunderstanding of the method which they obviously do, I have quickly abandoned the idea.

So, the challenge remains. How do I spread the word about a new aural piano tuning method that produces highly accurate and precise results, using a technique that only a few ingenious technicians have ever used, but that I have been able to package within a set of procedures that make it user friendly enough to teach to beginners?

Beat Speed Windows with Double String Unisons produces
– Consistent and accurate stretch that produces the most number of pure intervals,
– A method of valuable and high resolution feedback that fast tracks the tuner’s understanding and ability to produce clean unisons and superior stability
– An accurate and precise temperament right from the first setting of a temperament note, producing pitches that are the final pitches needed for each note.
– A method that catches drifted notes before they are needed as references to tune other notes.
– A method that asks the tuner to tune specific beat speeds within windows, instead of guessing what they should be.
– A way to perform one pass pitch raises that require the tuner to keep creating accurate pitches instead of guessing at over pulling,
– A way to speed up tunings incredibly, without having quality suffer.

There is no way I can explain all these things in one post. In fact, even after people take my basic tuning course, which now is taught using this new method exclusively, there are elements and understanding that are missed.

So, the question remains; how do I spread knowledge about an aural piano tuning method that I know is superior to current methods, can produce precise results, as precise or better than any modern ETD, and I know this because no tuner, programmer or not, is aware, or if they are aware, is convinced of the superior criteria I place on beatless octaves and pure interval stretch.

The only answer I can come up with, based on my recent years of developing this method, enjoying its beautiful results, and sharing with other technicians is…slowly.

Please comment and keep in touch.

Please ignore the last blog post

Hey Subscribers,

I just realized that I inadvertently sent out a garbled page/post that was part of my new Ear Training for Piano Tuners course. Just ignore it.

If you are interested in trying out my new online ear training course for free, just CLICK HERE


Hooke’s Law and this Long Non-Speaking Length (NSL) Mean I Have to Turn the Pin Quite a Bit Before the String Slips Across the Agraffe and The Pitch Changes. 

NSL analysis is invaluable in figuring out what to do in these unusual cases in order to acheive a stable tuning. 

Hooke’s Law

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