Archive for the ‘Tuning Pianos’ Category

Advanced Treble Tuning Method

This is a copy of a post I made on the PTG forum. It describes a specific method for tuning consistent treble stretch.

“Dear Ryan,

I am tuning specific octave stretch that sets treble notes to be as in tune as possible with larger intervals. This has the added benefit of “reaching” back to the temperament octave, thereby reducing cumulative error.

I use a P4 window which also allows me to recheck notes already tuned and I often find notes that have drifted. It is a highly accurate and precise method, and is not hard to do. It is also fast because corrections on the go produce more precision early on and that reduces the need for as many multiple passes.

I basically have two different stretches, I like to call them Treble Temperaments.

Let’s assume I have evaluated pure 4:2’s as the best octave size for this piano. (See HERE)

Treble Temperament based on Pure 22nds
(Triple Octaves) Using F3F4 temperament octave, these can be tuned starting at F6

M3 = M10 < M17 = M6 = m6(below)
[Pure 4:2]
……..[Wide 2:1]
……………..[Pure 12th]
………………………[ Pure 22nd ]

Plus M17 = m6(below) is a pure 11th

Treble Temperament based on Pure 19ths
(2 P8 + P5). This is the maximum stretch because all the intervals are wide except the 19th and the 4:2. Using F3F4 temperament octave, these can be tuned starting at C6.

M3 = M10 < M17 > M6. and M17 = m3(below)
[Pure 4:2]
……..[Wide 2:1]
…………….[Wide 12th]
……………………………..[ Pure 19th ]

These are all within M3 > M6, the P4 test. That is why I can them the P4 windows.

Tuning this way produces a consistent stretch as long as you can hear small differences in beat speeds.

I will tune octaves directly (not using beat rates) starting at C7 because the beat speeds are getting a little fast and weak up there. I will listen to the P12 and P22 below and make them clean, not the octave because the pure 12th and 22nd produce a wide octave that isn’t as clean. Tuning a clean octave up there produces larger intervals that “sound” narrow to me (the note actually sounds flat to me). But if you just tune clean octaves, the stretch at C6 to B6 has already been set, so any error in the top octave lays on top of the stretch already set, up to B6.

Each stretch has a specific colour in the treble.
(See pure 19ths HERE)

This is exactly how I tune every day and this method gives me the confidence to tune for any concert level situation, knowing that my tunings sound clean, especially when large chords are being played.

Let me know if you have any questions.”

“Learn to Tune Pianos” Video Courses

video courses.001

I am currently producing three video courses on tuning. Please spread the word. Topics include:

1) Basic Aural Piano Tuning – Simple tests. Step by step instructions. Good for someone who wants an introduction of tuning by ear but does not have or want to get deeply into theory. $297

2) Advanced Aural Piano Tuning – Open unison tuning. Double string unison. Slow pull hammer technique. Soft blow stability. One pass temperament. One pass pitch raise. Advanced stability. Customized stretch. $997

3) Basic Electronic Piano Tuning. The physics of vibrations, partials, equal and unequal temperaments, octave sizes, stretch, and how these are used by computers to help you tune a piano. A description of stability, why it is difficult to attain for beginners and how to achieve it. Review of different electronic tuning devices and software. How to set up an Electronic Tuning Device to give the best tuning. $497

For pre-purchase discounts of 50%, please contact me.

New Meetup Group meeting this Sunday!

I have just created a new meetup group on is a website where people can post meetings for others to join. The meetings can be about about anything. Mine will be about piano tuning and pianos in general. People will be able to learn and share what they know.

If you are near Montreal, why not come out this Sunday at 7pm – 9pm. Westend Piano, 17 Ronald.

Here is a link where you can join the group.
Montreal Piano Tuning for Beginners

Test your Beat Speed Ratio Sensitivity

Many tuners like the Contiguous Major Thirds (CM3) method of setting F3,A3,C#4,F4 and A4, because they say it is very accurate.

However, it can be inaccurate if you have trouble hearing the beat speeds, and/or have trouble hearing very small differences in beat speeds.

Take this test and see how good you could be at setting the CM3.


Learning to Tune Clean, Pure, and Beatless Unisons

Here is an email I sent to a subscriber explaining how to use Soundbeam, (See HERE) or any graphical FFT program, to help you tune clean unisons by ear. 

On Monday, August 3, 2015, Mark Cerisano <mark at how to tune> wrote

Ok. So, when you play a string, multiple frequencies are generated. 

For example, playing 100Hz sets up 100Hz, 200Hz, 300Hz, etc. (See HERE)

(Because of inharmonicity, these numbers are not actually correct. Higher partials are sharper the predicted by simple theory)
When you play two strings, you set up partial pairs, pairs of frequencies that are close to each other. 

Frequencies that are close but not exact, set up beats. (See HERE)

You want to tune a unison so that all the upper partials are exact and have no beating. 

Playing 100hz and 101Hz together sets up these partial pairs:
Which sets up these partial beats:

This shows that, for an out of tune unison, the higher partials beat faster. 

For this reason, when tuning unisons, the aural piano tuner focuses their hearing on the higher partials and tries to eliminate them. I suggest listening to the 3rd partial of a unison since it is a different note than the unison. It is found an octave and a fifth above the fundamental (the note you are playing)
Example: tuning A4 as a beatless unison, you would focus your ear on E6 and eliminate the beating there. 

Now, when using a FFT program that shows the volume of each partial in a sound, you should see bumps at each partial when playing a unison. 

If all these bumps start out high and then gradually decrease in height as the volume of the note decreases, then the unison is said to be beatless. 

More likely though is that you will see the bumps pulsating up and down. 
This is what the beat at the partial pair of an out of tune unison looks like when viewed through an FFT program. 

Changing the pitch of one string will speed up or slow down the speeds of the beats at the partial pair. 

Try to elliminate the pulsating as much as possible. 

Try to hear the speed you see at the 3rd partial while you are tuning.

The goal is to be able to zero in on the beating 3rd partial and eliminate it without using the FFT program. 

Good luck. 

New Methods of Learning Piano Tuning. 

Recently, on a facebook piano technicians group, one poster noted that piano technicians traditionally are “plying a trade whose skills have been developed long before we could have absolute empirical data, and the basis of our standards had always relied on a certain amount of feel”. 

My recent research has been in stark contrast to this “feeling” approach and my motivation has been how technology has burst my own bubble of confidence; before I started recording and analyzing my aural tunings,  I used to have more confidence in my ability to correctly assess,  compare, and “feel” different beat speeds. 

For this reason I have received my fair share of criticism and insults, indifference and misunderstanding concerning my findings.

I heard a story about Sir Francis Bacon, the father of the modern scientific method, that made me think about the current state of piano tuning pedagogy. 

Prior to Sir Francis’ study of the human nervous system, Aristotle was the source of knowledge on the subject. Since no one had ever seen the inside of a body before, Aristotle was writing about what he “felt” was true, based on indirect observation and conjecture. He stated that more nerves traveled from the heart than from the brain. 

One night, Sir Francis invited his colleagues over to view one of his cadavers that had been cut open to show clearly that there were more nerves coming from the brain than the heart.

One colleague stood looking over the cadaver and noted, “I can see here what you are saying. There are clearly more nerves coming from the brain, and if Aristotle had not written the contrary, I might actually believe it.”

The point being, if you are interested in learning to tune a piano, there is currently a lot of material written by the “Aristotles” of the piano teaching world and only a small amount and growing written by the “Sir Francis Bacons” of the industry, using technology to analyze and discover the truth regarding aural piano tuning techniques. 

Both approaches can acheive results but the empirical method is more objective and therefore gives better quantitative feedback. The difficulty for the student is knowing which is which.

Temperament Report Generated

One of my subscribers has asked me to analyze his temperament using the new beat speed analysis tool I developed. (See HERE)

He has agreed to allow me to post his results. Hopefully you can see how this could help you improve your own tunings.

I am still offering this service free of charge. If you would like one as well, just send me a recording of F3 to F4, each note about 3 seconds long with about a 0.5 second pause between notes.

You can see the report HERE.

Pre-Purchase and Save $500!

I’m looking for people interested in learning more about tuning pianos from a video course that you can watch on your own schedule. 

I’m will be producing some video courses this summer that will show all the effective and efficient methods I have developed for my basic and advance piano tuning courses over the past 10 years. 

I plan to offer these courses for $997 when finished, but if you pre-purchase one of these courses now, you will get it for $497. 

Estimated launch date: end of August. 

Contact me if you are interested. 

Can You Learn to Tune Pianos Online?

The internet has changed the way we think.

“Right now there is a revolution going on, and the revolution has already wiped out travel agents…hammered away at newspapers…you can go down the list. All these industries have changed.”
Seth Godin, interviewed by Michael Hyatt

All these industries have changed, including education. I don’t think anyone would say that that has not happened. Just look at all the websites that offer online courses.

In fact, many universities are now offering free online courses that are identical to the courses and lectures being held in the schools and paid for by students.
See A complete list of Massive Open Online Courses (free online courses) offered by the best universities and entities.

At first, I was sceptical that teaching piano tuning online would work. How could I demonstrate effectively? Would the internet distort the frequencies? Would the students be able to hear the beats effectively?

Then I was contacted by one of my students who had, in the past, travelled from Australia to take some of my courses. He was interested in more, but the cost and timing wasn’t working out.

Because of my interest in “the Revolution” Seth Godin speaks about, I asked him if he wanted to try a course over Skype. (We ended up using Google Hangout for better quality, but Skype now is its own verb and more people know what that means, so I often describe the course as a Skype course.)

The result was fantastic; way more exciting and effective than I ever thought it would be.

“I learned much more than I thought I would.” – Roger from Australia.

And the questions I had, were answered.

How could I demonstrate effectively?
It turns out some things are easier to demonstrate online. I can take my camera and point exactly at the spot in the piano where I want the student to look.

Would the internet distort the frequencies?
Turns out, it does. What we did was start Tunelab, an Electronic Tuning Device (ETD) software, on each of our computers, then play and measure a string on each person’s piano. Then compare measurements. In our experiment, the internet caused a consistent drop of seven cents both ways. The only part of piano tuning where that would be a problem, is if we were trying to set A440 to exactly 440Hz and measure it in order to give a mark, similar to the PTG exam.

(Edit – Robert Scott of Tunelab has informed me that frequency cannot change. It is like creating something from nothing. If the frequency did indeed change 7 cents down, it would have to rise 7 cents later so that no vibrations were lost or created from nothing.)

Would the students be able to hear the beats effectively?
This actually turned out to be the most surprising result of all. You see, when learning to tune pianos, there are certain skills that one needs to master.

1) Theory
2) Stability
3) Hearing beats

The theory is easy to learn if it is well taught, especially if it is taught to a student who is a musician already.

The stability can be a little more challenging, but with the techniques I have developed, we are able to dramatically reduce the variables that can cause confusion, and we are able to discuss the theory of friction and elastic deformation. This helps people visualize how the pin and string are behaving and that helps them choose superior hammer techniques for superior stability.

The beats. Ah, the beats. You see, tuning a piano by ear involves making many compensations for the physical limitations of the piano as an instrument, and demands us to tune the piano “out of tune”. (See Lesson on Equal Temperament)

When one tunes an interval out-of-tune, beats are created and sound like pulsations of the volume. The problem is, the beats occur in high frequencies and some students experience difficulty hearing these beats because they are high (the beats, that is) and quiet and conflict with the actual pitches of the interval being tuned. We have to “learn” to filter out the lower interval frequencies, and focus on the higher beating frequencies.

Easier said than done, because this kind of “learning” cannot be fast tracked (even though I have developed some techniques that make it easier); the ear has to be trained; it has to continually try to hear those beats, until the physiology of the “ear” and brain change and the beats are more audible to the student.

However, I discovered a wonderful byproduct of teaching piano tuning online using computers and speakers poor at replicating the audio portion of the course, (which is basically most computer speakers.)

Aspire-S5-HP Compuiter Speaker Frequency Response
Image source:
edited by Mark Cerisano, RPT, B.Sc.(Mech.Eng.)

In the diagram above, the frequencies of the actual notes being played in the temperament octave, are not reproduced very well. The frequencies of the pitches where the beats are occurring, are reproduced much better, and therefore the beats easier to hear over the internet. It is in this area where we have to focus our hearing when comparing beats for the purpose of improving temperament. The internet and computer setup makes this easy.

CONTACT ME NOW if you are interested in learning more about piano tuning online.

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