Unison Drift

This is a condensation of an article I wrote for the Piano Technicians Guild. The original article is much more complete with graphs and diagrams. I encourage you to join the PTG so you can receive more informative articles like this one, from other technicians. 

Virgil Smith has written that the sound of a tuned trichord is different than that of the single unison string. 

Professor Gabriel Weinreich had a study that showed that the pitch of two strings tuned pure was different than the pitch of the single string. (Called the Weinreich Effect)

Some technicians who are aware of this, assume the pitch drops when adding a second string, and some tune the single string slightly sharp. This is a waste of time because it is wrong. 

Professor Weinreich is clear: it can drop, or rise, or stay the same. 

To prove this, I did some simple tests that any one can do. 

Tune a pure unison trichord. 

Mute right two, measure left. 

Mute outside, measure center. 

Mute left two measure right. 

Mute right, measure left two as a single pitch. 

Mute left, measure right two as a single pitch. 

Measure all three as a single pitch. 

Conclusions.

The pitch of the final trichord can go up or down or stay the same, relative to the pitches of the single strings, as much as 2 cents!

Even the pitch of the final trichord can go up or down or stay the same relative to the pitches of the double string unisons, as much as 2 cents! (Double string unison means the left two as one pitch or the right two as one pitch. I did not measure the outside two.)

The frequency variation with time, of the final trichord can be different than the single or double unisons, by up to 4 cents. (That is, the variation of the pitch with time can change up to 4 cents. The trichord pitch can change over time even if each single string has a constant pitch!)

Implication. 

If you are assuming that the pitch of the single string will not change when you remove your mutes and tune up the trichord, your tuning will suffer, or if you are planning to check everything over again after you remove all your mutes and tune the whole piano, you will be doing extra work you do not have to do. 

Recommendation. 

Always judge the final trichord before moving on. 

I have been able to drastically reduce my tuning time and increase the quality of my tunings using this and other specialized tuning techniques that I have developed. I have had to develop some of these myself because I couldn’t find any resources efficiently describing high level tuning techniques. It seems the big guys keep most of this a secret or aren’t aware or don’t know how or want to explain it. 

As for making more money, with a fast and accurate method that uses this and other techniques I have developed, I have been able to tune 9 pianos in one day and make $1350. There was two weeks where I was in high demand where I tuned an average of 7 pianos a day and made $10,500. I can post my schedule if you don’t believe it. (Personally I don’t believe it myself!)

But without these techniques that help me tune high quality tunings fast, I never would have been able to do it. 
With these techniques I am able to charge more because I am worth it. 

Some technicians are not able to tune these high quality, concert level tunings or would take too much time to do it and choose not to do it for residential customers. Yesterday I did a concert tuning for a residential customer in only 70 minutes. 

I encourage people to use an ETD to make these kind of measurements for themselves and really question some of the “common” knowledge that is passed around. I have found that some of it is not explained effectively and some is just plain wrong, passed on from decades of acceptance and not verified. 

We now have the technology to measure piano strings and confirm or disprove some of these “truths”. 

Piano Tuner Looking for Adventure!

Do you live in a remote community with no piano technician?

Do you know people who want to learn how to tune a piano?

I have travelled great distances to provide piano tuning services to remote communities and educational opportunities in areas that lack a piano technology school.

My family and I are looking for travel opportunities and I am hoping some of my subscribers might have some ideas, or know of a place where my skills could be an asset.

Please contact me if you have any suggestions.

Mark

Hear Beats Easily

  

You can now hear beats more easily. 

I am making available components of the Audio Band Pass Filter I have developed from off the shelf components. Watch Video

I have also made available the plans that show exactly what the parts are and how to put them together, FOR FREE! CLICK HERE for plans. 

Finally, students of piano tuning can hear what experienced aural piano tuners hear. 

Using the Audio Band Pass Filter trains your ear so it knows what the beating partial sounds like. This makes it easier for you to eventually hear beats the without the device. 

It’s not a crutch, it’s a learning tool

The idea is that you use it and it improves your ability to hear beats without the unit! Eventually, you won’t need it. 

This is an incredible tool for me. Finally, I can help students get over this frustrating hurdle to effective piano tuning practice. Once a student can hear beats, they can begin using all the techniques I teach, but not before. 

It is very sad to watch a student who is having difficulty hearing beats and wants so desperately to learn piano tuning. I’ll never forget the girl who came to one of my 5 day courses and did not come to the last day, just because she couldn’t hear beats. I wish I had had one of these units for her to use then. 

Now students’ eyes, and ears, are wide when we turn this unit on. They finally get it. 

It doesn’t give you magic ears immediately, but it allows you to use the aural tuning tests right away, and guides your ear to becoming independant of the unit. 

I am very excited to hear what people think. And of course, there is a 100% money back guarantee.  

You can see the different component sets I have available to purchase HERE.

 

Easing Key Bushings

This is a novel way to ease key bushings.
The standard way is to iron them or compress them. This way actually shaves them.

A key may bind on the balance rail pin or the felt bushings.

 

I use a standard large set of tweezers. They need to be the right size.

 

To ease the balance rail hole, I just insert the tweezers end into the hole. Be careful; not too much.

 

To ease the felt bushings, I insert the tweezers and move them back and forth.

  

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I’ve always done this and never really understood why it worked so well. I thought I was just compressing the felt.

Then one day, I looked at the tweezers.

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I found powdered felt. I realized the tweezers were shaving the felt! No wonder it worked so well!

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Jack Repair

Today I tuned a piano where one key activated two hammers.

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Upon closer look, I could see that the jack was crooked and positioned a bit under the neighbouring hammer butt.

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90% of the time, this is caused by the jack becoming unglued from the whippen.

I decided to remove the whippen and investigate.

First, I removed the bridle strap.

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Then removed the whippen screw.

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Once I removed the whippen, I saw that it was not an unglued jack, but a slipped jack pin.

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I just used the tip of my screw driver to reinsert the pin and then I replaced the whippen and reattached the bridle strap. Job done.

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If I had looked more closely at the jack with the whippen in the piano, I may have seen the pin sticking out. Then I could have just inserted my screwdriver between the whippen and carefully pushed the pin back in, making sure the jack was aligned under the butt so that the pin had a good chance of lining up with the felt bushing.

There’s a chance of pushing the felt bushing out, but I’ve never had that happen with a vintage piano (<1930). I would be hesitant to try this on a newer piano  (>1960) because typically the felt is a poorer quality

If the jack was unglued, I would have just added a little wood glue, pressed the pieces together, waited a few minutes and reassembled the whippen.

Two NEW Video Lessons!

I’ve just added two new video lessons to my site and I’m very excited about them.

Many people ask the question, “What tools do I need to tune a piano?”

The first lesson, Piano Tuning Methods and Tools, is a comprehensive discussion of piano tuning methods, and the related tools for each method. It is a great introduction to piano tuning, because it answers the question, “What tools do I need?” after you answer the question, “What method do I want to learn?”.

CLICK HERE for the Piano Tuning Methods and Tools video lesson.

The second lesson is an in-depth introduction to my favourite aural piano tuning method, the method I use and have used for years. It has allowed me to greatly increase my Accuracy, Precision, and Efficiency. That’s why I am calling it the “Go APE” method.

CLICK HERE to watch the video lesson on the Go APE method.

I hope you learn a lot from them. Don’t forget to leave your comment.

Mark

How to Achieve a Stable Tuning

I recently submitted this post to the PTG discussion page. I thought it appropriate to add to my blog, since stability is such an important skill. Look for a book and video course on the subject soon.
Mark

Posted on ptg.org:

I don’t use test blows. I planned on using them on my RPT exam but forgot. I passed anyway.

Why I don’t use them:
– Too hard on my ears.
– Too hard on my arms, hand, shoulders, next, etc…
– Too hard on the piano.

I use a method I call Non-Speaking Length Tension Analysis.

I teach piano tuning so I need a method that makes sense and people can understand.

Here are the concepts:

TENSIONS
Speaking Length Tension (SLT): Tension in the speaking length of the string
Non-Speaking Length Tension (NSLT): Tension in the string on the tuning pin side of the v-bar/agraffe

Intuitively, we understand that for stability, we need

SLT = NSLT

However, because of friction, there is a “band” or “range” of NSLT’s that produce stability. Some people call this the “Marshmallow Zone”.

Intuitively, we understand that NSLT should be in the middle of that band.
With experiments, I have shown that, for stability, the NSLT should be slightly higher than the middle of the band, to account for the rise in SLT during hard blows.

BENDING/TWISTING
During tuning we have bending and twisting.
After tuning we have unbending and untwisting.
While raising pitch (clockwise), the NSLT is at the top of the stable tension band or range.
While lowering pitch (counter-clockwise), the NSLT is at the bottom of the stable tension band or range.

The change in NSLT brought on by the unbending and untwisting that occurs after we remove our force from the hammer, must leave the NSLT slightly high of middle for stability to be achieved.

TECHNIQUE #1:

Slow Pull
Untwisting always moves the NSLT toward the centre of the band.
Examples:
Raising pitch – clockwise – NSLT at top – untwisting is counter-clockwise and reduces NSLT.
Lowering pitch – counterclockwise – NSLT at bottom – untwisting is clockwise and increases NSLT.

Unbending adds or subtracts to the NSLT depending on the hammer angle and the length of the non-speaking segment. (Short segment tensions change more for the same unbending, than long segment tensions do.)

Example:
Raising pitch at 3:00 (upright)
During tuning, bending is downward, toward string.
NSLT is at the bottom of the range of stable NSLT’s.
After tuning, unbending is upward, away from the string, thereby increasing NSLT.

With practice, the tuner can discover hammer angles for each piano and area of the piano where a slow single pull to pitch and the subsequent unbending/untwisting, will result in a stable NSLT.

TECHNIQUE #2:

Pitch Window

For a given tuning pin foot placement, there is a range (window) of pitches that are stable. If one tries to affect a given pitch that is outside this window, the pitch will be unstable and drift back into the window during hard blows, or after time. This can be shown by using excessive bending to change pitch and observing how unstable that technique can be.

Pitch Window Method
1) For a given tuning pin foot placement, gently massage the pin toward the string. This must be a very gentle massage not intended to change the pitch. If the pitch doesn’t change, the foot placement is a stable one for that pitch.
2) If it does change, the pitch was not stable for that foot placement, but this new pitch is. This can be proven by repeating the same gentle massage. The new pitch will not change.
3) If the pitch was desired and then changed, the foot must be moved clockwise, and the massage test done again.
4) If the pitch was too high before the massage test, hopefully this new pitch is good.

So, in essence, the procedure is:
1) Assess pitch
2) If it is correct, apply the gentle massage test. If the pitch passes the massage test, great. If it doesn’t (i.e. drops), move the foot clockwise.
3) If the pitch needs to go down, apply the massage test. If the pitch goes down, great. If is doesn’t, move the foot counter-clockwise and retest.
4) If the pitch needs to go up, move the foot clockwise and apply the massage test.

Notes on the Pitch Window method.
– The tuner must be able to change the foot placement as little as possible.
– The amount of force used in the gentle massage test is variable. Experience shows us how much is too much or not enough.
– With experience, a massage up technique can be used as well.

NEW LESSON! How/When/Why to Tune Pure 19ths

I made this video a while ago but never posted it on my site. I’ve sent people to it many times and thought it’s about time I posted it here.

It demonstrates my Beat Speed Window method which allows the tuner to be very specific in how they tune their intervals.

Pure 19ths Lesson

No Room to Tune A0?

Some grand and upright piano cases have a design where one must remove a piece of the case in order to get the tuning hammer into the tuning pin of the first string, called A0, (A zero)

  
This can take time and slow you down. 

If you have an extra tuning tip and a tip wrench, you can tune this note with ease. 

 
Just insert the smaller size of the tip wrench into the threaded end of the tip. The smaller size is thin enough to go all the way through, past the threads and grab the star hole in the tip. 

Then just put the tip on the pin and tune. The bend in the wrench will clear the interfering case part. 

     
Subscribe to my blog for more valuable tips. (Sorry for the pun)

Upright Apartment Size Piano with No Room for Mutes. 

  

This Baldwin piano has a large one piece lid, and a drop action. There is virtually no place for a mute strip and no way to get the Papps mute under the hammer heads. 

The only way to easily tune the treble of this piano is to use Double String Unison (DSU) technique, or dismantle the piano lid. Even then, getting under the low hammer heads will be a problem.   With DSU, you can insert the mute from above, it does not need to be out of the way because the mute only mutes the outside string, and of course there are all the other benefits of the technique. Like the added benefit of being able to tune bichords with no mutes at all!  Contact me if you want to know more about Double String Unison tuning. 

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