How to Tune a Piano

Step-by-step procedure & proper tools

Tuning a Piano Yourself: Guestbook Archive

Below are comments, advice and questions from readers on the subject of tuning your own piano. We have been collecting comments since at least 2005; all the comments from 2005-2010 are below. For more recent comments, view our live guestbook. Remember to check our home page and our piano tuning FAQ for more tips and information.

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Larry said:
I was given a piano that was out in an unheated shop in Montana for several years. A lot of abuse, but I believe playable and fixable. When I put my tuner on it most of the keys are several cents sharp. Should I wait a while to tune it as it is now in our home in better temperature controlled conditions. I ordered the basic equipment needed to tune and am excited to get started as soon as it all gets here.
Our reply: I would give it some time to get adjusted to new conditions. It will more likely hold its tuning better.
Jen said:
One question I have is the difference between a student quality lever and a gooseneck tuning lever. If you're not going to be working an grands or baby grands, is there any point in getting the student quality? (I'm looking at those listen on Thanks for putting all the information here together in one place.
Our reply: The main disadvantage of the gooseneck lever is they are typically low quality tools. They are the "beginner" lever for $20. They often have imprecise machining or are easily broken. Good tuning requires pin-point precision. A poor tool can make this frustrating if not impossible. Get at least the student quality. The cheapest tools I've seen that I would trust at all are at least $40. Professionals spend at least $100 on theirs.
Lisa said:
Okay, I've read the instructions, got the tools, I guess its time to give it a go. Thanks!
Pro Piano Tuner said:
Hi, As a time served pro- I thought good on you! Well done. Personally I can not see any reason why another pro is attacking you. Some tips...when a piano is flat, check the middle with the bass and if required, just pull up the steel diskant section to the bass... On fine tuning...once finished, I check the steel notes doing the sharps first then the is easier on the ear... Try ''knocking'' the string into tune too...a very difficult skill which takes years of skill to master! cheers
Our reply: Thanks for the feedback.
Mark Benton said:
Thank you very much. Very very helpful. I get mine tuned once or twice a year but my unisons go out of tune very fast so it would be good to do a couple touch ups myself. I had no idea what the mutes were for until I read this. Thanks again.
Steve Yandle said:
Hi Scott. Thanks for the good advice on piano tuning. I've played the piano and organ for a good 45 years now, and nothing sounds worse than an out-of-tune instrument. Not until recently, have I decided to attempt to learn to tune a piano myself. One reason it took me so long to "break the ice" and try it, was that a professional tuner from my distant past one told an inquisitive "me" that I was a very good musician, but probably would not make a good tuner. He said that most of the time good musicians don't make good tuners, and he also said that good tuners seldomly become good musicians. He said we tend to take different approaches to harmonics, and that was the main basis for his remarks. I play by ear as well as by the music, and I don't know if he was right about all that, or not. Anyway, I find your web-site to be straight-forward, and very helpful. I plan to try to beat the odds even at age 57! Thanks for the great information!
Our reply: It's not uncommon for piano tuners to not play piano at all, but still be excellent tuners.
Rita Hicks said:
Thanks so much for the information. I have been wanting to learn how to tune my piano.
Wayne F. DIbert said:
Very nice website. You have great information here and you are very upfront about tuning and the reality of what a novice should expect. I have been playing for over 50 years and have tuned my piano and used the techniques you have described. Still, nothing ever beat a professional tuner. Thanks for the info and support. Wayne
Carl James said:
Thanks for a simple and easy to understand principles of piano tuning. Some notes: You should emphasize more clearly that old instruments, well out of tune should not be reset to A=440 at once, but brought back gradually in several passes. The tuning will hold much better, and it will greatly reduce the risk of broken or damaged strings. I also advice the use of massage with a simple wooden tool in order to reduce tension.
Our reply: Thanks for your comments. I edited them for clarity. I don't completely understand your last sentence about the wooden tool, though.
Terry said:
Great info, thanks a bunch
Etienne A. Goilo said:
So very true as a handy amateur guitar player wanting to tune an old but otherwise good I bought for playing when my piano playong friends visit me I also.. "could not find information on the web that explained how to do it"... They only want to sell something without giving really usable info. Thanks very much. I have been looking for info for weeks until I found your page/site. Can't say it enough: Thank you very much!
Bill Chamis said:
Thanks for spending the time and sharing some great information in a clear and easy to follow way.
Joe said:
Hey, great job of explaining the tuning process. I'm just wondering why you didn't mention temperament felt in the equipment section. That is a very important piece of equipment if you want to tune your whole piano, not just touch up on a few notes.
Our reply: I do mention it further down in the "equipment sources" section, where I talk about additional equipment that might be useful. You are correct that it is important, but one can get by without it when first learning. I keep it simple for people new to the process.
Mike said:
Absolutely great. Thanks for the tips. Fundamentally, I assumed many parallels with tuning a guitar, but I learned a lot here. Thanks again.
Paul Brandon said:
Excellent site, thank you so much. I have just acquired a 1920's Pianola, and although I daren't attempt tuning it myself, at least I now have a basic understanding of what's involved and can have a reasonably intelligent conversation with a professional. Thank you once again, Paul Brandon, Norwich (UK), April 2010.
DB in WV said:
Wow! I was getting so frustrated at all the hipe from the other searches telling me to buy this or that or sign up for a course. I am just learning to play the piano and a very nice lady from our church gave me one of hers that was so far out of tune no one wanted to touch it but with your information I was able to get it in tune close enough that I could use the piano and I have a professional coming back to retune now that it actually sounds like a piano. Thanks So Much! DB in WV.
Leah said:
Thanks! You've given me hope and a summer project :)
vanessa said:
Thank you so much. As a singer and piano teacher I have always wondered if I could just tune the darn thing myself. I am already a month into this and very happy with the results. Thank you!!!
al osinchuk said:
i am hammer dulcimer player,,,have spent many hours tuning,,,progressed to piano tuning,,,, very good information...
C3P0 said:
I found this site after making a few touch-ups on my mother's Baldwin. We were both surprised and happy with the results. I thought about trying to tune it completely but wanted to find something about it beforehand. After reading this I now feel more confident in doing so. Thank you.
mark said:
I just bought a 1967 yamaha spinet and had it tune professionally. It sounded a little harsh to me so I checked it with a korg tuner.It seems that every octave going up is tuned slightly sharp.Is that a tuning technique? Could the piano need voiceing and is that doable by an amateur?
Our reply: Perhaps the tuner was anticipating that the piano would go flat, and he was over-tuning slightly expecting it to settle in correctly. I would just ask your tuner. Voice refers to the tone of the piano as determined by the padding on the hammers. In older pianos, the felt on the hammers can wear, giving a harsh sound. Reshaping or replacing this felt is called voicing. I have not attempted this, and do not know how feasible it is for the amateur.
Javier said:
The best and most useful web about piano tuning. I am using "AP tuner 3", a free application from the internet in my laptop instead of an electronic tuner. Has it got any problems? Thanks
Our reply: I am not familiar with that particular software. But assuming the tones are accurate, it should work as well as the basic standalone tuner I use.
Stuart Rodes said:
Insights gained from reading your page helped me appreciate the skill (and fee) of the professional tuner. I was about to buy tools and take up becoming our piano's only technician to save the $400/year. I realize now I would be putting in a big time commitment and still needing the pro once a year anyway.
Jyefash said:
Un grand merci pour ces prÈcieux conseils :D Je dispose d'un piano 1/4 de queue sur lequel je joue tous les jours, mais depuis l'hiver, seules 4 notes se sont dÈsaccordÈes; ne voulant pas faire venir un accordeur juste pour 4 notes, votre site m'a ÈtÈ d'un grand secours. Les 4 notes ont ÈtÈ remises au diapason et la moindre dissonance est ‡ prÈsent aussitÙt corrigÈe :D Encore merci :)
Our reply: Approximate translation for our English-speaking readers: "[i]Big thank you for this invaluable information. I have a piano which I play every day, but since winter, 4 notes were out of tune; not wanting to make a tuner come right for 4 notes, your site was a great help. The 4 notes are now tuned."[/i]
Nancy said:
Thank you thank you thank you for providing this resource! I "inherited" an old Lester spinet from a friend who was going to throw it out, and I bought the Reblitz book to learn how to do the necessary repairs and do a first tuning before paying someone to tune it more precisely. The Reblitz book was great for helping me diagnose what repairs were needed, but its instructions on tuning were way too complicated (I don't want to learn how to build a watch, I just want to know how to set the time.) Your instructions have gotten me where I need to be, to feel like I can get this old piano in playable condition. Bless you!
Jerry Weiss said:
Thanks for the info. I have been doing exactly what you recommend for abut 5 years now (discovered on my own) and I find it's great for "between tuning" maintenance (I can go about a year between tunings now, which is a lot since I'm a professional pianist). One note on the Korg tuner. Test the tuner by using a tuning fork to make sure it is reading correctly. If the batteries are a little low, it maystill function, but may cause you to tune the entire piano 25-50 cents flat (speaking from experience unfortunately). If you ever run into any info about why some octaves and unison beats are easy to hear and why some aren't, I'd like to hear it. I have the most trouble with bass notes. Also, some unisons can seem to be as in-tune as they will ever get, but still sound "bad" as if there is a "phasing" going on (almost a buzzing sound). Any insight on that issue would be appreciated too. Thanks again
Our reply: I never thought about the battery issue. Thanks very much for pointing that out. I don't have any advice to offer on the buzzing. As for the bass notes, they are hard to really tune precisely; the heavy gauge, wound wire is unruly. But they are also low enough that the human ear is not as sensitive to them; I have been told that "close" can be good enough. In either case, you might want to read or ask in the forums over at for tips. Just don't tell them I sent you...they aren't my biggest fans!
Gerr said:
Thanks for this wonderful resource. (Forget the critics) With your site I was able to get my piano "playable" again. A pro tuned and set pitch on it a couple of months ago and was willing to come back out free of charge. I had about 10+ keys go out flat on this old piano. Being mechanically inclined, I carefully followed your steps and used Appretice Tuning Hammer and Kit (as you said essential) as well as KORG CA-1 CHROMATIC ELECTRONIC TUNER (also essential even with a good ear for the appretice) and there was no need for pro as now I can do my own tuneups. Will proabably have pro once a year but do the rest myself. Thanks again. Gerr
Adil Mehta said:
Very well written and a well organized website. I enjoyed your sense of humour. The information you have provided does indeed shed light on what is involved in tuning pianos. Although I would like to be able to tune my own piano, I think for now my best bet would be to hire a professional tuner and then purchase the basic tools necessary to tweak and maintain the piano's tuning in-between the yearly professional tunings. Thanks for the information.
Hossein Falsafi said:
Hi, i just bought a 1891 Marshall and Wendell, it was two notes down! I did a "pitch raise." The strings are original and over 3 octaves (the middle register) i lost 2 strings,(sadness).but those octaves are now tuned to the +- 5-10 cents. 1- Could i do the same for the big coil wire (The bass section) and the very short wire (extreme right hand). 2- what is the size and diameter of those wires ,i see some numbers written between the wires in a interval of 5-6 tones. 12-13...14..15.. does this correspond wire size 12-13-14...and finally where can i buy good wires. Thanks for the site it is very helpful, encouraging, useful and human oriented. i use this site for tuning my instruments it very simple and accurate maybe it could be useful for people . i red the entire page and there is an o missing in the word '' longer it is written longer. Regards Hossein
Our reply: I do not have enough knowledge or experience to answer your question. I suggest you consult a professional tuner or technician. I do know two things: be very careful tuning the low notes because those big strings are the most expensive to replace. Often, the very lowest notes will be allowed to stay a little out of tune, because your ear cannot hear the difference down there, and it's not worth the risk of breaking. I don't have a specific source of piano wire to recommend at this time.
Seria Mau Genlicher said:
Now I know why we pay a professional to keep our piano in tune (it's not easy is it) - although after visiting your site we can at least help reduce his need to pop round just to (free of charge) tweak the odd string here and there between "official tunings". Great to see this information out there Thanks
Darryl Stewart said:
Extremely helpful website, and very well written. I now understand the difficulty I'm facing. Thanks so much.
marshall said:
interesting, got me to thinking even I can do this
Andy Dennison said:
Thank you for the excellent explanation, especially about the electronic tuner. I now understand why you cannot simply "dial" up each string to the exact setting. As an engineer when I hear "more art than science", I am skeptical. Now I am less so. I can see that tuning 88 keys is not going to be 88 minutes! You have covered the topic very well, and IMO giving professionals their due respect. The best I have read on this topic. Thanks.
Scott from North Carolina said:
I have a 1908 Steinway type "O" grand which is in pristine condition. It was formerly in an unstable environment with fluctuating humidity/dry spells, etc. I installed a Piano Saver humidity control system on it and it helped some, but not enough. The piano is now ina new humidity controlled environment, and it stays in tune for 4-5 months with only an occasional touch-up. I'm sending you this information to emphasize the importance of proper humidity. It may help someone else who is experiencing a piano that goes out of tune too quickly.
Peter Hardy said:
Hi Scott, many thanks for the most useful tips on piano tuning. I made my first tentative attempt recently on an old and badly neglected piano before I discovered your site and, whilst the piano is far from perfect I am pleased with the results, so much so that I shall now take your advice and buy a tuning wrench and wedges. You're quite right, the back end of a quarter inch socket is not a good fit, especially on my 6mm pins! I am now looking for a supplier of a decent quality wrench in the UK, so wish me luck. Thanks again Peter Hardy
johnf said:
thanks, food for thought
alex said:
wow!! thank you!!! a generous person gave me this piano so i can start learning how to play it after i got the sounds i realized some keys had a weird sound so i thought that it needed to be tuned. can someone answer my question how do i fix a key that gets stuck when I press it?? some keys were like that and i moved them a little bit and those work but there is like 2 keys that get stuck when they are pressed once again thank you
Our reply: One explanation is a missing, detached or damaged spring. The spring returns the key to the correct position. I have a similar problem on my piano that for now I just live with. But there are other reasons for sticky keys as well. I do not have advice on how to fix it. You can remove some of the extra cabinetry to get a look at the action (the key mechanical parts) to see if you can see the problem. Check the repair links on my site or pick up a copy of Reblitz for repair information.
m willis said:
I wanted to say thank you with this method i was able to save a very old baby grand from the dump
Tony the Tuner said:
Great site! I'm a musician who has tuned many a stringed instrument; yet have always hired a "pro" to tune my piano. Thank you for giving me the confidence to do it myself. I'm buying a kit immediately. So informative! Thanks again.
tom said:
Thanks for the article. I just acquired a Wurlitzer apartment size piano which is still basically in tune with a few really sour notes. With your help, I don't need to be afraid of damaging anything and I'm sure I'll be able to make it sound quite a bit better. I am going to have a professional look at it before long.
tundra said:
Thirty years ago I sat in on a tuning and was just amazed. I thought one day I would like to try that. Locally there is a free piano being offered to anyone who will pay to have it removed. Its old and beat up but it needs a home. Working on it. Thank you for this inspiring article.
Vernon Skinner said:
If you're tuning an older piano, and the thick bass strings are reasonably well in tune, sometimes your best leaving them alone: they may be corroded, leading them to snap when adjusted, and they are expensive to replace!
charley said:
I have been using this technique (same tuner) with good results for several years before finding your site. I prefer to use the tuner for as much of the piano as it will respond to and do the rest by ear alone. I also used this method to raise the tuning about 1/4 step to A440 when I bought my piano. The tuning had "sagged" from neglect. I was interested to learn below why my piano was actually sharp before I tuned it yesterday -- seasonal humidity. Thanks for your excellent site.
Ron Richey said:
Thanks for the interesting overview. I am restoring a couple of player pianos, and I have a small Kimball player that is really out of tune, and was told that it would take a couple of tunings to get it into tune. That is at least four tunings.And my sister has an old upright. I figure I have nothing to lose by trying it myself. You provided me with a lot of useful information. I may still get a book, but I do appreciate your insight. Thanks again, Ron
Gabriel Rodriguez said:
I have a question...My piano doesent really sound to bad but i put a tuner to it, and it turns out my piano is actually a whole not out of tune!! For instance when you play a C it registers as a B on the tuner. What should i do, should i just tune the piano to the note that it thinks it is like a B for a C, or should i tune it to the correct note
Our reply: When the entire piano is flat, the piano needs a "pitch raise." This is a special tuning procedure requiring several passes over the entire piano designed to bring into stable tune. Without this procedure, the piano may not hold tune. Pitch raises are beyond the scope of this tutorial. See our recommended links for more information, pick up a copy of Reblitz, or consult a professional tuner.
Zemozits said:
Excellent procedure. I tuned my piano, a Wurlitzer Spinet piano and got acceptable results in the middle ranges with a chromatic tuner. As you stated it failed in the highest and lowest octives which I did by ear comparing to other octives and got closer then it was before starting. I did break one of the low A strings to support your cautions about over tightening when my tuner wasn't responding. I am looking for a A string for less then $50, $15 if I tune pianos professionally. I'll find one eventually. I am gettingready to do this again after purchasing Peterson's Strobotune for my iPhone. It appears to be capable of doing all octives. I am looking now for more information on stretching other then the middle octives. You have produced a very informative document here and I am looking forward to my second attempt with the iPhone tuner and knowledge gleemed from your comprehensive instructions. Keep up the great work.
Greg said:
The most thorough and concise article I've read. Thank you!
Alexandra said:
Thank you so much for generously sharing your experiences and knowledge. I am going to follow your advice to tune my own piano. Thank you again !
Agiad said:
Thank you 4 your web
Mike said:
I just bought a(cheap) baby grand. I tuned a piano 20 years ago with the Reblitz book. I would like to know which electronic tuner is adequate. I have a $50 guitar tuner and it wavers too much. Mike
Our reply: Tuner needles are going to jump, because of natural variation in vibrations, reflections from the room walls, and other extraneous sounds. Obviously, try to keep the room as quiet as possible. Are there any fans or motors or even the AC running to add extra sounds? Perhaps you would find an electronic tuner with a larger display easier to use, such as Korg CA-40 Large Display Auto Chromatic Tuner. Just get as close as you can. By the way, not all dedicated guitar tuners have all the notes; when piano tuning, make sure you have a chromatic tuner.
Bojan said:
Thank you for this great website! By the way, the book which you mention "piano tuning: A Simple and Accurate Method for Amateurs" can be found on Project Gutenberg.
Stacy said:
Thank you for the info. Great web site!!
Jimmy Johosephat Sez... said:
Thanks for the piano tuning clarity. My new "equal-temperamented" knowledge now sits calmly among my now attenuated reservations. Thanks for the scorecard. I'm now the player on first, if only in the little league.
Bettie Colson said:
This is a very informative website. I have been a musician for decades and finally decided to try tuning a couple of pianos about 3 years ago. (I live in a large city in Guatemala but there are NO piano tuners here at all!) It went well, but now with this information I am better prepared to do some more. And eventually receive training to be a professional. Thanks!
Kevin said:
Thank you so much! My researching this page was sparked by listening to a 1920s Cable baby grand being tuned. A family friend has had this beautiful piano as a piece of furniture and hasn't tuned it in about 15 years...When she heard me play it, she instantly called the number of the professional saved in her phonebook. I, too, have recently acquired a 1930s Monarch (Baldwin) Parlor family won it in a raffle somewhat accidentally. The piano is in TERRIBLE shape. My dad is a woodworker who knows a bit about the technicalities of the piano, but we don't have the money to refurbish it yet like he plans to. If I can get my hands on these tuning necessities, I'll try to give it a touch-up, since it'll be a few years until it can get done. I'd love for it to be moderately playable! Again, thanks for a site that's informative, easy to read, and full of disclaimers to let people know that professional is STILL the route to go, especially for a nice piano. THANK YOU.
Joe said:
Thanks for the giving heart. I want to pick up a piano I saw on a curbside but I need to know what I'm getting into as far as tuning it compared to the electronic keyboards I'm used to.
Leslie said:
Thanks so much for your wonderful website. My upright Yamaha has been going out of tune very quickly this year (after a month, easily) and it has frustrated me. I was interested to read that some tuners are better than others at "setting" the pins so that the piano holds its tuning, so my first decision is to try a different tuner next time. Also, my current tuner strongly suggested humidifying the room, and I'll do that next fall. I had a question concerning tuning the upper registers. Every tuner I've used in recent memory has insisted on tuning the upper registers "flat". They claim that by doing so a normal person hears the notes in tune, and that a true tuning will cause the upper registers to sound sharp. But to my ear, they always sound flat when tuned that way, and it drives me crazy. Do you have any thoughts on this? Have you run into this issue? Thank you, Leslie
Our reply: Your tuner is "stretching the octaves," which is the correct way to tune. Long story short, it adjusts for the natural but predictable differences between a real piano from the "ideal" piano. Part of the skill of a professional tuner is to be able to stretch the octaves just right for a particular piano. Perhaps your tuner is over-doing the stretch; another tuner might give you a more agreeable result.
Chuck said:
I just wanted to thank you for sharing the information you worked so hard to get for yourself. I'm a fairly good handiman so with your instructions, I should be able to take the pain out of our daughter's practice time. Thanks again, Chuck
michael said:
i never write, but thanks..., suppose i can't say never anymore..., you're time and energy benefited me greatly...
Nancy said:
Thanks for the great website. I bought a new console Wurlitzer piano for $2600 23 years ago. When do you make the decision to "scrap" the piano as you mentioned in an earlier post? I have religiously had my piano tuned by a professional once a year. It will not hold a tune. We have several piano players in our household and it is very annoying to play. Is there such a thing as a lemon piano? I had never thought about tuning the piano myself until today, and came across your fantastic website. Thanks for any suggestions.
Our reply: Some pianos are better than others; a lemon is quite possible. But first rule your house's environmental conditions affecting it. If the humidity level changes widely through the year, for example, that can really affect the tuning stability. Perhaps you just need something to even out environmental conditions, like a humidifier in winter. Consult a piano technician, rather than just a tuner, for an opinion.
NÈstor said:
Thank you for the help!
clement said:
ton site est parfait et est tres bien expliquÈ merci
David Myer said:
Thanks for the excellent quick tune tutorial. For a more thorough treatment of a piano's temperament and even how to deal with mechanical problems, a nice little book by J Cree Fischer called "piano tuning" can be found in most libraries. Originally published in 1907 and repub'd by Dover books, I believe. It explains how to tune by ear and what an "equal temperament" is and why some intervals must be slightly flat or sharp. The Fischer method is the most common by-ear method. Fascinating read for people who want to know more about their piano. Thanks again for your work!
Jerri Hokna said:
Merci beaucoup pour ces renseignements trËs utiles. Maintenant, je pourrai discuter un peu mieux avec l'accordeur, en attendant de faire des essais moi-mÍme.
Ariel Ferrer said:
I am a Mexican living in USA, my son just started to take piano lessons and someone gave us a 1968 piano yesterday. The information in your site is perfect since as you describe will like to learn to tune this piano not as a profesional but good for learning.
Begbie said:
Just wanted to say thanks for the website. I was given an 1897 Estella & Bernareggi piano which didn't even play because the lead weights in the keys had oxidised, sticking the keys together. I filed the (white) oxidisation off and the action is now pretty much ok for most of the keys. As for tuning, all the shop assistants here in Spain just tut and shake their heads when you suggest doing it yourself. So it's really great to have a website that offers positive advice which lets people help themselves. I'm tuning in stages and things are going pretty well so far. The biggest problem was not being able to buy rubber wedges for muting here in Madrid. (it was very difficult to tune without them) I've ordered some from the only place in Spain that sells them in Barcelona. thanks
Doug Badger said:
very helpful at the level I'm interested in. I've got at Kohler & Campbell upright with a terrific tone and just a couple of detuned strings.
John said:
I recently came across your website and found it extremely informative. I'd like to experiment tuning a Young Chang studio piano I have and you advice will certainly get me started. However, in a amusing anecdote, I took notice of your remarks concerning clearing the area of all distractions before tuning, as it requires the utmost concentration. My piano is located in my basement where I have decorated my walls with pictures of females ranging from Bettie Page to Rihanna. When I have the local professional come to tune my piano, I'm not sure he looks at the piano even once. I guess he does it by ear and not sight. But I do wish to say that I enjoy your website and look forward to your helpful tips in the future. Thanks, John
Ralph Morgan said:
Thanks for your prompt reply to my question. Now can you help me get in touch with Piano Supplies? Their on line order form does not cover South Africa & I would like to ask them how I can order some items perhaps by Fax.
Our reply: does not ship internationally, if I am not mistaken. I do not have anyone specific to recommend. A trick you might try is to find third party sellers of piano tuning tools at to find one that might ship to your location.
Hernan Mulet said:
Thank you for your info on piano tuning.I have a much better understanding on what to do next. I have a Yamaha Baby Grand almost brand new and it needs to be tuned again since we just moved to Homestead Fl. I am a musician,trumpet player but also have been playing piano for a while.I know now where to get the tools. Thank you again!
Our reply: Thanks for the feedback. That sounds like a very nice piano. Remember that the technique on my page is for is NOT a replacement for professional tuning, and can damage the piano if not done very carefully. This is not a big deal on an older piano no longer in perfect shape, but a new baby grand is another story!
greg said:
Thanks much for a great lesson. I used to tune some pianos but haven't done it in a while. I just bought a couple of pianos and I guess it is a total gamble to see if they will hold tune, but I hope everyone will wish me luck. Times are tough now. Without a job there is at least some time to play, but hardly any money for a piano and place to play it much less someone to tune it. BTW, it was awful moving those things. But I hope the experience of a real piano will be worth it, as a digital one indeed eliminates all the tuning, weather related troubles, and sheer weight and size. Thanks again for the great information.
Bill Cornell said:
Thanks for the website. I felt that I had a pretty good basis, but you reassured me and pointed out some tidbits that I wasn't aware of.
Ralph Morgan said:
Thanks for a fascinating site. I have an old "Ernst Kapps" cc 1930 which was "tuned down below 440" in 1972.(in actual fact a quarter tone!) After reading your site I am determined to try and take it down a complete semitone so I can accompany other instruments (will need to learn to transpose!) My question is, are all tuning pins the same size? (ie does the tuning hammer fit all pins) I intend to order the equipment from
Our reply: A #2 tip will work on any common piano pin. See our piano tuning FAQ for more information on pins and tips. Good luck!
Glenn Adamson said:
Thanks for teaching me how to tune my piano. I was quite successful. I am forever indebted. I also enjoyed your article on Sagan. Most refreshing. I miss Carl.
Janet Williams said:
Thanks, Scott. I've been tuning a harpsichord for years but have shied away from tuning my piano for some reason. I bought a tuning hammer a number of years ago but just felt uncomfortable "fiddling" in there (pun intended!). Thanks for giving me the confidence to try it for real!
Jon said:
This is a nice resource for those wanting to keep pianos relatively in tune between professional tunings. I have been professionally tuning pianos for 30 years and not once in those 30 years have I ever used an electronic tuner. But for the novice, or even professional musician wanting to keep their pianos in tune, they should be ok. But, I never wanted to get used to them.(If they are plug in and the electricity fails...or batteries die...hmmm?) I use the standard A440 fork to get started and then away I go...starting with the mid section, actually mid F (below mid C) to F above mid C. That is the octave that I refer to as the temperament. Once thing that I did notice and would correct is this: "Pianos generally go out of tune to the flat, not the sharp, so you'll be a little ahead of the game, plus you'll get a "brighter" sound." This is generally true for the colder, dryer months when the heat is on, but in the summer, when the climate is generally more humid, the piano will most likely go sharp. (This is normal). And that is another good reason to always start by turning the pin counterclockwise when in doubt. Good luck and happy tuning.
Our reply: Thanks for writing. I appreciate your insight on tuning a shade sharp vs flat depending on weather. I'll work on revising that section.
Ed said:
Yes. Thank you. Your website seems to be filling a void. The free and cheap pianos in the world mostly end up in households not quite ready to pay for regular professional tunings. These instruments will get much more use if they are in tune.
Zach said:
I want to thank you for putting out this information. There is a site out there that is offering an e-book on how to tune a piano for 21.95 if anyone needs more detailed instructions. I also know of a free tuning software that I am using. The basic version is free anyway it can also be upgraded if you pay. It is called audio tuner and if anyone wants a free tuning software rather than going out and buying one you can Google it as Audio Tuner. It is number two on the list for now and it is given out by Super Nifty. I have used it and it seems to work well.
Lena said:
Just writing to say thank you for putting the time into the research as well as the posting of this information. It is very helpful and very detailed. Thank you!
phil said:
how nice to share this information Thanks I paid to have an old piano proffesionlly tuned and it has quickly gone badly out. Someone suggested lowering the pitch to ease the tension on the strings. Is that a good idea? by how much? many thanks Phil
Our reply: I am not a professional, but I would guess that those slipping pins are going to slip, because even tuned flat they are under considerable tension. What you may really need is a professional pitch raise , which is a multi-pass process to bring a seriously out of tune piano back into stability. There is also the chance that the piano has been been neglected too long, and it will never hold tune, and sadly may need to be scrapped. I would consult with several professionals to see if they have any advice, or ask your question at the forums.
anonymous said:
Hi there, I have budding musicians in the family and we need a tuned piano nearly all the time so I took on the task of trying to tune the notes that are slightly out of tune with a twang in between tunings. So far so good. Any idea why the lower register is sharper than the middle one. Was it tuned sharp because it is really sharp. Maybe we don't play it as much, who knows. Should I not disturb the tuners work if this is the case. Thanks so much for all your info that gave me the confidence to give it a try.
Our reply: Hard to say. If it has been a long time since it was tuned, anything could happen. I would tune it using my method to see how it turns out. If you can't get good sound, then consult a professional.
John said:
In this section about temperament: "Today, there is one that is most popular and used by most tuners on most pianos, but you could say there is no one single right way to tune a piano!" Could you please clarify which temperament is most popular?
Our reply: Equal Temperament is the near-universal standard. For the history of temperaments and alternative temperaments, try the following links: and
Terry said:
I have been tuning my own pianos for over 40 years. It started when I took to restoring orchestrations and reproducing pianos. I found that professional technician/tuners were nervous of touching these old instruments and I had to learn piano tuning and repair out of necessity. Your site is good but I would like to make a couple of points. 1. Octave stretching occurs automatically if you tune the octaves beatless, because the second partial of the lower note - which is sharp due to imperfections in the string - will then be in tune with the first partial of the upper note. A sharpened octave should never beat - this sounds ugly. 2. In the bit about setting the string you say, "To set the pin your final tuning movement should be in the tightening/clockwise direction". I would contest this. You should pull slightly above the tone required, and then ease off to relieve the torsional stress that you have just placed on the pin. 3. The amateur may think she has done a good job but, as the ear becomes more sensitive to imperfections, she must be prepared to refine her technique to satisfy it. 4. Nothing is more conducive to a beautiful tone than well-tuned unisons. Once you realise that, you will be tuning once a week. It may be better not to know.
Lauren said:
Great site. Tried tuning a piano way back in high school and totally messed it up. Did a paper on tuning in college, but haven't tried tuning since. Now that I have one of my own, I'll give it a try. On tuning by ear. "Natural" or "just" tuning uses the overtones of one note as a reference for the next note (5ths are typical). Tuning for no "beats" sounds very pure, but it only works in a few closely related keys. As different keys are used that are less related to the natural key, the tuning gets worse. "Equal" or "well" tuning divides the octave equally (for chromatic flexibility), but the results are actually slightly out of tune with the natural harmonics. It's a compromise. The best would be 12 pianos each tuned naturally for each key, but that's not practical. Excellent article on the physics of tuning at
Jeremy said:
I agree that this is a great website. I did a brief apprenticeship with a great tuner years ago and been interested in tuning ever since. For those interested in rolling up their sleeves and starting to learn how to tune a piano, this is a great resource. Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer questions and for the thousands I will save on paying for tuning by doing it myself!!!
Lloyd Wetherbee said:
Very interesting. Thanks.
Alain De Myttenaere said:
Excellent website. Congratulations. I tune pianos as an amateur for years and I agree with everything that is written. Of course sometimes you need a professional tuner to adjust mechanisms and hammers. But tuning your own piano helps you appreciating your instrument even more, and tuning the piano of some of your friends strengthens the relationship.
John Rush said:
I just received my tuning lever and on my first attempt, I was pretty pleased with myself on making that horendous key sound beautiful again. But when I tried to take the lever off the pin, it wouldn't budge. I could only remove it when I lowered the tone of the string to it's original (or worse) position. I've tried about 5 more times with the same result. Is this because the tuning lever is of poor quality or am I just doing something wrong? Thanks for your help AND this great site!!
Our reply: It's possible that the pin is damaged, twisted or bent. Shine a strong light on it to look for imperfections. You may also have a bad tool. Inexpensive levers may be machined poorly, or made from metal that deforms easily. If your problem happens on one pin only, check the pin. A professional can replace it for you. If it happens on several or more pins, it may be the tool. If the tool is high quality, it's also possible a different sized tip on the lever, one size up or down, may make the difference for that uncooperative pin.
TOS said:
Hey, thanks for the good tips and getting people to realize they can do some thing for themselves. I tune my piano, learned like you did. However, one paragraph you have written is completely off, please research and rewrite, or else I would suggest removing it entirely. The text follows: "Tuning a piano entirely to an outside standard, with perfectly equal distances between notes, is called "equal temperament." But, as explained above, that does not sound right to us. To stretch the octaves results in "well temperament," where the math is not as perfect, but the sound is."
Our reply: I have revised this paragraph. Thanks.
John Rush said:
I just bought an old piano for $150 because it is so far out of tune. I figured (this was before I found your website) for this price I'd try my hand at tuning. I bought a tuning hammer (not here yet), but thanks to your website I realize it's going to take a little more to avoid complete frustration. So my next purchase will be the mutes (I already have a chromatic tuner). So thanks for posting this for guys like me who were going to try this regardless of what the professionals say. Hey, what would life be like if people didn't take chances? And, on the life scale, this is a very small chance.
Lord William said:
Great site guys. Ready to start my first tuning job on a kimball baby grand. Are there any specific tips for different types of pianos, or do they all tune pretty much the same? Wish me luck.
Our reply: They all have similar pins and strings, not much difference in that regard. One difference is that in larger pianos, such as grands, where the strings are longer, the octaves do not have to be stretched as much to give the "right" sound. See the reference in my article.
Psb said:
Hi-- I am a Young Chang grand piano owner. My tuner charges $110.00 to come and tune my instrument. To me, that is a lot of money, as I am a part time church secretary. So, I am interested in learning to tune my own piano. I have been having my instrument tuned once a year because of the price. I am happy to have read your web page. It has given me a renewed appreiation of the skill my tuner has, and I now realize he doesn't charge exorbitantly, and it is definitely worth it, considering all it involves. Unfortunately, $100 is still a lot of money! And perhaps I will attempt to learn tuning for in-betweens--at 2 or 3 months after my tuner has come. But I will definitely still have him come tune once a year. Thanks for your information!
Rev Janet Corlett said:
Thanks for the great site. I am working on a small island off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Piano tuners are not available! A tourist helped with our church piano and brought us the electronic tuner and wrench -but no wedges. He tuned the middle three octaves but left us with the rest out of tune. Can you tell me how we might improvise the wedges? Is it basically just a rubber wedge with handle? Can you think of anything we could use instead? Thanks
Our reply: Yes, it's just a wedge of soft rubber. A new rubber eraser cut to shape would be about right. You might also try a small strip of heavy cloth or felt, folded a few times as needed, and gently wedged between the string and the soundboard, or between strings. Use a screwdriver to push it into place. This is similar to how a temperament strip works (see the description on my tuning page, toward the bottom), just on a small scale.
Ed McMorrow said:
I am a professional piano technician and I hope you can communicate to your web-viewers that what makes a really great tuner is not the ear but arm control and how it is coordinated with the ear. This skill is only mastered through careful practice. Skill with the tuning hammer enables one to get the entire piano in tune in two or so hours so it will stay in tune for a fairly long time depending on how even the humidity is maintained. Also there are lots of things to damage by improper contact with various piano parts. I do know of some pianists who learn to do some work on their piano but they are the very few exception. You need to have a high level of mechanical aptitude and experience to take to the work like a natural. Good luck to all though!
Our reply: Thank you for your comments. I try to be very clear about the limitations of this simplified method. You make an excellent point that should be emphasized.
Julian said:
Thanks for the tips. I just had a question : Can a string break and hurt you ? Or are there any dangers ?
Our reply: Piano strings are under a good bit of tension, but actually being injured would be highly unlikely. There's a lot of piano framing and cabinetry between you and the string. The bigger danger is to your pocketbook, as replacing a string is an additional expense. Other than the lid falling on your knuckles, I can't think of any other real dangers.
jerry moors said:
there is a tuner that Tune-Lab puts out for about $300. any good?
Our reply: I am not familiar with that product. I have used a software tuner for Macintosh, It has more features than I know how to use, but I would definitely consider it for the future. It's $99.
Ryan/Shaun said:
That was awesome. My best friend and I just tuned a free Apollo grand piano in my living room that was just moved there yesterday. We have always been told it was impossible and to have a professional tune it. Much easier than I'd ever imagined.
Socrates said:
Thank you very much for the nice tutorial. I am getting better and better each time and my piano is always in tune.
Greg Dickson said:
Thanks very much for this site. When my neighbours moved recently they gave me their old piano. Much to my dismay, I got the same advice many people get with old pianos 'bash off the ivories that's about all that's useful'. Being a carpenter I had thought that I could fix up the action of the piano and thought that it might be a fun project. After the tuner gave the piano the thumbs down I was disappointed but then I thought, well what have I got to lose. I lined up my keyboard next to the piano, got out a cresent and started having a go. After fiddling about for a while and getting a couple of notes ok I thought I would try and google a bit more and I stumbled upon your site. It is just what I need. I have put the cresent away and am ordering the correct equipment before I start again. Thanks again for the advise it has given me new enthusiasm for the project and can wait to start with your instructions and the proper equipment. I can't really afford a good piano and everyone loves a real piano, even just to play chopsticks on. Thanks heaps your efforts. Greg
Lily said:
Thank you for demystifying this process!
tong said:
Very nice advices! Many thanks! I just tuned two third of the keys for my piano in four hours based on the introduction. I'm much quicker now. A quick question: do we have to tune the keys all based on the middle octave rathar than the adjacent octave? Thanks again!
Our reply: I would tune to adjacent octaves. I think it is easier to hear. Also, my theory is that your ear will automatically adjust to the natural tuning of the piano, which is not actually mathematically perfect. (See my information on "well-tempered" on my tuning page.)
Misterjuha said:
Good, informative website to get started. Thanks. I have not yet tuned a piano, but will try it on my daughter's piano next time I visit her. I also haver a hint for piano owners: place a cup of water inside the piano to keep the instrument better tuned.
Ronnie Hawkins said:
Thanks for the info. Everything you said I have found to be true. I am a beginner, but have tuned some bad ones. Again, thanks.
Danny Taddei said:
This is a great starter sight! Thanks for putting it up~ Iím not a pro tuner, Iím a pro piano player. I learned from the best though and have been tuning my own piano for years. Iíve had to or Iíd sound terrible on stage and that is something I can live without. I came to your sight to try and get a tip for failing ears. My low A and top 3 or 4 notes are more of a guess then anything these days and I was hoping to get a tip to tune those. Maybe someone will add that info. As for what makes my life easy, (and I would only do this on an upright or spinet that stays closed) is to label the strings above the pins so I donít grab the wrong pin. Since I am correcting notes bi-weekly (I have a heavy hand and picky ear) this cuts my time way down. Mind you, I only do this on my spinet. Grand pianos are often open and marker messing up the beauty is probably not expectable. Pins do get old but there is oil that can be dripped onto the wood plug that helps hold the pin. Iím on my last bit of mine because it has dried up over the decades. My tuner more gave my oil to me then 35 years ago. I have no idea what it is ñ but it does work. (anyone know?) Replacing strings is a hard thing to do and I have always hired someone else to do it but even then they might not be good at it either. Recently I broke a bass string and its replacement string has a terrible wolf tone. Rather then chase man down to fix it again, I opted to put a small felt wedge between the two strings to soften the sound. Over time it may settle. The felt wedge trick works well for a piano in a place where the temp and humidify change all the time. What sounds awful today may work its self out later on its own. The most important thing that I see missing from your page is a note to take off all the coverings you can to work on the piano. When you want to do a full tune, it is best to take as much off as you can so you can see in and around the whole case. You will hear and see everything a lot better. A flashlight is also an essential tool as is a vacuum. Look in the bottom of your box next time and youíll see why the first thing I do on a full tune is to vacuum that thing out well. Thanks for your sight~
Mr Kari said:
I recently bought a cheap piano and decided to tune it myself. I've been playing guitar for 30 years, I could see no reason why I could not do it. So I found your site and got the basic info to get me going. Thank you. The basic procedure is simple, but as you pointed out, one should not trust the electric tuner too blindly. The art of tuning, be it a guitar or a piano, is to find the right compromises to get the best possible sound out of the instrument. The two middle octaves I can tune satisfactorily with the tuner, after that I'm using my ears. P.S. As a general recommendation: If you have never tuned any instrument before practice with a guitar so that you certainly know what you are trying to achieve. It is difficult to break a guitar by over-tuning it.
Alessandro Simonetto said:
Have you a list of (economical) tuner to suggest?
Our reply: The least expensive tuning wrench I can recommend is a student-quality Schaff tuning lever I have seen on There are cheaper tools. But I do not recommend cheap tuning tools; I say spend a little more for at least an "apprentice" grade tool from a reputable piano supply. Piano tuning s a very careful process. Any wiggle or give from a poorly constructed tool will be frustrating and may increase the chance of damaging a pin.
yann said:
bravo, c'est super de permettre aux pianistes de dÈcouvrir comment accorder soi meme son instrument , et de ne plus avoir ainsi a debourser 70 euros ou plus a chaque fois ! merci
Our reply:
Duncan Mac said:
Hello, Delighted to find this site - exactly the information I was hoping to find, from someone I'm never likely to meet, half way round the other side of the world. Marvellous thing, this here interwebnet contraption. Bought a piano for my daughter (and myself, if I'm honest) to learn on, got it home, very excited, called piano tuner and was horrified when he said he couldn't tune it. The problem, it seems, is 3 or 4 tiny cracks in the tuning board (the large wooden slab the pins sit in). I'm sure he's being absolutely professionally correct, but it's unplayably out of tune at the moment and I'm reluctant to recycle the piano without at least trying to get it to a point where it's at least capable of supporting a bit of basic learning. Am I kidding myself, or should I have a go? Kind regards, Duncan.
Our reply: If the cracks are not into the pin holes themselves, then it seems that it would hold tune at least a short while, but may not stay in tune for long. If the cracks are into the pin holes, then those pins may not hold tune at all. But, if you tune it yourself, you have absolutely nothing to lose! My page is for you! One other idea is that if some the pins are permanently loose, you might be able to mute the affected strings but still have a string or two left for a particular note. You'll get reduced volume and richness for that note, but you might get something.
Thomas Gray said:
I am facing a couple pianos that are low and the piano tuner says he doesn't dare try to tune them up to pitch because the strings would probably break, and here in Bolivia it is very hard to get new strings. You mention the same concern, pointing out that doing it in small steps might do the trick. I believe that the problem is that the friction going over the bridge is what requires so much force to pull the strings' pitch up. Has anyone tried putting penetrating oil in that friction point before tuning a piano up?
Our reply: Your question is beyond my experience. I suggest the forums at
Jared H. said:
I read this website, and it's great! I just ordered the tuning kit and tuner last week, I got the tuner today, hopefully the kit will come tomorrow! I have been working on refinishing this piano for a month, and it's beautiful now, all it needs is to be in tune! Thanks for all the great info! Wish me luck!
Red said:
Sir, I acquired a piano from a friend of mine who didn't have room for it in a move. I called my two local piano tuners and both of them refused to tune it. Why? Someone had painted it. Without this site I may have taken their advice, landfilled it and gone back to my electronic keyboard.
steiffano said:
Hi ! j'ai beaucoup apprÈciÈ tous vos conseils qui m'ont encouragÈs ‡ entreprendre l'accord, puis la restauration d'un player piano SIMPLEX manufacturÈ ‡ PARIS par FRANTZE vers 1905. Je vous recommande : Les accordeurs franÁais sont trËs avares de renseignements. Ils ont sans doute peur de perdre leur mÈtier et se prennent pour une Èlite. Mes voitures je les rÈpare bien moi-mÍme. Pourquoi pas mon piano ? Mais comme je dÈbute, je suis confrontÈ ‡ des notes qui ne tiennent pas l'accord. J'ai essayÈ de descendre l'accord, mais Áa tient pas. Des chevilles ovalisÈes qui tournent ? J'ai aussi des cordes rouillÈes. Certains tuyaux du systËme SIMPLEX sont cassÈs (j'irai voir mon garagiste). Sinon je ne regrette pas mon achat (50 euros sur ebay, ‡ 30 km de chez moi avec un camion prÍtÈ ÈquipÈ d'un haillon Èlectrique, d'un tire palette et accompagnÈ de 3 frËres). Bonne continuation pour encore plus de renseignements. Musicalement, Steiffano.
John King said:
I recently bought a tuning kit and set to work after having watched a professional do it last time. I have a good ear and I think I did a great job. I have now found your site and I did almost the procedure you state. However I used my electronic organ to start me off at middle C. This was an experiment to see what I could do. The reason is because our church has a pipe organ and piano and the organ is slightly below pitch and would require cutting the pipes to fix---too expensive. In order to use both the organ and piano together, the piano would have to be detuned to the organ pitch and the professionals we contacted wouldn't do it. So I wanted to learn on my own piano before I attempt to detune the church piano.
Our reply: That is a very interesting reason for learning to tune pianos. Also interesting that a professional would not do it. Thanks for signing the guestbook.
Tracy Gittins said:
Thanks for a simple, encouraging website. I'm a music teacher too, but I got my foot in the door in Europe as a librarian at a Dept. of Defense school on a NATO base in Belgium. I laid claim to a clunker piano that had been in the kindergarten building for years. I've been able to tune it fairly well in just a few hours. I had a set of tools back in my college days in the early 80s. I gave them to a Bolivian friend a few years ago and now he tunes dozens of pianos professionally every year. $40 or $50 is half the going rate in the states, but in Bolivia, that's a LOT of money. Thanks for the inspiration.
Our reply:
tuner said:
People tunings their own pianos is fine. The problem is when your new and just starting out you tend to over turn the tuning pins way too much. Effectively wrenching them out of the pin block and destroying your piano in the process. Now thats all fine and dandy when were talking about junk pianos. However you people with half way decent pianos need to find a pro. And not just anybody who calls themselves a pro. Finding a good piano tuner is a lot like finding a good automobile mechanic. Not that piano tuners are dishonest, it's that it isn't as easy and simple as just turning pins. Destroyed pin block= piano wont hold pitch= restringing and replacing pin block= $2,000 for a piano worth 200 = firewood. Been tuning for 15 years, it is a 100 dollar a year expense in most cases even less. Is it really worth the 100 hours you'll spend tuning it poorly? If I didn't do this for a living I'd never tune a piano for the savings. Hobby I can almost understand. Good luck guys
Our reply: You make excellent points. That is why I make it clear on my site that[b] tuning your own piano can be risky.[/b] I trust my visitors will read my website carefully before attempting tuning.
Mike Cornett said:
Thanks so much for making this information available! After reading your brief tutorial, I successfully tuned my console piano in three evenings using a $20 Korg tuner and a tuning hammer and wedges puchased for $35.
Jewels said:
Thanks this is something that has intriuged me for years... awesome information website
Thom A said:
Thanks for a great web site. I have been a pianist for nearly 50 years but have never thought of tuning one my self. 6 years ago I started studying guitar and naturally bought a good electronic tuner and found that I have developed a very good ear for tuning strings and comparing "beats". I believe its an art that can be developed. Well, last year, I had my piano tuned and I watched carefully. It didn't take the guy more than 45 minutes (it was in pitch) and he didn't tune more than 15 or 20 keys (most were still in tune). Well, after forking over $135, I thought he was making pretty good money. Well, here it is one year later and I can hear a couple of low notes getting a little flat so I thought about hiring him again until I asked about the price. $135 again, and I thought, geez, I bet I could tune those few notes if I had the equipment and a tutorial to walk me through it. That brought me to your page where everything I read, I said to myself; "yea, I understand that". So, I'm buying a hammer, a chromatic tuner, and a couple of mutes and I'll save some money. Thanks for the information. I'll let you know how it goes.
Paul Sims said:
Thanks so much you are life savers! I am ready now to get on it! x
Kitty said:
Just what I was looking for- a way to fix the pianoes in the practice rooms between professional visits. Thanks!
Joshua said:
Thanks for the very useful piano tuning instructions. Pray for me! - I'm off to tune my first piano and I'm gonna need it. P.S. Carl Sagan is a looney. You can't explain something that was created without its creator. :)
Melody said:
This is very helpful. I'd love to try it.
Pedro Miguel said:
Hi again! Well, I got a 6.2 mm square tip tunning lever. and I am having this strange problem, for some pins the wrench is too large, made it split [slip? --ed.] when try, for others it seems that fits ok! This makes any sense?
Our reply: I assume you meant to say it slips. Having different size pins on the same piano does not seem likely, but my experience is limited. Are you sure you are seating the wrench on the pins completely? Make sure the wrench is down on the pin as far as it will go. It's either this or you have different size pins. Are the ones that slip in the upper or lower octaves, or are they scattered about? If they are scattered among the keys in no particular pattern, there is a chance that some were replaced at some point, and the replacements were not the same size as the original. If they are in a pattern or grouped in upper or lower octaves, then it may be the piano's design. Whatever you do, please don't risk damaging the piano. You may need to consult professional tuner.
Kevin J. said:
I have an old apartment style piano that I bought for $300 for my son to learn on, with the proviso that if he stuck with it we would invest in a better one. It was out of tune but playable, and as my son is getting better it seemed to be reaching it's limit - quickly. I couldn't justify footing a third of the value of the piano for a professional tuning, so out of curiosity I searched and found this site. I already had a Korg ca-40 tuner so thought I'd have a go. First, the tuning hammer: Expensive for what you get, and on this piano I thought I'd try a compromise. I have a good selection of tools, so took an old 18" long 3/8" drive torque wrench, put a 5/16" hex socket on it, and reversed a 1/4" drive 5/16" socket on that. Since the pegs are 1/4" they fit the drive end perfectly and the extra length of the torque wrench gave me extra control; more leverage = less effort with more precision and control. Wedges: I had some high-density foam lying around, so cut it to fit as a string damper. Violas! Tuning: I initially brought all notes into reasonable pitch using the tuner (some notes in the lower register were more than a half interval off). I let it sit for a day, then tuned an octave around middle C using the tuner, and did the rest by ear - I played violin for a number of years before falling in love with the guitar, so I've got a decent ear for tuning. Well, the piano sounds great (for what it is - an apartment / beginner piano), in fact good enough to delay a better piano and have lots of time to wait for a good sale or private deal. All it cost me was some time. Would I do it on a Grand piano? Not a chance, but then again that will probably never be an issue for me. Will I do this piano for friends when we finally sell it to them for the same price we bought it? Absolutely! Oh yeah, did I mention that it was great fun?
Our reply: Thanks for the good report. This is the reason I built this website! Officially, I recommend people purchase a few quality tuning tools, mainly the wrench and a few mutes. Yes, the reversed socket wrench can work, but those pins are precious and very troublesome to replace. The good fit of a proper tuning wrench will be best for the pins. In your case, the long handle of your torque wrench is important...the short handle of a regular socket wrench is too short to give the "feel" and control you need for tuning without overworking the pins.
Pedro Miguel said:
Yes, I meant to say it slips! Sorry for the mistake. I am seating the wrench on the pins completely, and there is no special pattern and also some pins that the wrench fit ok early, now sometimes they seem large. Also I have measure the pin top square and it is around 4 mm from side to side , so isn¥t this too small? I dont see any piano wrench on the market with this measure. About if the piano have mix pin sizes, I dont think so, cos the professional tuner I hired 2 weeks ago, used the same tool, so... If there was some forum or anyone around here that could help me to figure out the right tool to buy. I guess I could phone a professional tuner, but he would be very mad to know I want to buy a piano wrench, cos that could mean less work for him ! :) Another question is about if I should try to tune the piano to 440HZ cos its not at this time, the professional tuner did not do it, with the reason that could broke strings, cos its a piano from 1870. I don¥t have any idea what key he have tune to, cos today after playing around with the KORG CA30 tuner, when play the C key I get G# on the tuner!! Thats my questions for now, it would be great if you could open a forum here, that would be great! I know guestbooks are not for questions! :) Thanks so much for the help.
Our reply: I suggest you ask on the forums. They will probably scold you for thinking about tuning your own piano, but they may still answer your questions. I would guess that your piano has been untuned for a very long time, so the tuner was reluctant to tune it to 440 right away because that could very well break old strings. What you really need is probably a "pitch raise," a procedure where the tuner makes several passes over the piano over several sessions to slowly bring the piano back into a stable tuning. Some pianos that have been left untuned for a very long time may never be stable again--and many times a professional will simply refuse to attempt it.
Pedro Miguel said:
Hi there! Thanks so much for the tutorial. It really helps me to try it out. I have a A.Bord piano from 1870 that as been on the family for around 100 years and it wasn¥t tune for around 20 years, and after we paid a professional tuner 2 weeks ago, some notes just started to get out of tune! But I am complete lost about the size on the piano wrench I should get! I¥ve tried to measure the pins, and its around 6. something Millimeters. But I see piano wrenches on the market with 6.2 , 6.5, 6.8 or 6.9 Millimeters! Is there any standard measure?
Our reply: Since it was not tuned for so long, it will likely keep going out of tune more frequently. If you keep tuning it, it may eventually stabilize if it is in good shape otherwise. I don't know how the pins are sized in mm. The vendors I have used usually number them, "#2 star head" for example. I am sure the # relates to a specific mm or inches size, but I have not seen the details. A piano tuning tool retailer should be able to help.
Terry Craycraft said:
You made comment about knowing exact frequencies being difficult. Not really. By using the scientific calculator in Microsoft Windows ( or store bought scientific calculator), you simply do 2 to the 1/12 power or the 12th root of 2. Every musical note is precisely higher than the previous note by the 12th root of 2 which is 1.05946309436...... This multiplied by itself 12 times (actually 11 )ends up EXACTLY 2.000000... ( using the many place calculator value.)Then using A at 440.00.. Hertz, you multiply each result by 1.05946309 to get the next note, until you end up exactly double. Then these twelve values are multiplied or divided by 2 to get each octaves frequency EXACTLY. Then with a Mic and frequency counter you can tune to precise values if wanted. But if you do that, your piano will sound "sterile" as I found out. It needs the "character" of being slightly "stretched" either way when tuning.
Barry said:
Thanks for this informative tutorial. I have always wanted to know how to do it and you have pointed the way. I will be using a computer program called "TuneIt" to help me with the tuning process! It works very well for tuning my hand crafted Native American flutes.
Bryce Jennings said:
In my research of piano tuning, this site is number one. I went out on my own and tuned my piano and it was a success. Thank you very much for your instructions.
Tony said:
I just got the Grover-Trophy piano tuning hammer (Star Head) from Amazon. It is too big for my piano's tuning pins. Does anyone know anything about the Grover lever? I called the retailer Woodwind and Brasswind, but they didn't know what size the tip was. I thought it was standard. I just have a Jasper American Piano, upright model # 435F. Can anyone help?
Our reply: The Grover-Trophy lever at Amazon is very low quality. Here's a better brand. Virtually all American-made pianos use a #2 tip, but even so standards vary such that there may be a tighter or looser fit from one manufacture's #2 to another's #2. Try asking the staff at, the retailer I link on the front page. Their staff might be able to recommend the correct size. You probably just need the next size down, though I do not know how the numbering system goes.
Bob Spicer said:
Thanks for putting such great info on the web. We've had a Kimball console piano for many years and since moving a couple years ago it is really out of tune. You answered all my questions about tuning it myself. I already have an electronic tuner I use for other instruments, now I know what to order for my tools. Great website!!!!
DÈsolÈ, mais votre site est une mauvaise idÈe, car il fait croire qu'il est facile d'accorder un piano sans Ítre un professionnel. Si vous aviez fait la mÍme chose avec la chirurgie... je vous laisse imaginer les consÈquences. sq.
Our reply: Thanks for your comment. Google Translation : "[i]Sorry, but your site is a bad idea, because it suggests that it is easy to give a piano without being a professional. If you had done the same thing with the surgery ... I let you imagine the consequences[/i]." I respond: My page is very clear: this method will not replace the skills of a professional tuner. I also try to make it clear to the reader that there is a measure of risk. But I believe that with care and proper tools a novice can do some limited tuning.
Jeff Orsi said:
Way to go! You gave me the push I needed to attempt this so called "dreadful feat". Your advice was very realistic and comprehensive. It allowed me to bring my 1906 spinet back into a good overall tuning so it can now be a part of the jam session in my house. Thank you so much for posting a site like this! I even purchased tools & equipment that you supplied links to. EXCELLENT!!!
Our reply: Thanks for your report of success!
Joaq said:
I'm glad I found your guide help me tune my Piano with not damage what so ever Thank you
Jason in Gahanna Ohio said:
I decided to tune my old great-grandmothers piano that I inherited. Its a Jesse French & Sons piano from 1890s. I play frequently, and am tired of the out of tune strings. Your info helped me to determine I can do the tuning myself. Also, have the church piano and a few others in mind, when I buy the necessary tools. Thanks for the info online.
Jeremy said:
Thanks for posting this site! I find the comments about having by tune by ear quite amusing, owing to the fact that I have perfect pitch. Dad says that he can't get the piano tuned when I'm around because I'd drive the tuner crazy! I have a Roland digital with Steinway soundchip in it, and an acoustic piano directly opposite to it, so I'm anxious to get it tuned so I can play duets. Thanks, Jeremy
Patrice Remy said:
Just to let you know that a book mentioned on your webpage, is also available for free (zipped html archive): piano tuning: A Simple and Accurate Method for Amateurs by J. Cree Fischer see: Thanks!,
Mark Adame said:
I am glad I found your guide. I have an old Kimball console piano that had been placed on the sidewalk for grabs. It was/ is banged up weathered, and probably not played for MANY years. It was inhabited by mice or rats who left droppings and food stores throughout the interior. Against my better judgement I brought it to my shop at work because every key sounded, but was in dire need of tuning. I paid a local tuner his $80 fee + a $20 tip for the unsanitary nature of the piano and his effort. Now it has a new lease on life and brings me joy during my breaks and off hours. Of course it will go out of tune eventually and I am going to attempt to do the tuning myself with the help of your guide. Thanks, Mark Adame.
Jean B. said:
You are a doll!!! I never knew you can get this info on a website. I just got an old spinet piano and tunning gets to be so expensive after a while! I want to learn to do it on my piano at least twice a year! I love my piano and want to maintain it (on the cheaper side that is!). Even though it's an old spinet, I love it! It's my piano!
Daniel said:
Tank's for all ,it' a good teaching to repair and tune a "pianoforte " and have a good year 2008. Daniel from France .
C.P. said:
I was really surprised to get so much info on your webpage about tuning the piano! So many professional tuners are trying to keep the "art" to themselves. I have just bought an antique (1902) Pleyel piano which has been severely neclected. With your help I managed to tune it myself (without an electronic tuner). This old piano now once again provides hours of pleasure for my family. Thanks for your help.
Our reply: [Submitted via email]
marion hoogesteger said:
Thank you! My Bosendorfer grand had two notes out of tune completely. Got them perfect, thanks to your instructions
Greg Baker said:
Scott, Well it looks like I reinvented the wheel! I used your method to bring an old player piano up to pitch, only I didn't know it was your idea. LOL I'm 68 years young and have played saxophone, violin and guitar, built and repaired a few, and worked as a boat builder. Now I getting into repairing and tuning pianos next I have to learn to play the darn thing. Greg
Charles Blake said:
I enjoyed reading your take on tuning a piano. I am a piano tech. You have some good points and tips. I do recommend the "fine" tuning be left to the professional though. There is much more to a great tone than just tuning. The hammers, the action regulation and such. Thanks for giving folks the "push" to try it themselves.
Our reply: Thanks for your comment. Tuning strings is where it all begins, and people are curious about it. But I do realize, and try to try to make it clear at the beginning of my site, that my simplified approach will never take the place of a professional tuning.
Evgeny said:
Thanks for the great info on piano tuning.
Mr. Tumnus said:
This site is a great resource for those of us looking to learn how this is done... thanks!
Paul said:
Thanks for the information on tuning. I ordered the hammer, wedges, and the tuner you recomended. Took me about 2-1/2 hours to tune. Sounds great and was fun. Thanks again.
Patty / St Louis said:
Hello. What a fine site! Thank you. I may be inheriting a 150 yr-old "square" piano that I haven't seen for 45 years or's been in storage.. Can you give me any pointers as to how I should examine the sound board, to see if it can be tuned? Also, if pins are loose, must they be replaced, or is there a way to tighten them? Thanks so much for your help.
Our reply: If the piano has been left out of tune for a long period of time, the soundboard may have lost its shape due to the prolonged lack of tension. I do not know how to visually tell if this is the case. It may respond to the multiple-pass tuning procedure called "raising the pitch," but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial, and my experience. If it has been tuned regularly over most of its life, I'd guess it can be whipped into shape, though it might take a professional tuner. Tightening pins is an involved procedure, too, and is probably best handled by a professional technician. Some the links to other websites I provide can give you some insight into the procedure if you want to investigate.
Leslie said:
Watched a friend tune an old piano some years ago. When I bought an old beater piano at the Salvation Army, I got my own tuning wrench. Very many of the keys were quite out of tune. When it's an old piano who cares if you're a bit nervous to try it. I paid $133.00 for the piano. Didn't have an electronic tuner. Started with 2 C-keys away from the central octaves. The central octaves were the most out of tune. I think kids had been pounding on it. The edges of the ivory on all but 2 keys is chipped. When you find 2-c notes that sound the same to the ear, then tune middle c to match. I worked up and down the keyboard, finding any 2 keys that matched, then tuning keys in other octaves to match. about 3 hours, and she was playable again. A note on purchasing an old piano: When you try the notes and you can't find any that are in tune, the whole steel frame that the strings are mounted to is warped,and the thing will never stay in tune. The warp will just twist and turn in different directions as you change the string tension as you tune. Pick a piano on which you can find a few matched notes in different octaves. That one will have potential.
Ian said:
Hi, interesting site. True that good professional help can be hard to come by, so sometimes DIY is a viable option. A comment on posting #18: the plate holds the strings, but the sound ultimately comes from the soundboard, which is connected to the plate via the bridge, like other stringed instruments (guitar, violin). A small hole may not be the end of the piano, depending on the size of the mouse! :)
Our reply: Thanks for your comments. I have corrected my reply to #18, removing the misleading information.
Gordon said:
Thank you very much for offering this web site. I am a retired research chemist, and have been playing the piano 70 years. I now think that it time that I learned to keep my own piano in tune. I am in the process of trying to do this, and I find that your advise is very helpful to me. Thank you again.
Beth said:
Thanks for the info on your website. I have tuned my piano before, however rather poorly, and I was searching for sites just like this one that might offer some helpful tips. I also had been using a tuning fork in the past, though my hearing is not as good as it had been in the past. I ordered a tuner like the one you have from Shoreline. I'm excited to receive it so I can play my piano without so much misery. Thanks again for your very nice website! It was easy to navigate and understand. ~Beth
Glenn said:
Thank you, this advise is really great. One thing is stopping me from tuning though. I have bought the apprentise Tuning Kit and have a Hammer with an interchangeable head. The problem is I can only tune sharp (to the right) as when I tune flat (to the left) the head screws off the hammer. Tuning to the right tightens the head to the hammer, but it loosens when i tune the other way!! How do I overcome this?
Our reply: On my tuning hammer (see the pictures on the site) the head is perpendicular to the handle so that what you describe cannot happen. It sounds like you have a poorly designed hammer. I would contact the seller. Alternatively, you could wrap the screw threads of the handle with a little electrical tape or if that is too thick maybe some teflon tape used in plumbing. The friction might keep the head from unscrewing.
pier francesco 'pippi' leardi said:
many thanks...very interesting.i'm a pianist and keyboardist.only vintage gear.
Brad said:
I have been playing the piano for 20 years and I live in a small town in North Carolina by which there is only one tuner in town. He will be retiring soon and I would like to learn more about tuning on a professional level. I am sure it takes years of experience to learn. Is there a technical course that can be taken to learn this trade?
Our reply: Indeed there is. Go to, the website of the Piano Technicians Guild to get started.
Dr. Chrstopher Griffen said:
Simply an excellent primer in getting started. As an accomplished pianist for the passed 46 years I truly appreciate the important details you touched base on. As a vibroacoustics engineer by career, the technically unique approach to bring "perfect and undistorted" spectral sound power from this instrument is highly challenging! Dr.G
nate said:
Thanks! I was happy to see this site. A generous soul gave my wife and me a small upright, but it is in some places a whole step flat. I've been tuning guitars for a long, long , long time, but this is my 1st acoustic piano. Your approach is basic and simple yet thorough without too much "fringe" info-. Having a forum for other "tunists" to add more detailed stuff is a big plus. Excellent!!!
Ben W. - Austin, TX said:
Hi. Great site. I'm an adult beginning player. I was wondering if you could add any information on different tempering systems. I understand that Well Temperment is starting to be used again by some players. How about Just Intonation?
Our reply: I have not tried any alternate temperaments myself. See the comment immediately above this for some ideas from another tuner.
Musicologist said:
Thanks for posting this very helpful and encouraging material. I just tried my first tuning and I'm very pleased with the results. I've got it to the point where it sounds like it usually does 2-4 weeks after a pro tuning. Hopefully it'll be even closer next time. I was hardly in a desparate situation -- it had been a year since the last professional tuning, so I decided to try it myself when I found out I could get everything I needed for less than the cost of having it tuned once professionally. I wouldn't have wanted to start with anything worse than a piano one year out though. Here are some things that helped me. 1) This website was especially helpful: [original link is dead, looks like the same material is at this link. -Ed.] It provided a good idea of what to expect, esp. with regard to the feel of the tuning hammer. 2) Definitely get the best hammer you can afford. I got a pretty heavy one, and I can't imagine getting though it with anything skimpier. 3) Muting felt was very useful for setting a reference octave (I went with F3-F4) and allowed me to get going more quickly. 4) I found that I got much better results once I started ignoring the electronic tuner for the most part and went about things by ear. My AC may have been throwing it off. I followed the advice of the website above and tuned to Kirnberger 2 (an 18th century well-tempered tuning) -- it's not too tough if you've got a good ear for perfect intervals. 5) Much respect to the pros! My first go at this took HOURS -- so be patient... In the end it wasn't perfect (although it is better than it was) and probably isn't set too well, so I'll probably be reaching for my hammer in another month or two to touch it up. I'm just amazed that the pros can work so quickly and accurately. Thanks again!
Our reply: Thank you for your comments. I reference the very good Chang site in the further-info links on my site. I agree with going by ear as soon as you can, and encourage that in my website. I usually use the electronic tuner only for the first octave, and that seems to work well. An external mic, or pick-ups, which is available for the CA-30, might help tuning in environments with significant background noise.
Comicbook said:
I was delighted to find this site; I think it's absolutely wonderful that a "How To" guide for tuning pianos exists on the Net. I just received my tuning materials in the mail and I'm anxious to get started. My question is: For a note with 3 strings, how do I position the mute wedges correctly, especially when trying to tune the middle string? To clarify, let me label each string. #1 = Left String, #2 = Middle String, #3 = Right String. If I wanted to tune the middle string, where would I put my rubber mutes? In between strings #1 and #2 AND between strings #2 and #3 (in that case, I would not be able to hear much of a note)? Or do I just use one mute? After tuning the middle string, where would I position the mutes? Also, while tuning one key, how do I prevent other keys around it from going out of tune? Thanks in advance!
Our reply: To tune #1, put one wedge between #2 & #3, so that it mutes both #2 & #3 at the same time. To tune #3, put one wedge between #1 and #2. To tune the middle string, put a wedge under #1 and another edge under #3, such that the wedge is between the wooden sound board and the string. Work from the outside edge, that is, insert the wedge from the left for the left string and from the right for the right string. The other keys should not go out of tune while tuning one key. If you are tuning a piano that has been left in poor tune or untuned for many years, you may need to repeat the tuning several times to get it to hold. (See "raising the pitch" in my article.)
Jeff said:
Thank you so much for this page! I followed your instructions as a general guide, and bought exactly what you said. I pretty much know zip about music but understand frequencies very well (as an electrical engineering student) and the mechanics of a piano are easy for me so with your advice I gave it a go. I don't think the spinet piano we acquired off of inlaws had been tuned since 1965, but after several tuning sessions over a week (and some mechanical touch ups to the felt pads in the keys) it plays wonderfully. I now see what you say by being able to tune up an octave in a jiffy with keeping the tools nearby. My wife is tickled pink and my son-in-law, who plays professionally, was impressed! I just want to say thank you, it has been an extremely invaluable learning experience!
Joe karwacki said:
Good website, but occasionally a little misleading? I am a pro tuner and I think a lot of emphsis is placed on the simplicity aspect and ALTHOUGH very good advice is given in the area of noting that pianos are pretty complex, I'd re-emphasize that you really need to ascertain if you should be noodling with "your" piano. I have, for 35 years, been cleaning up after what I call the "handy-husband" ie: the piano owner who is going to fix it themselves and breaks something or makes a real mess of what "I think is simple". As weird as this may sound, having a good ear is really one least important aspects of the task. The real "skill" is knowing how to manipulate the friction-fit tuning pin into moving to the correct position and then "staying" where you want it to sound right. Just like playing a note on a piano is a simple enough task, much practice is needed to accomplish the skill of actually playing. I was once told, in my early years, that it takes about 1000 full piano tunings before you really "get the hang of it" and then begin to really understand what the piano is telling you. The topic of musical pitch is really cool and very interesting to us "sound nerds" and I love sharing what I know about it with people. The fact of the matter is this, learning about piano tuning is on par with peeling an onion. Just when you remove one layer, there is another to consider. I am glad people are interested and wish them well. Normally what happens is a much greater appreciation for the piano tuner is gained when people investigate and try their hand at it. Good luck to everyone and don't be discouraged from playing, even if you resort to hiring a trained tuner. Best to all. Joe
Our reply: Thanks for your insight. I have highlighted what I found to be the most valuable of your comments. Many people see my website and think that I am saying this is easy. If you read carefully, I emphasize that it is deceptively simple. That is, there's not much to putting on a wrench and turning a pin. There IS a lot to knowing how to turn that pin just right for a good, lasting sound. Only experience, the kind a professional has, can give you a professional tuning. Still, with care, I believe you can do a passable job yourself. If you want a high-quality, lasting tuning, call a pro.
Woosa said:
Awesome guide! especially the mp3 to demonstrate the beats. I will give it a try. Thanks!
danny said:
i bought a tuning wrench that was 1/4 in. star tip thinking my piano pins were taht size, but it is a little too big for my pins; i'm trying to look for a tip that will fit the pin but i'm getting frustrated looking online because they don't tell me the actual size the tip will fit; any suggestions? i think my pins are zither/tapered pins
Our reply: I would try If you don't see what you need, email the store staff. They can be very helpful.
Kristen said:
This is great! My friends told me about this website. Can't wait to get started!
Allie said:
This is really great information! I had no idea tuning a piano could really be so complicated, being as tuning a harpsichord isn't extremely demanding. I can't wait to try it! (just as soon as I can convince my parents to purchase the tools...)
magoo said:
Thanks for your help with my math project. the info was really helpful and self explanitory! thanks again!
Rodney Zammit said:
I have been searching around lots of sites and books, but i couldn't get the tips and links that i wanted. Fortunately, i came across this site which i find VERY interesting and challenging. I live in a small island called Malta (Europe) and due to its size, no one wants to give away his skills regarding piano tuning. Thanks to you i can begin my own tuning .
William E. Calkins said:
I purchased an old piano years ago and it has been sitting in the corner of my dining room since. Found your site on first internet search on how to tune a piano. I'll give more feedback when I have purchased tools and done some tuning. Bill
Lisa said:
I live in Hay River, Northwest Territories and it is difficult to get tuners to come up here, so I decided to teach myself. Thanks for the great advice!
Dale said:
Do you have a good source for replacement strings? I saved the old (broken) string, as my research found that it's important to match the length as well as size. The sources I found were darned expensive! Thanks for the great info. I am a lady who is a confirmed do-it-yourselfer. As a child, I used to tune the piano we had at home and don't recall having any trouble doing it, but I thought it best to get information before starting. I have a good ear so don't expect any trouble, unless replacing the string proves troublesome.
Our reply: I have not attempted those kinds of repairs. Another guest book signer recommends kspiano . com. They do sell a wide variety of parts, including strings. I have no personal experience with them.
mich said:
hi, thanks for your advice it was very helpful, I couldn't find any tuning equipment in the uk, but managed to get it from www. kspiano .com, in the usa.
Edward L Myers said:
I had tried to get my piano tuned on a couple of occasions but could not get a tuner to commit to a specific date and time. Your web site convinced me that I can do it myself. Thank you
Richard said:
We are in the Republic of Panama and cannot find a piano tuner anywhere. SO... I bought a piano wrench from EBay and today is my big day trying to do it myself. Thanks for your valuable advice, will sure try it.
nlapjr said:
Thank you very much for the information. It really removed the mystery from piano tuning. I have always had this feeling it was not that complicated. Now I know for sure it is within reach.Keep up the good work.
ben b said:
hi, thanks for the tutorial! Just wanted to let you know that I found a piano lever on samash . com for only 7.99! K&M 16610 piano tuning Lever (K16610NXX)
Our reply: Hi, Ben, thanks for reading. The tuning hammer you found is a "gooseneck" style. These are typically inexpensive, as you found. But, the shallow bend can make the more difficult to use, that is, harder to feel small movements in the pin. I have not used one myself, I am just report what I have heard professionals say. If it works for you, great, just take extra care to learn the feel of the tool. I spent more for an apprentice-quality hammer, and I have no complaints. Good luck!
Don M said:
My son and I were attempting to tune a piano we recently received (I was trying to use my guitar tuner and a craftsman tool kit) and we realized we had some questions...It was great to have your website come up on our 1st search attempt and give us a step by step approach using much of the same technique. (It was very nice to open your webpage and see exactly what we have been looking at for the past hour). I am still a bit unsure about tightening or looseing the pins: Is there any inward or outward pressure exerted to make it possible to turn the pin? In other words, does the pin turn "as is" with considerable torque or does it need to be pulled out, turned and then "set" back in? We are attempting this with a modified ratchet and bit, so I am wondering if there is something special about the student tuner that enables this... It seems unlikely, but I am being conservative to avoid breaking a pin. Thank you for the great website. Don M. McKinney, TX
Our reply: It is strictly a radial turn, like a screw. Do not pull or push on the pin. And make sure your ratchet bit is a perfect fit. Any play can damage the pin head, and will also make it difficult to make the super-fine adjustments required. I always recommend getting a proper tuning wrench for the safety and control. The long handle will give you leverage, too, which will enable you to get those tight pins moving. It's possible that the handle on your ratchet is too short. And take care to avoid any wiggling or side-to-side motion on those tight pins to avoid sheering or breaking them. Good luck!
CF05 said:
Thanks for your website, it taught me everything I needed to know to tune my old studio piano!!! According to the sticker inside the lid, it had last been tuned in 1962!!! It sounds like new again and I'm now playing it more often because of it. So, thanks again for the help your website provides.
junee said:
Hi. It's so hard to find a Piano Tuner in my area. Either they don't want to touch old pianos or they are just too darn expensive. After reading your site, I have decided to give it a try and do it myself. As a woman, the insides of a piano sure put me off, but I do have a good hearing, so I'm gonna give it a go. I'll keep you up to date if I "succeed" or not.
Our reply: Please tell me how it goes for you!
Andrei Segois said:
Thank you for the useful informations! I advice you to write more about the right way to hold the hammer and tricks for tuning stability (aka setting the pin correctly).
Our reply: Thanks for your suggestion. In the meantime, I refer readers to the other websites and books mentioned on my page for further information.
Syd Gage said:
Brilliant info. Thanks! My daughter has just been given a very old upright piano which has a few strings that need tuning. I offered to have a go at tuning it for her if she could buy a tuning wrench, but when she approached a local piano dealer to buy one, she was told it wasn't possible for anyone unskilled to tune a piano! I hope to prove them wrong. I have played and tuned a 12 string guitar for many years so hopefully will cope ok. Will let you know how I get on. Thanks for all the info. Syd Gage. East Yorkshire, England.
Hong Zenisek said:
Thank you so much for your information! It is very helpful! I just bought a 1972 YAMAHA Concole piano. It had only one owner before me, so it looks great. I am thinking to have my son, who is the one plays it, to learn tuning the piano himself. He is 13, but very intelligent and a meticulous person. I thought it will save some money and he has the personality to do the work. (He spent two weeks and made a soccer ball in its precise shape and size out of an old leather jacket.) Before I order any tuning kit, I thought I'd learn something about it myself. And I am so glad to come across your website! However, after reading your site, I am not so sure my son is ready to learn-- after all, it is a complex process, and my piano is brand new (to me). I am going to wait a while. thank you again!
paulilaswi said:
Thanks for the great help. FYI for all you do it yourselfers: The piano tuning hammer is just an automotive socket wrench with a "star" tip. you can get it at any DIY or auto store. I have a 1923 Laffargue upright, and it takes a standard 1/4" 12 point star tip wrench. This cost me 3.50 at Lowes, and I had the wrench. - what a savings over the $30 they want at most piano supply stores.
Our reply: If that works for you, great! But be very careful that your wrench socket is a perfect fit. You do not want to damage the pin. (An adjustable crescent wrench is a very poor choice for this reason). Three other advantages of the official tuning lever are 1) a wooden handle that is less likely to mar things should it slip (I'd wrap the socket wrench handle in a bit of leather or other material), and 2) a longer handle than a standard socket wrench for better leverage and reach within the piano and 3) handle and socket are essentially one fixed unit; most socket wrenches have a little play between handle and socket that can make fine adjustment tricky.
Ergo said:
Any special tips on tuning a three string 1936 model Cable-Nelson upright. It was given to me in great condition. Three of the keys stick and it is out of tune.
Our reply: The tuning can be done with the method given at this website. Repairs are beyond the scope here. I recommend further reading with the websites and books referenced at this website. Good luck!
Marty said:
I have just discovered this website and want to say thank you for the wonderful information found here. I have an upright J&C Fischer piano that was born in 1913 that I acquired 4 years ago. The piano is in great shape for its age, and although it could use some restoration,(when I found her she was a bit musty and moldy), I fell in love with its beauitful victorian woodwork the moment I saw it. I have her looking pretty good now, she is still all original, just shined her up a bit, and now with some time I am going to attempt to tune her, she actually has a few keys that sound in tune. Very useful information here. Thanks again!
Ron Haney said:
Just found your site and read the good info. Getting ready to give it a try, on my wife's Baldwin. Hope it works, or I'll be in the yellow pages looking for a pro. Looking forward to the challenge...thanks for the tips. I'll let you know how it turned out...
Richard Doust said:
thanks for this information, nicely presented in a clear but informal way it might just get me started !
Damo said:
Thank you for putting this on the web so amateurs like myself can take the opportunity to tune that old ear-strainer.
Scott Fisher said:
Great tutorial! More people should see this! I wish I had years ago...
paulo vicent said:
thanx, for this information, you can't imagine the help you gave me..
Fabio Mayo Belligotti said:
Thanks for the amazingly simple tutorial. I have an old family piano laying around and have been wanting forever to tune it and start a few lessons with my father. This is trully generous and a precious gift. Thanks!
Stephanie said:
I recently acquired an old Baldwin spinet piano that had been left in an abandoned house where birds and mice made it their home. The soundboard has a small mouse hole in the bottom left corner and a few of the keys stick but other than that it cleaned up beautifully! Is the piano ruined because of the hole in the soundboard?
Our reply: A small hole should not be a problem; there is plenty of soundboard left! (Thanks to Ian in post #60 for his comments on this question.)
SJ said:
Thanks very much for the great info and boost to my confidence. I recently had my old spinet tuned for $150 and after only a few months, it no longer is in tune. I started to tinker with it myself and tried various sockets, vice grips and other assorted tools (including reversing a º inch socket), and was only marginally successful. However, I'm going to invest in a kit and maintain the tuning myself. Again, thanks for writing your article, which was both very informative and inspiring.
derek said:
thanks for a start on tuning an oldie
Our reply: You're welcome. Good luck!
Robert said:
I wanted to let you know of alternative to expensive tuniing hammers that I've used to tune several pianos very well......Get a 1/4 inch socket ideally one inch long that is straight cylinder shape for full length....I picked up a couple of different ones from pawn shop tool bin for about $1.00....Then I got 1/4 inch L shaped allen wrench with long side about 5 inches to use as handle....Insert shorter side of allen wrench into socket and use the square side that small ratchet normally would go on to turn the piano pins....That square end in socket is just the right size in a lot of cases....I know that some pianos must have different size pins...Maybe I've just been lucky......But one of best things about it was cost..About $2.00 total!....At thrift store I found a leather eyglass case that snaps or zips to use as tool pouch for another 25 cents....and there you go.
Our reply: Now that's DIY piano tuning! Thanks for the tip. I tried in on my piano. The 1/4 inch socket works, but it's a loose fit. That means you'll be putting extra pressure on the corners of the pin, which may damage them. A genuine tuning wrench will give you a tighter fit and be gentler on the pins. Your suggestion will work in an emergency, though.
Bon said:
Thank you for your information. I don't know if I'll have the guts to tune this old Wm Knabe that I just inherited - the tuning seems to be "good enough" for me - but can you tell me if there is anything I can do about the sticking hammers? Thank you, Bon
Our reply: I have no personal experience with repairs such as sticking hammers, but there are some resources on our links page that may be of use.
James said:
Could someone let me know which part of the strings do I insert the muting Wedges? I have a baby grand and am going to try to tune my piano on my own. It is just too expensive to have a professional tuner tune my piano. Also, the my korg chromatic tuner could not pick out the lower octave keys. It shows different keys everytime I strike the keys, sometimes not showing anything at all. What am I doing wrong? I have verified with another tuner and they are both working fine. Thanks
Our reply: You can get some idea where to put the wedges by looking at the picture. Put them anywhere in the body of the piano, where the length of the strings is exposed and you can place your wedge between the string and the soundboard. As for the lower octaves, that is indeed a limitation of the little tuner, and I noted that in the article. Two solutions: 1) When the tuner fails, you'll need to tune "the old fashioned way" comparing the low note to a note in a tuned octave. 2) Purchase an external mic (called a "pick-up") for your tuner that clips to the strings. Both of these are described in more detail in my main article. Thanks for reading, and good luck!
Stephen Tucker said:
You said to use an electronic tuner this is easy, but, tuning a piano effectively 'to its self' (its own middle C) provides a much better and more natural tone throughout the whole piano. It does involve more practise but it is worth the extra effort. This is not advisable if it is used with other instruments though.
Our reply: Thank you for your comments; you make a good point. The electronic tuner method is a place for the novice to start, but a true professional tuner has the skill to really tune the piano to its maximum potential.
Brett Shortland said:
Thank you for the information. We have this old upright that used to belong to my mother-in-law and has moved with us a couple of times, so it was quite badly out of tune. I had thought all along that I should be able to tune it more or less just like a guitar and your site confirmed that for me. Armed with your tips I took about 5 hours to raise the piano pitch a semi-tone and bring it back into proper tune using a microphone and some tuning software. It sounds fantastic now!
Our reply: You are welcome, and thank you for the compliment.
Royal & Arline Meservy said:
Thank you for your webpage "How to Tune a Piano Yourself". We bought a tuning hammer and used little foam rubber paint brushes to mute the strings. Worked pretty well. We both play the piano and thoroughly enjoy it now. Thanks again.
charles e potter said:
This is a great site. I have an electronic tuner and can't get anyone to explain how to use it. The manual is good for its operational features only. Also I am beginning to feel the Guild is some secret club that doesn't want new members. It is impossible to find someone who will apprentice you.
Our reply: Thanks for your comments. I have not explored apprenticeship. I can only recommend the Piano Technician's Guild website, for more information. Good luck!
Chris A said:
Thanks for simplifying a seemingly-daunting task. My 50-year old Lester needs new Vagias elbows, and I'm going to replace them myself, as well as the tuning.
SB said:
This is an excellent site. THANK YOU! It is exactly what I was looking for. I'm going to give it a shot.
pizzazjazz said:
Thank-you for your site, I found it very informative and most helpful. I have played the piano for many years and trying to keep mine in tune has become not only expensive, but time consuming too. There is only 1 piano tuner in my area, and he is usually booked 6 mos. in advance. I am going to give tuning my piano a go and if I have any success, I think I might have found the next professional step I'll take. PIANO TUNER! Thanks again.
Cy Shuster said:
I am a professional piano tuner, but I'm not going to say what you might think: I support anyone who would like to learn more about this fascinating, complex instrument. In fact, a key mission of our Piano Technicians Guild is to pass on the knowledge needed for this complex craft (see for more info). It's how I got started myself. The basic approach you give here is a starting point, and will sound fine in the middle few octaves, but will be flatter in the treble than it should be, and sharper in the bass. This is because piano strings are at very high tension (about 150 pounds), which changes the frequency of their overtones. Here's a brief discussion of this effect: As a result, no two pianos are tuned exactly the same, except for the A440 above middle C. There's also quite a bit to learn about using a tuning lever. You must strive always to twist the tuning pin, and never bend it. One great starting point is Arthur Reblitz's book, "Piano Servicing, Tuning and Rebuilding". The PTG site listed above also has a great deal of info, as well as books for sale. Cree's book is quite a bit out of date. Larry Fine's "The Piano Book" should be required reading for every piano owner: Please experiment carefully, and don't choose a high-value piano with your first attempts. It's possible to damage tuning pins and break strings. Always lower the tension first; you'll be surprised how often you're on the wrong tuning pin! Good luck, and keep learning!
Our reply: Thanks for your comments, Cy. You make some valuable points which I have used to improve the main site.
Elson Kwan said:
I am not a piano player nor tuner, am just fascinated by the physics and the mechanics of the instrument. I think I will practise on my sister's piano first, since I do not have a piano myself. Thanks very much for the instructions.
JV said:
When using a tuning forks, strike the double end gently on a firm surface and then carefully grip the single end in your front teeth. Donít let your lips touch the metal, it will dampen the sound. You will be surprised at the volume that the tuning fork develops when it resonates within your head. The tone last longer too!
Our reply: Thanks for the tip--very interesting!
JM said:
I recently came across your site and became fascinated by the prospect of tuning. I called all the tuners [near me], but all refused to apprentice me. So I bought J. Cree Fischer's famous 1907 book on piano tuning and repair. Even though its a technical text, and a rather old one at that, its pretty easy to understand and kind of entertaining. It explains the method of building a temperament and countless other things quite easily and well. Please encourage anyone who is interested in taking tuning to the next level to invest in this book. Its only 178 pages long and cost me $7.85 at Borders. Furthermore, encourage people to experiment with muting materials. Since I wasn't able to get muting wedges here (unless I wanted to pay 3 times as much for shipping as I was for the mutes), I had to improvise. Black rubber stoppers for laboratory flasks...worked well when carved into a wedge shape. Also, I found some sheets of a dense foam-rubber material in walmart in the crafts section that when cut into strips and folded to a proper thickness mute even better than the rubber.
Our reply: Thanks for the comment. I have added a reference to the book you recommend to the main page.