Tune a Piano Yourself Blog
This piano tuning blog is a companion to our How to Tune a Piano Yourself tutorial. In this blog we expand on the tutorial with new information and perspectives on do-it-yourself piano tuning. If it is your first time here, visit the tutorial first.
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Just thought I'd thank you for this information, I recently ordered the tools and I need to gather information beforehand, this certainly helped :)
Thanks for your reply.
I will do as you suggested and slowly bring the pitch up over a few tunings. I greatly appreciate your time and all the great information you provide on your site.
Thanks for all the great information. I have a question. I have a brand new (4 years old) Yamaha Grand and I am going to attempt to tune. I have tuned before a few notes on several pianos and being a musician for all my life, I know and can tell the beats and interval and unison tuning you talk about.
My question id when I just checked the A above middle C, it is flat -20 cents on my Korg OT-120. It seems like all the notes are flat -20 cents. Do you recommend I bring the temperament up 20 cents to be dead center in tune? Is this to much of a raise in pitch to cause problems and break a string(s)?
I greatly appreciate your reply.
Scott replies: That's not a huge difference, but a large enough difference across the piano to call for a pitch raise. My guess is that a professional tuner would raise the pitch in one pass. However, if I were to do it myself as a non-pro, I would do it in stages to protect the strings. I would try 10 cents at a time, wait a few days, then go back a second time. On the second pass, just get it close, and let it relax again. On the third pass, you can try to be more precise as the final tuning. You may need to tune again in a few weeks and touch up in between, but it should eventually stabilize.
Hi Scott, first, thanks for sharing this with the world.
I have a question, you say not to use the korg to tune the whole keyboard cause it will not sound right, it will not stretch the octaves.
Does this mean that if I properly and successfully tune by ear, the korg would show notes far from the middle octave out of tune? How many cents out of tune is considered normal?
Scott replies: Yes, a properly tuned piano will show the upper and lower octaves not to be in perfect sync with the "ideal" mathematical progression of octaves. The difference increases as you move further out. The differences are unique to each piano, so there is no way to say exactly how many cents any particular note will be. If you go to my tutorial main page, How to Tune a Piano Yourself, and scroll down, you will find a chart that gives you an example of what the differences will be.
Thanks for the site. I contacted someone about tuning it myself and got an earful-not mean or ill willed but my gut reaction is "I can do that" Well 4 hrs later and a broken string -on my wife's baby grand Sohmer c.1950- it sounds 80% better, but I was after improving it a bit- at least getting rid of dissonant strings (one of the 3 being out more than a tad)
Of course I wish I could have given it 100- perfect tuning job-, but I took up tune from approx 438 to 440- It has been a while since being tuned. I got gun shy after breaking the string but pulled it through and got 2 out of 3 strings keeping the sound together. Took longer than expected but a good activity for a Sunday afternoon. Borrowed a kit from a friend- might have to get my own
Thanks for the site- A great asset for the common man.
Scott replies: I am glad you found this information useful. Yes, breaking a string is always a possibility, even for a professional. Of course, a professional is less likely to do so, and may fix it him or herself. Sometimes it is due to over-stretching or other poor technique, but sometimes it is inevitable due to the age or condition of the string.
Thanks for your advice it help alots! I bought new string and install again it sound good now. Also bought the book you recommend. You like my teacher I learn everything about tuning from your web. You are great. Now I have any other question? The piano sound on right tune but there is some echo sound. Why and how can I fix it.
Scott replies: Thanks for taking time to comment. I am not sure I understand the echo sound. Is there a missing or damaged damper felt on a string or two?
Thanks to you I now have a wonderfully tuned free piano. The previous owners refused to continue paying for tunings.
Scott replies: Glad I could help. That's the reason this site exists!
Thanks for your input. The piano sound is one of the most beautiful in all the world. It can be so soothing, and it brings back comforting memories of my childhood. My mother used to play whenever she had time. A 15-20 minute "mini concert" was quite a treat to our ears. I am glad you have this website. Thank you!
Hi, wondering what you think of the kit that is offered for sale on ebay right now from an estate. It has many tools and is up to about $152. Are all those necessary compared to the one tool and a few pieces found in a $30 something kit? I am learning from reading what you have posted. Thank you.
Scott replies:I think you mean that one: eBay. That looks like a good kit, but unless you are going to become a professional, or planning to do some serious restoration work, you do not need all those tools. For basic tuning, you just need a lever and some mutes. However, the tools in that auction are much, much better than the $30 kits. I recommend you budget at least $75 for the lever alone. Spend your money on one good lever; don't buy tools you are not ready to use yet.
Hi I don't know should I replace the piano hammer rail cloth? It have click sound when the hammer shank back on there. Is that mean I need to replace it then how? Is it just take old one out and glue the new on? OR can repair it and how? Thanks!
Scott replies: I am not familiar enough with piano repair to answer your question directly. Here is what I do know: making changes to any part of the action, including the rail cloth, is going to require attention to all the rest of the action. If you replace the rail, you will likely have to have the whole action regulated. If the rail cloth is worn then the other felts and straps are likely worn, as well. You can't just replace one part, as a new piece "here" will highlight problems "there." If you want to pursue your own piano servicing and rebuilding, then I recommend this book, Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding: For the Professional, the Student, and the Hobbyist
Thanks for this. I did have a basic idea of how to tune a piano but so many other tutorials try to make it sound like tuning a piano is beyond the capabilities of mere mortals and the result of not paying top dollar for a professional could result in the apocalypse. Tuning kit's on it's way and I'll be doing piano 1 of my 100. If I do a reasonable job I know quite a few pianists who have found the price of professional tuners to be getting a bit ridiculous so hopefully pick up the tricks in no time.
Scott replies:Good luck, and thanks for reading. But don't be too quick to knock a professional's pricing until you've walked in his shoes! :) Our tutorial is only a taste of what a full service, experienced piano tuner can do.
Hi, I had replace my piano string which is 3 strings note, now there is one orginal sting and the other two is new wire. It a very old piano about 60-70 years old. My problem is I can't tune it to right pitch it have some weid sound. Any suggest for me Thx!
Scott replies:Sounds like strings are not properly installed, and are vibrating against the frame. Are they properly wound around the pins? Also, take a look at the far end opposite the pins, where the strings go around a little stud, to see if they are in place.
Thanks for your useful blog. well, my question is about upper octaves where there are no dampers (Last 2 octaves). when I'm tuning this part of the piano the little resonance of the nearby strings makes it difficult to hear the beats. is there any solution for this problem? for example using a felt strip could be useful?
Scott replies: Yes, a temperament strip, which is a felt strip mute, is what you need to use if nearby strings are resonating. Thanks for stopping by my site. Good luck!
Je suis accordeur/facteur de pianos et souhaiterais faire quelques commentaires sur votre page. Lorsqu'un piano est très faux (plus d'1/2 ton) il est très important que le premier accord qui vise à le mettre au diapason soit fait très rapidement (20 min à 30 minutes maximum) car le fait de l'accorder va rajouter une tension considérable sur la structure et que cela risque de fragiliser le sommier (partie sur laquelle repose les chevilles) et de le rendre instable à l'accord par la suite (la réparation du sommier étant l'une des plus compliquée et couteuse, elle ne se fait que sur des instruments de grandes qualités). *Les pianos anciens ne sont pas conçus pour être accordés à un La 440Hz, il est préférable d'utiliser un La 435 Hz pour ménager la structure.
L'accordeur électronique n'est pas conseillé pour le piano car il est trop peu précis: la "justesse" est impossible sur tout l'ensemble du piano ! C'est pour cette raison que l'art d'accorder un piano est de le rendre le plus harmonieux possible à l'oreille, en le tempérant, en favorisant les octave, les quintes et les quartes, et en rendant les tierces chantantes et progressives (progressivement plus rapide vers les aigus et plus lentes vers les graves). Je vous conseille d'essayer d'apprendre à l'oreille à répartir les notes de l'octave sur celle du La 220 Hz (les battements étant plus lent, l'écoute est plus facile et le résultat plus précis). Je vous conseille d'utiliser un feutre (et non uniquement des coins en caoutchouc pour cette étape), vous le placez de façon à laisser uniquement la corde du milieu sonner (c'est à dire en forme de vague) si vous avez 2 cordes/note vous vous arrangez avec les coins en caoutchouc pour combler le reste. Ainsi vous pourrez comparez les notes les unes par rapport aux autres.
Vous commencez par le diapason La 440 Hz et accordez le La 220 Hz (ici vous cherchez la justesse) ensuite vous découpez l'octave du Fa au Fa de cette façon: Fa - La(220Hz) = 7 battements/seconde AVANT la justesse; La - Do dièse = 9 battements seconde APRÈS la justesse ; et Do dièse - Fa = 11 battements ( pour plus de certitude accorder l'octave Fa - Fa aussi et comparez car il est impossible d'entendre lisiblement 11 battements par seconde) Ensuite vous découper les quintes (en les diminuant d'environ d'1 battement = c'est à dire avant la justesse) et les quartes (en les augmentant de 2 battements, c'est à dire après la justesse). Je vous conseille de suivre la partition suivante: Fa-La ; La-Do dièse; Do dièse-Fa. (comme expliqué ci-dessus) puis: Sol dièse-Do dièse; La-Mi ; Mi-Si; Si-Fa dièse; Fa dièse- Do dièse (attention le Do dièse doit rester à 9 battements seconde, en théorie vous ne le retouchez pas -sauf s'il a bougé- vous revoyez les autres notes de façon à ce que cela sonne le plus harmonieusement possible) puis vous reprenez : Sol dièse-Do dièse (que vous avez déjà accordé); Sol dièse-Ré dièse; Ré dièse-La dièse; La dièse- Fa; Fa-Do; Do-sol; Sol-Ré; Ré-La et là vous devez retomber sur votre La sans le modifier et que cela sonne juste. Répartissez les notes de nouveau si besoin... Ensuite vous accordez les octaves, les unissons…
Cela semble fastidieux au début, c'est normal mais cela vient peu à peu! Vous travaillez déjà votre concentration auditive cela va pousser un peu plus loin l'exercice... Si vous avez un doute sur le fait que cela soit plus haut ou plus bas que la justesse, je vous conseille de les chanter au début et vous verrez après cela ne sera plus nécessaire! Sachez que l'oreille est ce qui vient le plus facilement, le toucher qui consiste à faire tenir l'accord s'acquiert peu à peu et nécessite des années d'expérience quotidienne. Pour cela un petit conseil : ne pas faire de torsion sur les chevilles mais les tourner! Chaque marque et chaque piano a son "toucher"! Méfiez-vous des accordeurs professionnels qui viennent chez vous avec un accordeur électronique ! Ils ne peuvent pas avoir fait d'études sérieuses dans ce domaine si ils utilisent cet appareil !!! Je vous conseille le "guide pratique du piano" de Daniel Magne aux édition Francis Van de Velde, c'est un livre en français qui explique très bien (pour l'amateur et le professionnel) tout sur le piano! Bonne continuation !!!
"Guide pratique du pianos" de Daniel Magne, si vous ne le trouvez pas en librairie, allez voir dans le magasin Pianos Magne à Paris
Scott replies:Valérie, thank you for your comments. You bring up several points that go further than my tutorial does, but that those who explore the subject more deeply will quickly find in the books we recommend. One particular point you make I want to reiterate for a (non-French-reading) novice tuner with a piano in poor condition is this: A piano that has been left out of tune for some time may be better tuned at a slightly lower pitch, such as the A=435 you recommend. This is easier on the piano and more likely to remain stable.
I've been tuning pianos professionally since the early 70s. I don't recommend tuning a piano with a machine. It will tell you when a note is on point but a piano has to be tuned perfectly out of tune to sound perfect. In the treble notes the machine will tell you "it's in tune" but it will sound flat to the ear.
I was trained the old school way by using a tuning fork and learning good ear training. I use a C fork but an A fork works well also. Another thing is you have to learn how to set the pin to make it stay in tune. This skill along with the ear training can only be achieved by at least a year of practice.
If you wan't your piano to stay in tune, hire a professional.
Scott replies: Thanks for your comments. Please note that my method only uses the electronic tuning device to set the temperament. All outlying octaves are set by ear. This reduces the problems presented by inharmonicity when using a simple electronic tuner. I completely agree that my method will not replace the skill and experience of a professional; that is not the purpose of this tutorial, and I explain this in depth in the tutorial.
Is there any webshop that you would recommend based in Europe? I already have some tools, but if I need new ones in the future it would be great to know. I had to pay about 33 dollars (26 euro's) tax extra this time, because I imported from outside the European Union... That was quite a bummer.
Scott replies: I am not familiar with specific vendors in the EU. However, several of the EU versions of Amazon do sell a limited selection of tuning tools. You might be able to find a third-party vendor's name there, then find their business site for more selection. Be careful, though; I see many unbranded tools of unknown (probably poor) quality showing up on Amazon both here and in the EU.
"Tuning a piano also tunes the brain..." from the BBC.
But we knew that already, right?
I noticed in the FAQ section it says you can't use a digital piano because of stretch. However, my digital piano can play either with or without a stretch tuning. I suppose the required stretch for my acoustic is different than whatever the digital computes but that brings me to my question. How much variation is there in the different stretch tunings for different pianos? It would seem I might get pretty close by setting my digital to an upright piano sound with stretch 'on'. Just curious.
Scott replies:Thanks for the question. Even if you have a keyboard with a stretch setting, it cannot replace the stretch provided by a professional tuner, or using professional tuning software or devices. The stretch is unique to each piano, because inharmonicity is unique to each piano, and varies note by note. Look at the graphic in my tutorial comparing an idealized stretch to the stretch of an actual piano. The best a keyboard with a stretch feature can do is provide the smooth curve of the ideal stretch, which will still give poor sound on a real piano on at least a few of the notes. Yes, it may be closer than using a keyboard without stretch, but in the end it will not replace proper tuning or be as good as the method I outline if done correctly.
Thanks for help,is the basic tuning kit thats 81.95 on piano supplies.com the right one to get,play guitar and piano by ear, going to try to tune the piano at our church in the fellowship hall,its been so far out of tune for years,no one plays it,so im going to give it a try,but i want to have the right tools within my budget, if its possible.
Scott replies: Thanks for visiting the website. Yes, the kit you reference is this one, and it would be a good kit for starting on a limited budget.
Thanks so much for the wonderful guide I am a piano teacher and would like to tune my piano as well as my student's pianos. I have one question though... will a pitch pipe work for tuning instead of the chromatic tuner?
Scott replies: I suppose a pitch pipe can work if a chromatic tuner is not available. However, it is my impression that a pitch pipe is not as precisely pitched as a tuning fork or chromatic tuner, so you may not get consistent results. I would check it against a tuned piano, tuning fork or chromatic tuner to see how yours compares. I would also suspect that the way you control breath through the pipe will have an effect on the pitch; you'll want to be sure you can produce a consistent pitch.
In a very quick read I did not see anything about which side of the pin you should pull.
Obviously if you were to position the tuning lever such that you had to effectively push in the direction of the centre of the string you will be creating Much more friction than if you position the lever 180 degrees to this position. I suggest you do the latter! This will tend to lift the pin out of its socket rather than make it even more difficult (and wearing for the wrest plank and pin), owing to subtracting from the torque arising from the the tension of the string rather than adding to it.
I could be wrong, I'm not a tuner, but I'd surprised (again) if I am.
By the way, this assumes that you are going to add tension to the string before subtracting it, if tuning down. Again, I could be wrong, but it seems logical to relax the pin in its anchor if possible before attempting to turn it, either way.
I think you should issue a warning that inexperienced turning of the pins could shorten the life of the wrest plank and pins, and therefore of the piano. Unless an experienced piano technician is going to stand up and say otherwise.
Actually I think you should take your site down. My gut feel is that you are going to cause a lot of damage to otherwise OK pianos by encouraging some gung ho DIYers to have a go without any sound advice and warning.
What next - Brain surgery?
Scott replies: Thanks for taking time to comment. If you read the tutorial carefully, you'll see I address many of your concerns regarding turning the pins properly vis a vis string tension and pin health. As for taking my site down, I respectfully disagree. The tutorial has many cautions and disclaimers, with recommended reliable sources for further research. I allow my readers to make their own assessment. As for brain surgery, I have a site in development, stay tuned. ;)
I was recently given an Allison piano made in 1928. It sounded fine except for two notes next door to one-another. The piano tuner told me they could not be tuned and that the pin board was probably cracked and that the piano was scrap. I was horribly disappointed. After a few days I broke all your rules (I hadn't found your lovely website at that point) and tightened the pins with an adjustable spanner. The notes stayed in tune for about a month but then went out of tune. I bought a tuning kit (I'd read your site by then) and had another go. So far the notes are in tune. But if those pegs won't stay tight, and the notes go flat again, please tell me what to do. I seriously don't have the money to pay for a professional repair.
Scott replies:The first explanation to consider for slipping pins is always lever technique. Setting the pin so that the tuning holds is one of the essential skills that a tuner needs to develop. Keep practicing, and perhaps the hold will improve on its own. If the pins are truly slipping regardless of technique, then they may be loose. One solution for loose pins is to use Cyanoacrylate ("CA" or "Super Glue"). Applied around the pin where it enters the wood, the glue wicks in to add holding power. The next level would be to repin, using pins of a slightly larger diameter designed for replacement. However, if the pin block is indeed cracked or otherwise damaged, neither solution may be effective. The fact that your piano holds at may be a good sign that you can work with the loose pins.
I've been a machineshop engineer all my life, my forte was always being able to judge the amount of energy required to tap a tool .001", .002", etc whenever needed for machine seting up. This has stood me in good stead over the years for all sorts of engineering requirements. It has also helped me to understand the complexity of stresses on materials of various cross sections, and how they bend and distort under surprisingly small amounts of ambiguous tensions (i.e. clamping) As I have just purchased a cheap piano to play with, and with funds being a bit tight, I was extremely pleased to find this site. It has given me the kick start I needed to attempt a go myself, I have a good ear, and have tuned guitars for years, which helps one to understand the need to repetetively and periodically re-tune. I have heeded all your advice and ordered the tuning tool, just need to get a good quality square wrench. Thanks again for your efforts.
Thanks for the site info. I am based in the UK, and thought I would have a go at tuning my piano so purchased a hammer with a #2 tip (not interchangable). It's too big for the pegs, so I guess I have a piano with a #1 style peg which leads me to believe my piano is a pre 1900 European piano. It's a KURZON piano which I can't find any info about on the internet!
Anyway, I can't seem to find a UK supplier of a #1 tip with a hammer!!! Any pointers? Is it possible to buy tips which are compatible with standard socket sets (square hole). Thanks
Scott replies: I see that a #1 tip is available from International Tuning Supply, http://www.pianotuningtools.net/. They are based in the USA, but offer international shipping. You might contact them first, to see if they think their tips would address your particular piano.
I am soon giving the lodges old upright a new home. I haven't even lifted the key border cover or struck a note but, I am giving it a go. I play both electronic bass & guitar as well as acoustic , harmonica and the bassoon when ever I can access an instrument. My granddaughter is following in her older brothers foot steps and is taking piano lessons. As you can imagine I am stoked at the opportunity of getting this instrument. I found your site to be easy to understand and a fantastic source of info to help me make a final decision to accept the instrument or decline. I just happen to own a couple of Korge timers that along with your tutorial will definatly aid in my final decision. I have been wanting to learn to gain some comand over the 88ts and thanks to your site I may (or may not) soon be banging away on a vintage stand up. Thank-you very much for such a straight forward and insightful web site. If I go to buy some tools, books or accessories I will definatly click through your site.
Thanks a lot for this website. I live in a remote corner of Africa, but have always hesitated to buy a piano, even though I am keen pianist, because of the problem of tuning, as the nearest professional tuner is hundreds of miles away. I will now proceed to get both a piano and the tools to do my own tuning.
Scott replies: Glad you found this site encouraging. Your situation is a great example of why I like providing this information.
Great site! Thank you very much for your enlightening teachings on piano tuning.
I tune my own and friends' pianos using Tunelab Pro, but am a little suspicious of the custom tuning curves based on inharmonicity of a few sampled notes. I personally can't track beats at all (or rather don't trust my ears), and would like to tune using software that hears beats. That way, we could bypass any need for a custom tuning curve based on inharmonicity of sampled notes. We would just have make sure we tune each interval to the appropriate beat rate and a proper tuning would work out automatically. Again, I can't be sure of how many beats per second I'm hearing, but I think a computer program or special tuning device might be able to track the beat rate. Do you have any suggestions for how I could measure the beat rate using technology?
Thank you very much,
Scott replies: I don't know of any reason not to trust TuneLab. Many professionals use it successfully. I am not aware of software that can count beats, but I have not looked for it, either. I was going to suggest you ask this question at the PianoWorld forums, but I see you already have. I'll be watching the replies with you.
After reading your site, I was convinced I could improve the sound of my 1921 Story and Clark even if I couldn't make it perfect. I must say, once I started with the octaves I really got the hang of it. I'd say it sounds pretty awesome. I replaced a pin on the middle C shaft that had been loose (missing) for a long time. Thanks for your excellent instruction and advice. I've started working on my mom's 1950's Gordon Laughead Pianoforte. It's a real mess. Most of the keys were well over a half note flat. I'm letting it rest after the first tuning. It's going to take another two or three hour session, at least. I have a sore back, but my ears are happy.
I read your guide a few months ago and have now successfully tuned several old upright pianos, including my own.
I use a Korg chromatic tuner for the temperament, and
I have a very good ear so its not hard to set the unisons and the octaves.
This is the one and only tutorial to Piano Tuning!
Thank you so much, I never would have thought it be this easy!
Scott replies: Congratulations and thanks for the feedback!
Thanks for sharing your method. I now tune my 1904 Knabe with no fear! It's quite simple actually. You just need it to be quiet around, and follow the tips. I personally use a downloaded tuner (AP tuner 3.06) on my portable pc, and tune the whole range of notes with it (not just the center octave), using equal temperament and a concert grand stretching. Works great, love to hear those beatings coming to an end. You pianists out there, save a couple of bucks and try it out! I do use a lot my ear when moving up or down the keyboard, not just the tuner.
Scott replies: Stretch tuning software is certainly a suitable alternative to tuning by octaves. I would be interested to learn how much the final string frequencies differ between your software's stretch tuning and tuning octaves by ear as in my method on your actual real-life piano.
I checked my square grand and the pins are oblong - as you suspected. Can I get a tool that will fit them?
Scott replies: Yes, you can get the right tool. No levers currently for sale include oblong tips as standard. You will need to buy a lever handle that can accept interchangeable tips and purchase the tip separately. Here is one source.
I have a square grand. Do I need a different tool to tune it?
Scott replies: Thanks for stopping by. Square grands are difficult to tune. They were not well-made originally. They were last made a century ago, so you have a hundred years of age and likely neglect to overcome. Furthermore, their design is not tuner-friendly; you must lean over it, stressing your back, and a string that breaks can hurt you. Many tuners refuse to work on them. They do make beautiful furniture!
To answer your question, it depends. Many of these were originally made with "oblong" tuning pins, rather than the tapered square of modern pianos. If so, you will need a special oblong socket tip for your lever. In some cases, the old pins were replaced with modern square-tapered, which would take a standard socket size #2. (A third possibility is the "perfect square" pin, square with no taper. Untapered squares were not commonly used, but with a 100-plus year-old piano, who knows.) However, regardless you will probably need a longer tip for the tool than what may come standard. Get a 4" tip, the kind designed to clear the cabinetry of today's grand pianos. Since you do have some uncertainty here, get a tuning lever with replaceable heads or tips, not a fixed head as found on cheap tools.
I have some experience tuning piano's and I have to say this is a really comprehensive guide. There is something that I would like to bring to your attention that will make your tuning efforts even easier!
I've been developing piano tuning software that is free and open source.
It's currently already better and more accurate than real chromatic tuners. When it's finished it will be as good as very expensive packages like Veritune and TuneLab. Find it at sourceforge.net. Good luck with it!
Scott replies: Thanks, I'll have a look.
P. S. I have several strings to replace, but the piano supply site gives 9 different sizes. How do I know which to buy? (These are all low strings: in octave 2 (double strings).
Scott replies: Strings are sold by gauge. You need to measure it with a micrometer. Bass strings are effectively custom wound. You can replace them with "universal" bass strings, but the timbre will likely not match the other older strings. This is usually sufficient for non-performance pianos. If matching sound is essential, then you will need to find a technician who can custom wind something closer to the original, and it will be expensive! If the break is between the bridge and the pin and not in the "speaking" section, it is better to splice it.
Forgive my nit-picking... I found a couple of typo's [...]
I do REALLY appreciate the information you've provided. I'll let you know how I... and my piano... succeed!
Scott replies: Thanks for pointing out the errors. I have fixed them. I appreciate when a reader takes the time to tell me when something is amiss.
Having not played for ten years..... I picked up an old iron frame. Determined not to have to spend much more, I investigated your site and then approached my local music store about getting the tools to tune my piano. I got laughed at, and told 'good luck with that!' very sarcastically. I did not order my tools from them. I found a supplier in my country, Aussie, and they were delivered today.
Thus far, I have had time only to practice on my very old damaged piano, but I believe that - thanks to you - I will have great success on the one I recently got. If in doubt, I have a great pro to call on who services the whole city, and is happy to share his knowledge with an amateur should I call. SO exciting!!! Thankyou Scott!!!!!
I have looked through your web site with great interest and must compliment you on most of what I have seen. One problem that I have is that there seems to be little said about the angle of the hammer needing to be as close to verticle as possible. It is important that the movement of the tuning pin is not achieved from an angle which is too horizontal as this will not allow the final test of the pin setting without the weight of the lever coming into the equation.
Scott replies: Thank you for taking the time to read the full tutorial and provide your input. I assume you are referring to uprights. Actually, the technique you recommend was recently mentioned in our blog post, Eleven Tips from Owen Jorgensen for Piano Tuning Stability. To this point, we have not gone to that level of detail in the main tutorial (it's quite long already), but you remind us that we should at least link to the Jorgensen post from that part of the tutorial.
I'm a professional piano tuner with 30 years experience, and I would say you did a excellent job explaining the rigors of piano tuning. That said, I tune my ear, but, I would highly encourage anyone with the desire to tune a piano to purchase and ETD to get started, could be the beginning of a lucrative business.
Scott replies: Thanks for taking the time to add your comments. It's always good to hear feedback from a professional.
thank u so much!
gonna find myself an old crappy piano now and tune away
I am a long time tuner (and musician) and did quality control at a major US manufacturer for quite a few years. Kudos on your great website - I have found that most musicians can learn to touch up those occasional flat notes or unisons with just a little practice.
I know, it IS very intimidating to take something called a hammer to your beloved instrument for the first time but a well tuned piano with NO "clunkers" is a joy that will seem to pull the music right out of your fingers.
You have covered things very nicely so I will only add a couple thoughts.
1.) See if your favorite music store (or your old Aunt Mabel) will allow you to do some hammer practice on that big, heavy worthless old piano they intend to throw away. Then tune it up, tune it down, bust a couple treble strings, have fun - who cares. Ooh, yeah - don't let Aunt Mabel go on thinking otherwise as no one buys those old, beat up pianos. As a matter of fact most times people have to PAY to have grandpas old piano hauled away!
2.) As you have stated, trust your ear when tuning octaves. If it sounds right, go with it.
3.) Get the unisons perfect and the piano will sound so much better even if the temperment is less than perfect. Now suppose you get the perfect sounding temperment on that middle octave? It will still sound horribel if you do not get the unison perfect. But don't fret, ANYONE can tune a PERFECT unison, it's as easy as...
4.) Tuning perfect unisons - At the risk of being obvious, the three treble strings are tuned perfectly in unison when they sound like only ONE string. e.g. Tune 1st string and note how pure it sounds. Next, unmute 2nd unison and play the note. You will likely "hear" something less than pleasing and it won't sound so pure as a single string. Now, tune the second string to match the first string until you only seem to hear ONE string again. Tuners would say that those two string are tuned to an identical frequency and are vibrating perfectly in phase - hence you seem to only hear ONE string. Now, do the third unison string (if applicable).
5.) Break a string - no big deal - the piano will still play. A piano tuner can almost always fix a broken string on the spot when (s)he come to do the regular tuning. Any tuner worth his salt will haul a universal piano wire selection (and other common piano parts) with him to jobs.
Scott replies: Thanks for stopping by and contributing your perspective.
I came here because our piano, while beautifully in tune for the most part, has two notes that are severely out of tune. In both cases, they went out of tune after I played a song. Now admittedly I play pretty hard, but this is a very nice piano and doesn't seem like it should be behaving like this. After reading this site it seems clear that we need to hire a new tuner, but now I'm worried: is there a chance that our tuner actually loosened those pins? I could live with our tuner simply not being careful enough, but I would be upset if it turns out he's actually been causing harm. It's probably worth noting that this has happened before with one of the notes.
In any case, thank you for this very informative and helpful site!
Scott replies: Thanks for reading. The simplest explanation is that those particular pins simply did not "set;" it may not mean they are actually damaged or even that the tuner did a poor job. Setting pins is an art form, and pin response to setting can vary from piano to piano and within a piano unpredictably. If your tuner is otherwise satisfactory and recommended, you might give him the chance to make it right.
Hi, there. I was just cruising the web, doing research for a player piano I'm going to work on tomorrow and I found your site. I've been tuning and repairing pianos for over 20 years and I was impressed. What I liked best was the way you broke down a very complicated process into simple to understand language. One of my pet peeves when reading articles by experienced technicians is that they are usually full of details and discussions of the physics of sound that will make your head spin and your eyes roll back in your head! Thank you for breaking it down for the lay person. It would make me nervous if one of my clients was attempting to tune their piano by themselves, BUT if they are motivated and interested in learning, then more power to them. If they get into trouble, they'll give me a call. LOL
Using the method described here, I successfully improved the intonation of a Yamaha grand in between professional tunings. The hardest part is getting that "well-tempered octave" in the middle, checking and re-checking 5ths and 4ths, etc. Moving out in octaves was more straightforward, trying to get the octaves as "beatless" as possible. Kept checking back and forth over multiple octaves as well as 5ths (I figured none should sound more "severe" than any other), just in case. Occasionally it was difficult to discern what was a beat from an out-of-tune very low string in combination with a higher octave - or rather just a "false" overtone from the single low string. But I can say that this method works, and I can see myself improving in the future, so that I don't have to put up with "that aquatic sound". Thanks, Scott!
Great site. You tend to be on the conservative side and that is good. I only tune specific strings that offensive. I would NEVER try to do the whole piano. Thanks for the great info.
Great work here. While we recommend more training than this to start your own piano tuning business, we think this information is great for the individual who wants to learn more about their instrument. If any of you fellow readers would like to learn how to tune professionally, The Institute of Instrument Technology (IIT) has the first and only completely online course certifying our students as CPTs (Certified Piano Technicians). More info here http://pianotuningschool.com/
Thanks for this great site. Keep on doing what you are doing and teaching about this beautiful instrument!
Thanks a million for taking the time to put together such a great website. It has been a desire of my heart to tune pianos for quite some time now. I stumbled across a tuning lever at my church, which wont be needed any longer because the decision was made to sell the baby grand, as its been replaced with the more modern and sleek keyboard. What a shame right. My wife and daughter play piano and we own a stand up which is a nice instrument although slightly neglected as far as tuning. I've expressed my interest in tuning and my wife will not let me touch "HER" piano, probably wise I guess since it is very easy to damage the piano. Luckily for me my mother has a piano and it is almost unplayable and that will be my guinea pig so to speak. I am so excited and believe i will be a natural. The site here has given me the confidence and basic knowledge to get started. I understand the liability and the difficulty involved, but it just seemed everyone I talked to wouldn't explain the basics like you have here. I am very grateful for your valiant efforts explaining the basics of piano tuning.
Would this tuning tool be appropriate for both my Boston grand at home and my Yamaha grand at work? I would like to be able to do quarterly tunings myself and hire a tuner less often. What happens is that my piano at home gets tuned less frequently than it should.
Scott replies: The lever described here, with a #2 head, will work on both pianos. However, please read the tutorial carefully to be certain you understand what is involved. Those are very nice pianos, and I would want to practice on a lesser piano if I could before working on those grands.
I would like to buy a piano tuning kit as a gift. The piano it would be for is a refurbished kemble minx and I am unsure what size of a tuning lever is appropriate for this piano. Any help would be appreciated, thanks.
Scott replies: A standard #2 will probably work.
I've been "touching up" the tuning on various pianos -- when musical directing shows, for many years. Most theater companies don't have the money to keep their instruments in good tune, even if they happen to have decent ones. Now I have a beautiful Yamaha C3, and I've saved a lot of money by tuning it myself. Your website validated everything I've thought for a long time -- but it's still best to call a professional if there's a mechanical problem. The piano is, indeed, a very complex instrument. Some things are better left to people who know what they're doing! Thanks for a very enlightening and straight-forward guide for those who have an ear for it and want to give it a whirl.
Great website! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience!
Good article! However, I would give yourself and other novices who take their time to research and learn this skill more credit. I have been a "do-it-youselfer" for some time on many projects and have come to the conclusion that over time, you can do the same job, if not better than the professional. You basically make this article pointless when you say that a professional would do a better job. They might be able to do it faster, but my piano sounds just as in tune as a professional and it stays in tune just as long! Give yourself credit!
What a great resource for beginning piano tuners! Thank you! Here's an excellent free software tuner -- AP Tuner will work on a laptop or PC.
Scott replies: Thanks for the tip. We have developed an entire website devoted to Chromatic Tuners, both electronic and software.
This site is what the best of the web is all about! I've been a registered Craftsman with the Piano Technicians Guild since 1979 and my most appreciative clients over the years have been those who have tried tunings and repairs themselves and come to realize what an art-form it all is. I'm always happy to teach my clients to do portions of repairs they can do themselves, and they value their instrument all the more for the effort. It was after coming across my grandfathers tuning tools and trying it myself that I got into the trade. Back in the day, he had to tune most instruments he played on as he accompanied Billy Sunday and his revivals all over the country. l also found that furniture design was field I could enter and am now the proud owner of a patented design you can find at this site: yoga chair. Long live DYI!
We just acquired a very nice Haines Bros. piano circa 1890 and it sounds pretty good now but I wanted to see about how to tune these. Fantastic site with all caveats needed I see are in place. After reading for a bit, I think I may have a pro do the first tune but we will let the piano 'settle in' for a while before that point. Thank you so much for your research and sharing.
Good basic information here makes me think it would be a fine vocation. i assume i would need a real piano to "practice" on instead of the electronic keyboard i currently have. too bad about that. great site...thanks!
Lots of good info. here. Need to make the novices aware of how easy it is to screw this up. A good tuning is not as easy as this sounds. But go ahead. Just call me or your local piano tuner when you're done. We need the work!
thanks for your site! i find it easy and effective for a musician that's about to tune his old friend :)
Appreciate your material. I am using it as a reference to help me tune my piano. I have tuned sour notes on a piano before, but want to learn to do the whole thing. It costs a lot of money to have someone come and tune it, and I just moved to a new location, so the piano is making its adjustment to the new local.
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.
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 pianosupplies.com.) Thanks for putting all the information here together in one place.
Scott replies: Goosenecks are notorious for poor quality. The soft, poorly machined metal tips may not properly fit the pin, leading to marring the pin. Note that nothing but the cheapest levers are goosenecks. Take your lead from the professionals...they don't buy goosenecks. A decent student lever is not that expensive considering the value of the instrument it will service.
Okay, I've read the instructions, got the tools, I guess its time to give it a go. Thanks!
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 whites....it is easier on the ear... Try ''knocking'' the string into tune too...a very difficult skill which takes years of skill to master! cheers