How to Tune a Piano Blog

Step-by-step procedure & proper tools

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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02/09/11

Comments

David Haughn 05/31/17

Hey Scott, I love your site. Thanks for all the great information. I have a few questions about my piano situation. Several years ago, I inherited a spinet (or console, not sure) piano. It is in relatively good tune within itself, however the whole thing is tuned down a half step. I am getting tired of constantly transposing or tuning my other instruments down, so I want to attempt to tune it up. What would be the possible reasons someone would do this? Is it possible that it wouldn't hold a proper tune and they were forced to tune it down, or is this just a preference by the original owner, maybe to better suit their vocal range? Also, am I correct to assume tuning my piano would require the "pitch-raise" procedure you make reference to, and therefore out of scope for your instructions, or can I still try to tune this myself?

Scott replies: Left untuned Over a long time, the entire piano can slip in tuning. The fix is, as you say, to do a pitch-raise. The main consideration for a pitch raise is to move up and down the octaves so the change in tension is equalized. That is, if you tune all the upper octaves first, then tune all the lower ones, you'll find the upper ones have slipped. You'll end up chasing your tail. Similarly, trying to make too big a jump at once can lead to frustration where things keep slipping again. So, raise the whole thing half a pitch, let it rest, then come back again to raise a little further. Professionals have the experience to know how much is a good jump for a pitch raise, and might do a bigger jump, but if I were doing it I'd rather take it slow.

Randy 01/18/17

Really excellent work on this site, Scott. Great content, well presented and very informative.
I've played guitar, mandolin, banjo and even sitar for decades. Lots of restringing, so decided recently to take a shot at tuning our Vose & Sons spinet. Unfortunately I got started before finding your site, and I randomly chose G2 to G3 as my first octave - using an android chromatic app. Next morning I did G3 to G4... ultimately getting the C4 to C5 done with the tuner. Unknowingly, used the tuner on every single string within that range (rather than ear). Interesting, everything within this whole range sounds pretty good.
But... (there's always a but) I also unknowingly tried to use the tuner on the higher and lower octaves. And I can hear that outside the G2-C5 range things sound odd. So my question is, "at this point is it best to just (1) keep G2-C5, and (2) start fresh on all upper and lower octaves using my ear?"
Thanks Scott!

Scott replies:If the middle octaves sound good, then I would keep them and just fix the upper and lower regions that you can hear are not right. The middle octaves don't stretch much, so following the electronic tuner the whole time will still sound OK; see the graph on my site.

Reader 08/30/16

I think there's a gramatical error in point 1. It says, "... and will the string slip out of tune..." Is it meant to say something like, "and the string will slip out of tune..."!?

Also, I play acoustic guitar - and I'm having a difficult time understanding why when tuning a piano, you overtighten the pins - then back off the tension to the lower to the correct pitch.

e.g. Piano strings (seem to me at least to be) similar to guitar strings - only longer and thicker. Now if you tuned a guitar that way, it's highly likely strumming and shaping chords, the strings will quickly 'go flat'. With a guitar, if you tune too high in pitch - you don't back off again to pitch - you back off below pitch, then tighten the pegs again to raise TO pitch, and leave it AT pitch...

Since both are technically 'stringed' instruments... why is it that you don't tune each string up to pitch, and leave it there? Doesn't going high, then backing off, make it a certainty the string pitch will drop upon playing its key!?

Scott replies: The technique as i understand it is that you don't actually over-tighten the pin. You provide just enough extra tension to the handle past the point of ideal tune such that when you relax the tension, the string is in tune. You don't want to sneak up on it from behind timidly, so to speak, as that will not lead to a stable tuning; the great tension on the piano strings requires a more aggressive approach. I think you really do the same thing with the guitar, but because the piano strings are much heavier and require your arm rather than just fingers the language describing the process is a little different. Thanks for posting.

Scott 08/11/16

Your site is so helpful! I am a longtime piano player (and a bit of a tinkerer) and I found this site to be informative, direct, and very beneficial. Although I'll probably make many of the errors the site cautions against, I'm really grateful for the thorough and free(!) information, which I'm sure cost the author a great deal of time and effort. Well it's not for nothing! Call it a chit in the ol' karma jar! Thanks for the help!

Mark 06/08/16

I wanted you to know that I support your website and concept 100%. My first two pianos (uprights) needed major work, and I learned the hard (easy?) way--by doing it myself. In England I completely repined a German upright I had purchased in Leeds (and which cost me a smashing 50 Euros) with great results--I only broke one string in the process. No more tuning it once a week due to loose pins!

Now I have another problem, perhaps not so easy to solve. Last August I bought a 1991Kawai GS-70 Grand (7'-5"). Since then, it has been professionally tuned three times and has had a Dampp Chaser installed. In March of this year. Before the Dampp Chaser, I used a humidiifier that kept the ambiant humidity in the piano room around 30% This piano continues to go out of tune in a strange way, and I am wondering if you or your contacts have any ideas about this problem:

About two mouths after the most recent tuning, this piano will go rather quickly out of tune in a strange way that I have never experienced before. Primarily, the notes in the two octaves around middle C will start to beat very rapidly creating a slightly out of tune shimmering sound that is very hard to listen to. I am now in Virginia, but the 6'-7" Yamaha I had when I lived in Houston (mecca of night-time humidity), never did this sort of thing! What is my problem? There is no evidence of a cracked plate, soundboard crack, or loose pins in the block, so is this just the piano still adjusting to my environment (I got it from Western Ohio) or is something else seriously wrong? Thanks.

Scott replies: Thanks for your feedback. As I say on my site, my experience is limited. But, the folks at PianoWorld forums would probably enjoy analyzing your situation.

susan 10/21/15

I have an old Sohmer & Co. upright. It has been in the family for about 100 years. I no longer play and it's taking up too much room. We can't find anyone who will take it. My husband wants to loosen the tension of the strings, get rid of the "workings" and keep as much of the beautiful wood as possible. What tool do we need to loosen the strings. Can we get away with a cheaper hammer for this particular task?

Scott replies: If your goal is to completely decommission the piano, then certainly any tool that will turn the pin will do, including a cheap tuning lever. You could loosen the tension to safe point then cut them to save more time. But do not cut them when they are under tension, of course, as the released string could be dangerous.

Mandy 10/14/15

HI Scott,

My piano is fully restored and began to lose its tune last summer, 2 years after it had been moved. I have no choice but to try tuning it myself as no professional tuners are prepared to visit our small outback town, & I do not have an alternate piano to practice on. I am reluctant, even though your website has given me some kind of encouragement. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank You.

Scott replies: Just proceed carefully, and you'll be fine!

Peter 08/29/15

Thanks for this information. I have an old grand piano and it was long out of use before I got it. Step by step I'm improving it. Replaced some strings and tried to tune the piano. With only the knowledge how to tune a Gitaar. With the help from your site I nailed it. It's in tune.

Ralph 08/21/15

Hey Scott,
A friend of mine was throwing out his Wurlitzer spinet, so I told him I would take it (it's badly tuned and in need of some repair. Thanks to you and your website I've attempted to try my hand at piano tuning ( this is the right piano for it). Using the tools you suggested. I'm having a problem with getting the electronic tuner ( Korg OT-120) to give me an accurate reading on the higher section A6 and on up and the bass section C2 and down. Is there something I'm doing wrong or is this normal and how can I solve this problem. Thanks...

Scott replies: These consumer level tuners lack the sensitivity for high and low octaves, nor do they properly account for the natural acoustic piano stretch in the outlying octaves. If you follow my technique properly, you tune the middle octave with the tuner, then tune the outlying octaves by ear. The electronic tuner will not give you the right result on outlying octaves even if it could sense them. Good luck!

Ian 10/25/14

Very interesting information. Thank you for a very helpful website.

Scott replies: Thanks for stopping by and taking time to offer a comment.

Cliff Johnson 09/05/14

A very helpful guide - gave me all the information I needed to get a freshly moved piano back in tune. That tuning lasted for a good many years (the piano has remarkably little drift) until we relocated it (in the same room, but just the small movement threw it out badly - sounded like a saloon piano from a western!)

I pulled out my tools, re-tuned it and it is back to sounding great again! At some point we may need the services of a professional, but as long as my own tuning keeps working so well, I have no incentive to call one in! It is time consuming but very rewarding.

Kurt Kaufman 07/03/14

Just wanted to let others know of an app for Android devices called
"Precision Strobe Tuner" which allows you to set and save stretch settings for up to 5 individual pianos. Works very well and costs just 5 dollars!
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.precisionstrobe.pst

There is also a demo version so you can try it out with your device first:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.precisionstrobe.pstdemo

rjseeleydma 05/23/14

For a week I have been investigating on-line resources for learning to tune my third piano, an 1895 J&C Fischer upright of remarkable beauty and condition--the plate decals, the steel-wound strings, the action, the unchipped ivory keys, the burled walnut case.

But I have two other Adam Schaaf uprights, and I can't afford to have them all tuned by my piano technician (since at least 1986).

To most people these are junkers, but they are MY pianos to honor, love, cherish, and PLAY.

YOUR WEB SITE pulls all the tutorials together, allowing me to experiment at finding the most suitable method for the remaining life of my pianos.

Your clear explanation of "inharmonicity" is but one example of your positive contribution to on-line resources.

For two years I have been reading The Music Trade Review/mbsi.org going back to 1880: piano scale, technical work. YOUR WEB SITE brings this great tradition into the realm of electronic tuning share ware and the 21st century.

YOUR WEB SITE empowers me to trust in my music degrees and decades of vocal music/ear training.

THANK YOU.

Scott replies:You are welcome. And thank you for taking to time to provide feedback. It is important to me.

Trev M 04/26/14

re previous entry ...a bit more research answered the question about the iron frame - and pin block *beneath* it (which I hadn't recognised). http://wengleemusic.com/blog/archives/125

Trev

Trev M 04/26/14

Monington & Weston, 1930's english baby grand.

Hi Scott,

I've used my "technical touch" all my life to fix mechanical things, and just 7 years ago started playing piano (aged 57 now). Now I've just aquired my first mechanical piano, as per title. I grabbed it because it had to move and I liked its slightly "stressy" timbre which fits my style - kind of hinting at a seventh in any chord! - NOT extensively out of tune tho - I guess due to its double cast-iron frame. So, 3 things - the tuning pegs are in the iron frame, rather than wood: any subtleties of touch or things to watch out for here before ploughing in? There's only half a dozen individual strings I'd like to pull the beats out of. How many/much of a degree(s) of turn (not including backing off) is a 1 second beat between octaves likely to need to correct? And any ideas what's giving it that slightly edgy sound that I like? I've already reworked the hammer and damper felts to make them please my ear.

Thanks for this great starter site, in the real spirit of the internet as it should be, Trev

Scott replies: Thanks for commenting. The pins are actually in wood that is beneath the iron plate (EDIT: As your own research found in your next comment). I am afraid your other questions are beyond my understanding of the tuning art. Rather than bluff, I'll refer you to the forums at PianoWorld.com. Good luck!

Henry Robert Walker 03/28/14

Hello Scott, I am ashamed to admit I took to my piano with a drum key and a set of pliers. I wish I was more considered and read a few more articles such as this one before I started, but I have learnt a lot so far and am looking forward to starting again with a better understanding of the art form. I don't intend on becoming a pro, just having a go and making an old unloved instrument playable again and you have helped a lot. Cheers!

Scott replies: Glad to be of help. Thank you for the feedback.

Family Piano Co - Piano Tuning 03/10/14

Thanks for posting this article. We're working on teaching a new generation of piano tuners in our store and this was a good introductory article for them!

Jennifer 02/28/14

HI. I have a "faux" piano that weighs less than 50 lbs. The keys do not move and the inside is hollow. The name on the brass plate on the front reads, "Dubois & Stodart Manufacturer No. 167". Any thoughts as to what this is?
Thanks,
Jennifer

Scott replies: Dubois & Stodart manufactured pianos together for a few years in the middle 1800s. (Stephen Foster owned that brand.) The square pianos common in that day are generally considered a poor design and were abandoned for modern designs in the late 1800s. I think what you may have is a piano cabinet that has had its innards removed to become a decoration.

Tom Mitz 02/08/14

Scott,
Thanks for the reply. I removed the action of my Pinafore to further inspect the sustain. The pedal isn't the issue. The sustain damper rod isnt contacting the all the damper levers because the main rail slides out of place when the rod pushes up (from the pedal lever) Im not sure what to do...
maybe I'll call in an expert...nothing is broken, I just dont understand WHY its doing it... I still have the action removed....

Scott replies: Tom, I have no further advice to offer, sorry. I recommend consulting a technician if you can't easily see the problem. By the way, speaking from experience, take extra care replacing the action. Take your time, make sure everything is lined up squarely as you reinsert. There is not much wiggle room in these tiny spinets. Good luck.

Tom Mitz 02/02/14

I am glad I found your site ! I too have the Spinore small piano and love it. I got it and its been sitting and needs a major pitch change, all the keys are about a perfect half step out... I have no idea how long it sat. I also have a problem with sustain.... only the base keys to about middle C sustain.... how can this be repaired ?

I fixed a lot of sticky keys... I almost got rid of this thing but it grew on me and my 11 year old daughter likes it but it so needs tuning and I was afraid to mess it up.... now I'm gaining confidence after finding this !

Thanks for any advice, and great blog site !

Scott replies: A half tone is not all that bad. You can probably bring it up a quarter tone at a time over the next two tunings. That said, there's nothing wrong with tuning the piano where it is now, a half tone low, and keeping it there if that's where the piano seems to be stable. You can work on raising the pitch later after you have had some practice just tuning it to itself. As for the sustain, perhaps it's just a strut that has slipped out of its socket on the foot pedal and that's an easy repair. I would just pop the cover off and look around with a flashlight. Look for dangling springs or joints that have come apart. The sustain system is not particularly complicated.

Bill 01/26/14

The software "IC Piano Tuner" provides visualized beat count and multiple partials beating for two or more strings. People not familiar with beat counting should benefit a lot.

http://www.cc-ast.com/icpianotuner.html

Scott replies: Looks like very interesting software. Thanks for the link.

Anonymous 12/25/13

Scott, thought you might be interested in part of a post I made on the Yahoo DIY Piano Tuning Group. I hope I correctly presented your method.
*************************************************
I tried a different method today... It's the one on piano.detwiler.us

Basically you tune the temperament octave using a little chromatic tuner (I used a Korg CA30, he used a Korg OT-120). The theory is that the middle is not stretched so a regular tuner works ok for that octave. I looked under my piano and found the longest unwound strings started at F3 (I figured the longest bare strings would have the least inharmonicity). So I used the chromatic tuner to tune the middle strings from F3 to E4 using a mute strip.

Then I tuned octaves by ear from E4 down to A0 using a single mute on the bichords. The theory is that tuning octaves by ear puts in the proper stretch for your piano. After I finished one string on all the bass bichords I tuned all the unisons by ear.

Then I started tuning octaves by ear from F4 up through the treble, again one string on each trichord. After tuning one string on each note all the way up to C8, I went back and tuned the unisons by ear.

Then I removed the mute strip on the temperament and tuned those unisons.

When I tested the tuning it sounded very nice except B2 and C3 still had serious beats on 10ths! These beats seem to appear with all tuning methods even after professional tunings. Evidently it's an inherent problem with my piano. I retuned B2 and C3 so the octaves are just slightly off but the tenths and 17ths sound MUCH better. Playing several pieces I am very satisfied with the tuning.

I think this method is faster than using TuneLab and just as good. All the tuning methods seem to need some tweaking of B2 and C3 on my piano (a Yamaha T118 I bought new this year).

Scott replies: Yes, that's the method I recommend. Thanks for posting your experience.

Jim 11/14/13

I bought a temperance strip that was tapered at one end but on the high end of the keyboard I still find it's a tight squeeze to get it in near the pins. Should I taper the strip some more with scissors or exercise it more to get some of the stiffness out of it?
Thanks for the tips.

Scott replies: When I bought my temperament strip, I noticed it was a little irregular in spots. Do not cut it. Try to exercise it to get it into the shape you need. With use it is naturally going to soften on its own; like a new shirt, it's stiff when new. If it really needs some work: it is simply wool felt, so to assist your reshaping you can steam it over a boiling teakettle. This will soften it to make it more pliable, then it will hold the new shape when done. Thanks for visiting our web page!

Dave 10/01/13

Hi, thanks so much for your website! I have a Yamaha silent grand piano. Do you think I would have success tuning the acoustic piano to the silent sound/temprement? I find it easy to tune the notes in the middle using an electronic tuner. The outer notes bring me out in a sweat, however!

Scott replies: The tuning of the physical strings in the Silent Grand should be not different than tuning any fully acoustic piano. Most likely it's "equal temperament" like any other standard acoustic piano. I would NOT, however, use the digital side as your reference. I assume the digital side (headphones) is a fixed, "ideal" tuning that never changes as in any fully digital piano, even if the acoustic side is out of tune. The perfect stretch is unique to every acoustic piano, and won't be properly reflected in the permanent digital side.

Terence 08/30/13

Update: After trying a few more time, i notice that it\'s actually the hammer socket(screw in) that loosen everytime i torque counter-clockwise, silly me.

The tuning pin is so tight that everytime i tried to tune the pin, it came loose. I\'m now attempting to lock tight the socket by using lock-tight glue. Will try again once it is fully cured.

Scott replies: Actually, an unscrewing lever tip is a common problem for people new to tuning. I should have thought to suggest that to you. Here is an example of a tip wrench specially designed to tighten tuning lever tips.

Terence 08/28/13

Hi, following your instruction, I tried tuning the unison for one key(52) on my piano because it sound like "vibration, out of unison".

I mute the right string and turn the pin(left string) counter-clockwise, with very slight force, the pin move(slowing till around 10 degree) but still there is no change in pitch(hit the key hard but still no effect).
I stop and make sure it is the correct string but it is so weird that so much turning/degree doesn't make any differences in pitch. I'm afraid to turn anymore unsure if i'm turning too much or too little?

I tried the middle string(mute left and right string) and still there's no change in pitch?

I'm using Android Datuner Pro chromatic as a baseline.

Scott replies: Thanks for visiting our site. Ten degrees should create a noticeable change in pitch, but it may seem smaller than it is to an untrained ear. Perhaps the shaft of the lever is flexing, and the pin itself is not turning as much as you think? It could be a broken string, but I am sure you would know that easily. As long as you are turning counter-clockwise to loosen the string, you can turn it farther safely. If you don't hear a change after a quarter turn, you have to be on the wrong string.

joe 06/30/13

Hi. I have read through your site and it is really helpful. I have looked on other sites too, but I am struggling to find information about the specifics of the tuning motion I.e amount of force required on tuning peg to tune an 80 year old piano that hasn't been tuned in a long time.
Thanks
Joe

Scott replies: Joe, the short answer is "as little as it takes." Every piano is going to be different in exactly how much force is needed. Usually, it does not take very much. A light "bump" should produce a change in pitch. However, some piano pins are sticky, some are loose, some are downright tight, and it could go any way on a piano as old as yours. The only way to get a feel for the tension is to try it by testing a few pins. Before proceeding, the first question you must ask when tuning your own piano is "If I make a mistake, will I regret it?" If the answer is "yes," then get a professional. MOST IMPORTANT: Do all your testing by turning the pin COUNTER-CLOCKWISE so that you are loosening the string. That way, if the pin should move unexpectedly, you will not risk breaking the string.

Sergey 06/29/13

All steps are described very well, with all possible details and important warnings.
Great!
Thanks a lot!!!

James 05/16/13

Just thought I'd thank you for this information, I recently ordered the tools and I need to gather information beforehand, this certainly helped :)

Ray 03/15/13

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,
Ray

Ray 03/14/13

Hi Scott,

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.

Thanks,
Ray

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.

DC 03/11/13

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?

Thanks

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.

Rob the hacker 03/10/13

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.

Kathy 02/27/13

Hi Scott
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.
Thx Kathy

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?

Scott 02/20/13

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!

Jennifer 02/17/13

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!

Jennifer 02/15/13

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.

Kathy 01/23/13

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

Robert 01/19/13

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.

KATHY 01/17/13

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.

Hamed 12/23/12

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!

Valérie 11/15/12

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.

Ray 10/21/12

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.

Arthur 10/12/12

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.

Kurt Kaufman 08/29/12

"Tuning a piano also tunes the brain..." from the BBC.
But we knew that already, right?


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19398413

Bobby 08/07/12

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.

Thanks,

Bobby

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.

Ronnie 07/10/12

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.

Hannah Keehn 06/14/12

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.

Chris Johns 05/17/12

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. ;)

Jerome Satterthwaite 05/10/12

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.

Many thanks

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.

Les 04/15/12

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.

Marcus Fletcher 04/09/12

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.

Gary 02/18/12

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.

Gordon 02/18/12

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.

Steven 02/07/12

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,

Steven

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.

Keith 01/20/12

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.
Thanks!

MusicalJohn25 12/07/11

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!

Nic 12/06/11

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.

Lee 11/07/11

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.

Lee 11/05/11

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.

filiptb 10/28/11

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.

Louis Martinage 10/05/11

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.

Louis Martinage 10/05/11

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.

meggie 09/26/11

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!!!!!

KEITH MACFARLANE 08/17/11

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.

Thomas Lotito 07/14/11

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.

mister man 07/07/11

thank u so much!

gonna find myself an old crappy piano now and tune away

Jim Kelley 06/29/11

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.

Jason 05/09/11

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.

Paula Aiton 05/08/11

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

Sincerely,
Paula Aiton
California

Anonymous 05/04/11

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!

Anonymous 04/04/11

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.

Michael 03/26/11

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!

Adam 03/06/11

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.

Jeanie Perkins 03/02/11

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.

SMN 02/23/11

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.

Pfingers 02/21/11

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.

Jesse 02/18/11

Great website! Thank you for taking the time to share your experience!

John M 02/13/11

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!

Jack 02/13/11

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.

Pack 02/13/11

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!

Sherri and Dave 09/11/10

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.

dan 09/08/10

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!

Charles Long 09/07/10

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!

jonathan 08/25/10

thanks for your site! i find it easy and effective for a musician that's about to tune his old friend :)

jaime 07/24/10

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.

Larry 06/29/10

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.

Jen 06/22/10

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.

Lisa 06/17/10

Okay, I've read the instructions, got the tools, I guess its time to give it a go. Thanks!

Pro Piano Tuner 06/09/10

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

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