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.

Blog Home · General Piano & Music

Solo Piano, NYC

This a powerful little piece for those who love pianos. It documents the final days of a piano abandoned on a New York City sidewalk. Just watch.

12/13/12

Piano Disposal

Do not read this post if you are a piano fan with a weak stomach.

Sadly, a problem for our modern age is how dispose of an old piano. The piano is not the must-have living room item for the middle class that it once was. The size and weight make them incovenient to move, especially if all your potential takers are ambivalent about owning one in the first place. Many people find them in an elderly relative's home after the relative has broken up housekeeping. Or left behind in a rented garage, or discarded from a church basement, or...

Continue reading | 08/17/12

Praise of the Pinafore

Gulbransen Pinafore 64

It's time the piano I tune in the tutorial gets a little spotlight of its own. It has served me well as an instrument of learning as well as music. My piano is made by Gulbransen. Gulbransen is a long-standing piano and organ manufacturer with over a century in business. In World War II, they were one of two manufacturers to provide pianos

Continue reading | 07/07/12

Banana Piana

Hey, it's a piano made of bananas! Actually it's a keyboard made of bananas, attached to a synthesizer of some sort, as you can see in the video. The excitement here isn't the music being made. The key to the excitement is in the bananas themselves. This banana piano uses a Makey Makey, a new device that turns everyday objects into touch inputs for an electronic device

Continue reading | Comments (0) 06/10/12

List of Bands Named After Piano Tuners

I have compiled for you a complete list of all bands named after piano tuners:

1. The Marshall Tucker Band

There you go!

The story goes that the band members were searching for a name in their early days. The key to the warehouse space they were renting had the name "Marshall Tucker" on it. They eventually learned that Mr. Tucker was a blind piano tuner who had previously rented the space.

The Marshall Tucker Band is a long-standing country group from South Carolina. They have been active since the 1960s, and have recently recorded a new studio album. They have five gold records and one platinum. Their biggest hit single is 1977's "Heard It In a Love Song," covered recently by Mark Chestnutt.

That's all the bands named after piano tuners that I have found so far. Should you know of another, drop me a line.

Comments (0) 03/24/12

Self-Tuning Piano

The self-tuning piano has been a holy grail item for pianists since the pianoforte was born. Piano owners all know the heartbreak of a piano going out of tune. It's inevitable, even for the lovingly maintained piano. The process of detuning begins the moment the piano tuner lifts his wrench from the pin.

The obvious method would be some sort of motor to turn the pins. But, apparently that's not so easy. How do we know? No one has done it, at least commercially.

Don Gilmore, inventor of a self-tuning piano, has a different idea.

Continue reading | Comments (4) 02/12/12

The Oldest Piano Shop in Paris

Partial screen cap from the movie of a piano parts store in Paris

Meet Marc Manceaux, owner of the oldest piano shop in Paris. He sells piano parts, mostly scavenged from disassembled old pianos. He seems to live life on a different channel from most of us. Immersed in his sea of pianos (title of the film, ha!), he dreams of boats. As long as he has "water, a candle, a hardback book and an old piano," he knows he is still "alive." From a piano tuning perspective, I find it interesting that

Continue reading | Comments (1) 02/02/12

Stephen Foster's Piano

Recently we took a trip to the Stephen Foster Memorial on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The memorial is a rather impressive stone and stained glass building adjacent to the Cathedral of Learning. (It might be even more impressive if the massive cathedral were not there!) Within is a nice collection of Foster artifacts and memorabilia with well-done displays reviewing his life and career. (Admission is free, donations welcome.)

Among the items is Stephen Foster's piano (or so it is labeled.)

Continue reading | Comments (1) 01/30/12

Organ Tuner at Work

Here's a nice video of an organ tuner at work. "John Ball, a tech with Miller Pipe Organ Company in Louisville, Ky., talks about what it's like to tune an organ and how he got started in the business." Organs are very sensitive to temperature, so the room and organ itself needs to be at a typical operating temperature. Notice how the small pipes are tuned with a collar. He taps the collar with what looks like a metal bar. He never touches a pipe with his bare hand. Same for the big pipes...gloves only, if at all. The large pipes apparently have a special tuning feature rather than the simple collar. I also see what appears to be ribbons tied around some of the larger pipes, I presume to help him keep track of where he's at in that forest of tubes! Easy to get lost, I'm sure. It takes two people to tune an organ--it's a long reach from the keyboard to the pipes. Piano tuners have it easy. On the other hand, there's little to no inharmonicity in an organ.

Continue reading | 12/20/11

Of View-Masters and Piano Tuners

Brown plastic View-Master, from wikimedia

Here's a quick one from the Famous Piano Tuner files. Or, more correctly, notable people who were also piano tuners. The inventor of the View-Master, those little stereo picture viewers with the images on a rotating wheel, was William Gruber. Turns out Mr. Gruber was a piano tuner by trade. However, it was his hobby, stereo photography, that he drew on to invent the View-Master in 1938. The viewers are still popular, with over a billion sold. The View-Master is celebrating 65 years of production this year.

Continue reading | Comments (0) 12/17/11

Piano made of buttons

Perhaps I should add a new category to the blog: piano as art. The piano is certainly visually iconic, a symbol of the modern age beginning with the industrial revolution. Such an icon naturally finds itself in art, in some surprising ways. Our blog may be mostly about tuning, but it's also a tribute to the piano as a whole. Seriously, who would go to the trouble of tuning a piano if you didn't love pianos to begin with?

But I digress. This latest piano-as-art entry is a piano made entirely of buttons and strings! It has sort of a science fiction feel, like a piano materializing in a Star Trek transporter. Or the graphics of the Matrix movies. Or, maybe an abacus. It certainly gets both brain hemispheres firing trying to sort it out. And imagine having to tune all those strings, ha, ha, I slay myself.

This piano is part of a larger installation of button-and-string works by Augusto Esquivel at Art Miami. He has many common objects created in this unusual medium. See more of his work at his website. The photograph in this post comes from a blog post by Alice at Modern Metropolis. More details on how he constructed the piano are there, too.

12/10/11

Piano Tuners: #1 in Customer Satisfaction

You can't please everybody all the time. But it appears piano tuners please most people most of the time! Angie's List, the online site for rating local services and businesses, has released its lists of the least- and most-complained-about companies. Piano tuners hold the coveted number one on the list receiving the least complaints! Angie's List founder Angie Hicks explains that those on the list "are personalized services in which the providers listen to their customers to determine what they want and then they find the best way to deliver that." Others on the best list include mailbox repairs and hauling services.

On the other end of the spectrum for the most complaints were home warranty companies, internet service providers and banks.

So, a shout-out to the piano tuning industry! Keep up the good work!

Comments (0) 12/10/11

Piano on Elephant Mountain

How much do you care about elephants? Enough to drag a piano up a mountain for them? Briton Paul Barton did. For his 50th birthday, Mr Barton dragged his piano up a mountain to the Elephant's World sanctuary for injured and blind elephants in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, for the concert.

What did he play? He chose something slow and deeply moving to suit the pachyderms, Slow Movement 2 from Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. "My wife and I have been working with blind elephants for many years, and I thought it might be something they would enjoy to listen to," says Barton.

He hopes his concert was soothing for these elephants, and will also bring attention to their needs. He is working to raise funds for an electric fence for the sanctuary.

Comments (0) 11/27/11

Lost Work of Beethoven Found

Page of manuscript from Beethoven Opus 101. Public domain

Musicologist Peter McCallum has found a previously unknown work of Ludwig van Beethoven. The manuscript was hidden among the pages of his last sketchbook. Beethoven kept extensive notebooks, writing and revising his works on paper constantly. This bagatelle (or short, light musical piece) was simply overlooked for many years, unrecognized as a separate work among the pages of Beethoven's spidery shorthand. McCallum's wife Stephanie McCallum has recorded the piece. It's a simple, bright tune you will certainly enjoy. View the actual script and hear the tune, Bagatelle in F Minor at Sydney Morning Herald. The sheet music is available from PianoStreet.com, a source for this article.

11/19/11

Pop-up Piano Tuner

I am not aware of very many, if any, paintings or other art of piano tuners. Despite their importance, these artisans remain behind the scenes while the piano players and composers get all the glory. Yet, here we have not just a painting of a piano tuner, but a painting of a piano tuner painted ON the piano! More photos after the break.

Continue reading | Comments (1) 06/15/11

Tuning Gershwin's Piano

From the "Curious Piano Tuning Stories" file: A piano tuner is called to tune (what he is told) George Gershwin's piano, many years after Gerswin's death. Inside, he finds a wadded paper. He inadvertently kept the paper, but did not know it. Years later, he finds the paper, but did not immediately recall its origin. He discovers that the wadded paper has a few notes of a melody written on it. He writes a tune based on those notes, and adds lyrics. Only later does it dawn on him where that paper came from. The question is, who does the tune "belong" to--Gershwin, or the tuner? Now that's not an easy question! He can't prove the tune is Gershwin's. He no longer has the paper, and the Gershwin family trust turned everything Gershwin over to the Library of Congress. His offers to turn over the copyright have gone unacknowledged! What would you do?

Continue reading | Comments (1) 05/29/11

Musician Breakthrough from HearAndPlay

Here's an announcement for gospel musicians: Musician Breakthrough from HearAndPlay. HearAndPlay says this is the first such program for gospel musicians. It features seven "West Coast" pro musicians in a unique format. Each musician covers five styles of church worship: Praise, Worship, Shouting, Transitional, and Traditional.

This is a brand new, just-released program. It includes 35 segments, over 16 hours in total. Free Video clips of each musician playing one of the worship styles are available on the page, with examples from each category.

I'm not much of a piano player myself, but I do rely heavily on hearing rather than reading for what I do play. This series is set up very well for that style of learning. Very clear visually, with lots of spoken explanation of what the musician is doing. If you are a by-the-ear player, this looks pretty good.

This is a sponsored link, but I don't want to waste your time with poor quality links. Check it out for yourself, and tell me what you think. The click is free!

Comments (0) 04/19/11

Piano Tuning a Dying Art?

Is piano tuning a dying art? This particular story is from Australia, but it likely applies to the US and the rest of the world.

From the story at ABCNews Australia:
The lack of suitably qualified or experienced employees is a common lament among Australian businesses these days. But for those trained in the fine art of piano tuning and restoring, it's become a theme song as they look to try and pass on their businesses on to the next generation.

It goes on to say that the explosion of electronic keyboards hit the acoustic piano market hard over the last few decades. Not unexpectedly, piano technician training programs downsized in anticipation. However, the reduction in career interest has outpaced the actual shrinking of the piano market. In fact the new market has stabilized, and plenty remain in use. The existing piano tuners and technicians have more than enough work, but without apprentices to take their places.

If you are interested in tuning pianos, it sounds like a good time to get into the business.

Read the full story at ABCNews Australia.

Image adapted from Wikimedia Commons /Jeramey Jannene. Used under CC attribution license.

Comments (1) 02/13/11