Hi all, I shared this in another thread but thought I'd repost it here in case it helps anyone in a similar situation. Comments / feedback are also most welcome, always eager to learn. I realize the topic of owners tuning their own pianos is a bit, controversial lets say, and I'm honestly not trying to stir up that debate. I have a great respect for the professionalism and artistry of _real_ tuners, which has only grown through my own humble experiences. I do my own tuning mostly because I enjoy it, not because I have any illusion that I can do just as good a job. If the kids ever start taking lessons and get serious about playing we'd buy a better piano and have it professionally cared for. I would not advocate anyone trying to do this on really nice piano, or expecting stellar results. My piano is 140 years old, was irreparably modified along the way, cost $500 and my "palate" is pretty unrefined. And yet I love it, and for me working on it myself strengthens that bond.
As a fairly inexperienced home tuner, my method, based mostly on lots of trial and error and reading a lot of great threads here on PW has evolved to essentially the following. I realize this is probably not a great path for someone learning to tune for real, but perhaps a reasonable compromise for someone who just wants to tune their own piano a few times a year?
- Use tunelab to calculate stretch and temperament.
- Tune chromatically from the bottom up.
- Tune center string to the computer, unisons by ear for each note as you move up the keyboard.
- Try to keep hammer handle between 10:00 and 2:00 to reduce bending/flexing of the pin (upright).
- Position yourself at right angle to keyboard facing the bass end, thumb down, elbow out (upright, right handed).
- Begin by slackening the string slightly (maybe 2-5c), make sure you have the right note/pin.
- Slowly pull to just a hare over pitch (maybe <1c to 1c) "feeling the pin moving in the block."
- Use thumb to "push back" against fingers pulling to aid in generating firm even pressure.
- Relax the tension/twist on the pin by releasing pressure and then pushing back slightly.
- Finish with several loud test blows and see if its still where you want it on tunelab.
- If not make fine adjustment up or down and repeat test blows.
- Tune the unisons to the center string one at a time.
- Listen for stillness in the highest harmonics that can be heard and tone/volume change as strings "lock in".
- When no beating (or as little as possible) can be heard for each set of two strings, glance up at tunelab to see if the combination is still at pitch.
- If not, recheck center string alone and adjust if necessary.
- If center is still ok, listening to both together try pulling the unison a tad farther in the required direction to see if unison is coupling center string off.
- Plucking individual strings can be useful in cases where you're having difficulty telling how close you are, or if the unison being tuned is too high or low.
- Focus on achieving the purest possible (for skill level & piano eccentricities) unisons by learning to hear upper harmonics beating, and on learning to manipulate the hammer/pin to achieve the best possible (for skill level & piano eccentricities) stability.
- When tuning is complete up the whole keyboard check by:
- Starting at A0 depress sustain pedal and play 1s, 3s and 5s all the way up the keyboard, repeating several times if necessary and omit 3s in the first octave or two if "muddy."
- Listen to whole tones for any note in the progression that doesn't quite seem to "fit."
- Recheck any such note using tunelab.
- Retune that note and/or unisons if needed and begin check again.
- Repeat check for each key/arpeggiated chord from A0 to A1.
Following more or less this method, I was able (after several tries) to produce what I considered an acceptable tuning that held quite well for several months with only occasional unison cleanup until the humidity changed drastically. Of course it also takes me 3-4 hours to get there
It definitely gives me all kinds of respect for those who could most certainly do a better job, way faster, and without a computer telling them what to do.
I'm very grateful for all the folks here who have generously contributed so much to this community, and to my own poor understanding of what I'm trying to do